Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Tanzanian Holiday in Kilwa - visit Kilwa Hotel

If you are planning on taking a Tanzania Safari why not plan on visiting Kilwa and see the ruins of a thriving sultanate from around 960AD and how it all came apart with foreign invasion and the slave trade.

Location and Size

To visit the island of Kilwa while on your Tanzania Safari, you will find Kilwa located 2km off the southeast coast of Tanzania. The distance from south of Dar es Salaam is about 300km.   It is close to the mainland on a large island enclosed within the Kilwa Bay. Kilwa was once a prosperous city ruled by a Sultanate with its beginnings dating from around 960-1000 AD.  The Sultanate’s rule of Kilwa extended from the south at Cape Correntes to Malindi in the north. Having broken the hold that Mogadishu had on the gold trade by the 13th century, it became a powerful city in the region by the 14th century. The opulence of the ruling classes is seen in the ruins of their large houses some several stories high. Unique to the architecture were the ornately carved doors, mosques and tombs that were the hallmark of the Swahili craftsmen who worked with wood, metal and stone. Their crockery was the finest porcelain from China. 
Destruction took place when the Portuguese arrived in 1498 and took control of the gold trade, spices, textiles and ivory, forcing the Sultans to part with tributes to the King of Portugal. The first to be attacked in 1503 was Zanzibar; two years later Kilwa and Mombasa came under attack and homes were devastated and looted. Succeeding invasions added to the breakdown and a slave trade flourished.  

Special Features

There was a period of powerful political and intellectual revolution between the times of the world wars for people in Africa. The Europeans tried to develop a successful colonial administration with a period of consolidation. However, the urban people in Africa started to demand more say in the government. New relations and movements came to be in force to make their voices heard. But the political pressure caused by World War One had no sooner gathered momentum than the Second World War was on track adding more chaos to the situation.

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Ruins of Kilwa Kisiwani


Kilwa Kisiwani (literally means ‘isle of the fishes’) is a medieval archeological site, located in present day Tanzania on the eastern coast of Africa, 300 kilometers south of Dar es Salaam. It is situated 3 kilometers off the mainland and represents the sui generis historical centre of the medieval Kilwa Sultanate, which were at its very best in the 13th – 15th centuries, when it was the most important Swahili trading community in the East. In 1955, James Kirkman and Neville Chittick from the British institute begin exploring the area of Kilwa.
In the 8th century, it became the dominant settlement on the Swahili coast, covering an area of one square kilometer. The most important factor which influenced its growth and development were the trade connections with the Arab, Hindu and Chinese world. Its origins are predominantly African, though there are Islamic components incorporated due to interchanging cultures. According to Kilwa Chronicle, the city started to thrive during Shirazi dynasty. Kilwa was famous for exporting ivory, beads, coconut oil, porcelain, spices, aromatic gums, tortoise shell, gold and slaves. The splendor of the city of Kilwa can also be seen in the fact that it had its own coins for roughly 500 years. It was almost destroyed in 1502, when the Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama tried to retake commercial and maritime dominance in the Indian Ocean.
Archeologists have found ceramic artifacts – kitchen wares - in Kilwa Ruins, as well as ceramic vessels which were imported from China and the Arabian Peninsula.
Husuni Kubwa.jpgFrom 2004, Kilwa Kisiwani belongs to the UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger, due to rapid crumbling of the archeological heritage which is caused by the rain, erosion and vegetation. For instance, “Palace of the Queens” - the eastern section of Kilwa Kisiwani - is gradually disappearing. Since 2008, Kilwa is placed on Watch List of 100 Most Endangered Sites.


