7 Things To Do In And Around Kilwa

Kilwa is one of the five districts of the Lindi Region in Tanzania. The district is famous for its tourist attractions. The former main town of Kilwa Kivinje was in Kilwa.

Kilwa Kisiwani and Songo Mnara historical sites are among the tourist attractions situated here. These two sites are also part of the UNESCO World Heritage sites.

You will find exciting things to do while you are here. The top things to do in Kilwa include the following:

1. Exploring Selous Game Reserve

2. Visiting the Great Mosque of Kilwa

3. Kilwa Kisiwani World Heritage

4. Songo Mnara

5. Exploring Mikumi National Park

6. Kilwa Masoko

7. Touring Kilwa Kivinje

I am going to share information about the above-listed activities in detail for the remaining part of this article. I have also gathered useful information about Kilwa itself that you need to know. So, keep reading to find out more.

Useful information about Kilwa

Kilwa is a district in the Lindi Region of Tanzania. The district is bordered to the north by the Pwani Region, To the east, by the Indian Ocean, and by the Lindi Rural to the south, to the west is bordered by the Liwale district.

The development of a natural gas field underlying the Songo Songo Island group in the Indian Ocean has made Kilwa economically important. Also, there are continuing efforts to locate hydrocarbon reserves in the region. Economically, Kilwa is rising as an industrial region.

Let us see in detail what this Old Swahili town and sultanate offers.

1. Exploring Selous Game Reserve

Selous game reserve is the largest protected game reserve in Africa. Did you know that Selous Game Reserve is larger than Switzerland, Luxembourg, and Cyprus altogether?

Despite being so large, Selous is still wild and remote and a declared UNESCO world heritage site. The game reserve is virtually untouched by a human, making it a cool place for you to visit.

It is also the most extensively protected area in Tanzania. The game reserve runs through 5 different regions. It covers 5% of Tanzania’s land area.

Are you asking where the Selous Game Reserve is?

The game reserve is in the southern Tanzania safari circuit. It is a short flight south of Dar es Salaam, the biggest city in Tanzania.

Unlike parks in the northern tourism circuit, the Selous game reserve is affordable. Selous game reserve is home to rare and highly endangered charismatic wild dogs. Here you will have a chance to spot them in groups.

Also, it is exciting to spot the very huge numbers of animals in this game reserve. Such as elephants, buffalos, giraffes, hippo, leopards, and crocodiles. I can guarantee that you will even witness large lion pride.

Luckily, I visited Selous in October 2015 for the first time. I enjoyed seeing the large number of animals concentrating around the fewer remaining central water sources creating nice viewing. Other sources of water had already dried out.

If you are a bird lover, the Selous game reserve is home to over 440 known different species of birds. They include the white-headed vulture and the orange-beaked African skimmer.

There are lots of commendable exciting activities you can do in the Selous Game Reserve. There you can enjoy walking safaris, bird watching tours, boat safaris, game drives, fly–camping tours, and hot air balloon safaris.

You will enjoy experiencing spa treatments and an infinity pool in the luxury tented villas. The tents are well spaced with private verandas to offer you a nice stay and view. Selous offers a little bit out of the ordinary enjoying luxurious accommodation in a true African wild adventure.

This is a nice way you can enjoy a true back-to-basics experience. So, were you looking for what to do in Kilwa? Visiting Selous game reserve is a great way to spend your day!

2. Visiting The Great Mosque Of Kilwa

The Great Mosque of Kilwa is a congregational mosque in Kilwa. This mosque stands as one of the major tourist attractions in Kilwa.

The mosque holds a long history dating back to the 10th century. Up until the 16th century, the mosque was the largest mosque in Sub-Saharan. It is the earliest surviving mosque on the East African coast. More interesting is that this mosque is one of the first mosques to be built without a courtyard.

It was built as part of the first Arabic settlement and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Like its name, this mosque was remarkably larger than any other mosque being built in Kilwa. Its Architecture is exquisite to prove that civilization started way back in Kilwa.

In the mosque, you will see a separate domed chamber that was used for private worship by the Sultan. On the southeast part of the mosque, is a large dome that may have served as the mausoleum of Sultan al-Hasan ibn Suleiman.

Some of the coins that were used to trade in Kilwa were found in the mosque. Each coin was under the name of Ali bin al-Hasan. This serves as evidence that Kilwa was a big empire on the East African coast and had its currency.

