Background information;  by

Tanga was chosen in 1889 as a military post of German  East Africa, and it became a district office in 1891.


The natural environment in Tanga Region and its diverse ecosystems of the indian  ocean coast,  Islands,   Mountains and the Maasai steppe that all form part of Tanga Region.  Tanga Region also has significant, valuable and unique built heritage in its historical area. Nowhere in East Africa exist Historical buildings of heritage architecture and in large numbers as found in Tanga.


Tanga Region covers 27,348 (3 percent of the total area of the country) and has an estimated population of over three million inhabitants,  with at least 400,000 living in Tanga city.  While most people in the hinterland  are small farmers and livestock Keepers,  the coastal rural inhabitants live off   fishing and small- scale farming. Others are engaged in trades, boat building,  salt harvesting and charcoal making. Tanga has the second largest port of Tanzania.

The region offers a wide range of beautiful places to visit,  the long indian  ocean  coastline  with its sheltered bays and Lagoons, such as Moa Bay,  Manza Bay , Kwale Bay,  Tanga Bay and Mwambani Bay;  Kigombe,  Pangani and Ushongo have marvelous beaches – all with fringing and off shore coral reefs and sand banks.  They are bordered by a range of unhabited  Islands – some with historical lighthouses and ruins  such as Ulenge Island and Toten Island.  Some offer accommodation in small resorts. The many  interesting destinations to visit in and around Tanga Region include;  historical Tanga city centre, off- shore Islands- Toten, Ulenge,  Yambe, and Karange , Maziwe  Islands  off Pangani,  nearby Amboni caves,  Gallanos Hot springs and Tangoni Ruins.  Tanga Region hosts  several protected areas;  Saadani and Mkomazi National Parks,  Amani Nature Reserve, Coelacanth Marine  park and Maziwe island marine Reserve.  The region also has lush mangrove forests,  pristine  semi- arid forests  along the coast and on the Islands.  Tropical rainforests of the scenic Usambara  mountains reach up to 2,000 meters above sea level and are part of the international biodiversity hotspot “Eastern Arc Mountains  “with their rich endemic flora  and fauna.  Particularly famous are the “African violets “ (called “Usambara violets “ in Germany).  Other attractions include Maasai and Pare settlements in Handeni  andKorogwe and the famous Tanga sisal estate.panganipanorama


The word  “Tanga” means “sail” in the Kiswahili language,  an indication that the protected Tanga bay has over many centuries  offered a safe haven for local fishers and the thriving indian  ocean trade along  the East African Coast.  Another translation of “Tanga” refers to the Bondei word “farm”

In 1631, people from the area  joined the Mazrui dynasty of Mombasa in their fight against Portuguese rule and remained under their influence thereafter.  Tanga and Pangani became important trading centres  for slaves and ivory when the Sultan of Muscat and Oman moved to Zanzibar in 1832 and controlled a coastal strip of 10 miles in land of the East African coast.  In the scramble for Africa  over the last decades of the 19th century,  German  commercial interests and later the German  government conquered the inland,  bought the coastal strip from the Sultan and developed the colony as “German East Africa.”

With its protected port and fertile hinterland,  especially in the  Usambara mountains,  Tanga became a centre  of German  colonization and also an administrative centre up to1890 when Dares- Salaam was made the capital of the emerging colony.  Rapid colonial infrastructure and economic  development followed from 1889 after the end of the bloody “Bushiri war “ – an uprising of local Arab rulers (accused of being slave-traders by the Germans ) and their followers against the German occupation and the sale  of the coast by the sultan.  To open up the hinterland  and especially the fertile and cool Usambara mountains1204357866_usambara-irente-05

for economic development and trade,  a railway was built from Tanga to Moshi and a road network developed, including the scenic winding paved  road from Mombo up the mountains to the emerging district centre wilhelmsthal(now  Lushoto).  Kiswahili was made the official language of the colony and African Boys were offered education in the (still existing) Tanga school to  join the lower ranks  of the colonial administration.  Tropical diseases were researched  and a public health system was introduced  with large- scale screening and early forms of treatment of cholera,  tuberculosis, malaria and sleeping sickness among others.  Tanga town was developed with a range of public, commercial and residential buildings.  At the end of the 19th century Tanga already had around 5,000 inhabitants. It was an important centre for trade and settlement together with Dares- Salaam, Ujiji, Tabora, Bagamoyo ,Pangani and Kilwa Kivinje -the latter five being either slaving ports or caravan crossings.  By 1913, Tanga was the fourth largest town in Tanzania;  by independence in 1961 it was second.  Throughout the colonial history, the main source of Tanga’s economic wealth  was sisal, which was introduced from Florida,  US in 1893 and soon turned Tanga Region into the World’s main producer and exporter of this profitable crop. This lasted for half a century up to independence, when nationalization resulted in the collapse of the industry within a few years.  World War I brought a massive disruption of  the economic development of then prospering colony.  Germany and Britain fought a long-drawn-out proxy war in order to tie up each other’s forces and keep them of the European battlegrounds.  In November 1914 Tanga made military history with the famous “Battle of Tanga” with help of the newly built railway the Germany colonel  von Lettow – Vorbeck  shifted  overnight his troops of settlers and Askari soldiers to Tanga to defend the town against British warships.

