The ultimate safari travel guide to Tanga : This is a complete travel guide to Pangani and Tanga in Tanzania: The third-largest city in Tanzania and the second-most significant port in the Indian Ocean, Tanga, is described in this page, along with its history, attractions and all the things to do there. 66 kilometers south of Tanga, on the banks of the Pangani River, is the tranquil small village of Pangani. As well as the sleepy little town of Pangani, on the banks of the Pangani River, 66 kilometers south of Tanga.

Tanga may not be as well-known to tourists as other famous Tanzanian larger cities such as Dar es Salaam, Arusha, Mwanza, The Stone Town in Zanzibar, and Dodoma, but it is one of the major cities in Tanzania worth visiting and exploring due to its long history dating back to the colonial era, its richness in cultural tours, the beautiful beaches due to its location on the Indian Ocean’s coast, and many more. In short, Tanga has it all, from many attractions to see to activities to do for everyone, and no doubt it should be on everyone’s Tanzania safari bucket list.


Tanzania History: From Prehistory to the 20th Century. The first indication of Tanga’s past can be seen in its broad, shaded avenues. Within minutes of arriving, it’s clear that you will discover that Tanga was once a well-known colonial and industrial center, complete with exact town planning, spotless roads, a beautiful hospital, police stations, and an intimidating jail. But in the old harbor, the enormous steel hulks of old ships have rusted, and the paving stones are loose and occasionally sprouting weeds.

 These are indications of a much deeper tragedy that has befallen this formerly beautiful town, which once thrived but has since seen a severe economic downfall. It hardly seems big enough to be considered the second or third-most important port in Tanzania, but it is big enough to have established multiple separate areas. The thousands of residents here are a diverse mix of the various main regional tribes, as well as many other groups, and are arranged in rows upon rows behind the railway line, resembling purpose-built workers’ housing from the Industrial Revolution.

 You can reach Ras Kazone, a looping coastal road that circles the peninsula, by exploring the town a little bit more. With its sailing club, swimming club, and opulent historic hotels, this waterfront formerly fostered the beachside elegance that a number of these huge, detached residential homes here sleepily take in.


The British explorer Burton described the town of Tanga as a collection of “thatch pent-roofed huts, built upon a bank overlooking the sea” in 1857. Burton estimated the local population to be between 4,000 and 5,000 people, including approximately fifteen Baluchi and twenty Indian merchants, who were all kept in check by the Sultan’s troops under his designated “Wali,” or governor.

Tanga was a small fishing community that could have supported some level of trade with Bagamoyo when the German East Africa Company arrived in this area in 1888 after successfully convincing the Sultan to lease them a 16-kilometer wide strip of land along Tanzania’s coastline. To bring back ivory for sale, the town dispatched annual caravans into the Usambara, Pare, Kilimanjaro, and Maasai territories.

The ultimate safari travel guide to Tanga
Tanga Region


Although a few Omani people decided to live in this rural area to the north of the main port town, it was primarily inhabited by various separate and different tribes. These include the Digo and Bondeni, whose names translate to “of the valley,” two groups that originated in Kenya but were pushed south by their neighbors, as well as the Shambaa and Pare, two groups that originated in the neighboring Usambara and Pare mountains and also extended south, The ultimate safari travel guide to Tanga

The Segeju were another immigrant group; they are less visible today, most likely as a result of intermarriage, but they are thought to be responsible for constructing several fortified walled enclosures around the Tanga region, which are believed to have been constructed in the 19th century as a defense against the Maasai. However, some of them had angled spy holes like those at the “Gereza” in Kilwa and Fort Jesus in Mombasa, which can be an indication of Arab design and building influences.

The Zigua people, who may have been the first inhabitants of the Tanga region, continued to live on their land just south of Tanga. They earned a solid reputation for staying to themselves but displaying fierce ferocity when provoked. They have grown into a sizable tribe, marrying frequently and remaining generally hostile to missionaries who demand that they accept Christianity in exchange for attending school.

The commercial exchange made possible by the close vicinity of the caravan routes was familiar to all of these people and other nearby tribes, but perhaps none were ready for the arrival of the new German port.


After determining that the port of Bagamoyo was too shallow, the first colonial power started developing the small port of Tanga towards the end of the 19th century. Shortly after, in 1893, they finished building a railway line from Moshi to Tanga.

 The first school in Tanzania was established in the same year and was first managed by the German Colonial Society before being quickly taken over by the government. Although the school gained a reputation for strict discipline that included the use of chains and canes, it was apparently successful in setting up a system of instruction that prioritized learning the German language as well as reading, writing, and craft skills.

