Fantastic islands are part of the natural wealth of Tanzania. However, not all of them have overnight accommodations for tourists. But that’s exactly why they are worthwhile for a romantic day trip by boat. This blog showcases five islands for day trips in Tanzania.
In addition to world-class safaris and great trekking opportunities, Tanzania also offers beautiful islands. Some of them are inhabited by rangers only; they are responsible for nature conservation. But these islands have no accommodation for tourists, you can only visit on half-day or full-day trips. They are therefore not always easy to reach, but the journey there, by boat across the Indian Ocean, and the islands themselves are magical.
Bongoyo Island & Mbudya Island
Bongoyo Island and Mbudya Island are about 3 km off the coast of Dar es Salaam. Both islands are nature reserves, located close to each other and are uninhabited by humans. But you are allowed to visit the islands. White sandy beaches, dense forests, coral reefs, and a colorful abundance of marine life await you. Getting there from Dar Es Salaam is very straightforward.
Bongoyo Island is the most visited of the four islands that make up the Dar es Salaam Marine Reserve (DMRS). From the Bongoyo Island Terminal at the “Hotel Slipway” there are several daily trips to Bongoyo Island (approx. 30 minutes). The boats will take you to the northwestern tip of the island, where you the beautiful white sand will dazzle you. There are also some huts with drinks and food, almost stealing the show of snorkeling and swimming activities. But the Indian Ocean has created a kind of tidal lagoon on the north coast of the island, where some mangroves grow along the shore that are good for “snorkeling” and beautiful to look at when the water level is right.
The island coast is otherwise a very rocky one. There is a second longer but narrower beach along the northeast side, which usually is less crowded. There are no facilities there either. But the nice thing is that the island is densely forested, offering some hiking trails. It is therefore ideal for discovering a few corners for yourself. You might also come across the remains of a German colonial building in the middle of the island.
Mbudya Island seems a little less popular than Bongoyo Island. But that may well be due to the fact that the port of departure is about 25 km north of Dar Es Salaam at the “White Sands Resort and Conference Centre”. From here it is easy to cross to Mbudya Island (approx. 15-20 minutes). The advantage is that things are much quieter on this island, making it an ideal retreat and for me the love island for couples or those who want to become one. Why? Well, look at an aerial view of the island: the dense forest forms a large, elongated heart. If that’s not a sign…
There are also thatched huts where you can buy cool drinks and delicious dishes. The soothing sounds of the ocean provide musical entertainment. The white sandy beaches and the multitude of shades of blue in the water, from turquoise to marine, create an additional romantic flair. It invites you to sunbathe, swim, snorkel and more …
5 beautiful day trip islands in Tanzania? Misali Island is without a doubt one of them. Unlike the heartscape of Mbudya Island, the dense greenery of Misali Island looks like an alluring slice of cake from above. And yes, the approximately 1 km2 small island west of Pemba Island is an absolute treat. A variety of endemic species live here, including the Pemban Vervet Monkey, the Pemba Sunbird, the Pemba White-eye or the Pemba Flying Fox. But endangered species such as coconut crabs and sea turtles that nest on the island’s beaches are also among the native features. A ranger lives here with them and ensures their protection.
In the diving scene, the environment in this protected zone with its crystal-clear water and breathtaking coral reefs is considered to be one of the best diving spots in East Africa. But even those who prefer snorkeling from the surface can discover the spectacular underwater world here. The gorgeous white sandy beaches invite you to take a leisurely break in the sun. At Baobab Beach on the northeast coast you can admire the interesting shapes of an old baobab tree. But if you venture inland and come across caves, keep in mind that they may be inhabited by ancestral spirits.
The easiest way to organize a trip or tour by boat to Misali Island is to contact hotels or travel agencies locally, for example in Chake Chake, Mkoani or Wete.
