The city of Mwanza is the major Tanzanian port on Lake Victoria and a major centre of economic activities in the region. The lake borders the country’s East African neighbours – Uganda to the north west, and Kenya to the north east.
Mwanza is a city in Northwest Tanzania on the southern edge of Lake Victoria. Your main reason for coming here would likely be en route to Rwanda or Uganda. The city also received some international attention after the controversial documentary Darwin's Nightmare, which is about the trade in the Nile Perch, centered around this city.
Tanzania’s second-largest city, and the lake region’s economic heart, Mwanza is set on Lake Victoria’s shore, surrounded by hills strewn with enormous boulders.
It is notable for its strong Indian influences, as well as for being a major industrial centre and a busy port. Yet, despite its rapidly rising skyline, Mwanza manages to retain a casual feel.
In addition to being a stop on the way to Rubondo Island National Park, Mwanza is a great starting or finishing point for safaris through Ngorongoro and the Serengeti, ideally as a loop by adding in Lake Natron.
The Mwanza Region is occupied by various tribal groups, included the Wasukuma, the Wakerewe, Wakara and Wazinza. Mwanza city's Makongoro Road is named after a prominent Sukuma chief who controlled the area in the late 1800s.
Under British rule, the region was one district in the Lake Province, which became the Lake Region after independence. In 1963, the Mwanza Region was created.
Wasukuma tribe is the major tribe occupying the Mwanza Region, the other region that is occupied by Wasukuma is Shinyanga Region.
Export and transport among the countries is a foundation of Mwanza’s economy. Around the city of Mwanza, the land is primarily devoted to agricultural enterprise. Tea, cotton and coffee plantations throughout the area produce large volumes of cash crops that pass though Mwanza on their way to market. The town’s industrial harbour and busy streets make it a prosperous and busy place to explore.
For visitors, the city makes a good base from which to explore the nearby Rubondo Island National Park and the western parts of the Serengeti. Rubondo Island National Park offers pleasant day-hikes and bird watching around the lake shore.
Mwanza’s proximity to the western Serengeti makes it a necessary stop for visitors who want to experience a less bust part of the park and see the magic of the Serengeti without the parade of safari vehicles and seasonal crowds. Mwanza is also the centre of the Sukuma tribe, the largest tribe in Tanzania, who have inhabited and farmed the region for centuries.
Cultural tourism programmes to their local villages and farms can be arranged through the local cultural centres.
Flights from Dar es Salaam with Fastjet, Arusha (JRO), Nairobi, Entebbe. On international arrival, you can easily obtain a visa (US$50).
There are daily buses going to and from Dar es Salaam. Several transport companies such as Green Star, Princess Muro and many more are one of the best and reliable choices. The journey takes about thirteen hours to reach Mwanza, the northern cultural and trading center.
The unpaved road from Dar to Mwanza-Shinyanaga is under development by South African and Chinese road construction companies and has been completed. There are also buses to Bujumbura (Burundi), Kigali(Rwanda),Nairobi(Kenya)and Kampala(Uganda)
There are daily trains to Dar es Salaam. These are often heavily booked up to 2-3 weeks in advance. But don't expect a comfortable journey by train as most of the time you will find the speed less than average.
To arrive from Uganda you can take a bus from Kampala to Bukoba (in Tanzania) and from Bukoba you can either take the ferry Monday, Wednesday or Friday evenings or the bus,several every day around 6-7 AM.
The ferry MS Victoria departs to the Tanzanian town,Bukoba every Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday evening.
There is a ferry across the Mwanza gulf that leaves from the city,the Kamanga ferry and another about 32km south of the city. The southern one is recommended for driving because the roads on the western terminal are rumored to be much better.
Daladalas or public buses are a good, cheap way to get from the city to the surrounding areas. Costing only 300tsh for a trip, they are crowded, slow, and thrilling sometimes. You may want to ask someone which one you need to take as there are no transit maps.
Taxis can be an option, although there aren't any official labels on them as there are in the capital. Use at your own risk.
Pikipikis are the little motorcycles that will take one or two people on as a fare. There are usually a few sitting at intersections. Again, use at your own risk.
The shores of Lake Victoria are interesting to walk along and popular with locals.
Climb to the top of Capri Point at the west end of Station Road for a nice view of the area.
Definitely something to try, if you can afford it. While you are in Mwanza you may organize your safari to Serengeti,only 2 hrs drive to the entrance gate.