Very quickly, the rich areas near Tanga and up in the Usambara Highlands were farmed and proved to be successful. Large-scale sisal plantations were set up, but World War I’s outbreak halted further development.


At that time, Tanga was the scene of one of East Africa’s most notorious military gaffes. Although it was their surprise when they arrived and discovered the deep mangroves along the beaches were practically impenetrable and the German troops had been thoroughly prepared for their arrival, thousands of Allied troops were sent to lay a surprise attack on the Germans along the Tanga shoreline. They were driven to abandon essential supplies and weaponry as they fled after being further rebuffed by an aggressive swarm of disgruntled bees.

 Approximately 800 men perished, and nearly as many were injured. The Ice-Cream War by William Boyd is a fine, if fanciful, account of this incident and other First World War incidents that occurred in Tanzania.


In the years that followed the war, Tanga’s population underwent an odd change as the German settlers left and a tough group of Greek farmers took over the sisal plantations. Prior to the mid-1950s, when sisal prices began to fall, these had a wild reputation for popular gambling sessions in which entire estates could change hands. They also benefited greatly from their sisal harvests.

The population of Tanga today is largely dependent on local dhow trade with the Tanzanian and Kenyan coasts as well as the cement and brick factories that are located just west of the town. The crop has never really recovered as a result of the proliferation of manufactured fibers, though it is still profitable for many of the smaller, recently privatized farms.


Examples of the numerous sisal ropes, which were once the lifeblood of the town’s success, may be seen at the Tanga Ropeworks, which is located next to the Post Office in the middle of the city. The old German-built courthouse across the street is still an impressive and attractive structure that serves as the administration of law and order.

A stroll down Independence Avenue, which runs parallel to the seafront, passes the 1961-erected Clock Tower on the way to the Library, a sizable structure with a charming arched courtyard that was inaugurated by British Governor Sir Edward Twining in the mid-1950s.

 The Old Boma, which is enormous, heavy, and imposing, can be found just west of the Library along Independence Road, in a magnificent location overlooking the old harbor.

A few blocks south, the charming and seemingly untouched railway station appears to have been plucked out of a photo book of European rural stations from a century ago, which is a more intriguing and appealing remnant of this colonial era. Sadly, passengers can no longer travel on this route. You can get here by crossing Uhuru Park and taking Station Road south. On the park’s eastern side, Tanga School is located.


Amboni Caves in Tanga: If you have some spare time in Tanga and are interested in an intriguing detour, Amboni Caves are only 8 kilometers north of Tanga. These limestone caves, which date back to the Jurassic era and span more than 207 kilometers, are part of a protected area that has long been the subject of magical folklore.

 Locals have long believed the peculiar creation to be magical and refer to it as Mzimu wa Mabavu, the home of a strong deity. People travel from all over the region to give prayers and sacrifices in an effort to find relief from illness, misery, or infertility. As a result, you can discover dusty bottles of oil, perfume, and burned incense in some locations, The ultimate safari travel guide to Tanga

According to history, some people found refuge in these caverns during the Mau-Mau uprising in Kenya, particularly the now-famous Elias Samuel Oselloetango, who resisted British attempts to capture him time and time again. Between 1952 and 1956, this elusive anti-hero lived in these caves with Paulo Hamisi and utilized them as a hideout. During that time, he was able to spread a variety of stories about his adventures, including escaping from jail and living in this cavernous labyrinth. On yellowing “wanted” posters hanging in the guide’s hut, an unattractive description of his scarred, dark, heavy complexion, and lock of curly hair falling low on his forehead brings the legend to life.

The Antiquities Act of 1964 provides protection for the caverns, and many of the caves at Amboni can be visited on a guided trip. Do not expect more from the “guided tour” than a man with a torch guiding you through the maze and pointing out peculiar stalactite formations that seem to bear the look of the Virgin Mary or a roaring lion. These extraordinary natural rock formations are unquestionably impressive.

Finally, as you stand at the base of a very steep pile of rocks from where the trail continues, he points out “Kilimanjaro.” However, it is essential to travel with a guide, as doing so without one has resulted in fatalities. Although the tour is a lot of fun, it is not advised for those who are afraid of climbing through frequently quite small, dark passages or who experience vertigo. Bats abound in the honeycomb cave maze, which is completely dark. A guide costs Tsh 1,000 per person for entry.