The Germans  won this battle even though British claimed  afterwards  that the Germans were helped by wildbees that  got upset by the shelling their nests in the trees. They actually stung and chased all troops on the ground.

The British retaliated a year later by bottling up and sinking the Legendary German warship “ Konigsberg” in the Rufiji delta, thus gaining control of the coastal waters  of the German colony. Cut off from supplies of their homeland and often outnumbered ,  the Germans are said to have invented  modern guerrilla war fare  that avoids open battle and ties the adversary’s troops with hit- and –run tactics and rapid movements over vast areas. According to  a popular  myth, fighting in East Africa continued for two weeks after the Allied forces victory in Europe,  because the two armies could not be found in the bush, being so  far away from any means of communication;  Germany lost  what was considered her most favoured colony and Britain ruled Tanganyika under a UN  mandate until   independence in 1961.


sailingdhow-600x583The late Mwalimu (Teacher) Julius Kambarage Nyerere became the first president of independent Tanganyika (called Tanzania) after the union with Zanzibar in 1964 and he remains a national legend until today. He is seen as one of the few  African Leaders who could not be accused of corruption,  and who resigned from power voluntarily and peacefully. He introduced a one-party state and nationalised the economy. His policy of “Ujamaa and African socialism “was popular among and very generously supported by European left- wing intellectuals and governments,  and to a certain extent also by the soviet union and the socialist countries of the Eastern Block.  This change of policy after independence had various impacts on Tanzania, and particularly on the prosperous Tanga region,  due to its relatively export-  oriented economy.  Most sisal and other plantations, many businesses and buildings in Tanga town were nationalized.  Villages were obliged to move and combine their land for communal farms in the so called villagization  campaign. As food and cash crops had to be sold to the government at fixed and mostly very low prices only, farmers stopped producing for the market and returned to the subsistence economy.

Within a decade,  the formerly thriving economy of Tanga collapsed. The downturn of the sisal industry was also accelerated by a decline of demand due to  upcoming synthetic fibres.  Nyerere realized that the country was in trouble and stepped down in 1986 to allow his successors to liberalise the economy, and later introduce Multi- party policies, which followed in the mid-nineties.  From the early nineties, the Tanzanian  economy started recovering and is now growing fast. But Tanga Region has not yet caught up with its former glory.  Tanga city remains a relatively quiet, laid-back- town something that, ironically, is one of the attraction for tourists who much prefer peaceful and unspoilt places off the beaten track.


Tanga Region is situated at the north-eastern corner of Tanzania;  the Region  of Tanga links the well-known Kilimanjaro Region with Dares- Salaam in the south and Kenya in the north.  Tanga offers its visitors a great variety of landscape;  from the stretched coast with mangroves and long white-sandy beaches to the lush mountains covered with rainforests that are overlooking the vast and hilly inland. Tanga is one of the 31 regions of Tanzania.  Its Regional Headquarters is in Tanga city,  the biggest town and the economic centre of the region.  Tanga Region is divided into eight (8) districts, each having  their own administration.  These districts are Pangani,  Mkinga,  Kilindi,  Muheza, Tanga city, Handeni, Korogwe and Lushoto.


The coast area is warm with an average temperature of around 280C (820F).

Sea breezes make the climate very pleasant all year. The central plateau around Korogwe  andHandeni experiences hot days and cool nights. In the hilly country between the coast and the northern highlands temperatures can drop at nights below 100C (500F) in the “winter season” (June to August). The  hotttest  months are from October to February. The main rainy season is from April to late May where it rains mostly at night, leaving the day with bright sunshine.


