Dar Es Salaam Tourist Attractions
Dar es Salaam tourist attractions are many and varied. Some of the more common attractions include the Botanical gardens, St.Joseph’s Cathedral, The Old Boma (oldest surviving building in Dar), the Askari Monument, and the State House. Here’s a selection of the some of the best, less known, and truly unique Dar es Salaam tourist attractions:
• National History Museum: Not the biggest of museums but it hosts some rare exhibits such as the Laetoli footprints from Olduvai Gorge as well as ethnographic displays on traditional culture and craft. The splendid gardens also play host to concerts and art events while offering a great hideaway during the day to eat or just read a book. Just a short and pleasant walk North of the city centre.
• Village Museum: located about 8km North of the city, this Dar es Salaam tourist attraction represents over 100 ethnic groups of Tanzania by showing off full size replicas of their traditional dwellings. In over 15 acres you can get lost amid the homesteads while viewing traditional painting, weaving, carving, and even cultural music and dances. Highly recommended.
• Islands trips: Sinda, Mbudya, and Bongoyo Islands and others are all a short boat ride away from Dar es Salaam and offer a break away from the busier mainland. Zanzibar can count almost as a separate holiday but is highly recommended. Sinda Island is an ideal day trip and easily reached from Kipepeo Beach. See more on our “Best Islands off Dar es Salaam” blog feature.
• Kunduchi Wet n’ Wild Water Park: Also host to Tanzania’s first go-kart track, this is the largest water park in East and Central Africa. Popular with families, you will find a colorful mix of pools, playgrounds, fast-food restaurants, and twenty-two water slides.
• Oyster Bay & Msasani Peninsula: The Coco Beach area is the home of most ex-pats and the best regular nightlife of any Dar es Salaam Tourist attractions, featuring a plethora of popular pubs and restaurants like George and the Dragon, and the Slow Leopard, as well as luxury resort hotels like Sea Cliff.
• Charity Goat Races: The Green in Dar es Salaam hosts charity goat races every September on a uniquely designed track, raising around $25,000 a year for local schools and charities. This is a uniquely Dar es Salaam tourist attraction, not to be missed.
• Mzalendo Halisi Music Festival: More than 100 traditional Tanzanian music and dance performers participate in this event at the Posta Grounds in Kijitonyama. During the day, visitors can shop at a culturally-inspired market and view a multitude of art exhibitions.
• Fashion Week: Every November, top regional designers come together at Dar Es Salaam’s National Museum for Swahili Fashion Week. The event showcases local talent, colorful African styling, and it offers networking opportunities for the East African fashion industry.
• Diwali: With a large Indian population, Diwali is an important Hindu festival but also serves as a unique Dar es Salaam tourist attraction. Symbolic lamps and fireworks fire up the night sky to symbolize the triumph of good over evil while Dar es Salaam’s city center becomes a party zone consumed by the festival colours.
Dar es Salaam is the best launch pad and gateway for Tanzania safaris. Many of the best and most reputable safari operators base themselves in Dar es Salaam because tourists can simultaneously enjoy a beach holiday and the city sights here while waiting for safari. What’s more, it’s the perfect place to relax and reflect on your safari when you return.
Two friends and I stayed at Kipepeo Beach & Village before we started our overland safari with Acacia. I picked this place as I thought it would be easier with starting the safari: and it was… just what we needed after 18 hours of traveling too. (Jessica E, Australia) Trip Advisor.
From Dar es Salaam, you are much closer to Tanzania’s South and Western wildlife parks. While the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater are the best known conservation areas, visitors often overlook Southern Parks such as Selous and Ruaha which are highly regarded among passionate wildlife enthusiasts. These parks actually offer a wider choice of activities at much better value for money than the Northern parks. Similarly, in the West of Tanzania the Mahale and Katavi parks, though more expensive to reach, contain a distinctly more unique safari experience. Indeed, Tanzania has such a varied countryside that every safari is a different experience but from Dar es Salaam you have better access to this variety with a wider choice.
A popular Southern choice is Africa’s largest and oldest game reserve: Selous. The riverine green landscape of Selous boasts dense bush, lakes, and rivers that sustain huge quantities of wildlife that can be explored via some of the best boating and guided walks of any of the Tanzania safaris. Ruaha Park on the other hand shows off a dry red soil across ancient plains where your safari will see vast buffalo herds contend with prides of lions. Ruaha also hosts the highest concentration of elephants in Africa that is sure to make your safari an incredible experience.
In the West, Katavi National Park remains a rare pristine wilderness favoured by passionate wildlife and Tanzania safari enthusiasts. Katavi offers a much wilder experience with options for camping and walking among the big game the Park is known for. On the banks of Lake Tanganyika (from where the mainland of Tanzania gets it names), Mahale Mountains National Park is another tremendously wild safari option with an abundance of life that includes the most renowned chimpanzee experience in Africa.
Generally, Tanzania safaris in the South and Western parks are where you can get a much wilder experience where you may not even see another safari vehicle during your trip. You will return from your safari both enlightened and tired. And where better to replenish with a little R&R than a Dar es Salaam beach holiday. Dar es Salaam’s Kipepeo Beach is the perfect gateway to prepare your Tanzania safari and, when you return, to reflect on your experiences with a chilled cocktail on the pristine ocean beach.
Camping Holidays in Tanzania
Camping holidays in Tanzania options are many and easy to come by. Bringing your own tent is a great way to get all the experiences Tanzania has to offer while saving money and the good news is most beach hotels have designated grounds for the camping traveler. Be careful though, if you plan on pitching your own tent in the Serengeti you will be paying a hefty price.