The ultimate safari travel guide to Tanga
Amboni Caves

Tanga-Tongoni Ruins: There are remnants of a much older community with the same name close to the village of Tongoni, 20 kilometers south of Tanga town off the Tanga-Pangani road, as well as mosques, tombs, and defensive walls from the 18th and 19th centuries. These ruins date from the 13th and 16th centuries.

 These older locations are now heavily overgrown, making access to many of them challenging or impossible. The Swahili word “Tongoni” means “forsaken place” or “site of ruins,” while it is said that more recent occupants called the area “Sitahabu,” which means “better here than there.”

These people were the forerunners of some of the current Tongoni residents, known as “Shirazi” migrants from Kilwa, who moved into some of the abandoned buildings after discovering the ruins were unoccupied. It may have taken a few generations before Tongoni was renamed and the former name was forgotten. The ruins of Tongoni’s oldest town are primarily located to the north and east of the site’s enormous, now-destroyed central mosque and tombs, which are notable for their inclusion of several pillar tombs from the 14th and 15th centuries.

The pillars contain scalloped indentations that were formerly ornamented with saucers made of glazed porcelain, like those found at the Kilwa mosque’s domed structure, but none of these saucers are still there. Many have intricate frieze carvings all around them. According to local legend, it is widely believed that a simple, double-walled tomb close to a tomb with a fallen pillar that rests against the east wall is the final resting place of a Sharif, a descendant of the Prophet Mohammed. People still bring offerings here, particularly pregnant women, The ultimate safari travel guide to Tanga


Although it can be a substantial distance if you want to visit the town center, the Raskazone peninsula, and other areas of Tanga, the city is fairly navigable on foot. Renting a bicycle is possible and recommended, especially if you have the stamina to go the distance to Amboni Caves as well. Bicycles can be rented for roughly Tsh1000-2000 per hour at the roundabout on Taifa Road that is located between the bus stop and the railway station, The ultimate safari travel guide to Tanga


66 kilometers south of Tanga, on the Pangani (Ruvu) river’s banks, is the little village of Pangani. Between the slowly decaying “new” town, where a number of spectacular remains from all its centuries of governance serve as a reminder of a once more brilliant past, and the ancient old town of Bwemi, with its crumbling mosques and Arabic dwellings on the south bank,

 These sluggish wooden motorboats wait at each shore until they are full, at which point a loud general banter breaks out among the steadily growing number of passengers wearing bright clothing. Nobody is in a hurry, and time seems to be moving more slowly than usual, as if it were the river and the sea beyond it.

 Old factory sites and warehouses along the river, however, show indications of peaceful industry as groups of workers meet there to repair nets or harvest baskets of coconuts or husks. Beyond, groups of single-story Swahili homes are painted and decorated in various ways with signs, and women sit on colored kangas under shady verandas selling packages of delectable honeyed rice cake.


Little Pangani Town might have once played a more significant role in history if it really was the location of the ancient market town of Rhapta, which was mentioned in The Periplus of the Erythraen Sea, a first-century handbook to the trading ports of Arabia, Eastern Africa, and India.

The trading port of Rhapta was located at a large river mouth, south of the “Mountains of the Moon,” according to the description of Azania’s coast in this book. Rhapta must have existed in modern-day Tanzania, but no remains have been discovered. It’s likely that the old town has ultimately been swallowed up by the large river mouth, either here in Pangani or further south towards the enormous Rufiji River Delta.

Old mosques on the southern banks of the Pangani River indicate that there was a very early Muslim settlement in this area, and local legends mention the ruins of a great palace that has since fallen victim to nature’s whims, been entwined with massive fig tree roots, and crumbled to dust with cliff erosion. In the villages near Pangani, there are a number of burials and remnants of ancient Muslim settlements, all of which date from the 14th century or later, though none have been discovered to be older.

It is known that the Portuguese briefly held Pangani and that, as a result, more Arab traders moved there throughout the 18th century. They did some business and traded with the nearby Zigua tribe, offering food in exchange for belts and jewelry. Arabs and natives got along well and were dependent on each other; thus, the town remained a low-key, tranquil dhow port until the middle of the 1800s.

Once more, the words of explorer Richard Burton give information on the current condition because during his 1857 tour, he noted that 35,000 pounds of ivory, 1,750 pounds of rhinoceros horn, and 160 pounds of hippopotamus teeth were exported annually. All of this is in addition to the regular commerce in corn and mangrove poles, The ultimate safari travel guide to Tanga

Around this time, Pangani’s way of life started to drastically change as “Shirazi” locals intensified trade connections along the Pangani River, eventually turning the port into a significant hub for the trade of ivory and slaves and the final stop for overland caravans traveling from Lake Tanganyika. Under the minaret of a main mosque, the Arab people built a sophisticated white-washed town. Successful tobacco and sugar plantations were all around the town.

