Fly to Kilwa, Tanzania

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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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Kilwa - Tanzania

Tucked away on the seldom-visited southern coast, the Kilwa district offers visitors a chance to ‘step back in time’ and take a peek into Tanzania's cultural history. From the 13th century, the island of Kilwa Kisiwani was famous as a large trading hub. It now boasts the ruins of sultan’s palaces, Portuguese forts complete with torture rooms, and vaulted mosques.

In this unspoilt destination take an underwater adventure diving the pristine waters or go snorkel the coral reefs and mangrove shores. Explore on dry land a myriad of fascinating caves, often used as hideouts during times of conflict as well as being ‘home’ to thousands of bats.

Discover the traditional village life in this little piece of paradise. Or simply relax on the white sandy beaches listening to the gentle waves. This truly is a beach destination yet to be discovered by the masses.

A brief history of the Kilwa region

The Kilwa district is in the Lindi Region. The main towns are Kilwa Masoko and Kilwa Kivinje, with the islands of the Kilwa archipelago, Kilwa Kisiwani, Songa Mnara and Rukila.

The history of the island Kilwa Kisiwani

The island of Kilwa Kisiwani has been occupied by many cultures from at least the 8th century and was once one of the most powerful cities along the East African Coast. Arabs, Persians and the Chinese sailed across the Indian Ocean and used the island as a trading centre. The height of commerce was between the 13th and 15th centuries, where exports of animal products, slaves, gold and spices were exchanged for ceramics and silks.

The island was seized by the Portuguese in the early 16th Century until 1512, when it fell into the hands of an Arab mercenary, and later to the Omanis who controlled Zanzibar. After a brief occupation by the French, Kilwa Kisiwani became part of German East Africa from 1886 until 1918.

The history of the small town Kilwa Kivinje

Kilwa Kivinje was the regional capital during the German occupation. In a forerunning of independence, the Germans quashed a rebellion by Tanzanians, known as the Maji-Maji uprising. In the settlement lie the remains of the East German colonial buildings and the graveyard of the 300,000 people who were killed during the revolt.



Main Attractions

Kilwa is an unspoilt destination, the main attractions are:

  • The ruins on Kilwa Kisiwani and Songa Mnara are UNESCO World Heritage Sites
  • Excellent diving and snorkelling
  • Divine beaches fringed with palm trees
  • Explore a myriad of fascinating caves
  • Bird watching
  • Salt farms

 

World Heritage Sites near Kilwa

Visit the UNESCO World Heritage site ruins of Kilwa Kisiwani and Songa Mnara, on the islands off the main coastal village of Kilwa Masoko, which are easily accessible by motorboat or traditional sailing dhow. Dating from the 13th Century, you get a unique glimpse into Swahili culture of yesteryear. Explore sultan’s palaces, graveyards, mosques and forts, where there once was a bustling trade in gold, ivory and slaves. Imagine yourself in the audience of a play in one of the theatre auditoriums and wonder at the sophisticated sanitary systems using fresh water, keeping the settlement clean and pleasant.

Excellent diving and snorkelling around Kilwa

Organise a scuba diving or snorkelling trip to explore the beautiful array of sea life below the waves in and around Rukila Island. With unspoilt reefs teeming with various fish species, including Moorish idols, puffer and lionfish as well as giant clams and rays you will not be disappointed. If you are lucky you may spot one of five turtle species known to inhabit these waters.

White beaches fringed with palm trees

The area is blessed with plenty of beautiful beaches, for example, Masoko Pwani which has white sands, azure blue waters and is fringed with coconut palm trees. Make sure you check for coconuts above your head before putting your towel down as falling coconuts can be incredibly dangerous.

Fascinating caves in the Kilwa region

In Matumbi hills, there are several large cave complexes just waiting to be explored. The entrance to the caves at Nangoma spans impressively across 68 meters and houses a sizeable colony of bats. They were used as hideaways during war times by local rebel troops and are now places of worship and spots to collect porcupine needles. Namaingo caves are also close by if you fancy ducking and diving through more fascinating rock cavities. They are both accessible from Kipatimu village using a local guide to show you the locations, as they are pretty hard to find.

Bird watching in Kilwa

If you are a keen ‘twitcher’ and have your binoculars at the ready you could catch sight of some of the magnificent birdlife in the Kilwa area. It is popular with sandpipers, tern, egrets, heron, cormorants, ibises, storks, fish eagles, plovers, little stints, gulls, kingfishers, frigates, gannets, oystercatchers, weavers and much more. See if you can spot them all or add to the list!

Salt farms of Kilwa

There are plenty of opportunities to witness the traditional harvesting of salt in and around Kilwa Masoko, as there are 36 producers farming nearby. Hire a bicycle or set off on foot for an interesting cultural tour through the surrounding fields and hamlets, which you can take by yourself and practice your Swahili with the farmers or take it easy with a local guide.

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Information for visitors

Did you know?

  • Ceramics bowls traded at Kilwa Kisiwani were used not for eating from, but as a sign of wealth, they were embedded into the ceilings of mosques and palaces as decorations.
  • The islands and towns of Kilwa are now quiet fishing communities, serving a small tourist industry and as a trading post for the Comoros. Kilwa has the feel of Zanzibar before it became hugely popular with tourists.
  • The only remaining dugong refuge in Tanzania is in the Kilwa region, it is possible to organise a trip with locals to see if you are lucky enough to find them.

Flights from Kilwa Masoko (KIY)

KIY to Dar es Salaam (DAR) 288 USD
KIY to Mafia Island (MFA) Search Now for Prices!
KIY to Songo Songo (SO1) Search Now for Prices!

Flights To Kilwa Masoko (KIY)

Dar es Salaam (DAR) to KIY Search Now for Prices!
Mafia Island (MFA) to KIY Search Now for Prices!
Songo Songo (SO1) to KIY Search Now for Prices!

Popular Activities

  1. Snorkelling
  2. Diving
  3. Flshing
  4. Swimming
  5. Sunbathing
  6. Bird Watching
  7. Exploring Caves
  8. Relaxing on the beach

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