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250 Kms South of Dar es Salaam
On a small island off the coast of Tanzania, about 250 Kms South of Dar es Salaam, lies Kilwa, also known as Kilwa Kisiwani. Declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981, Kilwa was one of the most important trading sites on the Indian Ocean during the 11th to 16th centuries.
It was once a rich and powerful trading hub controlling the east coast of Africa. Kilwa is of great historical interests and scenic beauty. The town of Kilwa as such is divided into three different towns - Kilwa Kivinje, Kilwa Masoko and Kilwa Kisiwani. Kilwa Masoko is the most developed town and the regional hub whilst Kilwa Kivinje and Kilwa Kisiwani have spectacular historical attractions.
Kilwa Kisiwani is reached by dhow and has an amazingly well preserved collection of ruins. The most striking sight is the old Omani Fort, which is built on the foundations of an old Portuguese fort. The Big Mosque dates from the 12th Century and was once the largest mosque in East Africa. The Sultans palace is located directly south of the mosque. Guides give tours of the ruins and dhows can be arranged from the small jetty on the mainland. The site is quite spread out and you can easily spend a whole day walking around all the ruins.
Kilwa Kivinje was an ancient Arabian slave and ivory trading town, where caravans departed for expeditions to the interior. When the Germans assumed control at the end of the 19th Century, the colonial government built a fort and extended the town.
Today you can still find a Market Hall, the Fort, and two pillars commemorating the one for the dead of the Maji Maji War. The Mnazi Bay-Ruvuma Estuary Marine Park is a collection of diverse habitats ranging from mangroves along the estuary mouth to mudflats to coral reefs and white sands.
There is good diving available here and coast line is just idyllic. The river estuaries and large mangrove swamps provide a perfect habitat for a wide variety of birds; some of the common ones include Sandpipers, Herons, African Storks, Fish Eagle, Kingfishers, Oyster Catchers and Hawks. Fruit bats can also be found feeding and roosting around Kilwa; with hippos and crocodiles to add to the adventure as they also live close to where the rivers enter the mangrove swamps. Fishing behind the reefs and in the bay make for an excellent big game fish opportunity; maybe the best along the East African Coast is found here.