Tanga cit08ttax-im1008-pangani-and-tanga-1475y has unique resources for cultural and heritage tourism. The historical centre between the railway line and the port is a treasure-trove of architectural  heritage that is special in Tanzania.  Many of the impressive former colonial administration and other Public buildings as well as private commercial – residential houses are over a century old and still in use. The so called Regional Block, the former office of the German District Commissioner was recently rehabilitated and is being developed into the Tanga museum.  Other beautiful surviving land mark buildings,  some in urgent need of repair and maintenance, include the once best hotel in town, the legendary former Hotel  Kaiserhof  at the sea front next to the CRDB Bank (now a private building) and a row of similar  buildings lining  this street, the Usambara courthouse, the stunning residence of the German District commissioner of Tanga St. Paul-illaire that now houses the palm court Hotel B&B (on the road to the harbours club) and close – by the now rained cliff Block of the Bombo Hospital,  the first hospital in East Africa (1901 ) . Others are Katani House, the old Tanga School and Mkonge Hotel (the former sisal planter’s club) and the IsmailiJamatKhama and more. A few monuments remaining of the German colonial period can be found in Jamhuri  Park,  at the seafront close to the market and opposite of the CRDB Bank;  the clock tower and close by the Marine monument,  built in 1889 to commemorate the sailors who died during the Bushiriri war. Three grave yards also rule in Tanga, where most colonial officers, settlers and soldiers died very young from malaria or in the war.


bandariTanga  has two major types  of historical buildings of the German (1881-1916) and British (1916-1961) colonial periods,  robust colonial government buildings and private commercial- residential houses. The latter are mostly two-storey buildings lining the streets of the historic  centre and were built by the local merchant community as a fusion of coastal Swahili styles, Indian and Arabic architecture. The architectural design are  over a hundred years old, and similar to colonial buildings along East Africa’s indian ocean coastline in towns such as Zanzibar, Mikindani, Bagamoyo, Pangani, and Mombasa and Lamu in Kenya. Typically, they have a raised “Baraza” (veranda),  thick pillars, carved solid timber doors,  small louvered wooden windows and intricately designed wooden balconies. The walls are up to two feet thick; the roof is raised and opens on the sides to allow the ocean breeze to cool the house. The walls are built with fossil coral stone, sand and lime;  the ceiling is made of mangrove poles and lime plaster, the doors and windows from locally available hardwood timber. All buildings have a large open court yard at the back for kitchen, toilets and storage. Tanga saw the development of these buildings at the turn of the 19th century. Different from other East African towns, the historic town of Tanga was developed in a planned manner, with streets and roads clearly demarcated and open areas for parks and other recreation provided for. Because of this, Tanga is still considered the best planned town in the country.  More than half of the historic buildings are still standing and inhabited. They also reflect a particular life- style of the people who inhabit them up to today. One example is the use of the ground floor veranda  infront  of the house opening to the road. People still follow the Swahili cultural tradition of relaxing on this shaded baraza, different from Mombasa and Zanzibar, where roads were often built rather narrow and left no room for verandas.


Machui village , 10km south of Tanga, has been the home of one of the greatest writers of the Kiswahili literature,  Shaabani bin Robert. He was born in 1909 from parents of the Wayao tribe from southern Tanzania.

He was educated in Msimbazi School in Dar es- Salaam and started work with the colonial civil service as a clerk in customs Department of Pangani in 1926.  During this time he produced much of his literary work. From 1944-1946 he joined the wildlife Department, followed by work with the Tanga provincial commissioner’s planning office up to 1952.  As a member of the East African Swahili committee, the East Africa literature Bureau, the Tanganyika language Board and the Tanga Township Authority, he dedicated his literary work to the promotion and further development of the rich Kiswahili language. In recognition, he was awarded the margret wrong memorial literature prize and also made a member of British Empire (MBE) by the Queen of England. Today, the road passing the national museum and leading to the State House in Dar es- Salaam bears his name.  Altogether, Shaaban Robert has produced 22 books of prose, essays and poems, some of which have become standard reading in Kiswahili literature classes. He was married twice and had children. He divided relatively young in 1952 and was buried at Machui near his born place, where he is now commemorated with a white marble gravestone.


Tongoni is a small fishing village situated 17km south of Tanga city. It was once a prosperous and respected trading centre in the 15th century established by the shirazi of Persian origin  who established many Islamic settlements in East Africa such as Kilwa and Mafia. Tongoni was probably the location of the first port before Tanga. Vacso Da Gama, the Portuguese sailor, is known to have visited Tongoni in April 1498. He made a second visit the next year and spent 14 days in Tongoni where he abandoned and destroyed one of his ships, the san Raphael for being beyond repairs.

The Tongoni ruins consist of mosques and Tombs, remains of residential houses of the first shirazi. Resident guides take you through the site and explain its history, charging a small entrance.


amboni-cavesThe mysterious Amboni caves 8 km north of Tanga city are probably the most extensive limestone caves in East Africa, and were sculptured by nature into a fascinating underground world of halls, chambers, niches and tunnels, some equipped with stalactites and stalagmites.  A one kilometre stretch can be explored with a local guide who can also tell many stories about the history of the caves and of people hiding there over the ages. You will see formations that locals  describe as the virgin mary, the statue of liberty, also ancient paintings, animal foot prints and signs of witchcraft  and offerings. Local legend has it that the caves have an exit to the north close to Mount Kilimanjaro and an extension that comes back to the coast. It is dangerous to go beyond the known limits of the caves without proper equipment and expertise.


