Kilwa is a World Heritage Site and has the best preserved ancient Swahili buildings in Tanzania. This area was developed in the 12th to the 15th Century and became the greatest trading port along the East African coast. This ancient settlement was once hailed as ‘one of the most beautiful of cities.
Kilwa is of great historical interests and scenic beauty. The town of Kilwa as such is divided into three different towns – Kilwa Kivinje, Kilwa Masoko and Kilwa Kisiwani. Kilwa Masoko is the most developed town and the regional hub. A colourful market is held daily on the square at Kilwa Masoko. Men in white robes and women in black buibuis gather under the mango trees to barter fresh produce and a variety of goods; whilst Kilwa Kivinje and Kilwa Kisiwani have spectacular historical attractions.
Kilwa Kisiwani is an island reached by dhow and has an amazingly well preserved collection of ruins. On arrival as you sail from the mainland the most striking sight is the old Omani Fort, which is built on the foundations of an old Portuguese fort. The Big Mosque dates from the 12th Century and was once the largest mosque in East Africa. The Sultans palace is located directly south of the mosque and contains four graves. The small mosque dates from the 15th Century is still in use today. The large complex of walls in the west of the island is called “Makutani” and contains a palace from the 18th Century, another Sultanas palace, and a mosque from the 15th Century. All the way to the east of the island there are the ground walls of the “Husuni Kubwa”, once the largest building in tropical Africa.
Local guides give tours of the ruins and dhows can be arranged from the small jetty on the mainland. The site is quite spread out and you can easily spend a whole day walking around all the ruins. Kilwa Kivinje was an ancient Arabian slave and ivory trading town, where caravans departed for expeditions to the interior. When the Germans assumed control at the end of the 19th Century, the colonial government built a fort and extended the town. Today you can still find a Market Hall, the Fort, and two pillars commemorating the one for the dead of the Maji Maji War. The Mnazi Bay-Ruvuma Estuary Marine Park is a collection of diverse habitats ranging from mangroves along the estuary mouth to mudflats to coral reefs and white sands. There is good diving available here and coast line is just idyllic.
The river estuaries and large mangrove swamps provide a perfect habitat for a wide variety of birds. These areas are used for feeding and breeding of waterfowls. Some of the more common birds to be found include: Sandpipers, Herons, African Storks, Fish Eagle, Kingfishers, Oyster Catchers and Hawks. Fruit bats can also be found feeding and roosting around Kilwa; with Hippos and crocodiles to add to the adventure as they also live close to where the rivers enter the mangrove swamps.