The project of conservation is funded by the French and the Japanese governments and the main object of this endowment is the preservation and restoration of island’s treasures, which is considered the best example of Swahili architecture on the eastern African coast. Husuni Kubwa, or the “Great Fort” in English, is a 14th century sultan’s palace erected by Sultan al-Hasan ibn Sulaiman in 1310. It is composed by three parts: the first is used for commerce, the second is used as a place to live in, and the third leads down a mosque. Despite it wasn’t abandoned until the mid 19th century, it had not been used since the 14th century.
This mosque probably dates from 10th century, though its two main stages were founded in the 11th or 12th century of coral clay. During the rule of Hasan ibn Sulaiman Abu’l-Mawahib (1310-1333), major architectural constructions were performed: among them, a great dome which was favorably described in the chronicles of Moroccan traveler, Ibn Battuta in 1331.
Husuni Ndogo means “Little Fort” in English and its purposes still remain unknown among archeologists, though there are indications that it has been built as a fort and used as a mosque during some period of time. It has a shape of a rectangular bulwark and it is situated 80 m to the east of bigger palace. All these buildings are discreetly surrounded by baobab trees.

If Kilwa Kisiwani belongs to your “Must See” list, then you will have to find an accommodation in Kilwa Masoko – a town situated 300 kilometers south of Dar es Salaam – as there is no accommodation offered in Kilwa Kisiwani. In Masoko you can also seize the opportunity to relax on the beach and sunbathe. A government allowance from Cultural Centre is required in order to access to the ruins of Kilwa. If you are staying in Masoko you will need to take a boat through canal in order to get to Kilwa Kisiwani, and many hotels will organize this for you, charging you approximately $6 - $8 for a roundtrip.
The accommodations are either budget or up market ones. Mikumi guesthouse is among the cheapest - one night ends up costing ca. $2 – together with New Jika Guest House, which will charge you roughly $5 per night and person. Among up market accommodations there are Kilwa Seaview Resort, Kilwa Ruins Lodge, Kilwa Beach Lodge and Lake Maliwe Community Campsite. In these places, one night costs between $50 and $100.
Walking around the town use to be safe, but, however, it is recommended to travel in groups or get a taxi or tuktuk.
For those who are staying in Dar es Salaam and decide to visit Kilwa Kisiwani by car, there’s good news. From 2013, there is a road network linking Dar es Salaam and Kilwa District. This journey takes between three and four hours.
For those who wish to take plane, there is also a flight option from Dar es Salaam to Kilwa that operates on a daily basis, with departure at 10.30 am and arrival at 11.40 am. It ends up costing $250 per person, though the minimum number of travelers has to be 2. The flight from Kilwa to Dar es Salaam departs at 11.50 and arrives at 13.00 am, and the price and conditions are the same.
And finally, if you opt for public transport, there are buses running daily to Kilwa from Mbagala bus terminal, although the majority of direct lines leave early in the morning - around 6 am. If you prefer to leave later, you can get a coach to Lindi, get off at Nangurukuru and continue to Kilwa with a minibus.
During your stay in Kilwa Masoko, you can also visit Songo Mnara Ruins, which are considered more relevant architecturally than Kisiwani in some aspects. The Songo Mnara is situated only 8 km of Kilwa Kisiwani and belongs to the UNESCO’s List of World Heritage as well.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Why Visit Kilwa

Why to go there

The island is a small fishing village of about 300 persons.  But for centuries, it was the home to a rich and powerful Sultanate that most significantly embraced the entire Swahili Coast. Known as an important trade route, it connected to the ancient gold mines of Zimbabwe. Travellers described Kilwa as being one of the greatest and most beautiful cities in the world.