About 8 km from Tanga city and only 3km from the Amboni caves you can find the Gallanos Hot- springs. These hot and sulphurous springs are visited by local people for their healing properties, especially for skin ailments. The colourful  greenish-blue and yellow deposits in the buttom of the brook give evidence of sulphur.

Visitors can take a bath in the springs,when there is enough water ( mostly after the rainy season), but the walk to the springs is in itself interesting, through local “Shambas) “ (fields) and patches of coastal forest.


Toten Island is located in Tanga Bay directly opposite TangaHarbour. The Island is covered by a lush coastal forest with huge baobab trees and has also ruins of early settlements.  When the Portuguese controlled part of the coast, Toten  Island seems to have been used for a prison.  Later , according to historical records, the Island was around 1854 occupied by a considerable number of inhabitants.  Islamic monochrome and chinese blue and white shards mostly of the 15th, 16th and late 18th and 19th centuries have been found here. There are also ruins  of two mosques and German tombs of the turn of 19th century, as well as foundations and ruins  of buildings of the German colonial era, when Toten Island served as a quarantine station and European grave yards,   thus its name “ Toten Island” which is German for “ Island of the dead”.    In 1884, the last inhabitants of the Island moved to Tanga. Research is needed to explore the history of the many ruins  onToten Island, which are also in urgent need of protection as historical  sites. Toten Island also has small beaches and nature trails criss- crossing the forest and ruins and can be visited by boats, arranged by hotels and tour operators in Tanga.


Ulenge Island borders Tanga Bay and Kwale Bay at the north of Tanga. The Island is a typical fossil coral Island that was formed from fringing reef at the last ice age aboutn15, 000 years ago. The Island is covered by a dense  pristine so- called “coral-rag” forest with a highly specialized plant community that has developed to survive  without any ground water, instead of depending on capturing the moisture from the humid air and storing  rain- water during the rainy seasons. The bed rock of the Island is made up of an impressive substrate of fossilized coral. You can still see the skeletal structures of corals and giant clams- a gentle reminder of the passage of millennia. Ulenge Island has important ruins from the German colonial period that still need to be researched and documented. The impressive historical light- house built at the turn of 19th century was still fully intact until 2008, complete with a Fresnel lens powered by the so called AGA gas light that, when introduced in the 1920s , functioned without a resident lighthouse keeper. In 2008, scrap metals dealers dismantled and vandalized all metal parts of this historical monument, destroyed the lens and removed all doors, the copper roof and internal staircase.  Until that year, the light- house could still be climbed to enjoy the breath taking view over Ulenge and Kwale Islands, into Kwale and Tanga Bays and the turquoise sea between Tanga and Pemba that is still plied by dhows unchanged for a thousand years . It is hoped that the port Authority can be restore this historical light- house to its former glory. Around the lighthouse, and now overgrown  by dense coastal thicket,  Ulenge Island also has a number of impressive ruins of the what once was a sanatorium  for lung patients of the Bombo Hospital. Old photographs show a very beautifulltowered building that was mentioned in traveller’s reports of the German colonial period as their first sight when they approached Tanga from the North. Towards the ocean,  Ulenge Island is also bordered by a healthy coral reef that offers great snorkeling and diving over its shallow reef crest and down into the drop off the Pemba channel.


Yambe Island borders the southeast coast of Tanga Bay opposite of the RasNyamakuu peninsula. The Island is surrounded by coral reefs and totally covered by coastal rag and mangrove forests.  Unhabited today, Gorman records of the 19th century mention a small resident village of a local Arab ruler with his slaves.  May be from his time or earlier, the  Island has ruins  hidden in the forest, a walled grave and pillar tomb with large panels, enclosed by stones decorated with a herring bone pattern and a frieze of small panels. The herring bone pattern is a rare and unique feature in such tombs, but also sometimes found in “mihrabs” of mosques.


Building of traditional boats is still one of the liveliest crafts found along the Tanga coast.

Dugouts (Mtumbwi), out rigger boats (Ngalawa), small planked boats and the legendary cargo dhows(Jahazi) are built and repaired using very simple age- old hand  tools, mostly close to small landing sites in bays and mangrove creeks) eg. at  Mchukuni village in Mwambani Bay. Fishermen are happy to invite you for a sailing trip on aNgalawa to the small Islands, or even on a Jahazi (dhow) going to Pemba, but make sure to bring a life- vest, as none of these boats have safety equipment and Tanzania has no maritime rescue service either.


