A Bit About Bagamoyo
Although this is not correct, Bagamoyo got this reputation because it was the capital of colonial German East Africa, which consisted mainly of present-day mainland Tanzania, but also included present-day Rwanda and Burundi.
Today, Bagamoyo is a a sleepy, slow town most famous for being the location of the Bagamoyo School of Arts, Tanzania’s premier arts institution.
For those of us who live in Dar es Salaam, Bagamoyo is also a place where we go to for a nice weekend getaway or a daytrip when we want to get away from the urban hustle and bustle of Tanzania’s largest city.
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Ok, so what is there to see and do in Bagamoyo?
If you were to find yourself in Bagamoyo, chances are you would be there for one of two reasons (or both).
Either, you would have gone to see the history that Bagamoyo is famous for, or you would have gone to chillax and spend time at a beach, though one quite different from those found in Zanzibar and Dar es Salaam.
Let me tell you a little more.
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As I mentioned above, Bagamoyo used to be the capital of colonial Tanzania, or rather mainland Tanzania while it was under German rule.
In fact, that is where the town of Bagamoyo is said to have gotten its name: from a corruption of “Bwaga Moyo" meaning ‘lay down your heart’ in Swahili, suggesting that this was the place where slaves gave up all hopes of freedom.
My favorite historical site in Bagamoyo, though, predates even that.
The Kaole Ruins
The ruins are of a muslim Shirazi settlement called Pumbuji though they are now known as the Kaole Ruins.
Kaole, meaning “go and see", reflects the awe and wonder that locals in this area felt towards the buildings left behind by the Shirazis.
The Kaole Ruins are my favorite historical site in Bagamoyo, not only because they are much older than many historical sites I’ve had the pleasure of seeing in Africa, but also because the guides there are well versed in the stories of ancient Pumbuji and do a good job of bringing the Kaole Ruins to life.
I won’t tell you much more about what there is to see and do at the Kaole Ruins so as not to spoil it for you if ever you visit.
For now I’d like to leave you with some pictures I shared on Instagram after a trip there.
At the old medieval Shirazi settlement of Pumbuji, now known as the Kaole Ruins, outside Bagamoyo, Tanzania (about an hour and a half drive outside Dar es Salaam), the tombs of important people were marked with tall masts like this. The taller the mast, the more important the person. I guess this person was pretty important! 🙂
This well, known as “the well that never dries up nor overflows”, is located outside the ruins of a 13th century mosque (the well was used for ablutions) at the Kaole Ruins outside Bagamoyo, Tanzania. Despite it’s proximity to the Indian Ocean (about a 5 min walk away) the water at this well is fresh water and is said to cure all sicknesses.
The Grave of The Lovers, Kaole Ruins, Tanzania. At the old medieval Shirazi settlement now known as the Kaole Ruins, outside Bagamoyo, Tanzania, you will find this grave: the Grave of the Lovers. This is the grave of an unidentified shipwrecked couple whose dead bodies were found embracing each other. Since they chose to be together as they died, unusually, people decided to bury them together. It is said that to pray at this grave about romantic affairs yields great results.
My second favorite historical site (and it might only be so because I have been there so often that it’s lost the excitement that Kaole still has for me) is the museum at the Holy Ghost Mission in Bagamoyo.
The Roman Catholic Mission Museum, Bagamoyo
The Holy Ghost Mission in Bagamoyo was started in 1868 when land was given by Muslims of the region (under the leadership of Sultan Majid of Zanzibar) to French Holy Ghost Fathers to build the first Catholic mission on mainland East Africa.
The first church built there, in 1872 (the tower of which still stands today), is reportedly the oldest church on mainland East Africa.
The objective of the French Holy Ghost Fathers was twofold: to spread the Catholic faith but also to free enslaved Africans and raise awareness about the evils of the African slave trade.
This and more is well documented in the museum that now stands on the Mission grounds.
Personally, I think that the Roman Catholic Mission Museum is one of the best museums anywhere in or around Dar es Salaam.
Not only does it document the advent of the missionaries and what life was like in Bagamoyo during the period it covers, but it also documents the culture and societal structure of the local communities living around not only the Swahili coast but also the interior of mainland Tanzania at the time.
I’ve visited the Roman Catholic Mission Museum many times since I first moved to Dar es Salaam, but every time I still learn something new.
I am always excited to know that I will be visiting again soon.
Let me just say: I highly recommend it. It’s a very small museum but it packs a punch!
The Holy Ghost Mission
The Museum is not the only interesting thing to to see at the Holy Ghost Mission in Bagamoyo.
Personally, I also enjoy walking around the premises seeing the present-day church, which is now a little over a hundred years old, and witnessing how the old has merged with the new.
I also enjoy seeing old buildings such as the Old Father’s House or the Livingstone Tower where David Livingstone’s body (minus his heart) was laid in state on February 15, 1874 on its way to Westminster Abbey via Zanzibar.
Other Historical Sites in Bagamoyo
Bagamoyo also has a hodgepodge of other historical buildings and sites, though none that are very obvious.
I also find that a good organized tour of these historical sites is not easy to find.
I’ve gone in search of these historical sites and buildings but still can’t concretely tell you what else there is of interest to see in Bagamoyo.
If you would like to know more about that, here’s a website that can tell you about it a lot better than I can.
Chillaxing in Bagamoyo
As I said earlier, the second reason you might find yourself in Bagamoyo is simply to chill out and enjoy Bagamoyo’s shores of the Indian Ocean.
My current favorite spot to go to is Bomani Beach Bungalows, which I am sure you probably already figured out given all the pictures I share that are taken there (you can see a few of those here, here, and here.)
In the past I have also greatly enjoyed Millenium Sea Breeze Resort and Travellers Lodge, the latter which serves one of the two BEST seafood platters I have had while living in Dar es Salaam (the other best seafood platter being served at Karambezi Café at Seacliff Hotel).
Accomodation in Bagamoyo
I have never spent the night in Bagamoyo—it’s too close to home—but if you are interested in finding a good place to stay, colleagues have told me that they’ve had luck with accomodation found on TripAdvisor.
If I had to spend the night in Bagamoyo today, I would choose to stay at one of two places: Bomani Beach Bungalows for its friendly service, lush gardens, and its peaceful secluded lagoon, or I would stay at Travellers Lodge for its cozy cottages located right on the beach (oh, and yeah, of course that seafood platter!).
How to Get to Bagamoyo
The easiest way to get to Bagamoyo is from Dar es Salaam, which is only a 1-2 hour drive away, over good road, depending on the traffic.
Dala-dalas run between Bagamoyo and Dar es Salaam from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Have you ever been to Bagamoyo? If so, do you have any tips and trick for would-be travelers to the town? If yes, I’d love to hear all about it in the comment section below.
As always I look forward to hearing what you have to say.
Until the next time,
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