What do you do with twenty-four hours to kill in Dar es Salaam? The pseudo capital of Tanzania doesn’t normally feature on the tourist trail other than an entry, exit or transit point, a small blip on the itinerary in between safaris, summiting and sunbathing. It’s a dirty, hot, humid, chaotic conurbation; one of the world’s fastest growing cities. But behind this facade what does the metropolis offer the stranger on a layover?  I’ve taken on this challenge many many times, so here are just a few suggestions of how to turn Dar es Salaam into a highlight of your trip.

Bongoyo Island

Bongoyo Island. Photo credit: Matthew Hayden

The peninsula just north-east of the city centre is an expat enclave where there are plenty of activities all close by and easily accessible. A short ferry ride away, Bongoyo island is a jewel in the ocean. This white sand and turquoise sea oasis provides a welcome break from the muggy weather. It’s a pretty sweet spot to relax in the shade, swim in the bath temperature water and relish the freshest seafood you can imagine. Depending on the catch of the day, the lobster is the outstanding choice for lunch, two straight out of the ocean plus a portion of chips for around £10. Delish.

 

Lobster and Chips on Bongoyo Island

Nom nom, it’s lobster time!

The snorkeling off the island is pretty fine too. Bongoyo’s waters offer a good selection of fish, rays, eels, and squid, as well as a shipwreck to dive down and around. Back on shore, the giant coconut crabs make you feel like you have landed in Gulliver’s Travels.

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Bongoyo Island Coconut

That’s how you model a coconut crab


Coconut crab on Bongoyo Island

Coconut crabby patties anyone? Photo credit: Matthew Hayden

It’s the kind of place where you go with great intentions to catch up with some reading or plan more of your travels but end up lulled into a restorative afternoon nap. Life’s a beach!

Bongoyo Island's makuti shades

Sand and Shade. Photo credit: Andrea White


Bongoyo Island's turquoise sea

Now that’s what I call swimming. Photo credit: Andrea White


Bongoyo Island's beach

Strolling along the beach. Photo credit: Andrea White


Idyllic Bongoyo Island

Looks awful, doesn’t it ;). Photo credit: Andrea White

As the return boat drops off at the Slipway commercial complex, it is a great excuse to pick up a truly unique souvenir. Tanzanite is a gemstone that is named after the only country where it is found and has a really neat blue-violet hue. One of the Slipway stores, URU, has made some stunning jewellery from rough cut Tanzanite stones which have featured in high-end fashion magazines and on international runways. Inspired by the local methods of weaving bracelets and using the old-fashioned explorer techniques to find the gems, URU is at the forefront of East African style.

URU Tanzanite Bracelet

Shine bright like an URU Tanzanite

After all that shopping and looking fabulous, it’s necessary to indulge in a spectacular seafront sunset whilst enjoying a cold drink. There are a couple of places at Slipway that ticks all those boxes, but the most simple and relaxed place is along the concrete jetty to the small shack next to where the ferry leaves. This laid-back joint consists of a few plastic tables and chairs, a hut with a waitress, a radio, and a fridge full of beverages. And a view like this:

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Sunset at Slipway

Sundown with sundowners

One of the most inventive and interesting restaurants in Dar es Salaam is the Kind Earth Eatery. It can be challenging to consistently find ingredients in this African metropolis, but despite this problem, the creative forces behind this diner manage to pull some special dishes out of the bag. A mecca for vegetarians, vegans, and gluten intolerant people, Kind Earth has also managed to convert some hungry carnivores into plant lovers! With cashew nut cheesecakes, mock lobster salad and lentil nut loaf you won’t be disappointed.  

Triniti is a popping bar run by three sisters who share Dutch and Tanzania heritage. Their joint also serves up a meat feast of giant steaks, chunky kebabs, soft fish skewers and daily specials, along with the most kick-ass chili sauce that side of the equator. The dynamic establishment hosts special events, from educating presentational talk evenings, to big sports events screenings and regular trivia nights. However, on Friday’s Triniti is the hottest late night destination for anyone looking for a bit of a boogie. The crowd is usually a mixture of more affluent Tanzanians, visiting short-term foreign volunteers and expat residents. They all have one thing in common – they love a great atmosphere to meet new people, have a few drinks and maybe catch the rhythmic fever to show off their most mesmeric moves. Luckily there is a dance floor where live bands and DJ’s fill the floor with anything from western R&B to afro house mashed up with the local Swahili music known as ‘bongo flava’.

Live music at Triniti Bar

Live music at Triniti Bar


The dance floor at Triniti Bar

Dance floor mania!


Dancing the night away at Triniti

Dancing the night away at Triniti


 

If you need a break from busting out the robot or slamming down some shimmies there is a candlelit garden area with table service, which is one of the best ideas ever. And when everything gets a bit too much, Triniti is also conveniently a guesthouse!

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If you need travel advice, request a free 30 minute coaching session. In the chat Annie will help you choose a destination, create your itinerary and review safety precautions. Or she can discuss how you can incorporate more travel into your life by saving, making money, travelling for free or being paid to travel.

Fish Mishkaki (Skewers) at Triniti Bar and Restaurant

Triniti’s Fish Mishkaki (skewers)
 

After a little lie in it’s a good idea to gently awaken the mind, body, and soul. Begin the day with a visual feast at the Vijana Vipaji Foundation’s gallery, a cute space that hosts exhibitions from both the local art community and neighbouring countries. The talent is evident, with lots of styles to choose from the works are influenced by traditional customs, rural scenes and, of course, use lot of colour. One of the popular painters is Salum Kambi, whose abstract style eloquently captures so many typical Dar es Salaam moments perfectly, from calm beach views to the energy of in-flight birds:

 

Salum Kambi Art

Birds on a wire by Kambi


Indian House Crows of Dar es Salaam by Salum Kambi

Indian House Crows of Dar es Salaam by Kambi


 

On the other side of the Vijana Vipaji Foundation building, Makuti Dar is bursting with a selection of fresh smoothies and brunch options to help jump-start the body. And if that fails, there is a giant trampoline! They have tummy pleasing wraps, scintillating salads, banging burgers, hangover-curing filled baguettes and moreish rice bowls. It’s a nice, restorative pit-stop before leaving the leafy peninsular suburb of Dar es Salaam behind.

Despite all of its brashness, Dar es Salaam can be charming to those who decide to stay, even if it is just for a little while. There’s far more to this mushrooming town than meets the eye, and a day only allows for a peek at what’s on offer. As the locals often remind you, “karibu tena”, which means sincerely, you are welcome back.

 

Check out my reviews of other nice places to visit in Tanzania, including Amani Forest Camp, Tides Lodge in Pangani and Lake Natron.

Like this post? Subscribe to the Soulful Travel newsletter for Annie’s packing checklist plus travel related advice, news, competitions and more. Sign up here.

If you need travel advice, request a free 30 minute coaching session. In the chat Annie will help you choose a destination, create your itinerary and review safety precautions. Or she can discuss how you can incorporate more travel into your life by saving, making money, travelling for free or being paid to travel.

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