The less expensive excursions to reserves and parks are specialized, of a shorter duration, and worthwhile. If there's one trip that will change your perspective on life, it's an African safari.
Frozen and fresh Nile perch fish fillet boxes available near the airport is the great buy.
There are some excellent fabric markets on the north end of Rwagasore Road with patterns and designs that aren't available in Dar es Salaam or Zanzibar.
Walk through the market area between Lumumba and Pamba Roads for an intense taste of a bustling market. Don't carry a wallet.
Remember to bargain with merchants. It's expected.
Great Lake Victoria's fresh water Tilapia fish is a must eat food. A good number of fish industries exist. They export Nile perch fish fillet,sangara fish to Europe and South Africa.
Pizzeria Kuleana, Post St. Pizzas, as expected, as well as a breakfast that is the favorite of both locals and travelers. Opens early, so it makes a good place to wait for the town to come alive if you have arrived with the night ferry. 7AM-9PM daily.
The Food Square, Bantu St. near Nkrumah St. Open for breakfast and lunch. Excellent, popular, fast, local food for anywhere from 1000tsh to 4000tsh per person. A great daily stop. No alcohol.
Harish Pan House, Nyerere and Post St. Indian food with Zanzibar flavor. Vegetarian menu limited to Samosas, Zanzibar mix soup, snacks and other Indian traditional breads.
Sizzler, Kenyatta and Post St. Wide variety on the menu, local food, Chinese, and Indian dishes. 4000tsh - 8000tsh. Open for lunch, then closed until dinner.
Mayi Hotel, Spacious outdoor restaurant with a good diverse menu. Lots of fish and chicken dishes. Arrive later in the evening for more menu availability. Their spaghetti and cheese sauce is especially good if you're vegetarian. 8000tsh - 12000tsh.
New Mwanza Institute, Station Rd. west of the train tracks. Popular local outdoor restaurant. Local dishes only. 2000tsh - 4000tsh.
Yun Long Chinese Restaurant. Good Chinese dishes with excellent atmosphere next to lake Victoria. You may pass by for just a drink as the bar here is excellent serving the usual African booze. Reasonably priced, a meal for two will cost you 10-15 USD.
Street food and fresh produce. Oranges, bananas, pineapples, mangoes, avocados, cassava, roast maize, taro are all available on the street from vendors for anywhere from 100tsh to 1000tsh.
Also available are mandazi, bagias, and other local fried breads in some areas. Vendors are usually walking around, so they may be harder to find.
Tunza Lodge, Located approximately 8km from town. Follow the airport road to the Llemela dalla-dalla stop, take a left turn, following a dirt road to the lake side.
Tunza Lodge is a beach resort on the shores of Lake Victoria. It offers sandy beaches, a bar and restaurant and weekend beach volleyball games on the sand. While the lake water is generally considered safer to swim in than areas closer to town, it is worth noting that the risk of schistosomiasis,a parasitic disease via swimming or infected water is still present.
The Breeze, Second floor in the New Mwanza Hotel,stairs are in the front not the ones that go up to rooms. Nice view of traffic and people walking below. Open air but covered. A good place to wait out a sudden rain shower.
The Police Cafe, on Station Road, just between Mwanza train station and Station Road. A cosy place run by police officers. You can sit in the garden under the trees and enjoy a relaxed atmosphere, good food and cold beer.
Any local hotel and most restaurants serve beer and other drinks
La Kairo is a top-end place to stay, prices from 30.000 Tsh to 100.000 Tsh. Working free internet, good meeting rooms. City is noisy at night.
The Tilapia Hotel on the shores of Lake Victoria in the Capri Point area of town offers a swimming pool and bar, ideal for swimming on a hot day. Although the lake is adjacent, the water is infested with schistosomiasis and is not considered safe to swim in.
Gold Crest Hotel opposite the New Mwanza hotel on Post street, this is a comfortable business hotel with a reliable generator and good WiFi. The restaurant/bar on the roof has a great view, though the music gets loud pretty early on so it's not good for a relaxed meal in the evening.
The Indian restaurant through the first floor car park serves fantastic Indian food. The coffee shop on the ground floor serves real coffee (not instant coffee).
Malaika Beach Hotel and Resort, recently completed, has a large restaurant, infinity pool with poolside bar, sprawling lawns and WiFi connections. You can watch the fishermen at work on the lake while you are at poolside.
