Tongoni in ruins

Tongoni is popular for it’s ruins, it is also documented as the most popular touristic attraction in Tanga by bushroutes.com and is thought to have been established by the Shirazi of Persian origin who also  established other Islamic settlements in Eastern Africa such as Kilwa and Mafia.

Vasco da Gama, the Portuguese sailor is said to have first visited Tongoni in April 1498. He made a second visit the next year and spent 14 days in Tongoni. Tongoni ruins consists of mosques and tombs, remains of residential house of the first shiraz and the location of the first port before Tanga. – Tanga Cultural Heritage Tourism Cluster

Sail across the ocean.

Sail across the ocean.

For us, Tongoni is kind of, sort of our home since  a couple of family lives there. It is thought to have been established in the 14-15th century and was once a popular trade route. So how did we end up in Tongoni? By a Tanga-Pangani mini bus for 2000 shillings of course. But why did we go there? Well, we were interested in all the buzz that the town was getting and couldn’t stand the thought that people fly from all over the world to visit this place and we have never been there while it is our birth right!

Fishing dhows and ruins:

Ruins of a sea shore mosque

Ruins of a sea-shore mosque

The primary economic activity in Tongoni is fishing. We happened to be in Tongoni during the time in which the moon lights the sky so at these times it was common to see the fisher men busy mending or carving boats; fixing their nets and fishing equipment. They hardly go fishing in moon lit nights because it isn’t as effective as the moonless nights when they can attract more fish to the surface with their boat lights.

Tongoni may be popular for its centuries old ruins but it has more abandoned houses than any village I have visited thus far. It was astonishing to find  many abandoned buildings; not just houses but mosques as well. The houses were left to ruins as their owners either moved to the city to chase their dreams of a better life, died or were involved in family inheritance raw that left them uninhabited. It is such a pity to imagine that this disintegrating town was once a flourishing trading center, how could it happen? Is it a result of poor resource allocation to these areas or that the government is turning a blind eye on this historical town?

So what is left of Tongoni that you can enjoy today?

1. You can explore the popular ruins reviewed on Lonely planets

Lonely Planet review

The ruins – which are surrounded by rusted barbed wire and set between baobabs overlooking nearby mangroves and coastline – include the crumbling remains of a mosque and about 20 overgrown Shirazi pillar-style tombs, the largest collection of such tombs on the East African coast. Both the mosque and the tombs are estimated to date from the 14th or 15th century, when Tongoni was a major coastal trading port. Although most of the pillars have long since toppled to the ground, you can still see the recessed areas on some where decorative porcelain vases and offering bowls were placed. There are also about two dozen more recent, and largely unremarkable tombs dating from the 18th or 19th century.

2. Take a dhow boat across to a nearby village called Mwarongo which boasts of quite a number of beach resorts offering activities such as wind surfing, deep sea fishing and scuba diving.

3. Explore the village, it has quite a number of interesting plants including giant baobab trees.

4. Learn a different culture through a home stay (contact us for more details on this activity option).

3. It’s a coastline so you can do whatever it is that you do on the beach; go camping, walk on the beach, beach sports, beach BBQ. You are limited by your imagination.

Getting there:

Board the tanga-pangani bus and get off tongoni junction. It usually costs Tshs 1500/- but may go up to Tshs 2000/- during peak times and public holidays.

Is it worth your time going there?

Many guides say that a visit to Tanga is not complete without visiting Tongoni ruins; with a good tour guide who can narrate the stories of the past and keep you up to par with the present the trip is worth your while. Because their beaches are not crowded, it is a nice spot for those who love some privacy, peace and calm.

If you would like to visit Tongoni, feel free to contact us for more details.

Like us on facebook for instant updates on food and destination spots.

Related links:

  1. Ilya Tours
  2. Ecoadventures
  3. Tanga Cultural Tourism Heritage
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2 comments

  1. Hi! Do you know if it is possible to reach the Tongoni ruins from Pangani (and not only from Tanga)? Thank you 🙂

    1. You do not have to go to Tanga but you will board a mini bus heading to Tanga. Just ask the mini bus conductor to drop you at Tongoni, there is about 3 km walk from the bus stop to the ruins.

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