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Tanzanian Holiday in Kilwa

If you are planning on taking a Tanzania Safari why not plan on visiting Kilwa and see the ruins of a thriving sultanate from around 960AD and how it all came apart with foreign invasion and the slave trade.

Location and Size Kilwa

To visit the island of Kilwa while on your Tanzania Safari, you will find Kilwa located 2km off the southeast coast of Tanzania. The distance from south of Dar es Salaam is about 300km.   It is close to the mainland on a large island enclosed within the Kilwa Bay. Kilwa was once a prosperous city ruled by a Sultanate with its beginnings dating from around 960-1000 AD.  The Sultanate’s rule of Kilwa extended from the south at Cape Correntes to Malindi in the north. Having broken the hold that Mogadishu had on the gold trade by the 13th century, it became a powerful city in the region by the 14th century. The opulence of the ruling classes is seen in the ruins of their large houses some several stories high. Unique to the architecture were the ornately carved doors, mosques and tombs that were the hallmark of the Swahili craftsmen who worked with wood, metal and stone. Their crockery was the finest porcelain from China. 

Destruction took place when the Portuguese arrived in 1498 and took control of the gold trade, spices, textiles and ivory, forcing the Sultans to part with tributes to the King of Portugal. The first to be attacked in 1503 was Zanzibar; two years later Kilwa and Mombasa came under attack and homes were devastated and looted. Succeeding invasions added to the breakdown and a slave trade flourished.  

Special Features Kilwa

There was a period of powerful political and intellectual revolution between the times of the world wars for people in Africa. The Europeans tried to develop a successful colonial administration with a period of consolidation. However, the urban people in Africa started to demand more say in the government. New relations and movements came to be in force to make their voices heard. But the political pressure caused by World War One had no sooner gathered momentum than the Second World War was on track adding more chaos to the situation.

Why to go there Kilwa

The island is a small fishing village of about 300 persons.  But for centuries, it was the home to a rich and powerful Sultanate that most significantly embraced the entire Swahili Coast. Known as an important trade route, it connected to the ancient gold mines of Zimbabwe. Travellers described Kilwa as being one of the greatest and most beautiful cities in the world.

Kilwa emerged as a thriving trading centre after the land bridge connecting it to the mainland was dug up by the Persians. 

Springing up as a market town, Kilwa Masoko is the capital on the mainland and associated with Kilwa Kisiwani on the large island. After the collapse of the city, the majority of the people moved from the island to Kilwa Masoko. About 20km away is Kilwa Kivinji, a pleasant and smaller Swahili town, politically of lesser importance than Kilwa Masoko, which is the capital of the Kilwa district today, in the region of Lindi. Kilwa Masoko is used by most visitors on a Tanzanian Holiday to stay in, using it as a base for visiting the other Kilwas or a Tanzania Safari. 

Kilwa Kisiwani is a UNESCO world heritage site containing incredible ruins. Kilwa Kivinji an appealing sleepy little Swahili town, not as popular as the other Kilwas you see on a Tanzanian Holiday. A great deal Kilwa Kivinji is constructed in the conventional styles out of the customary coral-rag. Even though its sights are not as great as Kilwa Kisiwani, it is considered a pleasant enough town in its own right to deem it well worth to take a trip for the day, before launching on a Tanzania Safari. 

A guide with thorough information on the history and archaeology is a bit difficult to find, but a few are around on a Tanzania Budget Safari. A guide and a boat are at your disposal at most hotels. If your guide does not have an in-depth knowledge of the ruins, but knows only the locations, there are enough information signs and a useful book with detailed explanations and descriptions of the ruins that you can carry away as a memento.

There are dive centres from the newest hotels, and several of them cater to sports fishermen.

Kilwa is safe. It is a small sleepy township with dirt roads and makes it pleasant for strolls in the morning or when it is cooler in the late afternoon to visit the market and the port, to get a real experience of this excellent Swahili town. It is considered safe to walk around town during the day, but significant caution is advised after dark as there have been incidents where a number of tourists were mugged in recent years. It is always safe to travel in groups or take a taxi / tuk-tuk.

You won’t find any lodgings on Kilwa Kisiwani, but a few Tanzania Budget Safari options in the nearby Kilwa Kivinji. Kilwa Masoko is where most visitors prefer to stay.

When To Go / Weather Kilwa

Kilwa is a tropical country. The Tanzanian coast experiences a typical tropical weather pattern with high temperatures throughout the year. Characterised with year round rainfall, two seasonal peaks caused by the change in equatorial winds by the earth’s rotation is evidenced in relation to the sun.

It is a very difficult, to predict the weather at a certain time in a particular place. Any traveller would like to get acquainted with the climate conditions in advance to be able to organise their future trip. A study of the average temperatures or rainfall can facilitate in getting a good idea. 

The temperatures mentioned are expressed in degrees Celsius and correspond to the monthly averages experienced over a period of several years.

The rainfall graph can also be useful in determining the better time to set out on a trip.

TANZANIA – KILWA: Climate, temperatures, precipitation, sunshine

Common with most of Tanzania, July to October is when the weather is at its best. Winds are from the Southeast and relatively mild.  

Usually in early November the winds change course, coming from the northeast and is known to be strong, bringing a high precipitation comparatively. It is felt to be particularly hot and humid during this time. However, it is relatively unpredictable year on year.  Lodges facing north and east are likely to face the wind. It will result in their view of the ocean being choppy and grey rather than the azure blue calm of other seasons.

During December to March, the winds usually continue from the northeast. Rainfall will slightly drop from November, and the temperatures should ease up a little. The rain will still be around from time to time with hazy clouds at times, but overall, this is well thought-out to be a splendid time to be on this coast.

Usually, in early April, the winds suddenly move violently to the south and southeast. It brings a remarkable increase in rainfall, with often precipitous rain every day for two months.   Temperatures remain high, but in between the rain, very pleasant and sunny spells can be experienced. Even though, most lodges are closed during this period, a few that does stay open. These are inclined to do reasonable business, especially amongst the expatriate population of Dar es Salaam, who are more equipped to take their chances with the weather between April to May.

The rains ought to have largely died down by June, but the month is known for its winds, which persist in coming in from the southeast side. The winds are no stronger than the months preceding. It is because there are more guests in the lodges to experience them. Mainly exposed are the Lodges facing south and should possibly be avoided at this time.

Extra Information

Big game fishing, sailing and diving from the offshore reefs and expeditions canoeing into mangrove swamps are some of the favourite activities in Kilwa.

 

Temperature – Precipitation

°C | °F

 

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

June

Average high in °C

31

31

31

31

31

30

Average low in °C

24

24

24

23

22

21

Av. precipitation – mm

135

114

175

213

63

15

         

 

 

July

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Average high in °C

29

29

30

31

31

31

Average low in °C

20

21

22

23

24

24

Av. precipitation – mm

8

13

20

18

48

114