Victoria Palace Hotel, capripoint. Excellent hotel rooms with free internet, excellent Indian food prepared by an Indian chef. Free breakfast. edit
Ramada Hotel, Rwagasore St. by Kenyatta Rd. Small sign outside, but nice rooms inside for the price. Bar and restaurant on the second floor, safe parking inside, satellite television (some channels in English) and en-suite bathrooms. 15,000tsh per night, but if you're staying for a week or so, you can negotiate down to 10,000 per night. Good mosquito nets, balconies, but not necessarily a fan in every room.
Lake Hotel, Station Rd. west of Kenyatta Rd. Nice place with a restaurant. Small rooms with en-suite bathrooms. 15,000tsh per night. Safe parking. A little cramped for more than one night.
Ryan's Bay Hotel Station Road, Capri Point, Mwanza, Tanzania. A nice four star hotel owned by Indian proprietors. Large comfortable rooms with views of Lake Victoria. Staff is very helpful and friendly. Room prices star at 100USD for a twin room. The hotel runs a safari company.
Serengeti National ParkYou can start you safari adventure from here. Serengeti and other National parks like Rubondo Island in Lake Victoria. It's just two hours away from Mwanza thus the city is a good base to start a safari. If you start your safari from Mwanza you will enter Serengeti from the Western corridor at Ndabaka Gate. Good safari companies include:
Rubondo Island National park in Lake Victoria. Rubondo Island National Park. A pair of fish eagles guards the gentle bay, their distinctive black, white and chestnut feather pattern gleaming boldly in the morning sun. Suddenly, the birds toss back their heads in a piercing, evocative duet.
On the sandbank below, a well-fed monster of a crocodile snaps to life, startled from its nap. It stampedes through the crunchy undergrowth, crashing into the water in front of the boat, invisible except for a pair of sentry-post eyes that peek menacingly above the surface to monitor our movements.
Rubondo Island with small islands Rubondo Island is tucked in the southwest corner of Lake Victoria, the world's second-largest lake, an inland sea sprawling between Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya. With nine smaller islands under its wing, Rubondo protects precious fish breeding grounds.
Sport fishing Tasty tilapia form the staple diet of the yellow-spotted otters that frolic in the island’s rocky coves, while rapacious Nile perch, some weighing more than 100kg, tempt recreational game fishermen seeking world record catches.
Rubondo is more than a water wonderland. Deserted sandy beaches nestle against a cloak of virgin forest, where dappled bushbuck move fleet yet silent through a maze of tamarinds, wild palms, and sycamore figs strung with a cage of trailing taproots.
Birds and Animals The shaggy-coated aquatic sitatunga, elsewhere the most elusive of antelopes, is remarkably easily observed, not only in the papyrus swamps it normally inhabits, but also in the forest interior. Birds are everywhere.
Flocks of African grey parrots – released onto the island after they were confiscated from illegal exporters – screech in comic discord as they flap furiously between the trees.
The azure brilliance of a malachite kingfisher perched low on the reeds competes with the glamorous, flowing tail of a paradise flycatcher as it flits through the lakeshore forest. Herons, storks and spoonbills proliferate in the swampy lake fringes, supplemented by thousands of Eurasian migrants during the northern winter.
Vegetations Wild jasmine, 40 different orchids and a smorgasbord of sweet, indefinable smells emanate from the forest.
Ninety percent of the park is humid forest; the remainder ranges from open grassland to lakeside papyrus beds.
A number of indigenous mammal species - hippo, vervet monkey, genet and mongoose - share their protected habitat with introduced species such as chimpanzee, black-and-white colobus, elephant and giraffe, all of which benefit from Rubondo's inaccessibility.
About Rubondo Island National Park Size: 457 sq km (176 sq miles). Location: Northwest Tanzania, 150 km (95 miles) west of Mwanza.
Getting there By either road from Mwanza and then boat transfer or scheduled flight form Mwanza airport.
When to go Dry season, June-August. Wildflowers and butterflies Wet season November-March. December- February best for migratory birds.
Accommodation Accommodation in the park includes one Luxury tented camp - owned by a private company. Self contained and self catering visitor bandas, a campsite and hostel which are owned by the park.
The park is ideal for:
- Bird watchers
- Sport fishing
- Boat racers
- Company retreats
Fishing boat is available for hire.
There is a medical staff and a health centre in the park. There are snakes, some are poisonous some are not.