10 Must Do Activities When You're In Tanga

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No. Travellers

International Adults
12+ years

International Children
Under 12 years

Resident Adults
12+ years

Resident Children
Under 12 years

Infants Under 2
International or Resident


No. Travellers

International Adults
12+ years

International Children
Under 12 years

Resident Adults
12+ years

Resident Children
Under 12 years

Infants Under 2
International or Resident

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Must try activities in Tanga

  01 September 2017       Tripindigo       5 min read

Tanga can be found in the north-eastern corner of Tanzania and is one of the oldest towns along the coast of this East African country. Tanga links the well-known Kilimanjaro region with Dar es Salaam in the south and Kenya to the north. Tanga’s interest has grown a lot over the years with tourists taking and the city has begun to get a steady stream of visitors to check out what the city has to offer. While many see Tanga as just another town on the shore with sunny beaches there is much more to this tranquil town which you will soon find out.

To help you explore the city, wwe've compiled this list in a bid to help tourists planning on visiting Tanga and looking find interesting things to do.



1. Explore the Amboni Caves

Twenty minutes north of Tanga town, there’s a very small sign on the left side of the road:  “Department of Antiquities – Amboni Caves”.  The rough sandy track winds through scrub and low-hanging tulip trees, through the yards of several small houses, and dead ends in the thick copse of fig trees.

The caves are considered the “jewel in Tanga’s crown” – in fact, the only formal tourist destination.  But there’s never anyone there.  You will have the guide and the deep, creepy limestone caves to yourself. The system has never been fully explored, and so stories abound of its extent, which could be hundreds of miles or only a few.

In my book, Shame, I refer to the tale of a couple who went missing when trying to find their dog.  This is one of many you will hear on the 30-minute, torchlight-only tour.  You may want to bring your own incense and rose water (and prayers) to make an offering at the small pagan shrine near the entrance. Outside, there is a small gift shop selling the usual trinkets. Please tip the guide. His salary is a pittance.

2. Discover Tongoni Ruins

Travelling about 17km south of Tanga City lies Tongoni ruins. Tongoni Town contains the largest collection of Shiraz Tombs in East Africa. These remains also indicate the prosperity the town enjoyed before the arrival of the Portuguese who caused the disruption of the trading routes on which coastal towns like Tongoni depended on. Tongoni Ruins comprise of the crumbling remains of a mosque and over forty tombs. Both the mosque and the tombs are estimated to date from the 14th and 15th Century.

3. Wander through the European cemetery

Any taxi will take you. If you go by bike, ride up to the Bombo Hospital, take a right, poke around the sandy lanes behind the Popatlal School, and you will find this quiet, overgrown place.  

During colonial times, the graveyard was reserved exclusively for Europeans and is thus a testimony of the white experience in equatorial Africa: graves for numerous infants, women who died in childbirth, men who succumbed to malaria.  One section is given over to the British soldiers, mostly from the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, who died in the appallingly executed 1914 Battle of Tanga.  (The German soldiers who died are in another graveyard; the Indian regiment has been altogether forgotten.)  

The graveyard holds one great mystery: seven crew members of an American plane that went down off the Tanga coast in 1956 are buried here. I have never found out their story, not a trace of it.  Who were they?  Why were they buried here, not repatriated?  My writer’s imagination runs to the salubrious:  1950s Africa and the cold war.  Were they American spies?

4. Take an architectural bike tour

The best way to see the town’s lovely, eclectic architecture costs less than 50p. Rent one of the heavy Chinese bikes from Mikey at the central market and simply peddle off. He won’t expect you back until 4 pm. 

South of town, along with the maze of sandy tracks of the Ras Kazone Peninsula, you will find fabulous Art Deco mansions, some crumbling, some lovingly maintained, testifying to the Tanga’s glory days of sisal.  Close to the sea, this stands side-by-side with the imposing colonial houses of the higher ranking members of the British Empire. The regimented civil service meant that lower ranks had incrementally smaller houses, further and further away from the ocean view.  

The original Bombo Hospital, just off the main drag to Ras Kazone, looms like a castle in a Grimms fairy tale.  Built by the Germans (when it was their colony, 1889-1918), the hospital has long since fallen into disrepair, a home for swallows and swifts.  Stand in the empty halls, amid the creepers, and quote Shelley’s Ozymandias

In town, examples of much older Arab-influenced buildings abound ornate mahogany balconies, four-foot walls, coloured-glass windows and heavy, dark doors, courtyards where cats slink in the deep shade.  If you get hot with all the biking, look for the shade of a mango tree:  likely, there will be someone selling cups of hot, sweet espresso and slices of delicious kashata, a kind of peanut fudge. 

