Mwanza truly surprised me.
Waking up on the bus, blurry eyed and a head full of sleep, my eyes where soon wide open in shock seeing the landscape that surrounded me! So different from what I had seen along the way.
I had heard Mwanza being referred to as the ‘city of rocks’…but this was crazy! To my left was the beautiful Lake Victoria and to my right were looming rock formations – with massive rocks seemingly balanced precariously atop one another. Seriously it looked like something out of the Flintstones cartoon!
The city was also bigger than I had anticipated. The streets where full of life with only the odd tourist here and there. But I couldn’t keep my eyes off the rocky horizon for long. However, after we alighted the bus and jumped in a taxi my eye was caught by the most beautiful sunset I had seen to date. Setting on Lake Victoria, with the light bouncing off the little islands and rock formation close to the shore; I quickly fell in love with this place.
There wasn’t a lot of information online about what to do in Mwanza so I arrived with no plan and no expectations and no plans at all. When we arrived at our Airbnb accommodation we chatted to some people and found that there were a plethora of places to go see the sun set. Many different spots to go see some rocks, and a few choice places for sundowners at the beach…again to see the sunset. That’s about all there was on the list of free things to do.
If you have some extra cash and a lot of time on your hands it would be easy to make your Mwanza trip exciting and adventure packed. But for me, I was on a tight budget.
SO we wondered into town and found a nice view of some crazy looking rocks in the lake. This we later found out was called ‘Bismark Rock’. Next to the ferry port. Unfortunately you can’t sit on the well maintained grassy bank by the water without paying a silly fee. But it was a nice walk! We bought an ice-cream from a guy who was selling them on the street and enjoyed the sun. Winning!
One evening we went to a lookout spot called Capri Point. Apparently some nights it gets very busy with lots of young people gathering to see the sunset. We however had the rocks almost to ourselves. THIS as it turned out, was perhaps the most beautiful sunset I had ever seen. I couldn’t get over my beautiful surroundings. One of my favourite things in Mwanza was simply the difference in architecture. The homes seemingly blended into the rocky cliffs that surrounded the city. Driving around town I was mesmerized.
On the top of our list of things to do was to eat fish. Arusha isn’t close to ocean so the fish we have access to isn’t always fresh. But here in Mwanza you can get the biggest fish for cheap and it tastes great! Our first day we stopped by a fish market to buy some fish then went back to our house to cook a feast. In our three days there we had fish curry, fish and ugali (twice) and spicy fish in tinfoil. We hit our fish quota for the month for sure.
Another highlight was the fruit! I know this sounds weird, but every street market seemed to overflow with pineapple, mangos, oranges and papaya. It looked to fresh and inviting that I had to buy some pineapple at least a few times!
A lot of people talk about the beach as a highlight of Mwanza. However, I was a little disappointed. You can only go to the beach via a resort it seems – which means it doesn’t truly feel like the beach. No one swimming and no one sitting on the sand. Although I’m sure if you spent a little extra at a fancy resort the experience may have been nicer. BUT I got to stick my feet in Lake Victoria…so it was still a win for me.
As I was about to leave I heard talk of a few interesting things to see. There is the dancing rock which vibrates to the sounds of drumming. There is a tree that falls at night and rises again in the day. There is also a bull with no owner that changes colour!! I’m not sure how much stock I would hold in these ‘attractions’ actually being legit, but I love that superstition and folklore are still deeply entrenched in the area.
Top Tips for Tourists:
- To get here, take a bus! Flights to Mwanza are usually very pricey and for 30,000tsh you can get there with little to no fuss on a bus. The bus takes 12 hours but it’s a scenic drive from Arusha to Mwanza – and there are more than enough bathroom stops. (But you should bring some snacks unless you enjoy dodgy samosas!)
- So for those on a budget, it’s easy to get in and out of town on dalla dalla’s however, you will be tempted to get taxis as the city is not exactly obvious to navigate. So be prepared!
- Finding a cheap spot to eat will also seem daunting when you have no guide. But like most places there are lots of spots worth checking out so ask around!
- If you get a chance you should go see the Kissing Rocks. You will need to take a ferry to go see them. The docks are close to the Samaki dalla dalla stop (a roundabout with a big fish statue in the middile of town). When visiting any ‘big rocks’ be prepared to pay a small fee.
- It’s almost impossible to find affordable accommodation online. However once you arrive you will see plenty of places in the city to stay. As this is not a tourism hub there is sure to be room in a hotel near the bus station. I booked on Airbnb which proved to be great! However quite far out of city center.(look up Andrea and Joseph ‘Comfy House’)
- Bring sunscreen! Even though it was cold and windy in Arusha, the sun was blazing in Mwanza. My Mzungu skin was red after the first day out.