PANGANI ….. is an attractive coastal area, the most northerly stretch of the Indian Ocean Coast of Tanzania.
This area is relatively off the beaten track and yet represents a viable and, in many ways, rather attractive alternative to the much more popular Zanzibar Island. The area has lots of space, in parts there are virtually endless palm-fringed beaches with barely any development, interspersed with mysterious mangrove forests and river deltas, whilst offshore there are sandbanks and coral reefs.
The towns and villages along the coast are modestly interesting and the whole place has the kind of relaxed local atmosphere that one finds in this kind of quiet backwater.
There are some really interesting lodge options in the area. Virtually all of them are frontier-style places, mostly owner-operated, often quirky and un commercial, small-scale, personable and considerably lower priced than equivalent properties on Zanzibar. The downside is that they do have the potential for variable in their levels of service and that they do not generally offer very high levels of conventional comforts.
There are plenty of activities to keep you busy, with most of the good lodges offering diving, snorkelling, sailing and kayaking. Some also offer mountain-biking, horse-riding and cultural visits to local towns and villages. If you stay in the Pangani area it is possible to do motorboat safari along the river.
The diving in this area is not generally considered to be of the highest order, but this may be that it is yet to be properly explored. Certainly we have heard rumours of decent sites, but we doubt that that they will measure up to the best reefs off Zanzibar, Pemba, Mafia and Fanjove.
Another slight disappointment in this area is that the hinterland that backs the palm-lined coastal strip is dominated by large-scale agriculture. Not the worst backdrop by any means, but a reminder that the area is not really off the map, there is some really significant commerce here.
When to visit …
When it comes to deciding when to visit, the best times down on the coast are generally considered to be Jul/Oct and Dec/Mar, when there is usually slightly less rain and wind.
Read more about when to visit this area …
How we like to include this area in trips …
We find that the Pangani and Tanga area tends to feature much more commonly in a return trip to Tanzania rather than first time visits. To include the area in your trip implies that you are deliberately digging a little deeper and trying to get off the beaten track. The lodges here tend to appeal to a more outdoorsy and laid-back type of traveller, who is happy to fit in and go with the flow.
But these days, as Zanzibar becomes noticeably more commercial and busy, so the Pangani and Tanga area becomes more interesting. We anticipate it becoming increasingly popular over the next few years, despite not having the inherent allure of the islands. Let’s just hope it remains so wonderfully low key and authentic.
It is also possible to drive here from these locations or even travel by bus, but that tends to be the preserve of locals, expats and backpackers. If you do take the buses on these route then keep a good look out for your possessions, we often hear of backpacks disappearing off roof-racks, it seems to be something of a local specialist.
The area is relatively easy to access these days, with scheduled light aircraft services connecting it to Arusha and the northern parks, Dar es Salaam for the southern parks and Zanzibar Island.
Fish Eagle Point … is a really remote and interesting lodge option, a secret hideaway some 50km north of Tanga, one of the best kept secrets on this whole coast.
The Tides … is the most upmarket of a cluster of small lodges in the Ushongo area, around 12km south of the small town of Pangani, a lovely small facility on a sweeping palm-lined bay.
Emayani Beach Lodge … is probably the next best option in the Ushongo area, also in a lovely position and with plenty of space, but rather simpler and lower cost.
The majority of visitors stay in this area for 3 to 7 nights, often combined with nights on the islands of Zanzibar, Pemba, Mafia or even the the fabulous Fanjove.
These beach areas are commonly combined with safari areas such as Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Ruaha and Selous, as well as treks on Mount Kilimanjaro, usually in trips of 10 to 21 nights.