Kilwa emerged as a thriving trading centre after the land bridge connecting it to the mainland was dug up by the Persians. 
Springing up as a market town, Kilwa Masoko is the capital on the mainland and associated with Kilwa Kisiwani on the large island. After the collapse of the city, the majority of the people moved from the island to Kilwa Masoko. About 20km away is Kilwa Kivinji, a pleasant and smaller Swahili town, politically of lesser importance than Kilwa Masoko, which is the capital of the Kilwa district today, in the region of Lindi. Kilwa Masoko is used by most visitors on a Tanzanian Holiday to stay in, using it as a base for visiting the other Kilwas or a Tanzania Safari. 
Kilwa Kisiwani is a UNESCO world heritage site containing incredible ruins. Kilwa Kivinji an appealing sleepy little Swahili town, not as popular as the other Kilwas you see on a Tanzanian Holiday. A great deal Kilwa Kivinji is constructed in the conventional styles out of the customary coral-rag. Even though its sights are not as great as Kilwa Kisiwani, it is considered a pleasant enough town in its own right to deem it well worth to take a trip for the day, before launching on a Tanzania Safari. 
A guide with thorough information on the history and archaeology is a bit difficult to find, but a few are around on a Tanzania Budget Safari. A guide and a boat are at your disposal at most hotels. If your guide does not have an in-depth knowledge of the ruins, but knows only the locations, there are enough information signs and a useful book with detailed explanations and descriptions of the ruins that you can carry away as a memento.
There are dive centres from the newest hotels, and several of them cater to sports fishermen.
Kilwa is safe. It is a small sleepy township with dirt roads and makes it pleasant for strolls in the morning or when it is cooler in the late afternoon to visit the market and the port, to get a real experience of this excellent Swahili town. It is considered safe to walk around town during the day, but significant caution is advised after dark as there have been incidents where a number of tourists were mugged in recent years. It is always safe to travel in groups or take a taxi / tuk-tuk.
You won’t find any lodgings on Kilwa Kisiwani, but a few Tanzania Budget Safari options in the nearby Kilwa Kivinji. Kilwa Masoko is where most visitors prefer to stay.

When To Go / Weather

Kilwa is a tropical country. The Tanzanian coast experiences a typical tropical weather pattern with high temperatures throughout the year. Characterised with year round rainfall, two seasonal peaks caused by the change in equatorial winds by the earth's rotation is evidenced in relation to the sun.
It is a very difficult, to predict the weather at a certain time in a particular place. Any traveller would like to get acquainted with the climate conditions in advance to be able to organise their future trip. A study of the average temperatures or rainfall can facilitate in getting a good idea. 
The temperatures mentioned are expressed in degrees Celsius and correspond to the monthly averages experienced over a period of several years.
The rainfall graph can also be useful in determining the better time to set out on a trip.

TANZANIA - KILWA: Climate, temperatures, precipitation, sunshine

Average Temperatures
Rainfall in mm
Common with most of Tanzania, July to October is when the weather is at its best. Winds are from the Southeast and relatively mild.  

Usually in early November the winds change course, coming from the northeast and is known to be strong, bringing a high precipitation comparatively. It is felt to be particularly hot and humid during this time. However, it is relatively unpredictable year on year.  Lodges facing north and east are likely to face the wind. It will result in their view of the ocean being choppy and grey rather than the azure blue calm of other seasons.

During December to March, the winds usually continue from the northeast. Rainfall will slightly drop from November, and the temperatures should ease up a little. The rain will still be around from time to time with hazy clouds at times, but overall, this is well thought-out to be a splendid time to be on this coast.

Usually, in early April, the winds suddenly move violently to the south and southeast. It brings a remarkable increase in rainfall, with often precipitous rain every day for two months.   Temperatures remain high, but in between the rain, very pleasant and sunny spells can be experienced. Even though, most lodges are closed during this period, a few that does stay open. These are inclined to do reasonable business, especially amongst the expatriate population of Dar es Salaam, who are more equipped to take their chances with the weather between April to May.

The rains ought to have largely died down by June, but the month is known for its winds, which persist in coming in from the southeast side. The winds are no stronger than the months preceding. It is because there are more guests in the lodges to experience them. Mainly exposed are the Lodges facing south and should possibly be avoided at this time.

Extra Information
Big game fishing, sailing and diving from the offshore reefs and expeditions canoeing into mangrove swamps are some of the favourite activities in Kilwa.
Temperature - Precipitation
°C | °F

Average high in °C
Average low in °C
Av. precipitation - mm

Average high in °C
Average low in °C
Av. precipitation - mm 

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Kilwa masoko reaching by bus

How to travel from Dar to Kilwa Masoko

Kilwa road is nearly complete there is around 8km of unmade road still remaining; this is currently being worked on with expected completion of November this year.

Buses travel from Mbagala Rangi Tatu, Dar es salaam to Kilwa Masoko Market bus stop.

There are 2 companies which run bigger more luxury buses: mashallah and Swahili.

Both companies have buses leaving Dar es Salaam and from Kilwa at 05:45, if you have no ticket we recommend arriving at least 5am. Journey time is between 4 to 6 hours depending on road conditions and Dar es Salaam traffic.

