Kigoma is the main port, rail terminal and largest town on the coast of Lake Tanganyika. It had a tumultuous history of involvement in slave and ivory trading in the yesteryear but declined once the western abolition campaigns started together with a falling population and silting up of the harbor, leaving it largely dependent on the Tanzanian mainland trade, although fishing and palm oil are still thriving sources of income.
The bustling town of Kigoma is the regional capital of western Tanzania and a central port in the area. Located on the eastern shores of Lake Tanganyika, Kigoma is surrounded by rugged mountains and forests that make it a pleasing and beautiful location.
Kigoma is also one of the main access points for Western Tanzania’s National Parks, Gombe Stream, and Mahale Mountain, home to troops of wild chimpanzees; mankind’s fascinating nearest genetic kin. Road connections to the outside world are poor and ill-maintained although bus and rail links still variably function but caters towards the locals – not tourists. Proper maintenance records and liability transport insurance are non-existent and not best suited for international visitors.
The 100-year-old ferry boat, MV Liembe provides lake transport between the bordering countries around Lake Tanganyika. Chartered light aircraft from Dar es Salaam, Arusha and Mwanza are the most reliable means of transport for a Tanzania trip to Kigoma.
Where is Kigoma, Tanzania
Kigoma Region resides in the northwestern corner of Tanzania, on the eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika. The region lies at about 5° south and 30° east of Greenwich. The region is bordered to the north by both Burundi and the Kagera Region. To the east, it is bordered by the Shinyanga and Tabora regions, to the south by the Rukwa Region, and to the west by Lake Tanganyika, which forms a border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The region's total area is 45,066 square kilometres (17,400 sq mi), of which 37,037 square kilometres (14,300 sq mi) is land and 8,029 square kilometres (3,100 sq mi) is water. The region's total area is just 161 square kilometres (62 sq mi) less than that of Estonia. As of 1998, approximately 20,000 square kilometres was in forests and 12,000 square kilometres was suitable for grazing or farming.
Kigoma Region is on a plateau that slopes from the northeast at about 1,750 meters down to 800 meters at the shore of lake Tanganyika. The topography in the north and east is gently rolling hills that gradually become steeper as they get closer to the Albertine Rift margin. The most important river is the Malagarasi, with the Luiche and the Ruchugi being the two other major rivers draining the region.
History of Kigoma
In precolonial Africa the region was a source of ivory and slaves. Tabora and Ujiji were Arab staging areas for shipments to the coast. It was visited by the early European explorers Richard Burton, John Speke, David Livingstone, and Henry Morton Stanley. In fact, Stanley met Livingstone in Ujiji on the shores of Lake Tanganyika on 27 October 1871. In colonial times, the Kigoma area was known as the Western Region and the capital was Tabora.
Things to Do in Kigoma, Tanzania
Kigoma looks like a huge metropolis. It’s not; it’s in fact a rather small town. But it has a nice local vibe and Tanganyika Lake gives it a very special character. It is a place for swimming, sun bathing, relaxing, and eating fish. There are quite a few activities in and around Kigoma. It’s a transport hub for Gombe National Park, but you can easily spend a few days hanging out around the town. There are quite some things to do in Tanzania while in Kigoma. they include:
Enjoy water sports at Lake Tanganyika
Lake Tanganyika is the main attraction of Kigoma. It it one of the largest freshwater lakes in the world. Once you get there, you’ll understand why this is the highlight of Kigoma. The water is very clear and full of colourful fish. Make sure to take snorkeling gear with you, so that you can admire the different species of fish properly. Observing the aquatic life certainly comes with a unique feeling. Besides, you can even canoe on lake Tanganyika and discover its wild shore. Don’t forget to put sun lotion on if you want to avoid getting a sunburn. The best place for water sports is Jakobsen’s Beach. Located a bit outside town, it offers a very relaxing environment. You can also rent kayaks from here.
Meet human-kinds' closet relatives in Gombe National Park
Another sight worth visiting while in Kigoma is Gombe National Park. Nowadays, there aren’t too many places in the world where you can actually see chimpanzees. Gombe National Park is one of the few. Although it is the smallest national park in Tanzania, it is famous all around the world thanks to Jane Goodall. Getting there might be a bit pricey. The easiest way is by boat, but the experience is indeed unique. Don’t go during March and April, because it’s the rainy season and the trails will be very muddy.
Explore the small villages on the shore of Tanganyika on MV Liemba
If you love boats and sailing, you really have to consider getting on MV Liemba, especially if you’re travelling south from Tanzania. MV Liemba is an old restored ship that can take you all the way to Zambia (Mpulungu), on lake Tanganyika. The big inconvenience is that the boat only travels a few times a month, so if you miss it, you might end up having to wait a week or two. Taking MV Liemba will allow you to see all the small villages on the shore of lake Tanganyika.
Watch the sun set at Bangwe Beach Bar
Bangwe Beach is the most famous public beach in Kigoma. It’s a great place to relax, especially if you’re travelling with kids. And if you want to have a drink, it won’t be any problem, as there’s a bar close by. In fact, this is among the best places to watch the sun set in Kigoma. What more could you want from life than a place to have a cold drink while watching the sun set on a hot summer day? If you end up there during weekend, you will be able to join a big beach dance party.
Explore one of the oldest markets on the continent: Ujiji Village
Only about 8 km (5 mi) away from Kigoma, this small village hosts one of the oldest markets on the continent. This is a place where Livingstone is much more popular than in his native country. You can even find a Livingstone site. Back in history, this was the main settlement in the region. It became famous mostly because of ivory trade. However, after the railway was built in Kigoma, transportation to and from Kigoma became a lot easier, taking the status of Ujiji as the major market. You can visit the port and hang out on the beach for a while.
Learn some history while visiting the Livingstone Museum & Memorial
Based in Ujiji, Livingstone Museum and Memorial makes you wonder how stories went viral back when Twitter and Facebook were not a thing. The memorial was built around the story of Livingstone and Stanley back in 1871. Given the current state of the monument, it is curious why the admission fee for the museum is so high. If you’re interested in the history of these two interesting personalities and are not bothered by the high entrance fee, stop by to have a look.
Dine at Sun City with local, cheap, and tasty food
Sun City has the reputation of the best place to eat in town. It’s nothing fancy, but rather has a local vibe. It’s small, cheap, and offers you the chance to try out local food. Their pilau is particularly good. Another advantage of this small restaurant is its location; it is very easy to find, as it’s located right on the main road, not very far from the train station. In any case, in terms of food, Kigoma doesn’t offer a lot of other options.
Enjoy the wonderful blue colour of Tanganyika Lake
A bit different from the towns on the east coast, Kigoma is a nice place to include on your itinerary. Make sure not to forget your goggles, so that you can observe the fish swimming around you. The nice beaches, the fishermen’s market, the train, and the tuk-tuks make Kigoma a special place in Tanzania.
|Currency used||Tanzania Shillings (TSh)|