The mosque is now in ruins following the decline in wealth in the city of Kilwa in the late 14th century. The Great Mosque of Kilwa collapsed during the rule of Abu’l Mawahib al-Hasan bin Suleiman.

To get there just head to the tourist information center at the bust station. There, they will organize the permit and the boat trip. There is exciting sailing in the traditional dhow which can get there,

This guided tour will take you beyond your expectations. You will feel and see the real fascinating stories of Kilwa, the old Sultanate, and the city.

I recommend you take this tour before the sun has started burning or after. But the light inside the mosque later in the afternoon is great. Just bring some bottled water as it is worth a visit if you are a historian or religion buff!

3. Kilwa Kisiwani World Heritage

Kilwa Kisiwani is a must-visit while you are in Kilwa and you’re interested in history. The remains of the great East African port that attracted the early European explorers are situated here.

Did you know that Ibn Battouta in 1331-1332 described Kilwa as one of the most beautiful cities in the world? He was a great traveler who made a stop here in 1331 to 1332 after being invited by Sultan al-Hassan.

Kilwa Kisiwani was occupied from the 9th to the 19th century but reached its peak of prosperity in the 13th and 14th centuries. By the 13th century, under the rule of the Mahdali family, Kilwa Kisiwani became the most powerful city on the East Africa coast. It traded with cities in Africa, and Asia before the arrival of the Portuguese.

Kilwa Kisiwani was one of the big cities that traded gold, iron, ivory, slaves, silver, pearls, perfumes, Arabian crockery, Persian earthenware, and Chinese porcelain. a lot of the trade in the Indian Ocean passed here. This town had its currency in the 11th to 14th centuries before it collapsed. Its collapse due to the establishment of a fort for the Portuguese.

The remains of Kilwa Kisiwani cover much of the Island. Many parts of the city are still unexcavated. This place is worth visiting as you may find you are the only visitor here as it’s not easy to get in.

You will see a lot of ruins including the Great Mosque. Also, the palace of Husuni Kubwa with its large octagonal bathing pool and Husuni Ndogo are here. The palace at Husuni Kubwa was unrivaled in East Africa for its unique architecture and majesty.

Other ruins here include numerous mosques, the Gereza constructed on the ruins of the fort. An entire urban complex with houses, public squares, and burial grounds is easily spotted.

This place bears exceptional evidence to Swahili’s coastal culture and the Islamisation of East Africa. This site portrays important evidence of prosperous Indian Ocean trade from the medieval era up to the modern era.

For a wonderful experience, I would recommend you take a guide and tour Kilwa Kisiwani.

During the afternoon, you will enjoy the sunset in the dhow on the way back to the mainland. More interesting is that the beaches here are the best you have ever seen.

4. Songo Mnara

Songo Mnara is one of the more prominent Swahili stone towns. It is in the Kilwa archipelago. It is one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites. Songo Mnara is typical of stone towns along the Swahili coast.

Songo Mnara was a central participant in the Indian Ocean trade during the 15th and 16th centuries. The town traded with Asia. Some of the evidence is the discovery of ceramic shards from China and Southeast Asia. Some of the coins of Kilwa were excavated here, mostly in the floor layers.

You will have a chance to see a lot of ruins in this stone town that dates to the 14th century.

The ruins incorporate a lot of different architectural details. The ruins you will see are the remains of 5 mosques, a palace complex, and some 33 houses. All the remains entail lots of cultures including that of the Indian Ocean like Oman, India, and even China. Among others, you will see the old mosques, cemeteries, and two dozen house blocks.

5. Explore Mikumi National Park

Mikumi national park is the fourth-biggest park in Tanzania. The Park is often nicknamed the little Serengeti because of its great wildlife experience in the plains.

The Park is surrounded by the mountains like Udzungwa and the Uluguru Mountains. The scenic views of the mountains have a unique formation system. That attracts more travelers, particularly writers, photographers, and researchers to the park.

Most travelers say that exploring Mikumi is always the best experience of their lives.

The sunrise and sunset here are nice especially if you walk to the top of any mountain or hill. Most travelers do their park safari in the northwest commonly known as the “Mkata plains”.