The adjacent uninhabited RasNyamakuu peninsula has foundations and ruins of the ancient Ndumi village. These date probably back to the 14th century and are bordered by a still mostly intact unique imposing arch at its entrance that is probably found nowhere else in Tanzania. Sections of a town was built in defence  against marauding maasai probably in the 18th century are still held together by roots of fig trees, including a section with a spy- hole over looking the creek. Old graves, wells and house foundations are scattered in a beautiful parkland scape and shaded by huge ancient baobab trees. A long and winding mangrove creek  leading to the village was for centuries used by dhows trading all along the East African coast from Arabia, India, and as far away as China. Archaeological artefacts  found in abundance around the ruins of this ancient village give evidence of this, such as coins, beads, and shards of pottery , among others of the chinese Ming dynasty that are over 500 years old.

Many of the ancient Baobab trees bear marks  of witchcraft  rituals performed until today by local people praying to their ancestors buried in this very ancient village. The famous African archaeologist Peter Garlake has started researching and published about the history of the Swahili coast including the Ndumi  area in the 1960s, and more discoveries wait to be made there.


The new Boma –where the German colonial government was situated- is  to be used as the Tanga Museum .


Every March and October bands from all over Tanzania, Kenya, Cameroon, Zanzibar, and  Congo meet at Mkwakwani stadium for the “Battle of the Bands” Concert. People from all over the East coast of Africa come for the concert. From January to December the circus  “Mama Africa” shares creative entertainment with locals touring Africa, visiting Tanga during June. In Tanga, various religious groups are active, like  Christians, Muslims, Hindu, Sikhs and others;  most of them are open for visitors to their ceremonies. During the four week period of Ramadhan (fasting time for the Muslims) some shops and restaurants may be closed.


Ttanga tanzaniahe coastal stretch of Tanga Region is Tropical, well structured with numerous bays and small uninhabited islands covered by pristine coastal forests, surrounded by coral reefs, with extensive areas of sea grass beds, Mangroves, Creeks and drops offs. Small fishing villages line the coast, where locally made dugouts (Mtumbwi),

Outrigger (Ngalawa) and larger wooden planked cargo boats (Jahazi)- all powered by the beautiful age- old traditional lateen sails- still dominate and ply the turquoise  waters of the Indian ocean, reminiscent of an over 1,000 years old trade that linked East Africa with Arabia and the Indian sub continent. Boat trips can be organized through tour operators in Tanga city.


Tanga is also immensely privileged to host a sizeable  population of the huge and unique living fossil’- Coelacanth fishes that live in deep waters  along the outer island drop offs. They were only recently discovered in 2003, when fishermen started catching them accidentally as by –catch in deep –set shark nets. Before that, coelacanths were only found in the Comoros, and very few in South Africa and Indonesia.

Coelacanths, a critically endangered ( cites ) species, are of enormous scientific interest as they are among the oldest fish on Earth, dating from the era when marine animals started moving out of the sea and populating the land. Coelacanths pre-date even the dinosaurs by over 300 million years. For their protection, the Tanzanian government has decided  to create a marine park along the Tanga South coast, and in 2009 already gazetted an area stretching from Tanga Bay outwards beyond the Fishing village of Kigombe. The park also includes toten island, Mwambani Bay, and the Yambe and Karange islands, where most of the coelacanths have been found so far. Similar to these outer  coral rag islands in the park, the cliffs of stunningly beautiful Mwambani bay and further down the coast mainly consist of marine fossils  dating  at least 15,000 years ago, when  the sea level sank during the last ice age and exposed ancient coral reefs.

Fossilized corals and shells like the giant tridacna continuously emerge from the cliff walls and line the beaches of the coastline. Today the park can be visited through tour operators. Once fully established and well managed and a visitor’s centre built, this marine park will be a powerful tourist attraction.


Kigombe is situated about 30 km south of Tanga. The village has more than 3,000 inhabitants. It is surrounded by vast sisal fields and actually is the biggest fishing village along the Tanzanian coastline. You can stroll along the endless beaches and admire magnificent  mangroves. Or you have a look at the kingfisher house- right at the Southern end of the village – built in colonial times in the early 20th century, from where you have a beautiful view over Kigombeharbour.


Pangani is situated 45 km south of Tanga city and lays at the mouth  of the Pangani river, which flows all the way down from the Kilimanjaro highlands and meets the indian ocean. Pangani has a  remarkable history dating back to the 15th century and traces of old buildings and monuments still can be seen. Its quiet and laid back atmosphere offers an ideal get- away for those seeking to escape the masses of Tourists that flock to Zanzibar. A range of higher budget accommodations are found a few kilometres north of Pangani town and at Ushongo Beach, 16 km south of the river. Higher cliffs are forming the small bays around the coastline, giving a stunning view of the Indian ocean. There are a few guest houses in town offering low budget bed and breakfast. It is recommended to bring enough mosquito repellent or your own nets because they are often not in the  best condition.

