Bagamoyo a former slave and ivory trading, was the last point reached by the caravans of slaves who arrived here for transportation to faraway places. Today, this attractive coastal town still bears reminders of its past – the fortified house where slaves were kept while waiting for transportation still stands, as does the tree under which they were bought and sold.
Kilwa Kisiwani Island was once the trading centre of the Swahili empire. The ruins of the settlement still remain and are considered to be one of the most important Swahili historical sites in East Africa. The famous traveller and chronicler Ibn Battuta visited Kilwa in the 14th century, describing his admiration for the architecture and graceful situation of the capital city. Later the island became a trading post for slaves travelling north from Mauritius and Mozambique. The end of the town’s supremacy as a trading port came when it was sacked by a tribe of cannibals in 1588.
The name Mafia derives from the Ma-afir, a tribe from ancient Yemen who dominated the coast around 1000BC. Mafia Island is the largest of an island archipelago, off the beaten track and known to only the most discerning travellers. The island is surrounded by a barrier reef so rich in marine life it has been designated a Marine Park by the World Wide Fund for Nature. A tiny population of pygmy hippo live in the remains of an old lagoon, cut off from the mainland centuries ago.
Tanga & Pangani
Ruins close to the active port of Tanga attest to its importance as a trading post in the Swahili civilisation. The ruins, once a large mosque, include more than 40 tombs. Tanga also has pleasant beaches and is a convenient point from which to visit the spectacular Usambara Mountains. Just south of Tanga is Pangani, once the home of Arab slave traders, set on a lovely estuary of the Pangani River.
Zanzibar (Unguja Island))
For a small island in the southern waters of the Indian Ocean, Zanzibar has a long and unexpected history. For centuries the island has been a centre of slave and ivory trade, if not all trading, from central Africa to the rest of the world and was the world’s main producer of the highly valued clove spice. It is also the centre of Swahili language and culture. Zanzibar is the undisputed capital of the Swahili coast. The first Europeans to encounter this vast trading network and culture around Zanzibar were the Portuguese, who arrived in the late 15th Century. The Islands of Zanzibar includes Two main Islands of Unguja and Pemba and A lot of small islands, Such as;
- Prison Island or Changuu Island; the most popular destinations for day trips from Stone Town, the closest the island has come to actually being used as a prison by its first owner, a wealthy Arab who sent unruly slaves there for discipline, Prison Island offers excellent snorkeling, a nature trail, small beach and the unusual attraction of a sanctuary for giant tortoises
- Chapwani, or Grave island; is the site of a luxury hotel, but day visitors who come to eat and drink in the bar and restaurant are permitted. Chapwani is the site of a British naval cemetery, the final resting place of sailors who perished while serving in Zanzibar. The victims of the World War One attack on the HMS Pegasus by the German warship Konigsberg are also buried here. It’s interesting to wander around the graveyard and decipher the ages and causes of death of the servicemen – many died from tropical disease, or were killed in skirmishes with local slavers. Chapwani also has a beautiful white sandy beach and a small population of duikers (a type of miniature antelope), as well as some interesting birdlife.
- Bawe Island; the island was used to anchor the first telegraph cables to Zanzibar linking it with Aden, South Africa and the Seychelles. A further line was run across to Stone Town, into the old Extelcoms building, now the Zanzibar Serena Inn. The beach is excellent at low tide, with unusual stone formations, and there is some good snorkelling to be had on the island’s reef.
- Chumbe Island (a Coral Park); is one of the world’s most successful eco-tourism projects. In 1994 the reef surrounding Chumbe Island was named Tanzania’s first Marine National Park. The island itself, covered with lush mangrove forest, is a designated forest reserve. Visitors can come for the day to snorkel over the incredible coral reef, home to over 370 species of fish, turtles and dolphins.
Alternatively, leave the better known island of Unguja behind and set sail for Pemba, which is smaller, lusher and hiller than its neighbour. Few tourists come here, and the beaches are beautiful, unspoiled, and otherworldly. There are many historical sites and ruins to explore on Pemba including a number of old mosques and tombs and the old town fort of Chake Chake. The Pujini ruins south-east of Chake Chake are the remnants of a fortified town built around the 13th century.
- Misali Island, to the west of Pemba, is reputed to have been used as a hideout by the notorious pirate Captain Kidd, who is even said to have buried treasure here. Today a conservation program has been established, and visitors can come for the day, snorkel off the beach and walk in the forest. Locals believe the island is holy, having been used by the prophet Hidara as a prayer mat. Visitors to the island are asked to respect local customs and beliefs.
- The Ngezi Forest is a protected area in the northwest corner of the island. It is home to endemic flora and fauna species such as the Pemba flying fox (a big bat) and the Pemba palm, which is found only in the region of Ngezi Forest and is known locally as Mapapindi palm.