Kigoma is the main port, rail terminal and largest town on the coast of Lake Tanganyika. It had a rich history of involvement in slave and ivory trading in the yesteryear.
This 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.
It 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 trip to Kigoma.
Where to Stay in Kigoma
African Safari Tour Holiday Vacations recommend two hotels in Kigoma based on Hotel Tier ranking system on the basis of location, accommodation, amenities, and service, with special weight given to exclusivity, isolation, and personalization, according to which Kigoma Hilltop Hotel ranks as a Tier 2 deluxe experience.
By reason of its superlative location and spacious accommodation, although it caters to a large clientele in a small town area and lacks the personal touch of a safari lodge or camp experience – agreeable to us as guests are not paying top camp or lodge dollars to stay at Kigoma Hilltop.
A unique effort at conveying African fauna holiday awareness at the hotel is contributed by a lifelike sable in the foyer and a herd of zebra in the grounds.
Its lesser rival, Lake Tanganyika Hotel ranked at Tier 3 value experience, is outwardly more imposing, but with more cramped standard room accommodation and less sophisticated cuisine.
There are no Tier 1 luxury or boutique accommodation experiences in Kigoma; however, Lupita Island Resort further south of Lake Tanganyika offers a top notch private lake-island experience close to Kipili Village.
Lake Shore Lodge is another affordable varied option offering a beach chalet experience minutes away Kipili Airstrip
Activities to Do in Kigoma
Kigoma town has a traditional market packed with life and color. Narrow aisles of cheap plastic beach goods contrast with heaps of fruit and vegetables piled on the ground, watched over by patient brightly swathed ladies, proudly wearing their “colored cloths” or vitenge.
Buy a single kitenge like theirs (vitenge is the plural form), in traditional Tanzanian geometric colored patterns, an authentic souvenir of your African shopping tour, or some electric blue palm oil soap, reputed to moisturize the skin like nothing else.
The amazing Katonga Fish Market with cascades of fresh and dried dagaa sardines is worth a visit . In the historic town of Ujiji, a few kilometers from Kigoma, missing Scottish missionary David Livingstone was found on his return from a Tanzania exploration safari, by Henry Morton Stanley, welsh born journalist and British explorer.
The legendary words “Dr. Livingstone, I presume” were uttered here. A museum funded by the UN beside an unpleasant memorial built over Livingstone’s interred heart in an excess of Victorian morbid sentimentality, houses two trite statues of the explorers, raising their hats in mutual greeting.
But apart from some horrifying illustrations of the slave trade and ancient mango trees marking the start of the Arab slave route that Livingstone tried to eradicate, it is a missed opportunity, charging foreigners exorbitantly for an admittedly knowledgeable commentary from the attendant, and not much else.
Other activities include deep lake swimming, fishing, and snorkeling in the lake, kayaking, sailing in romantic dhows, or taking a possible helicopter trip over the lake from Lupita Island and taking multi-day tours from Kigoma to the primate national parks of Gombe and Mahale.
When is the Best Time to Visit Kigoma, Tanzania
The climate of Kigoma is mild and tropical, due to its proximity to the equator and altitude above sea level, but year-round access is difficult because of the state of the gravel roads which, apart from a flamboyantly ethnic railway service, are its only land links with wider civilization.
Flights from Arusha, Dar es Salaam and Mwanza also depend on airstrips not being waterlogged at the peak of the wet season. The rains in western Tanzania start from November to April with the short rains and then merging into the long rain season.
The heavier rains affect many possible activities adversely. Humidity is high and mosquitoes are ubiquitous, necessitating generous use of repellents and malaria prophylactics.
For example, chimpanzee treks in Mahale and Gombe are difficult and treacherous in the wet, and there is no guarantee of sightings on a couple nights short stay, since the chimps move higher in the mountains in search of food.
But bird watching and botanical tours are especially rewarding in January and February, when it is beginning to get warmer, but is not oppressive; though expect rains during this period.
In the balmy, dry season from June to October, it is easier to access varied Lake Tanganyika and Kigoma town activities, there are fewer pestiferous mosquitoes and you may even need a light fleece or sweater in the evenings or early mornings.
Average air temperatures are around lows of 64 F (18 C) and highs of 86 F (30 C) degrees, as is the water of the lake, perfect for sunbathing, snorkeling, or PADI scuba diving on your African dream vacation in western Tanzania.
|Currency used||Tanzania Shillings (TSh)|