Eating in town is limited. Some local restaurants serve fresh grilled fish, sea  food or chicken with ships and a salad. Travelling  further south to Ushongo beach or Saadan national park is possible by crossing the river to Bweni, a small village on the other side.

The new car and passenger ferry is operating from 6:00 am to 6:30 pm; charges are 200 Tsh per person and from 5,000 Tsh for vehicles depending on size. The other option to reach Saadan national park is to pass 50 km through small villages from Pangani to the Tanga – Dar essalaam highway and enter the park from there.

Historical  background of Pangani;

Archaeologists have found that the remains of small 15th century settlements on the bluffs just north of Pangani. The modern town came to prominence in the nineteenth century when under nominal Zanzibar rule- it was a major terminus of caravan routes to the deep interior. From the 1860s towns people established large plantations of sugar and coconut in Mauya along the banks of the river just west of town.

The plantations were  worked by slave labour and Pangani became an important centre of the slave trade. After the Sultan of Zanzibar signed treaties with Great Britain outlawing  the ocean- going trade in slaves in 1873, Pangani became a centre for smuggling slaves across the narrow channel to Pemba in evasion of British warshops. In 1888 Pangani was the centre of an armed movement to resist German colonial conquest of the entire mainland coast. The local leader of the resistance was AbushiriIbnSalim al-harthi, born in Zanzibar- and slave trader himself. After his defeat he was hanged by the Germans in Pangani in December 1889. Several historical sites in and around the town serve as reminders of the strong Arabic influence and the later German and British colonial era in Tanganyika.

The district Boma or headquarters is the most impressive building remaining  from the period of Zanzibar rule. People were buried alive under the pillars during construction as it was between this would ensure strong foundations.

The present- Pangani

Once a centre of Swahili trade with the African mainland,  the town  of Pangani is now a sleepy backwater that little remembers its days of splendor. The old german administrative  Boma still stands behind a colonnade of tall shade trees and the former prison- painted a fading ochre red –overlooks  the rivers lazy waters.  Old houses along the main road are lived- in examples of colonial and traditional Swahili architecture and slowly crumble by the monsoon winds. Visitors passing through the area may explore what remains of the old town of foot. Even a short walk rewards visitors with a glimpse of the quite life in an old trading town along the Swahili coast. Pangani is a Secondary centre of the sisal industry, serving sisal plantations to the north and south of town.


Ushongo is still one of the little known secrets of the Tanzanian coast with its fabulous and secluded beaches, fringed by coconut palms and an ideal destination for families, honey- mooners and those looking for a holiday off the beaten track.

Maziwe Island Marine Reserve.

Maziwe island is one of oldest marine reserves in Tanzania and is located about 15 nautical miles off the coast  ofPangani. In 1912, according to a report of a German officer- the island was covered by a dense  forest which was so lush that he got lost looking for a sailors grave. From the 1970s the trees were cut down and the island reverted to a sandbank. Established in 1975 it was given the status of a reserve to protect this most important  breeding place for sea turtles   of the East African coast as well as to take care of the important reef system around.

A diversity of nearly 400 species of fish, 35 Genera of hard and soft corals, sponges and algae as well as shoreline birds have been identified.


The Usambaras consist of the mountain blocs;  the smaller East Usambaras, lie closer to the coast with slightly higher rainfall. This block is less populated and its primary attraction is the Amani nature reserve, approached from Muheza. The west Usambaras are separated  from the East by a valley and the district centre here is Lushoto, approached from Mombo or from the North – eastern side of the Usambara Mountains. One of the best preserved montane forests in East Africa is privately owned Mazumbai in the west of Usambaras  nearBumbuli. The Usambaras are part of the Eastern Arc mountains, a crescent of eleven individual ancient- Mountain blocks that run paralled to the Tanzanian coast. Some of the better known are the Ulugurus, towering over Morogoro, and the Udzungwas, most of which is now a National park. All lie in Tanzania except for for the Taita hills in Kenya.



The Usambaras are very old. They arose in a period of rifling between Africa and Madagascar 290-180 million years ago. Simply put, two blocks slid against each other along a fault or split in the earth; one block was uplifted to be the Usambaras, and another slumped to form the depression along which the Panganiriver now flows. The rock types are  gneisses, meta- anorthisites and some marble. Note that these mountains are not inherently fertile, when compared with the fertile volcano Kilimanjaro.


