Mwanza is a port city in the northwest of Tanzania on the south of Lake Victoria. It is the economic centre of the lake zone and Tanzania’s second largest city. It is nicknamed ‘Rock City’ due to the presence of the huge granite boulders dotted around the landscape.
For a lot of people, Mwanza is just the gateway to the Serengeti, but closer by two national parks can also be visited. The first one is the seldom-visited Rubondo Island. The National Geographic calls the island ‘one of the greatest treasures’ in their selection of 50 unique lodges of the world. And you can see why. An astonishingly beautiful island, teeming with birdlife, and other wildlife including elephants, crocodiles, hippos, the shy sitatunga and even chimpanzees. The chimpanzees have been rescued from zoos and circuses and brought here to live a wild life again.
Closer by is Ukerewe Island, the largest inland island in Africa and affectionately known as ‘little Zanzibar’. Living up to its nickname, the laid-back pace of life sweeps over you as you step well and truly off the beaten track. You can hike through the green hills and into the forest, walk out into the quaint villages and onto the idyllic beaches. It is also a safe haven for Tanzania’s albinos, who are often victims of violence. You won’t find the equivalent of Stone Town here, but it reminds many of Zanzibar decades ago and you will most likely be the only tourist there.
Closer still is Saanane National Park. A five-minute boat ride brings you to the islets where you can hike the nature trails or climb the rock boulders for breathtaking views. Get up close to animals such as antelopes, zebra, lizards and tortoises and maybe not so close to the pythons and wild cats. It is the only place in Tanzania where you can see the De Brazza’s monkey.
Just 16k east of Mwanza is Bujora, the location of the Sukuma museum. An excellent place to brush up your knowledge of the local Sukuma people and watch a traditional drumming and dancing show (on request).
And when you are ready to leave Mwanza, you can head off towards the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Crater. The western gate of the Serengeti is only located 2 hours driving from Mwanza and your game drive starts as soon as you enter the national park.