There is no better way to relax after a foray into the interior than to take things easy coastal style; “No hurry in Africa – Hakuna Matata”
Sailing in a traditional dhow to reach your snorkelling spot on the reef or even a live-aboard excursion on a modern well equipped Catamaran for several days sailing between islands and snorkelling whilst freshly caught seafood is prepared for lunch.
In 1331 the legendary Arab globetrotter Ibn Battuta travelled some 120,000 nautical miles in his lifelong quest for fresh sights. He alighted at a settlement he would later describe as “one of the most beautiful and well-constructed towns in the world” – the name of this town was Kilwa. This was once the capital of Africa and the trading hub of East Africa which connected the East with Africa trading spices, gold, ivory and slaves out of Africa.
The Swahili Coast – broadly speaking the Indian Ocean coastline from Mogadishu south towards the Zambezi delta – is endowed with an endless succession of picture-perfect palm fringes beaches.
Swahili means ‘of the coast’ – is correct to start in Mogadishu and goes further south beyond Tanzania, but it refers to the coast where Swahili as a language is spoken. Maybe we can edit this together.
These idyllic expanses of soft white sand, hemmed in by swaying coconut palms and jungle like coastal bush, are complimented by a series of off-shore reefs whose kaleidoscopic swirls of fish have acquired legendary status with divers and snorkelers alike.
But the Swahili coast also houses one of Africa’s wealthiest architectural and cultural legacies: a series of sleepy ports and haunted ruins that document a maritime trade stretching back to Pharonic times. This trade peaked during the seventh-century rise of Islam as, year after year, century after century, the monsoon winds blew dhows from Arabia and Asia to Kilwa, Mombasa, Malindi and dozens of lesser ports, to trade their exotic cargo for African wares such as Ivory, Ebony, Tortioseshell, and especially after 1000AD, a bountiful supply of gold sourced from present-day Zimbabwe.
For those interested in historical culture and the evolvement of human settlement & trade Kilwa is a definite spot to combine with an Indian Ocean adventure and a safari. This former trading city on the southern coast of Tanzania has the largest group of pre-colonial ruins in East Africa. The ruins are confined almost exclusively to Kilwa Kiswani (on the island), whilst Kivinje and Masoko are both later settlements on the mainland. The history of Kilwa is known from the Kilwa Chronicle which relates the history of the city from its foundation to the beginning of the Portuguese period in the 16th century. The earliest settlement at the site seems to have been in the 8th century although there are few standing remains from this period.
There are also important ruins on nearby islands including Songo Mnara, Sanje Majoma and Sanje ya Kate which are best accessed by traditional Arab trading dhow or a better still as part of a live aboard sailing trip from Zanzibar which we can plan entirely at your discretion.