Its unclear exactly when the first humans lived in the Usambaras, however people have probably been here for at least 2,000 years. The evidence is from the early iron- smelting furnaces excavated by researchers.  Hence the forests must have been exploited at this early stage. These early people hunted, gathered fruits, cultivated sorghum and millet, and had livestock. An important event in the Usambara history was the arrival of the Banana plant from Asia about 1,000 years ago. The farmers took to this crop in a big way, and harvests from bananas were more reliable than from millet and sorghum, so this agricultural revolution must have boosted human population growth. The honey people, the Wambugu, are cushites and came down from Ethiopia to settle here in 1700’s.

The Wambugu were well- known as bee keepers and honey producers. Their neighbours were the Wasambaa, and from the Wambugu they purchased bee hives. Even today the mountains are known for quality honey. The first king of the Wasambaa was Mbegha, who started the Kilindi dynasty from the mid 1700’s. Mbegha came into power using marriage and blood partnerships. The kingdom reached its height under  Kimweriyanyumbai, who ruled between early 1800’s to the  1860’s. The kingdom extended from the pare mountains down to the coast at Tanga and Pangani, and out  onto the plains in the South and East. Early European travellers such as Johann Ludwig  Krapf (1848) and Burton and Speke (1857) visited Kimweri’s capital. The end of the kingdom was in 1898 when a fire destroyed the capital  atVuga. The demise of power was due to a number of factors, including epidemics of small pox, an old disease in Africa that was spread far and wide by the Arab slave traders. An important slave route was immediately below the Irente view point following the Mkomazi flood plain into the interior. With the demise of the kingdom came the Germans as colonists. They  gave the Usambaras special status as a place of rest and recreation, away from the humid, disease- ridden coast. Lushoto was “wilhelmsthal” and some wished it would became the capital of Deutsch ost- Afrika. The Germans also founded the Amani Agricultural research station in East Usambaras that became famous for botanical experiments testing mainly rubber and cotton; over 350 people were employed at its peak.


The Usambaras have exceptional biodiversity; occupying only 400,000 hectares, the  mountains  house 684 tree species and sub-species. By comparison the whole of western Europe houses only 71 species of trees. That means 9.6 times as many tree species in the Usambaras as compared to Europe.

Forest and Nature Reserves in the Usambaras;

There are many forest reserves and one nature reserves in the Usambaras that are under the department of forestry and Bee-keeping, among them are Ndelemai near Soni, Shagayu near Mtae and Mkuzu near Magamba. These reserves are well worth visiting, and the experience for the tourist is made more memorable when accompanied by a guide knowledgeable in the ecology of these forests. The most important attraction of the East Usambaras is the Amani nature reserve with its botanical garden, butterfly farming, tea and spice plantations and accommodation on site. Nature reserves are better protected than forest reserves as nobody  is allowed to collect dead wood or to herd livestock. The jewel in the crown of the west Usambaras is Mazumbai , a private reserve, quite remote- about 2 hours’ drive from Lushoto and well worth the effort to get there. It was owned by a swiss family for a long time and is now owned by Sokoine University, using it for student practices. Camping is allowed, and campers can relax in the old swiss style farm house.

Nilo Nature Reserve;

Nilo nature reserve is among the East Usambaras tropical rain forest blocks covering an area of 6,025ha.  It is the second largest contiguous forest block under protection after Amani nature reserve. The reserve was established in 2007. Many ecotourism attractions can be visited in Nilo reserve. The highest peaks of East Usambaras with an altitude of 1,506m in (Nilo peak) and 1,400 (Lutindi peak) are giving a clear 360° view of the East and west Usambaras. Further attractions are the Tuvui and Zumbekuu waterfalls and traditional worships areas are found at Lutindi peak and Kwemkole village called “Hundu” as well as the holy water point- a historical point where according to the local legend  once a bishop blessed the place after feeling thirsty and water came out. There are two (2) common  ways to reach Nilo by vehicles; from Muheza through Amani nature reserve  via Derema to Kizerui gate ( about 59 km); and from Korogwe township to Kizara gate  via Magoma division  and Kwentonge (78 km). Other attractions include, Madaha Hominid foot- prints, mambo caves and Tea in the Usambaras.


sisal-baobabThe first European to reach Lushoto was the missionary Johann  Ludwig Kraft  who in 1849 was given a warm welcome by king Kimweri 1. In 1886 the German colonists entered the Usambaras and persuaded the local chiefs to sign away their domain for a pittance. The subsequent German advance was made easier because in the later half of the nineteenth century – Usambara was racked by Chaos. The slave trade had started to invade the mountains, while at the same time the Sambaa- Kilindi dynasty was caught up in a civil war against the Bondei tribe who wanted independence. After consolidating their rule, the German colonial Government founded todays Lushoto in 1898 as “wilhelmsthal” ( after the name of the German emperor), which  became an important centre of colonial  settlement and plantation agriculture. Located at 1,400 m above sea level, the climate is cool and subtropical and up to independence much favoured by European settlers. In 1912, the district already had 13 plantations growing vegetables, fruits, tea, coffee and a variety of other food crops.

