Bagamoyo, not to be confused with Bongoyo Island off the coast of Dar es Salaam, is a town located about 47 miles north of Dar. Although now it’s mostly a sleepy beach town, making it part of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s beach series, it’s historical significance is worth reading about.
It was founded at the end of the 18th century as the capital of German East Africa. Up until the late 19th century, it was one of the most important, bustling, and profitable trading posts along the East African coast. Traders came from all over the world, but they were mostly Indian or Arab, which has made an everlasting diverse impression on the town. The Kaole Ruins are just south of the town and are dated from the 13th century, showing just how vital the city has been over the years.
Unfortunately, Bagamoyo really hit its prime for less than savory reasons. During the first half of the 19th century, its main imports and exports were ivory and slaves. Slaves were transported from western Tanzania and then shipped to Muslim dominated Zanzibar from this port. Bagamoyo literally means “lay down your heart,” and this is thought to reference the slaves giving up their last hopes of going home before they were sent over the ocean.
Things to Do
Bagamoyo’s importance began to decline in 1905 when a railway was built directly from the interior of the country to Dar es Salaam. Now, it’s a nice weekend getaway for expats living in Dar, and for those interested in African arts, scuba diving, and dhow sailboat building. The New Bagamoyo Beach Resort is working on building up it’s water sports activities, like kite boarding, jet skiing, water skiing, surfing, paddle boarding, and scuba diving. Other things to visit besides the ruins are the Catholic mission, which helped take care of escaped slaves, and shops located in the small town.
How Do I Get There?
The easiest way would be to rent a car and drive the 90 or so minutes from Dar to the small town. The time can vary depending on which day, time of day, and the always unexpected traffic. For the most part the road is paved and reliable, but it can be washed away during rainy season, so be mindful of when you’re trying to make the trip. Taking a taxi is an option, but it could cost $100 to get there. A daladala is the most cost efficient way to get there, but it could be a long, uncomfortable journey. You can catch one on New Bagamoyo Road in Dar.
Where Do I Stay?
The town is working on building its tourism industry, and with a few improvements it could be an incredible beach resort town. Now, the white sand beaches are hardly touched by tourists. The Lazy Lagoon is a pricey option while the New Bagamoyo Beach Resort is more budget. There are plenty of other places along the coast to choose from, but it’s best to make your reservations ahead of time.
Have you visited Bagamoyo? Where did you stay?
Hi, Mandy! I’ve just read your article. Do you still live in Tanzania??
I’m thinking myself to move from Europe to Tanzania and even that I’ve never been in Bagamoyo, I feel that Bagamoyo must be a very special place to live in. I’ve been in Tanzania 3 times already and I’m really in the mood to change my way of living.
Can you share some thoughts, some ideias?
Thank you so much!