Bagamoyo is a well-kept secret that will fascinate and surprise you. The town is a former German stronghold and witness to a very interesting past. Once the capital of German East Africa and a bustling port, Bagamoyo was also an infamous hub for slave trading, much like Zanzibar itself. Many of the old colonial buildings, such as the Fort and the Old German Boma, remain standing today and make for a fascinating insight into the lesser-known German colonisation of Tanzania. Bagamoyo is located about 60 km north of Dar Es Salaam.
After spending four days split between bustling Stone Town and relaxing Nungwi beach, on the northern shores of Zanzibar, we reluctantly bid the city of spices goodbye and got the ferry back to Dar Es Salaam. There we spent the afternoon dealing with our bike – the sprockets and chain had been in need of dire help for a few weeks, what with additional weight (clearly we have been having too many chapatis!) and bags straining them.
Facebook worked its miracle again, and after posting a cry for help, we managed to find a mechanic open on 24th December afternoon and after a mad scramble we got the bike all fixed up and headed for our much-awaited Christmas destination: Bagamoyo.
From a touristic point of view though, in recent times it has sadly very much fallen victim to its proximity to Zanzibar and hasn’t been flooded by thousands of tourists every year. This might be a blessing in disguise, as Bagamoyo retains much of its village feel, which you can savour at the fish market, right on the shores of the Indian Ocean, or at one of the tiny local restaurants, that are little more than someone’s living room facing onto the street.
Bagamoyo however is definitely on the up as a travelling destination, as the presence of boutique eco-lodge and backpackers Firefly shows. Set literally in front of the busiest fishermen beach in town, but sheltered by bamboo fencing, Firefly feels like a little oasis of shady coolness from the Tanzanian coastal heat. The lodge offers anything from camping to suites, all decorated in an exquisite minimalist look. The campsite is spacious and often visited by large groups of overlanders, and also features en-suite tented chalets for the glampers amongst us.
Everything is put to use at Firefly, from discarded plastic bottles making colourful walls, to paint tins used as flower pots – recycling is a big must for Zimbabwean owner Jo, and she has helped start several community activities around the lodge, including a beach cleaning programme and yoga classes for the whole town.
As lovely and cosy as your room might be, however, you’ll find yourself spending most of your time by the pool set in the heart of the restaurant and bar area. Surrounded by separate relax areas filled with cushions and mattresses draped in colourful chitenge, the pool is a perfect substitute for the Ocean, which is a bit murky just outside the lodge.
While chilling by the pool, enjoy one of their fresh fruit juices or an international dish from the restaurant (when we visited they had beef goulash on the menu!), which though excellent, is slightly pricier than your average backpacker. If camping, however, you’ll have access to braai facilities, or else you can choose to visit nearby Poa Poa or Nashe’s Cafe offering traditional Tanzanian coastal cuisine.
So whatever your vibe – chilling, travelling through East Africa, learning about the past, or hunting for the best fish in Tanzania – Bagamoyo has it all and definitely deserves more attention… But don’t tell anyone else about it!