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Kigoma: A practical guide
Kigoma is well off the usual tourist track and as a consequence merits little attention in most mainstream guidebooks. But that's not to say that there isn't plenty to do. Mambo gives you the lowdown on five great things that you can do when visiting the area.
Five things to do in Kigoma
Kigoma is the perfect base for extraordinary safaris to both Gombe Stream National Park and Mahale Mountains National Park, famed for their wild chimpanzee populations and stunning settings - you can get more information on both parks at the Tanzania Parks official website. You could also consider a visit south to Katavi National Park, a giant park (in fact it is Tanzania's third largest) full of the big five animals, as well as healthy wild dog and cheetah populations, but with only a few hundred tourists visiting a year.
If time or budget don't allow for a full safari experience, you can at least go for a sailing trip on the lake. Local boats depart from the small fishing village of Kibilisi close to the port, and Lake Tanganyika Hotel arranges (more expensive) boat trips.
Go for a history lesson
Visit the village of Ujiji a few kilometres south of Kigoma town centre, which is where one of most famous meetings in history took place. Here, Stanley eventually stumbled upon Livingstone in 1871, and exclaimed: ‘Dr. Livingstone, I presume’.
Have coffee – the Tanzanian way
On the way to the museum, on the road between Kigoma town and Ujiji you will pass Mwanga where there is a bustling market, lots of shops and coffee places. One of the more interesting ones is ‘Kijiwe cha Urusi’ (Russian Coffee Place), as mentioned in the photo essay.
Eat local food
Both dagaa and mgebuka from the lake are a must on your plate when in Kigoma. Due to the proximity of the lake you can eat fresh dagaa (instead of dried) when in season. The bigger fish, mgebuka, tastes phenomenal when grilled and served with pili pili (chilli), lemon and salt.
Women in Kigoma proudly wear clothes made of vitenge. Vitenge (the plural of kitenge) is the Kiswahili name for fabric in various styles, patterns and colours. Kigoma market offers an amazing variety of vitenge imported from Congo and Burundi at the central market in Kigoma, which is probably one of the best places to buy vitenge in Tanzania.
One of the most popular products from Kigoma is the electric blue soap bars. They are produced locally from palm oil, and if you use this soap regularly it is said to make the skin soft and reduce skin problems.
The most popular product from Kigoma is the dagaa, a nocturnal, silvery sardine (see photo above). The fish are caught, dried on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, transported and sold. The dagaa is a main topic of conversation in Kigoma - especially if they are not biting. When leaving Kigoma, people transport dagaa in plastic buckets on the plane, taking it back to Dar es Salaam as the most precious gift.
GETTING TO KIGOMA AND WHERE TO STAY
How do I get to Kigoma?
There are approximately 1,700km between Dar es Salaam and Kigoma, and going by car from Dar es Salaam via Dodoma and Kahama may take two or three days depending on road conditions and seasons. It takes two days to travel by bus (including one night in Kahama). A bus ticket is about TSH65,000 (just over US$40). The train to Kigoma departs from Dodoma, and a third class ticket costs TSH25,000 (about US$16 - there is no first or second class). The train ride takes about three days. The ship MV Liemba, built in 1913 by Germans, commutes between Kigoma and Mpulungu on the southern shores of Lake Tanganyika in Zambia, stopping at several cities along the coast. Air Tanzania has recently reintroduced a direct flight between Dar es Salaam to Kigoma – cheapest tickets go for TSH250,000 one way (around US$160). The flight takes about 2½ hours.
Where can I stay when I get there?
Lake Tanganyika Hotel +255 282 803052/053/054 or info [at] laketanganyikahotel [dot] com Price varies according to season, contact the hotel direct for rates.
Coast View +255 713 491 570 or +255 752 103 029 or coastviewresort [at] yahoo [dot] com Price: TSH25,000-40,000
Jakobsen's Beach http://www.facebook.com/kigomabeach Price: Around TSH25,000
There are many cheaper lodges scattered along the main road leading to the central station in Kigoma. The best thing is to check them out yourself and pick one you like.