To travel south from Dar es Salaam towards Mozambique is - as far as the tourist is concerned - uncharted territory. Few travel to this area of Tanzania; although there is much talk of future development. If this area were in Europe or North America it would be a major tourist attraction; for the moment at least it remains isolated with little or no infrastructure. Like all things in Africa, this area is at the moment one of extremes; it is for the adventurous backpackers or alternatively an exclusive destination for the rich.
Mafia Island and the Mnazi Bay [Coconut Tree] Estuary is in this area which means that this increasingly popular area will become the Tanzania Riviera; once the development and infrastructure is in place; it is not a matter of if but a matter of when.Kilwa is a World Heritage Site and has the best preserved ancient Swahili buildings in Tanzania and Kenya. This area was developed in the 12th to the 15th Centaury and became the greatest trading port along the East African coast. This ancient settlement was once hailed as 'one of the most beautiful of cities'. Today however it is little more than a dilapidated fishing village ? waiting patiently in the sun for its time to come again; as it surly will.The best remains of Kilwa's past are on an island easily reached by a short boat ride.
A special permit is required to visit the ruins. The entry point is at a Portuguese fort that was reputedly built in only three weeks during 1505 ? it is named Gezira and it was rebuilt in the 19th Centaury. There is an ancient mosque here and the magnificent Sultans Palace preached atop a cliff.
All the planning and effort that goes into a visit to the island is well worth it once you arrive.The Mnazi Bay-Ruvuma Estuary Marine Park is a collection of diverse habitats ranging from mangroves along the estuary mouth to mudflats to coral reefs and white sands. There is good diving available here and coast line is just idyllic; although the towns and villages are quite unremarkable. This is one of the up and coming areas to watch and will one day become a rival to Zanzibar for the place to go for a beach holiday.
For the moment there are a few small hotels in the area and in the Marine Park camping is allowed on the beach and I hear the security is good.The river estuaries and large mangrove swamps provide a perfect habitat for a wide variety of birds. These areas are used for feeding and breeding of waterfowls. Some of the more common birds to be found include: Sandpipers, Herons, African Storks, Fish Eagle, Kingfishers, Oyster Catchers and Hawks.
Fruit bats can also be found feeding and roosting around Kilwa; with Hippos and crocodiles to add to the adventure as they also live close to where the rivers enter the mangrove swamps.Fishing behind the reefs and in the bay make for an excellent big game fish opportunity; I think maybe the best along the East African Coast is found here. Fully equipped big game fishing vessels with knowledgeable crews are available from the Kilwa Seaview Resort. Saltwater fly fishermen can try their luck at catching the elusive bone fish.
All the tackle supplied is IGFA (International Game Fishing Association) rated..Kilwa and Safari Information see http://www.betheladventure.co.uk or for more comprehensive advice and comments on Tanzania go to http://www.
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By: Ian Williamson