Bagamoyo & Surroundings

Bagamoyo and its surroundings offer a variety of impressive activities for all interests.

Beach Walks

Travellers Lodge’s location on the beach allows for easy walks south to the centrally located fish market or north up to the quiet mangrove forests. At low tide explore and collect beautiful shells and see what the fishermen pull from their nets, or admire the elaborate designs of the passing dhows (traditional sailing boats).
The dhow sailing boats, with their large, trapezoid-shaped sails are still produced on the beaches in and around Bagamoyo using traditional, handcrafted methods.

Ocean Trips

Ocean excursions can be arranged through the lodge to explore and snorkel around the nearby small islands, sandbanks and coral reefs.

Kaole Ruins

Approximately 7 km south of Travellers Lodge is the village of Kaole and the Kaole Ruins. The ruins are of an ancient trading town of Shirazi origin dating back from the 13th to 17th centuries. The site includes two mosques and thirty tombs. They can be easily visited and an informative guide is included in the ticket price. A small museum is also at the enclosure.

Saadani National Park

Situated only 45km from Bagamoyo, Saadani NP offers visitors unique opportunities for exploring Tanzania’s wilderness. Saadani’s diverse natural setting makes any trip through the park a memorable experience. The fascinating combination of Saadani’s grasslands, forests, river and ocean allows for a particularly captivating range of flora and fauna.
Visitors can look forward to trying to spot the over 40 mammal species during game drives. At Saadani elephants have been known to occasionally play in the ocean and one of the world’s largest green turtle breeding grounds is on display each summer. To be seen are plentiful numbers of birds (over 140 species recorded), reptiles, snakes and insects. Walking safaris are encouraged in the Zaraninga Forest and on the many untouched Indian Ocean beaches that distinguish Saadani NP from any other wildlife sanctuary in East Africa.
During the river cruise, visitors leisurely drift down the peaceful Wami River stopping to see the many hippos, birds & crocodiles along the way – and admire the unique mangrove forest ecosystem where the river meets the Indian Ocean.

Historical Buildings

The Boma was built as the residence of the German colonial governor in 1897 and served as the German administrative headquarters. Later the building was used by the District Commissioner’s Office.
The Kavanserai was a former board for wealthy merchants where preparations were made for slave caravans into the interior. Today the building houses the well maintained and informative Bagamoyo Museum.
The Old Bagamoyo Tea House was built in 1860 by Abdallah Marhabi is probably the oldest building in Bagamoyo.
The two-story Liku House was the first administrative headquarters of German East Africa in 1887-88. Emin Pasha lived here in 1889.
The Customs House was built in 1895 by Sewa Haji.
The well-maintained German Cemetery dates from the years 1889/1990. Gravestones mark the fallen German soldiers who died during the revolt of Bushiri.

Bagamoyo Art College

Established in 1981, the Art College (Chuo cha Sanaa) is today one of the most famous art schools in East Africa. Here you will find classes in theatre, dance, music and painting.
Most students are Tanzanian, but the school also attracts students from Europe and increasingly from North America. On most weekends students give performances in music, dance and theatre.
The annual Bagamoyo Arts Festival in late September / early October attracts more and more artists from all over East Africa and an international audience always enjoys the exhibitions, workshops and performances.

The Fish Market

The fish market is the centre of maritime activity in Bagamoyo. This lively market is full of hustle and bustle as the fishermen come and barter for their daily catch. Still used are the original old stone tables in the covered market.

Cross at the Sea

In 1868 Father Antoine Horner first arrived on the mainland from Zanzibar to erect a cross and establish the first Christian Church on mainland East Africa. A short path leads from the cross to a very small, nondescript church with a tin roof. This is the Anglican Church of the Holy Cross where Dr David Livingstone’s body was kept before returning to be buried in England. It is also known as the “Livingstone Church”.

First Church, Holy Ghost Mission

From the Livingstone Church visit the nearby Holy Ghost Mission a short walk up Mango Tree Drive – a shady avenue created in 1871. The First Church was established in 1887 and, as the name suggests, was the first church built in East Africa. It was here in February 1874 where Dr Livingstone was brought by his African companions, Chuma and Sisi in a journey lasting over 1,500 miles from Ujiji to Bagamoyo. Other historical figures having visited the church are Stanley, Burton, Speke, Grant, Peter, Wissmann and Emin Pasha.

Bagamoyo History

These days, Bagamoyo is a quiet, slowly growing small town with around 30,000 inhabitants who live mainly from fishing, trade and subsistence farming. But the city has a long and eventful history that makes it one of the more fascinating places in East Africa.

Bagamoyo was founded with the arrival of the first Shirazi settlers from Persia in the 8th century, making it Tanzania’s oldest city. The kaole ruins, some five kilometers from the city and some dating back to the 13th century, bear witness to Islamic influences and the architecture of the early settlers in the area.

Until the middle of the 18th century, Bagamoyo remained a relatively insignificant trading center with a population of fishermen and small farmers who also traded in coconut oil, tree resins and salt from the salt pans 3 km to the north. The place increasingly benefited from its convenient location as the closest mainland port to Zanzibar, which led to Bagamoyo gradually becoming the center for caravans from inland and the most important East African trading center for slaves and ivory. From here the slave trek ran inland, which stretched 1,500 km inland and ended in Ujiji on Lake Tanganyika.

Despite the official abolition of slavery in 1873, the slave trade in Bagamoyo continued until the end of the 19th century. The current name of the settlement, Bagamoyo – or ‘lay down your heart’, the English translation from the Kiswahili – is due, according to various sources, to the fact that the slaves shipped on Dhaus to Zanzibar left their homeland from this place forever.

In 1868 the ‘Fathers of the Holy Spirit’ set up the first Catholic mission station in East Africa in the north of Bagamoyo. It was initially used as a refuge for children who had escaped slavery. A little later a church, a school, workshops and agricultural facilities were built.

Bagamoyo became famous as the starting point for expeditions by European explorers and missionaries such as David Livingstone. From Bagamoyo Richard F. Burton and John H. Speke went in search of the sources of the Nile, and Henry M. Stanley also stayed here on his travels.

The German East Africa Society concluded a contract with the Sultan of Zanzibar in 1888, which allowed the society to collect customs duties. When the Germans began to question the sultan’s authority to take possession of land and act against the interests of the locals, a rebellion erupted under Bushiri bin Salim al-Harthi, known for his resistance against the Germans. After initial successes, Bushiri’s troops were eventually defeated by German infantry and naval troops under Herrmann von Wissmann and their leaders were executed.

In 1890 the German government bought the rights to the coastal region from the Sultan for 4 million marks, and in 1891 German East Africa officially became a colony with the capital Dar es Salaam. A phase of brisk construction activity followed in nearby Bagamoyo, where the German administration was located, as well as a further expansion of trade and the immigration of more Europeans and Asians.

After Tanzania was handed over to Great Britain as a League of Nations mandate at the end of World War I, Bagamoyo began to lose importance as a trading hub. The port turned out to be too shallow for larger steamships, a rail link to the city’s port was never built, but the Dar es Salam-Bagamoyo road was paved.

Today Bagamoyo’s trade, industry and tourism are on the upswing again, not least because of the new road. Fortunately, the city has retained the authentic charm of a historic fishing and farming village. Bagamoyo has meanwhile been nominated as part of a new UNESCO World Heritage Site ‘East African Slave Route’.