Swahili have recently opened an afternoon service which departs at 1pm from Mbagala and arrives at kilwa kivinje at 5pm and kilwa masoko about 6pm.

Cost for bus from Kilwa to Dar

The bus currently costs 13,000 Tanzanian shilling (around 7 dollars) but this does vary.

We are able to book tickets and taxis if you are coming to stay with us so please get in touch.



Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Kilwa NGO goes global - KIYODEA

Kilwa Masoko and Kilwa Beach Lodge's
Partner Ngo have gone global!

Please see below some pictures from Italy where KIYODEA fundraising took place.

The Kilwa Youth Development Association (KIYODEA) are a registered non-governmental organisation working in Kilwa District, Southern Tanzania. KIYODEA are raising financial donations for a variety of projects in Kilwa Masoko, Kilwa Kisiwani And Kilwa Kivinje.

Through working with a variety of businesses & volunteers, KIYODEA have constructed a biological research centre and environmental building centre in Kilwa on Masoko Pwani. The research centre is currently being marketed to all international universities as an undergraduate and postgraduate tropical research site dealing in terrestrial, aquatic and marine biology.

Along with the research centre, KIYODEA have established a community campsite and field site at Lake Maliwe, a stunning location within the buffer zone of the Selous Game Reserve.

KIYODEA also offer gap year and school trips combining scientific research and volunteer community work in this severely impoverished area and include education, medical and aids awareness projects.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Recent Traveler To Kilwa Masoko Hotel - Kilwa Beach Lodge

I first traveled in Kilwa Masoko in my 20’s, doing the backpacker thing and slumming it on local transport so that I could make my travels last as long as possible. 14 years later on, I decided to do it in style.

I chose Tanzania, partly because of the political stability and the rich history but also because of the fact that my wife hates to travel places where where can’t speak the language. Everyone speaks English here and the country offers up some of the best wildlife bio diversity and also boasts the biggest mountain in Africa, Mt. Kilimanjaro. It is the perfect place for an off-the-beaten path holiday.

We decided to base ourselves in Masoko Pwani in the Kilwa district. Located in the south of Tanzania, Kilwa Masoko is easy to get to and close to everything you could ever want to see in Tanzania. We found an amazing place called The KilwaBeach Lodge and decided that would be our base for exploring the region. We booked ourselves into one of the beautiful beachside Bandas that are built in the traditional style, but don’t skimp at all on luxury. Definitely a far cry from my last travels in Africa.

We had a week to explore. But after talking to the staff at the resort, I felt we probably should have stayed for 2 weeks instead. Such as it is when you only have a weeks holiday. Our first venture out was to the ancient ruins of Kilwa Kisiwaniand Songo Mnara. This place is a must see. Located on a small island just a short way from our resort, Kilwa was at one time the most powerful city on the East African coast. It changed hands between many political powers over it’s almost 1000 year history, but the ruins are in a surprisingly good state.

We were lured by the pristine beaches and the fantastic food at the Kilwa Lodge and ended up spending two days just relaxing and eating and walking on the beach. It was pretty easy to do, the beach goes on forever and the bar at the resort has some of the most delicious mango and watermelon cocktails you could ever want. We probably could have spent the rest of our holiday right there.

But by the forth day we decided we had to take advantage of the fact that we were in Africa. We took a day trip to the mangroves to see the hippos. I have never seen anything quite like it, hundreds of these massive creatures lazing around in the water.

Another night of those wicked cocktails and a dinner at or resort. We had delicious Swahili food, a first for my wife, and tried to decided what to do with the few days we had left there. I am a certified diver but my wife doesn’t like the idea. So we decided that I would go for a dive on the reef and she would sit on the beach for a day. The diving was great, crystal clear visibility and mountains of fish.

We had just 2 days left, and even though we thoroughly enjoyed our beach time, we slightly regretted not having spent those days doing things. We had really wanted to do a trip to the Selouis game reserve, but we really needed more time, to perhaps do an overnight trip. We ended up exploring the local markets and eating yet more delicious food.

We didn’t mind though. We loved our stay at the lodge, for me it was a return to Africa the way I had always wanted to. Please see their great tripadvisor reviews