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Tanzania Beaches

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Tanzania Beaches

Lapping the shores of East Africa is the impossibly blue and beautifully warm Indian Ocean. The coral sands of the mainland and islands are soft, white and powdery and the sea teems with colourful marine life. These are fabulous beaches, too good to miss, and the perfect match to the excitement and adventure of safari.

Small Hideaways Large hotels
1. Ras Kutani
Tanzania Mainland
3. Mchanga Beach Lodge
Zanzibar, East Coast
4. Ras Nungwi
Zanzibar, North Coast
5. Echo Beach
Zanzibar, East Coast
This glorious Swahili coastline can cater to every whim. Action or relaxation, air conditioning or a sea breeze, international buffets or a barbecue on the beach – all styles of accommodation exist here. From Zanzibar’s biggest resorts to the smallest mainland hideaways, all are imbued with an easy going, laid-back attitude, no doubt aided by the calm, clear water that provides a backdrop to each of them.
There is excellent diving and snorkelling on the reefs around Zanzibar, Pemba and Mafia, big game fishing is offered from some beach locations and many also have sailing boats, kayaks and kite-surfing. This variety of activities is an important point of discussion at the time of booking. You want the lodge that best matches your tastes! Be aware that the costs for boating excursions, diving and fishing vary from lodge to lodge.
Where else to start but one of the world’s most famous paradise islands? Ninety percent of Tanzania’s beach accommodation is found here, just a twenty minute flight east of Dar es Salaam, a forty minute flight from Selous and now, thanks to a new fast service from Coastal Aviation, just two hours from the Serengeti.
Zanzibar is blessed with miles and miles of white sand beach, protected by the coral reef that rings the majority of the island. There are secluded coves; working beaches where the dhow fisherman leave their boats; private stretches of untouched sand and, equally, stretches of sand with sun-beds as far as the eye can see (usually avoided by our clients!). It is an island with something for everyone.
There is very little beach on the western side of the island save the far north and south. The first major resort or lodge as you move anti-clockwise around coast from Stone Town is the Residence, found on the western side of Zanzibar’s southerly tip. The beaches here tend to take the form of small coves flanked by rocky cliffs. They are fine but there are better beaches elsewhere.
Rounding the south of the island brings you the bottom half of the east coast. Here an almost uninterrupted beach stretches all the way to the Michamvi peninsula. Some parts are better than others but in places it is one of the island’s best. There are many good lodges here including some of our favourites to the north. The central village of Paje has become a world centre for kite surfing.
Crossing Chwaka Bay leads us to the upper half of the eastern coast, dominated by the beaches of Kiwengwa and Matemwe. Kiwengwa is the domain of some of the islands largest resorts and generally best avoided but Matemwe is a great stretch of sand with several high quality boutique lodges to choose from.
At the northern tip of Zanzibar, generally regarded as the prettiest part of the island, lies the village of Nungwi. This once sleepy fishing village is now a travel hotspot, with some great lodges on the eastern side and a backpacker’s area on the western side.
Moving south and west takes us to the final beach area of Kendwa, home to Zanzibar’s finest beach but, unfortunately, some of its worst resorts. It is also the main backpacker area with massive 100+ room hotels next to $50 a night bungalows. Kilindi, hidden round the headland from this area, is the wonderful exception.
Other islands and the mainland
While Zanzibar is the obvious focal point of Tanzania’s beach scene, we have noticed that a growing number of our clients are looking elsewhere in Tanzania for their rest and relaxation. While the beaches of Zanzibar are beautiful, they are heavily affected by the tides, which at some points can go out as much as 400 metres from the shore. Other parts of Tanzania do not suffer from this to the same extent and some amazing lodges have sprung up in the last decade.
The mainland is the easiest place to start. Unlike Zanzibar, there are not hundreds of options and so we can talk about specific lodges. Ras Kutani, a ten minute private charter flight down from Dar es Salaam, is the stand out option. It is probably the only lodge in the country without good snorkelling or diving but the ethos here is to sit on a great, remote beach eating very good food and generally taking things slowly.
Moving off the mainland takes us to the islands. The furthest south of these is the incredible Fanjove, a Robinson Crusoe style private island – the stuff of most kids and, if we’re being honest, most adult’s dreams!
A short flight up the coast is Mafia, the island that time forgot. It’s a diving mecca with relatively poor beaches. One for divers and explorers.
One mile off the coast of Zanzibar’s Matemwe beach is Mnemba, one of Africa’s, if not the world’s, finest private islands. The best, with a price tag to match.
The final island before Kenya is the relatively large but little visited Pemba. Like Mafia, it’s for diving before beaches although it does have some stunning sand off-shore, notably from Fundu Lagoon.

While we try and make our website as comprehensive as possible, if you would like some more background information on the Tanzanian coastline, or Tanzania in general, have a read through the Cadogan Guide to Tanzania and Zanzibar, written by our director Annabel. The most recent addition was published in 2005 so some of it might be slightly dated but generally it’s as comprehensive as they come. Click here for the relevant section.

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