If you do not have much time but you want to enjoy a wildlife safari, Mikumi is a perfect place for you to go. Here you will enjoy the guided walk safari as well. You will be excited to find a wide assortment of natural life easily spotted at the park center.

If you go there during the dry season, the waterholes attract huge herds of animals creating beautiful scenery.

Among the animals that you can spot here are all the African Big Five except rhinos. Here you have a greater chance to see tree-climbing lions than the one in the famous Lake Manyara national park. Also, hippos, hyena, zebra, and wildebeest are spotted here. Also, expect to spot eland, greater kudu, and sable.

Giraffes are also common here. If you are lucky, you can encounter some great pride of a lion.

Another interesting part about Mikumi national park is that the game drive is at its best here. Also, the park is affordable, so do not worry much about the price. But if you are visiting this park in the wetter period, take a nice rain jacket.

More than 400 bird species including the European migrants are hosted here. The most spotted birds are secretary birds, guinea fowl, oxpeckers, bateleur eagles, and cattle egret.

If you still have time, Mikumi national park is well connected to Selous and Ruaha parks. You can also try them after you are finished with Mikumi.

So, if you are in Kilwa, I recommend you visit Mikumi national park.

6. Kilwa Masoko

Kilwa Masoko is a sleepy coastal town nestled amid dense coastal vegetation. It is the administrative capital of the region despite that it remains small but welcoming.

Kilwa Masoko is the springboard for visiting the ruins that date back to the 15th century.

This site is the gateway into one of the most significant eras in East African coastal history. The town itself is a relatively modern creation, with minimal historical appeal.

This place is well worth a visit. Just get a guide and visit this place. You can tour the site by bike or do a guided walk.

Kilwa Masoko is one of the 3 Kilwas, the others being Kilwa Kisiwani and Kilwa Kivinje.

This tour will allow you to combine with other activities. The place is surrounded by small shops selling Islamic texts, kitchenware, barbershops, and alike. At this site, you will get a real sense of modern-day Africa.

Kilwa Masoko means Kilwa of the Market. You can head to the market from here. The lively night market of Kilwa gets going each evening from around 6 pm.

At the market, you will have the chance to shop grilled meat skewers and seafood like an octopus. Also, you can sample some souvenirs to take home like kitenge or pieces of kanga.

Why shouldn’t you combine this tour with other villages tours to learn more about Africa? See and learn the culture of the locals, their food, way of dressing, and worship.

To make your tour more fun, have some basic Swahili phrases before you go. Some of the useful words include:

· “Mambo?” or “habari yako?” (How are you?)

· “Nzuri?” or “poa” (fine)

· “Karibu” (welcome)

· “Shilingi ngapi?” (How much?)

· “Ndiyo” (yes), “hapana” (no)

· “Asante!” (Thank you), “Asante Sana” (thank you very much)

· “Kwa heri” (goodbye)

Then, you can head to explore the beaches that are allocated about halfway between Dar es Salaam and Mtwara. These beaches are stunning and less-visited making them as beautiful as you can imagine.

7. Touring Kilwa Kivinje

Kilwa Kivinje is a slow-paced town owing to its existence to Oman Arabs from Kilwa Kisiwani. The Oman Arabs set up a base here in the early 19th century after the fall of the Kilwa sultanate.

This is an amazing site to learn about the Asian-Europe influence in East Africa.

By the mid 19th century, the settlement had become the hub of the regional slave-trading network. By the late 19th century, it had become a German administrative center.

Kilwa Kivinje came to collapse after the abolishment of the slave trade and German wartime defeats.

Today, the site shows ruins and small-town portraying a mixture of German colonial and Oman Arab architecture. The district hospital is located here. Visiting this site, you can see the German boma that was built to house offices.

Also, you will have the chance to see the Mwembe Kinyonga memorial. It was built by the town’s inhabitants on the site where Tanzanian participants in the Maji-Maji rebellion were hanged.

This uprising took place at the turn of the 20th century and sowed the seeds of independence. A total of 300,000 people were killed during the uprising against colonial oppression.

Kilwa Kivinje is worth a day trip visit!


Generally, anyone who is interested in East African history would visit Kilwa. There are many more unrevealed things here. Visiting Kilwa, maybe you can be the first to uncover the unknown.

So, if you are in or around Kilwa, try out these exciting things I’ve shared. You will not be disappointed but get the satisfaction you can imagine!

Scroll to Top