The Indian Ocean Coast – Lindi

8th March 2013

The small town of Lindi is an uneventful and quietly dusty port town that makes a welcome stop if you have approached it in a southerly direction on the long hot road from Kilwa. There is little to immediately indicate its once more glorious past, now just discernible by its scattering of unusual and diverse ruins among the overall grid of dusty low-level housing and shop fronts, but there is an overall atmosphere of self-sufficiency and quiet industry that give the town a curiously dignified atmosphere, despite its fall in fortunes during the 20th century. The town has at least two large mosques and a fine Hindu temple at its centre, and overall a distinctly Asian and Arabic character, with many Indian merchants based here for their port of trade.

There are a few restaurants in its main street providing options for some good food and there are a handful of alternatives for cheap and decent budget accommodation. The surrounding natural areas include clear beaches to the north of town and nearby areas of rainforest such as the Litipo Forest Reserve near Rutamba village, both of which are worthwhile excursions.


Lindi was first settled during the 18th century by Omani Arabs, who left a legacy of a number of carved door lintels and an old stone tower on the harbour front that was once used as a prison to stand as witness to their once powerful era today. The port then became an important and bustling centre of the slave trading caravan route between Lake Nyasa and Kilwa Kivinje when it fell under the jurisdiction of the Sultan of Zanzibar in the 19th century, and during this time the clock tower was built, now standing at the town centre near the market. Then it was central seaport for Lake Nyasa (Lake Malawi) and later, during the German era, Lindi was made the administrative centre of the entire Southern Province, and developed the coast to include a custom house and store house for the German East Africa Company. The dilapidated and overgrown Boma north of the Arab tower overlooking the sea and immaculate parallel line town planning remains evidence of the German era. Seafront benches and ancient old hotels suggest that Lindi was once a popular resort for hot expatriate farmers to spend time at the coast in a degree of comfort, but the town was abandoned during the years of the British protectorate in favour of the deep natural port town of Mtwara and then their intended scheme for making a fortune from groundnut crops proved an absolute disaster. Injury was added to dismal fortune when the town then suffered cyclone damage in the 1950s.

What to do

There is little of specific interest around Lindi town centre to provide adrenaline inspiring entertainment, but a walk up the seafront and into the market is a pleasant diversion and will reveal most of the landmarks mentioned above.

The best beach is Mtema beach, about 5km north of the town centre, and it is possible to take a ferry from the port at the end of Amani Street to the village across the bay, where it also possible to stay in good, cheap accommodation.

Another good excursion that is worth taking as an overnight is to Litipo Forest Reserve, some distance out of town, near the village of Rutamba. This last remaining patch of rainforest is a wonderfully peaceful and natural area, with a couple of small lakes to either side and quiet forested region at the centre, alive with hundreds of birds. Buses leave twice each morning from Lindi town centre, and take around 3 hours, travelling at an average speed of just over 10km per hour.

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