11 August 2014

highlights: dar es salaam, tanzania.

Hey there! We’re sorry! We left without telling you where we were going. We’ve missed out on a few blog posts because we were here.

If you’re heading to Dar es Salaam, here are some recommendations to get you started. If you’re not heading to Dar es Salaam, read on anyway! You know there are always Leen Adventures in store.

Dar es Salaam, meaning ‘haven of peace,’ is a crazy, busy city, jam-packed with people, cars, bajajis, bikes, motorcycles, and more people. Seriously, we felt like small-town folk in this neck of the woods. It’s got some nice spots, though, especially given the fact that it’s right on the Indian Ocean. Hallelujah!

view in a bajaji.
First, how to get to Dar es Salaam? From Mwanza, it’s a lovely short flight on Fast Jet, the newest (read: cheapest) airline in Tanzania. They boast the low fare of only 64,000 shillings for a round-trip flight from Mwanza to Dar es Salaam, which is about the equivalent of $39. Sweet. And with only an hour-long flight and no time change, who can say no to that?

We arrived in Dar es Salaam and spent the first three days getting to know the city. It is a huge, sprawling city so getting to know it all was a lot more difficult than we realized. We rode a lot of daladalas (same price as the ones in Mwanza, only nicer), ate really great food (Lebanese, Italian, and Ethiopian, to name a few), and had some killer sundowner sessions with the ocean in sight.

killer sundowner session in progress.
Our Recommendations:

- Al Basha: This lebanese joint is a bit pricey so it’s a good place to stop in for lunch. The ambiance was quite lovely although the service was a bit lacking.

- Waterfront Beach Bar: This bar is located right on the water, with great views of the sun as it sets. it’s located in an area that strictly caters to foreigners (a.k.a. expensive) but stopping for cocktails is worth it.

the view from waterfront beach bar.
- Zuane Trattoria & Pizzeria: Highly recommended! This was our favorite restaurant in Dar es Salaam. The ambiance is gorgeous, with lights hanging from the trees, and a huge outdoor seating area. We almost went two nights in a row, we were so in love. Just go. Please.

- Rohobot: This was our first foray into Ethiopian food, which we really enjoyed. The restaurant was super quiet (perhaps owing to the fact that it was Sunday?), so we felt a little on display until other customers showed up. If we return to Dar es Salaam, we would try Addis in Dar, another Ethiopian place we heard good things about.

- Smooch: I know, the name throws you off a bit, but this was actually a frozen yogurt place Michael spotted as we were traveling via bajaji. (Love those things.) We were super excited to get some fro-yo, as that fancy stuff isn’t available in Mwanza, only to find all of their flavors were fruity. Um, excuse me?!?! No chocolate?!? We were a bit miffed, even more so by the prices (yowzas!) so we’d only recommend if you really have a hankering.

traveling by bajaji - it's exhilarating!
- Karembezi Cafe: This really, really nice restaurant is located inside a really, really nice hotel we just happened upon during an epic journey through Dar es Salaam. (In other words, we had been traveling for about three hours through the city and were just really hungry.) The view is absolutely gorgeous and the prices reflect as such. You could easily stop by for a coffee and something from the bakery instead of a full meal. I would still recommend just for the ambiance. Ah, it was nice.

- Hyatt Regency Level 8 Bar: Amazing! This was the only spot we could find that gives you a great view of the Dar es Salaam harbor. Call us easy to please, but we had the best time walking around the rooftop with a beer in hand, surveying the scene below on all sides. And the elevators smell fantastic.

- Bongoyo Island: A small boat company shuttles beach-goers back and forth from Bongoyo Island, a small island not far from the city. Throughout the day, beginning as early as 9:00am, you can grab a round-trip ticket for about $19. We found it to be an incredibly relaxing day. The beach is beautiful and clean and the ocean is all those shades of blue and turquoise that you read about. You can grab lunch on the island (for a price) or bring your own food and drink.

And that was just the first three days! after that, we spent another three days at the Mbagala Spiritual Center, where we were scheduled to attend a retreat. Unfortunately, as luck would have it, or maybe as Tanzania would have it, this didn’t exactly pan out. The retreat that was supposed to be in English turned out to be in Kiswahili. Eesh! After being frustrated for a good fifteen minutes, we decided to roll with the punches and do our own self-led retreat, which turned out great! The campus at Mbagala is beautiful, with plants and trees and plenty of spots to sit outside, giving us ample opportunity to think about and discuss our first seven months of living in Tanzania.

Last, but certainly not least, we readied ourselves for a final three days dedicated to the beach. There’s an easy-to-reach beach, just south of the city, called Kigamboni. We really enjoyed our time there, sleeping, swimming, and catching up on a lot of reading, but we were ready to come back to Mwanza when the time came.


- Mikadi Beach: We stayed at Mikadi for three nights, with a mixed review. For a reasonable price, you can get a “banda” with your own bathroom. We came to find that “banda” meant “half-shelter,” as Michael aptly named it. In addition, when you want to rinse off at the end of the day, you can only find salt water in the shower! There were definitely some things left wanting, but it was a cheap place to hit the beach for awhile.

- Kipepeo and Sunrise: Both of these places are other hotels you can stay at while on Kigamboni. We happened to visit them to grab dinner. We recommend them, but they’re also just about the only places on the beach where you can get Western food!

All in all, what did we think of Dar? We enjoyed getting away from our everyday surroundings, just to obtain perspective, see how different a place can be from Mwanza but still be Tanzania, and relax. Yet Dar is a chaotic place. Michael put it well when he said that you’ll look one way and Dar appears to be incredibly modern and progressive. But all of a sudden, when you look the other way, Dar is just Mwanza on steroids! We didn’t fall in love with the place but if we found ourselves there in the future, we would be sure to enjoy ourselves. For now, we’re settling back into the routine in Mwanza, feeling safe in the “small town” life we know a lot better.


  1. We went to Bongoyo Island too! It was so relaxing. We'll have to check out your other recommendations the next time we are in Dar :-) I'm so glad you both had some downtime in spite of the fact that the retreat didn't turn out as advertised.

  2. Thanks, Linda! We are certainly happy it ended up working out, but would have loved to have it in English. :) You know Tanzanian though, always keeping us flexible!

  3. Glad you guys made it-- nice snapshots of Dar spots, too!!

    1. Thanks Jessie! Wish we could have met up. Next time!

  4. First foray into Ethiopian?? Whenever we cross paths again we'll have to track some down and see how the stuff outside the continent stacks up. Hope all has been well.

    1. Alex, yes, we are a bit late to the Ethiopian trend! Guess we needed to actually move to Africa before trying it. Hope all is well with you guys too! We miss you!