Kwale Island & Sandbank, Sansibar
Kwale Island and the Kwale Sandbank just a bit north of it lie southwest of Zanzibar‘s main island of Unguja on the edge of Menai Bay. There are quite a number of islands and sandbars that are really beautiful and worth seeing, including Pungume Island and Pungume Sandbar. They are a welcome alternative to the much better-known sandbar of Nakupenda Beach just outside of Stone Town, where there are often simply too many sailing dhows anchoring with their guests. The islands are rich in vegetation and usually also have a paradisiacal beach. The sandbars, on the other hand, are really just a bright sparkling sandy beach with no land beyond. But that is exactly the special experience, the kick.
The Sandbank Experience
You sail across the sea, with a bit of luck you can even see dolphins jumping, but finally you stumble over a small sandbank somewhere out there in the middle of the water. Then you get out, enter the plantless oasis and turn 360° around your own axis. Now comes the moment when you automatically take a deep breath – a rush of freedom spiced with a mixture of impressive vastness and that heart-pounding touch of awe of nature: A small piece of land, seeming safety, but only ocean around you in all directions, which changes from turquoise to an impenetrable dark blue. What if a huge wave comes now? What if you had to swim back from here?
But instead of a gigantic wave, the tours usually have a superbly prepared lunch menu with lots of fish or seafood. While you have your first bathing or snorkeling fun in front of the Kwale Sandbank or swimming in the green lagoon with its natural coral reefs and mangroves at the edge of Kwale Island, the crew will prepare a gourmet meal to spoil you. It can hardly get more romantic. It’s wonderful to lie down in the sand for a little siesta afterwards and to feel the sun on the fresh stomach bulge. An improvised sunprotection gives you a little bit of shade so that the heat doesn’t get to your head. You should definitely have plenty of sunscreen and a hat with you in addition to your camera. A Kwale Island and Sandbank tour is a very popular day trip from Zanzibar’s main island Unguja. You will usually be picked up at your hotel on the day of the tour. The tour then starts in the Fumba region, south of Stone Town.
Kilwa Kilwisani Island
If you thought until now that there were only beautiful day trip islands with wonderfully untouched dazzling white sandy beaches, you will be in for a surprise. Because Kilwa Kilwisani is not about bathing culture, but about Arabic cultural history. Those who do this tour, gently drift to the island’s jetty in the traditional dhow sailing boat. Here you disembark to climb stone steps to a dirt path. This path later forks into many narrow trails that meander through backyards, gardens and small markets. School children look at you, smile happily or turn away shily. Some of them greet benevolently with a high-spirited “Bye-bye”. Your way then leads you to an impressive series of historical ruins that you might not expect on such a small island. But after a short time, it becomes clear how closely they are intertwined with the lives of the locals. This island was once the seat of the Kilwa Sultanate.
The Persian Ali ibn Hasan founded this sultanate around 975 at the height of his prosperity. From then on, fully loaded ships with trade goods such as porcelain, pearls, Chinese silk, gold and ivory traveled the Sultanate’s ports for centuries. Over the years, Kilwa Kisiwani became the center of the powerful Shiraz dynasty. After their demise, the magnificent buildings of the past became the impressive ruins of the present. Among them the Great Mosque, which dates from the 10th century and is still the oldest standing mosque on the East African coast. You can also admire the remains of the sultan’s palace, Husuni Kubwa, built of coral stone. It was once reputed to be the most imposing palace building of its time south of the Sahara. Elements of the glamorous building contributed to this, such as its large octagonal swimming pool.
Kilwa Kisiwani Island – Anreise
Kilwa Kisiwani is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and can be reached from mainland Tanzania. So, if you are traveling deep in the south-east of the country and are planning to visit the Selous Game Reserve or the Nyerere National Park, for example, you can easily make a detour via the small port of Kilwa Masoko. There is good accommodation in town and boats that you can charter to the island. Make sure you have permission to visit. You can get permits at the tourist information center in Kilwa Masoko.
5 beautiful day trip islands in Tanzania, on which there are no classic overnight accommodations for tourists, speak for a lot of originality in the country. They are all only accessible by boat. A visit here is worthwhile. We are happy to answer any questions and support you in planning your trip to Tanzania. Here on site, we are always well informed about the current situation. So, get in touch with us!
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