But following Sultan Barghash’s death in 1888 and the subsequent deal they reached with his unfortunate brother Khalifa, the social structure was most drastically transformed when German colonialists forced their way into control of the Sultan’s territory on the mainland. In return for the beautiful stone homes they had built nearby, German colonialists appointed Arab locals to government positions. They then asked that the akida, or officials of the Sultan, charge a massive amount of new taxes, including those on burial, inheritance, and property.

Anyone who didn’t register their possessions and circumstances ran the risk of having them seized. Locals describe how the force of a beating stick was heavily used in the early colonial methods of discipline. They also relate (with a certain amount of awe) how one colonial administrator developed such skill with his stick that he was even able to defend himself from the jaws of a man-eating lion. According to legend, he survived a deadly battle with a lion that ate people.

The “Bushiri” revolt

Sheikh Bushiri ibn Salim al-Harthi decided to base the historic uprising against German colonial control in 1888 at Pangani after a young German official by the name of Emil von Zewlewsky, sometimes known as “Nyundo” or “the hammer,” made snide remarks about Muslims and “sneered at the Sultan.” Zewlewsky then sent 100 men onto the shore to destroy property and take down the Sultan’s flag in an effort to quash any potential uprising against his reign.

Bushiri was furious. He was an arrogant, wealthy, and high-born Arab who fervently believed that his own al-Harthi community had just as much claim to the territory as the Sultan did. The sheikh gathered a rabid army of roughly 20,000 wild tribesmen, Arabs, Muslims, non-Muslims, slave traffickers, and slaves to fight the German occupiers. They dug trenches and fortified their homes, including blockading Zelewsky in his headquarters.

Evidently, there was some ambiguity over the army’s precise mission. While some believed they were protecting the Sultan’s territory, Bushiri himself had ambitions to establish himself as a powerful warlord. A certain overwhelming rage against the German colonialists served as the only unifying factor, The ultimate safari travel guide to Tanga

For a while, his army was able to keep their enemy off their shores, but Bismarck’s power could not be ridiculed, and soon after, more soldiers were sent from Europe. By May 1889, the unrest had been put down when a new imperial commissioner, Major Herman von Wissman, was assigned to Pangani. He used the force of seven warships, a large arsenal of contemporary weapons, and a large number of Sudanese and Zulu troops to appease the already-chilling mob. By June, Wissman had retaken Saadani and subsequently Pangani; in December, Bushiri was apprehended as a result of the large prize money on his head; he and his accomplices were then hanged in front of the entire community.

After winning, the German powers bravely waged war and set villages on fire to further assert their dominance over Tanganyika. But not everyone managed to escape the assaults; suffice it to say that young Zelewsky, also known as “the hammer,” perished at the hands of Chief Mkwawa’s Hehe soldiers near Iringa.

The less oppressive regimes of the new British government following World War II were warmly received by the Pangani inhabitants, who were still suffering from the savagery of the German administrative tactics.

Although the British were better at communicating with and understanding the locals, they still relied on the German-created Arab rulers and strictly enforced tax payments, punishing non-payers with incarceration. The British era witnessed a marked expansion of educational opportunities that were open to anybody who chose to enroll, but with the important condition that they be used by Christians only, The ultimate safari travel guide to Tanga

In this area, there is a fairly equitable split between Muslims and Christians, depending on how amenable families and tribes were to this restriction on future schooling. The older generation of Pangani has vivid memories of the colonial era’s final years as a period of prosperous trade and production from the sisal (mkonge) plantations.

Four sizable estates in the Pangani area—Sakura, Kibinda, Mwera, and Bushiri—performed admirably and did so for some time following Independence. However, as sisal prices started to fall and wages were cut, many started despondently hoping for the old protectorate to come back. People started planting coconut plantations, which were successful for a while as the sisal harvests lost their value. But the crops have significantly diminished, and the trees have grown older.

In comparison to a rumored nearly 100% employment rate under British rule, there is currently little work available for the residents of Pangani beyond a minimal subsistence based on coconut, fish, and tiny seasonal crops. The employment level has officially plummeted to 10%. The fact that many Pangani adolescents are compelled to relocate for employment to Arusha or Dar es Salaam makes the prevalent memories of better days much worse.

book a safari