Lushoto is the administrative centre of the western Usambaras mountains and has several colonial buildings that are still being used, such as the former district office (still the same today) and the historical post office ( built in 1913), as well as several solid European style residential plantation houses scattered in the surrounding valleys of the Usambara Mountains. When driving up the Mountains, the scenery becomes even more spectacular past Soni as you wind further through forest and steep cultivated slopes to reach Lushoto, half an hour beyond Soni and 34 km from Mombo. Lushoto is the biggest town in the Usambaras with a population  of over 400,000, a friendly place in a  very beautiful setting among high forested peaks.


Korogwe is located on the western side of Tanga  region at the foot  of the Usambara  mountains. It is easily accessed  by road from Tanga, Dares-salaam, Moshi, Arusha, and  other regions of Tanzania.

Korogwe district has high mountains and flat plains with sisal plantations. These mountains are part of the Eastern Arc mountains. It lies between 400 and 1,500m above sea level and the annual rainfall ranges between 600-1,000mm. The district has the population of over 300,000 people. The main source of water of Korogwe town is Pangani – Ruvuriver. Ruvu means never dry water channel in Zigua tribal language; the Zigua people originate from this area. The Pangani river gets its water from Mt. Kilimanjaro, passing through the Nyumbayamungu dam ( God’s house) nearby Korogwe, reaching the indian ocean near Pangani town. Korogwe town is at the back door of the Amani nature reserve. Between the town and the reserve lie Tea estates and beautiful mountain forest.

History of Korogwe town;

Korogwe town is divided into two areas; old and new Korogwe. The town was founded by a person known as Nkorogwe from Zigua people. He came from the Nguu mountains ( Kilindi) and settled in the area. He was so famous that after his death people honored him by naming the settlement “ Korogwe” after him. In Korogwe the colonial government  built a Boma offices that can be visited. The Anglican missionaries built their  first church in 1886, still existing today. To allow township expansion the government  decided  to relocate offices from old Korogwe to Manundu area, now referred to as new Korogwe. The combination of the two areas now form the Korogwe township.

Lutindi Eco- Cultural Tourism;

Lutindi is part of the Usambaramountains and located on the escarpments of the Eastern arc mountains close to Korogwe, surrounded by beautiful scenery. This place is a good starting point to explore the mountains. Lutindi  is famous for the mental hospital ( the first in East Africa) founded by German missionaries in 1896. Two Germans were given land on the mountains from the village chief where they founded the hospital. Guided tours are offered through the hospital compound with interesting insights into hospital routines, the Tanzanian health system and several projects like a sisal workshop  and tea production. The  community – based cultural eco- tourism  group offers tours, to the nearby  attractions like walking safaris into the indigenous  forests and through villages to spectacular view points.


Muheza is a small district town in the North –East of Tanzania 35 km inland from Tanga city. It lies at the foot of the East Usambara Mountains on the edge  of the coastal plain. In July 2007 Muhezadistrict  was split in two roughly along the line of the zig river with Mkinga District to the north and Muheza to the south.

Historically,  in the 1870’s Anglican missionaries were given land by the local chief in a rocky area at the foot of the Magoroto hill at a place called magila where a leper colony was already established. Mostly because of Malaria, missionaries of that era had a life expectancy of 18 months when they arrived and they brought their grave stones with them. Thankfully things have changed. By the 1920’s magila was a thriving community with a school, hospital and convent. Other attractions in Muheza involve East Usambaramountains and Amani nature reserve.


Mkinga in the north of Tanga city stretches up to the Kenyan border and Mombasa, via Horohoro  border post ( 66 km from Tanga).  Mkinga is one of Tanzania’s newest districts, dissected from the vast Muheza district. The road north takes you past several fishing villages including Chongoleani, Kwale,  Boma peninsula, Maboza and Moa. The coastline follows an extremely irregular pattern including hugebays( Kwale, Manza and Moa) and vast mangrove forests dispersed with  occasional beaches.


Tanga was chosen in 1889 as a military post of German East Africa, and become a district office in 1891. The Local economy was based mainly on the production of sisal, which had been brought  to  the colony several years earlier, and population in the area  grew rapidly. The town was also the terminus of the Usambara Railway line, which runs inland to Moshi at the foot of Kilimanjaro. The name Tanga comes from the word for farm or cultivated land in several of the local languages.


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