5. Explore the Tanga Shoreline

Along Tanga coastline, there are several unspoiled beaches where one can relax and enjoy a coastal vacation. Most of the beaches are not crowded and the stretch of sand is infringed by coconut palms and dotted by historical buildings. Popular towns and beaches around are Pangani, Tanga Beach and Ushongo Beach. Some of the things to do in Tanga coast involve water activities like snorkelling, swimming, scuba diving, kayaking, windsurfing, fishing, a boat cruise along the coastline to Maziwe Island of or simply enjoying the beautiful turquoise ocean.

6. Search for smugglers in Pangani

Once a grand port serving China and Arabia with slaves, ivory and spices, Pangani has fallen under the spell of heat and fast-growing vegetation: you might think you have stepped onto the set for Sleeping Beauty.  For the past two centuries, the world has passed Pangani by.  

The ferry crossing the town’s namesake river has only one functioning engine, so it pirouettes slowly across the current.  There is nothing to see, hardly anywhere to eat, but you can wander quietly among the ancient, crumbling ruins and under the looming fig trees.  

The town is rumoured to be a smugglers' haven, and it’s easy to imagine canoes scuttling up and down river at night ferrying contraband:  cheap electronics from Dubai coming in, plundered hardwoods and gems going out.  The town lies 50km south of Tanga; half-way, there are two excellent small hotels with beaches, great food, and camping:  the Peponi Beach Resort and the Pangani Beach Resort.  

7. Take a self-guided Battle of Tanga tour

Arm yourself with a copy of William Boyd’s An Icecream War and Ross Anderson’s The Battle of Tanga, 1914.  Boyd will set the narrative mood; Anderson provides a brilliant blueprint of British military stupidity:  “one of the best-known events of one of the more obscure campaigns of the First World War.”  

The battle, fought between 2 and 5 November 1914, was a fiasco – for the Brits.  The many, glaring mistakes – abysmal planning, under-trained Indian troops, gross arrogance – exposed endemic problems in the British War Office.  

Sadly, those in command chose not to pay the slightest heed and went on the repeat the errors of Tanga in Europe for four more years.  General Arthur Aitken, known for his pomposity, ordered four companies of men ashore from British craft, selecting the least favourable landing: the thick mangrove swamps and high cliffs of Ras Kazone, and this at low tide.  In the mangroves, the men were set upon by bees, and many of the Indian troops drowned. The sad farce ended with more than 800 British casualties. 

When Aitken retreated, he left behind 455 rifles, 500,000 pounds of ammunition, medical supplies and other equipment: a great boost to the poorly resourced Germans.  Anderson’s book will take you to the landing spots, as well as key positions briefly occupied by the British: most of the old houses are still standing, though one is occupied by goats.

8. Climbing Usambara Mountains

The Usambaras are part of the Eastern Arc, a world biodiversity hotspot located in Tanga. This exceptional diversity attracts naturalists from all over the world who come to watch birds, study trees, flowers and butterflies. Within Usambara Mountains are other attractions like waterfalls, viewpoints and historical places. Some of the things to do here include hiking, biking and cultural walks as you visit the local villages

9. Visit Saadani and Mkomazi National Parks

Another interesting activity not to miss on your list of things to do in Tanga is game drives in both Saadani and Mkomazi national parks. Saadani National Park is the only game sanctuary located along the coast of East Africa.  It sits within the boundaries of the beautiful Tanga Beach. Mkomazi Park, on the other hand, lies between Pare and West Usambara Mountains and Kenya’s Tsavo National Park. It is home to rare species like the black rhino. These two off-the-beaten-path National Parks are home to a wide variety of flora and fauna from hippos and crocodiles in the Wami River to zebras, kudus in the open plains of Mkomazi Park.

10. Check out the Urithi Tanga Museum

Explore the fascinating history of Tanga with a guided tour through the museum. The museum tour will transport you back in time to the colonial era and show you what everyday life was like back then. Explore the museum on your own, however, if you have the time to take the guided tour it is definitely worth taking.

Tango with Tanga

As the saying goes, it takes two to Tango, so why not make this tranquil Tanzanian town your dance partner and explore the best it has to offer. If you've already explored Tanga and have something you feel should be added to this list of must do activities, feel free to let us know. We will be happy to add it to the list and help fellow travellers get the best out of their visit to Tanga. 

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