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Backpacking in Tanzania (my favourite country on Earth!) holds a very special place in my heart. The friendliest culture, most beautiful scenery, and comparative safety makes it an incredible country to explore if you’re wanting to properly immerse yourself in Sub-Saharan Africa. This year I’ve returned to Tanzania for the fourth time, and spent the last few months living in Mwanza – a gorgeous city on the banks of Lake Victoria. I love being here so much, but sometimes, it’s hard to know the things to do in Mwanza and North West Tanzania – it can be a little off the beaten track from most tourist routes.
Key things to do in Mwanza as a tourist or expat worker:
- Sunset at Capri Point. Walk up past Mwanza International School for stunning sunsets over the lake. Any spot will do on the hill!
- Tepanyaki at Tilapia Hotel – a gorgeous hotel in the centre of town, a real expat hangout. You can also use their pool for TSH 20 000 for the day, or sun loungers for free as long as you’re purchasing food and drink.
- Swimming and buffet lunch at Malaika Beach Resort. This is Mwanza’s most luxury hotel. On Sunday’s swimming is only TSH 10 000, with a wonderful buffet lunch for TSH 25 000. Swimming is TSH 20 000 on other days.
- Sunset dinner at Tunza Beach for chilled reggae vibes.
- Shopping for kitenge fabric in Mwanza’s bustling market and getting gorgeous clothes made with one of the many tailors.
- See a film at the cinema at Rock City Mall.
- Boat trips on Lake Victoria and around the infamous Bismark Rock.
- Mwanza is of course the gateway to the Serengeti, so a safari is pretty unmissable.
But let me introduce you to Balili Mountain. By far my favourite experience in Sub-Saharan Africa so far. See a video of the trip here. (Except maybe climbing Kilimanjaro – blog post coming soon!)
Balili Mountain (it’s more like a large hill!) stands proudly behind Bunda town, in Mara region. This is easily accessible from Mwanza, by 3 hour drive. It’s possible to hire a driver from many services in Mwanza – we used Exotic Expeditions, who were fantastic. The drive between the two towns is easy, with a tarmac road the whole way. However, upon arrival in Bunda, prepare to turn off the road to a VERY steep dirt track that winds up the mountain for approximately 7km. An experienced driver and a 4WD is essential.
Balili Mountain Resort is incredibly special. A stunning, but fairly basic, safari lodge near the summit of the mountain awaits after the adventurous drive up. Customer service is some of the best I’ve seen in Tanzania. Their incredibly kind staff will take you up to the lookout point at the top for one of the most beautiful sunsets you’ll ever see.
We were so lucky for ours – we watched the sun set over Lake Victoria to our right, whilst a massive storm brewed over the Serengeti to our left. MIND BLOWING.
After a comfortable night’s sleep and lovely private dinner, we woke up for sunrise to head back up to the summit. Only to have yet another feast for our eyes!
From here, it’s very easy to continue into the Serengeti for a day (or multiple) safari. Alternatively, you can choose to hike back down to Bunda. Make sure to visit Tembea Mara at Balili Village (easily signposted from the road on the right as you drive into Bunda from the Serengeti gate).
Approximate costs (in February 2019)
- 450 USD total for the vehicle, to and from Mwanza and for a day in the Serengeti.
- 71 USD per person for entry into the Serengeti National Park. Not necessary for Balili Mountain.
So that’s it, the ultimate guide of things to do in Mwanza and around North Western Tanzania!