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Guide to Visiting Bongoyo Island, Tanzania

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Preparing for the trip

Visiting Bongoyo Island is one of the best day trips you can take in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Bongoyo is a small uninhabited island with the crystal clear water and gorgeous white sand covered by unusual shells of all shapes and sizes.

On the day when you are planning to go to the Bongoyo Island, I suggest getting up early in the morning and heading to Slipway. You’d need to take all the usual stuff: a towel, swimming suit, sunscreen, flip flops, water and a big hat. I also recommend bringing snorkeling shoes for rocky beaches, as you could step on a sharp shell or something else in the ocean.

Slipway is a prominent shopping, leisure and dining destination in Dar es Salaam. In this area you will find a lot of things: a supermarket, a big market with various local crafts, several excellent cafes, a travel agency, and a children’s playground. But most importantly, Slipway has a boat station from which one could take various trips to neighboring islands. From Hyatt or Serena, it will take you 30-40 minutes to get to Slipway, depending on the day of the week and the traffic. You can also stay in one of the hotels at Slipway itself to make things easier.

Browsing through Slipway before going to Bongoyo

The first boat to Bongoyo departs at 9:30 am. You have 2 choices: eat breakfast at the hotel or eat at one of the cafes in Slipway, prior to getting on the boat. Either one is fine.

If you choose to eat at Slipway, this is the type of cafe you’ll be having breakfast at

Head to the boat station 10-15 minutes before the boat departure to make sure you have enough time to buy the tickets and get ready to get on the boat. The ticket price is about $20.

Waiting for the boat. I already bought my ticket!

Be mindful of time.

If you miss the first boat, it’s not the end of the world, as there is another one at 10:30 am. But I would suggest getting on the first boat for several reasons.

First, the seas are calmer in the early morning. Second, you’d have a better choice of various spots/umbrellas on the island. Also, time goes by quickly on Bongoyo and you might not have enough time to explore. The last boat from Bongoyo to Dar es Salaam leaves at 17:00, so you need to maximize your time there.

Taking a boat to Bongoyo Island

The boat you will be taking is going to be relatively small. It’s not the type of a magnificent ocean liner which goes to Zanzibar. It’s just a small wooden local boat with a captain and a couple crew members. Nothing fancy.

If you’re terrified of small boats and waves, this might not be a perfect trip for you. Otherwise, it’s fine. Just treat is an adventure.

On the boat, heading to the Bongoyo Island

The trip to Bongoyo will take about 30-40 minutes, depending on the wind. On some days, the weather is calm and the water will be calm as well. But on other days, you can expect some rough seas, especially coming back from Bongoyo (waves usually get worse in the afternoon). If the weather is not looking good and it’s very windy, it might be wise to postpone. Taking Dramamine might also be a wise choice if you tend to get sea sick.

Usually you’d have 15-20 passengers taking the boat with you. These will most likely be tourists and expats living in Dar es Salaam. Lots of expat families will go to Bongoyo on the weekend because it’s a nice relaxing atmosphere there. There are some beaches in Dar es Salaam as well, of course, but I much prefer going to Bongoyo.

On the island

Once the boat gets close to Bongoyo, you will be taken to the shore by the crew. Expect gorgeous white sand, clear water and lots of sun.

Gorgeous turquoise water on the island

First, make sure to find a good spot where you will be spending your day. Definitely grab a place in the shade, as the sun is absolutely brutal.

Relaxing day at the Bongoyo Island

Once you are settled, you can spend some time swimming and exploring the sea creatures.

Star fish on Bongoyo Island

Then you can walk around to explore the island and have lunch at the nice cafe there. The food is absolutely delicious. They serve a lot of freshly caught seafood and there are various appetizers and drinks. All very fresh and prepared to order. There are some simple restrooms and changing rooms.

When you walk around the island you can spot some interesting plants and lizards. There is definitely a lot to explore.

Exploring the island

More reading about Tanzania

If you enjoyed reading about the visit to the Bongoyo Island in Tanzania, chances are you want to read more about this country. Below are a few options for you.

My blog post An Unforgettable Trip to Zanzibar will give you a lot of details about Zanzibar, another island you can visit in Tanzania. Compared to the tiny island of Bongoyo, Zanzibar is a world famous tourist destination with the rich history, top notch hotels and incredible beaches. It’s definitely worth a visit. You will need to spend several days (or preferably a week) on Zanzibar in order to absorb all the incredible places which it has in store for you. One day is definitely not enough!

If you want to know even more about Tanzania, you can check out my fiction novel, “Secrets We Keep”. This book is inspired by my travels in Africa and Tanzania in particular. You will read about all my favorite places in Tanzania, including Bongoyo Island and Zanzibar. The excerpt is below.

Secrets We Keep – Excerpt

It was now about ten minutes before departure, and other tourists started getting onto the boat. In the end, there were about fifteen passengers—a few couples, some single travelers and one family with two kids. That was reassuring. At least other people were willing to try this boat and some even brought their kids.

Finally, the trip began, and Anna got a bit distracted by the spectacular landscape. The Indian Ocean was gorgeous, with its bright and clear turquoise waters, and they were  passing a lot of different, interesting vessels. Some of them were ordinary boats and yachts which Anna was used to seeing in the States, but others had triangular lateen sails and sharp bows. These boats were both big and small, and some were tiny with just one fisherman sitting in them.

“These are called dhow boats,” Jean said, pointing at a few of the traditional vessels sailing by. “It is a typical East African boat. In the past, merchants were traveling in such boats all the way to and from India carrying all kinds of heavy items—fruit, water, different merchandise—”

“I love these,” she interrupted with excitement. “They are so beautiful and romantic. They look like the vessels from fairy tales.”

By now, Anna was no longer scared; she even got up and walked around the boat, enjoying the scenery around her. The boat was moving at a good speed and would be reaching the destination in no time.

Anna tried not to look at Jean but eventually she could not help taking a peek at him sitting on the bench, totally in his element, relaxed with his blond hair flowing in the wind. He took his T-shirt off, and Anna was able to see he had a deep tan and was muscular—maybe a couple of inches shorter than David and also thinner.

How would David carry himself in Tanzania? Anna laughed at the mere thought of having David on this boat. Of course, he would never set his foot on it and never in a million years allow Anna to take it. David would also never be saying “jambo” and embracing the captain. It was hilarious even to imagine that.

In conclusion

Whether you are in Dar es Salaam for work or pleasure, you will greatly enjoy a day trip to the Bongoyo Island. It’s an oasis of calm and tranquility in the bustling city where you can connect with the beautiful African nature and make some memories which will last a lifetime.

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