One of Tanzania’s best kept secrets, the mainland East Coast boasts magnificent stretches of broad, powder-soft beaches with a wild and expansive feel, set against a rich backdrop of lush mangrove forests, river deltas, cashew plantations and charming thatched villages. It’s best to avoid the tropical rains of March to May, and it can get very hot during the popular December to February holiday season, so the ideal time to visit is during the pleasantly warm June to October months.
Most travellers arrive via the bustling town of Dar Es Salaam,Tanzania’s largest city. Although not the capital, and still touched to some extent by poverty, this commercial and cultural hub is firmly set on a path towards prosperity. Many travellers choose not to stay overnight, but those who do will be pleasantly surprised by the town’s colourful markets, churches, museums and eclectic restaurants.
Although just a stone’s throw from the hubbub of Dar Es Salaam, both Ras Kutani and Pangani are lovely destinations in the northern reaches of Tanzania’s Indian Ocean coastline. Relatively accessible, yet remote in feel, both are ideal places for unhindered rest and relaxation before or after a busy safari. Depending on precise location, a small number of low-key activities might be offered including birdwatching, kayaking, horse-riding, sailing, snorkelling, excursions into indigenous forests with the promise of a glimpse of rare colobus monkeys, and trips to sleepy local villages where the centuries-old Swahili culture continues to thrive.
Mainland coast lodges tend to be small-scale, characterful, and few and far between. Levels of service vary, so it’s important to choose wisely. However, high quality accommodation can be found at superb value, particularly when compared to the more elevated prices on nearby Zanzibar Island.
Tanzania’s East Coast is perfect for adventurous travellers seeking a pure and restful barefoot beach experience, untainted by hectic activity schedules or commercial feel. While this is not a top destination for divers (there is no significant coral), and the coastline may not be home to the myriad activities Zanzibar and other islands can offer just offshore, it is without doubt one of Africa’s hidden treasures and a wonderful hide-away in its own right, offering laid-back tranquillity and great value for money in an enchanting and relatively untouched setting.