If you're a longtime reader, you'll know that my visit to Tanzania in 2014 is the whole reason I started this blog! I spent two months there, exploring any and every thing I had time to. But with my most recent visit this year, I wanted to travel a little slower during my three month stint in-country. When most people think of Tanzania, they automatically head to Zanzibar or Mt. Kilimanjaro. But Dar es Salaam shouldn't be slept on. I was based in Dar es Salaam, which is where I spent the majority of my time exploring. Here are 12 things you can do during your visit:
1. Spend time at the beach on Mbudya or Bongoyo Islands.
One of the reasons I love Dar is because the beaches are so close to the city. Take the 30 minute ferry from White Sands Hotel to Mbudya or the ferry from Slipway to Bongoyo. Either island is fun but I prefer Mbudya because it's a little less busy. You could stay at White Sands Hotel if you're not up for getting on a boat and heading to an island. It's about 30 minutes from city center but it's a great option for food and fun in the sun.
2. Visit the museums.
A visit to The National Museum or the Village Museum will give you a better idea about Tanzanian history and culture. My favorite is the Village Museum, which is open-air and features a collection of 19 authentically reconstructed dwellings that show traditional ways of living for different ethnic groups throughout Tanzania. On display are also traditional crafts that showcase Tanzanian culture. You may also be able to catch a performance of traditional dance while you're there too.
3. Go on a safari.
While the Arusha area is most well-known for its safaris with Ngorogoro Crater, Serengeti, Tarangire and other parks nearby, there are safaris available close to Dar es Salaam. About an hour and a half away is Mikumi National Park, Tanzania's fourth-largest national park. If you're lucky, you're may be able to spot the 'Big Five' while you're there.
If you feel like traveling a bit further, head to Saadani for a unique safari/beach experience. You most likely won't see the Big Five here but you'll see a good mixture of wildlife, on and off the land. I haven't been here but it's on my list for my next visit to Dar.
4. Take a tour.
One of the most eye-opening experiences I had in Dar es Salaam was the Real Dar es Salaam Tour with Afri Roots. I learned so much about Tanzanians daily lives in Dar es Salaam. It's easy to head to the peninsula area where most expats live, but it's a much different story on the other side of town. You can read more about my experience here.
5. Buy art at the Tinga Tinga Cooperative Arts Center.
Tanzania is well-known for its "Tinga Tinga" style. It was developed by Edward Said Tingatinga, and is characterized by using several layers of bicycle paint and cartoon imaginative figures. the center is on the peninsula and easy to find. Be sure to negotiate for the best prices.
6. Visit the Fish Market.
The Kivukoni Fish Market is famous for offering various kinds of seafood at very low prices. Everything from fish to octopus and shark are available. But word to the wise, don't wear shoes or clothes you care about. I'm not sure the smell will come out in the wash!
7. Go visit the Kaole Ruins at Bagamoyo.
This is a great option for a day trip from Dar. About an hour and a half away are the ruins at Bagamoyo. Dating back to a period between the 13th century and the 16th century, the Kaole Ruins are what remains of a Muslim Shirazi (small East African tribe) settlement. You can read all about my visit here.
8. Eat Good Food.
There are so many great restaurants in Dar! Here's a quick rundown:
Seafood: Cape Town Fish Market
Local Food: 305 Karafuu
Thai: Thai Kani
All kinds of food: Rhapsody
9. Wander around Kariakoo Market.
Kariakoo Market is Dar's busiest market. Located in the city center, Tanzanians head to Kariakoo to buy anything they could possibly need. From produce and vegetables, to fabric for clothes, electronics for their homes and tires for their cars...it has everything! Uhuru Street is nearby and is the best place to buy fabric in case you decide to have clothes made while you're there. Be sure to keep your phone out of sight and your money hidden as it's notorious for pick-pocketing.
10. Shop for souvenirs.
You can buy souvenirs at Kariakoo but you can also head to Slipway on the peninsula. It's an open-air market where you can find gifts for family and friends. You can't go home empty-handed!
As you can see, Dar es Salaam is worth considering when you visit Tanzania. Before heading to Zanzibar or Arusha, carve out some time in your schedule to explore one of Tanzania's biggest and most populated cities.