Unfortunately, you can not simply set up your own camp at the national parks. Not only is this illegal but it is highly dangerous what with all the lions and buffalo and what not. Every national park has camping options however, run by hotels or safari operators, which vary depending on your preference and budget. For example, Selous River Camp offers basic but comfortable tents for $100 a night or luxury mud huts for over $200. However, your best option for camping holidays in Tanzania is to check out safari operators such as Meru Treks. They usually offer a range of bundle price options for you to choose on your safari with camping always reducing the price. Generally, you can take a two to three day safari with camping for around $500 that includes armed security to protect you from curious animals. Be sure to check with the safari operator in advance, chances are they provide the tents.
Don’t leave your tent at home though! If you want to pitch your own equipment, camping holidays in Tanzania are still easily done. Outside the national parks, most beach hotels and eco-lodges will allow you to pitch a tent for a small fee but be sure to phone ahead to make sure. Places like Kipepeo Beach and Village offer the best option for a camping holiday in Tanzania. At Kipepeo Beach for example, $10 will get you a camping spot right on Dar es Salaam’s South Beach, with shared bathrooms, electrical hookups, and space for both small and large groups. This is not only a perfect money saver, but is also a humbling beach experience under magnificent stars only a short while yet a world away from Dar es Salaam city centre.
For safari and national parks, camping holidays in Tanzania command a higher price than you may have expected but don’t forget these are stunning natural resources that are preserved by those prices. If you cannot afford them, camping holidays in Tanzania are still the best way to save money especially for the backpacker and when visiting close to the towns and cities such as Dar es Salaam with hotels such as Kipepeo Village offering fantastic rates.
Best Islands off Dar Es Saalam
Kipepeo Beach is a well known gateway for getting to one of the best islands off Dar es Salaam: Sinda Island. Sinda actually consists of “Inner” Sinda and “outer” Sinda islands that are part of a larger coral reef formation. The formation makes Sinda one of the best islands off Dar es Salaam for snorkeling, surrounded by patch reefs that harbour a variety of species such as tiny clownfish and huge moray eels. Sinda Island is also famed as a quiet spot favoured by honeymooners and people just enjoying a day trip with a picnic. It is about 15km offshore but getting there is simple, with boats departing daily from Kipepeo beach and a chance to see dolphins on the way.
Some of the other best islands off Dar es Salaam include Mbudya Island, which is one of four islands in the Dar es Salaam Marine Reserve. It that can be reached via a 10-minute motorboat ride from Kunduchi and seems a world away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Dar es Salaam with white-sand beaches and some great snorkeling. You can rent thatched huts on the beach, called Bandas, for the day and dine on some fresh seafood barbequed by locals on the island.
Also in the Reserve is Bongoyo Island off the Msasani Peninsula just north of the city centre. There are no bandas here but you can catch the shade under thatched umbrellas after glimpsing the abundant sea life among the coral including starfish and clownfish. There are also some great nature trails to explore behind the beach where you can navigate your way to the other shore. Bongoyo is well served with a snack bar that serves cold drinks and freshly caught seafood.
Aside from Sinda Island, the best island off Dar es Salaam has to be Zanzibar. Zanzibar is actually a big tropical autonomous archipelago over 25km North-East of the city, but the main island Unguja (commonly referred to as Zanzibar) is easily reached by ferry or plane from Dar es Salaam. The famous “Spice Islands” are unforgettable, offering some of the best tropical beaches, snorkeling, and diving in the world. If you don’t want to stay the night, in a day trip it is possible to either see the UNESCO Heritage Site of Stone Town or head straight to the beach but you cannot come to Dar es Salaam without getting out to see Zanzibar for a recommended couple of days.
across the Kurasini Creek the spectacular bridge connects Dar es Salaam’s main city districts to Kigamboni, a fishing village and new district ward just South of Dar es Salaam harbor.
Previously this link was only crossable by the Kivukoni ferry but with Kigamboni Bridge, commuters now have 6 lanes to make the crossing by car, drastically reducing traffic and wait times in the congested city centre and reliance on the small ferry. The bridge also has two cycle and pedestrian lanes, and operates a toll plaza of 14 lanes that allow quick and easy passage.
Kigamboni Bridge is a distinctly modern cable stay suspension design and the first of its kind in East Africa, with 400 meters of its weight supported by cable and the rest being held by support columns. Its construction also involved 2.5km
of approach roads on either side, joining the Mandela expressway to other junctions through free interchange, as well as a slipway to the TAZARA Railway Bridge which passes underneath.
At a cost of $136 million to Tanzania’s government and social security fund, the importance of Kigamboni Bridge to Dar es Salaam should not be understated. Not only does it serve to reduce commuting time and relieve Dar es Salaam’s infamous congestion problems, but the modern style and magnitude of the structure is a sign of Tanzania’s rapidly growing economy that serves as a counter to the stereotypes of Africa. Indeed, Kigamboni Bridge, like much of Dar es Salaam is one of the many attractions that change Western attitudes toward Africa when they see it.
Many tourists visiting Africa for the first time come with pre-conceived and ill-informed notions of a completely undeveloped continent. Sights like Kigamboni Bridge and the bustling central business district of Dar es Salaam show that Tanzania is far from the stereotypical backward nation but instead boasts a fledgling infrastructure and rapidly expanding modern economy.