Ushongo is a traditional Swahili fishing village 16km South of Pangani. No visitor can fail to be charmed by the wooden sailing boats that glide gently through the water in the early morning hours, providing fish for the fishermen’s families and surrounding lodges and resorts.
Ushongo Beach is still one of the little known secrets of the Tanzanian coast with its fabulous and secluded beaches, framed by coconut palms, no street vendors, simply an ideal destination to recover from long safari days on the northern circuit or simply relaxing beach holidays off the beaten track for families, honeymooners or anyone else.
Our village is still little affected by tourism; our way of life is governed by the tides, our community spilling right out of the palm-leaf houses and onto the shore. The sea here is perfect for swimming there are no sharks, neither rip-tides nor strong currents. And while Robin Crusoe-types will not need any more reason to come other than the epic palm-backed seashore that spreads in both directions, there’s more inspiration just offshore, in the series of reefs that protect Ushongo Bay. The Maziwe Island Marine Reserve is an awesome, little-known scuba-diving site, its reef bustling with corals & fish, and the smaller Fungu Island closer to shore provides fine snorkeling. Those reefs are also an excellent breeding ground for deep-sea fishing, and we can catch anything from Great Trevally, Baracuda’s, and even Marlin and Tuna when heading further out.
The village of Ushongo is part of Pangani a historic Arab slaving town situated 45 km south of Tanga City and lays at the mouth of the Pangani River, which flows all the way down from the Kilimanjaro Highlands and meets the Indian Ocean. Pangani has a remarkable history dating back to the 15th century and many traces of old buildings and monuments still can be seen. It’s quiet and laid-back atmosphere offers an ideal getaway for those seeking to escape the masses of tourists that flock to Zanzibar.
North of town, High cliffs form small bays around the coastline and give a stunning view of the Indian Ocean. Eating in town is limited. But for your day-trip to Pangani, there are local restaurants which serve fresh grilled fish, seafood or chicken with chips and a salad.
History of Pangani
Just north of Pangani, some Archaeologists have found the remains of small 15th century settlements. However, the modern town developed under Zanzibari rule in the nineteenth century when it was a very important port at the end of slavery caravan routes from the deep African interior. From the 1860s townspeople established large plantations of sugar and coconut in Mauya along the banks of the river just west of town. The plantations were worked by slave labour and Pangani became an important center of the slave trade. After the Sultan of Zanzibar signed treaties with Great Britain outlawing the oceangoing trade in slaves in 1873, Pangani became a center for smuggling slaves across the narrow channel to Pemba, in evasion of British warships.
In 1888 Pangani was the center of an armed movement to resist the German colonial conquest of the entire mainland coast. The local leader of the resistance was Abushiri ibn Salim al-Harthi, born in Zanzibar – and slave trader himself. After he was defeated, the Germans hanged him in December 1889 in Pangani.
Several historical sites in and around the town are reminders of the important Arabic influence and the German and British colonial era in Tanganyika. The most impressive building remaining from the period of Zanzibari rule most is the boma or district headquarters. During its construction People were buried alive under the pillars, as it was believed this would ensure strong foundations.
Once a center of Swahili trade with the African mainland, the town of Pangani is now a sleepy backwater that little remembers its days of splendor. The old German administrative boma still stands behind a colonnade of tall shade trees and the former prison – painted a fading ochre red – overlooks the river’s lazy waters.
Along the main road and the Indian road, we can find old houses as examples of colonial and traditional Swahili architecture, slowly crumbling by the monsoon winds. Visitors passing through the area may explore what remains of the old town on foot. Even a short walk rewards visitors with a glimpse of the quiet life in an old trading town along the Swahili Coast. You best experience this as part of the Pangani Cultural Tour.
Pangani is a secondary center of the sisal industry, servicing sisal plantations to the north and south of town. The ones in the south are located around Ushongo Beach and you can visit them as an Activity in Ushongo Beach, the Sisal Plantation Tour.