Bagamoyo visitors love the sea—and want to get on it, University of Dar Es Salaam students find
Bahari Yetu, Urithi Wetu:
Undergraduate students Martha Kipande, Daniel Antony Munuo, Noella Mrosso and Javern Aveline Sabas and postgraduate student Neema Munisi report on their findings.
Photo 1: Part of the Bagamoyo beach with local boats
Photo by E. Ichumbaki
A team of students from the University of Dar Es Salaam (UDSM) have been out and about in the Tanzanian fishing town of Bagamoyo finding out what some of its over 17,000 visitors a year enjoy—and what they’d like more of. Unsurprisingly, the natural beauty of the beach and its busy fishing community rate highly. But the students—on UDSM’s Heritage Management programme at the Department of Archaeology and Heritage Studies—also found that visitors would relish a trip on a traditional boat. Undergraduate students Martha Kipande, Daniel Antony Munuo, Noella Mrosso and Javern Aveline Sabas and postgraduate student Neema Munisi report on their findings.
Bagamoyo’s beach, with its busy fishermen, traditional wooden sailing boats, fine sand, clear water and seashells is a key attraction for tourists visiting the town, we found in a questionnaire we conducted among visitors this month as part of the Bahari Yetu, Urithi Wetu (Our Sea, Our Heritage) project. “The lives of people, fishing boats, dhows, white sand, the sunset, clean beach and palm trees are all very interesting” one Danish tourist, a postgraduate student, told us. A Russian visitor said simply that, “The beach is the best”.
Photo: Daniel and Martha interviewing a tourist from Spain
Photo by Neema Munisi
Tourists were also interested in the sights and history of the town itself—citing its historic architecture, fish market, curio shops, food, people, climate and slave-trade history among its attractions. “The old-style buildings have not changed,” noted a tourist from South Korea, “The structures are still original.”
We conducted the survey over almost two weeks. For us—young people waving clipboards in the street—the main challenge was to win the trust and patience of visitors, and also to convince the tour guides that we were not stealing their business. Many tourists were in a hurry. Some ignored us, and others thought we were beggars!
But, in the end, we gathered more than 110 reponses, and were amazed by the results. People enjoyed their stay, but there is a clear market for boat-trip experiences that is not currently being satisfied. Overwhelmingly, respondents said they’d love to go on a traditional boat—especially one with a sail—for activities such as visiting an island or snorkelling. A German tourist interviewed by Daniel Munuo was typical—he favoured going on a short boat trip using a tradition wooden boat with a sail. But, with very few exceptions, these activities are not available in the town, and they are not publicised at all.
As a group we enjoyed face-to-face conversation with visitors from more than 20 countries, including Brazil, Israel, Australia, Mexico, Spain, the USA, Ghana, German, the UK, and Zimbabwe. “It was a great experience interviewing the tourists and I was amazed with their response,” says Javern Aveline Sabas, another UDSM team member. But as a group we have also enjoyed the food, festivals and people, who are simply lovely. “Being a Maasai and coming to Bagamoyo for the first time was a season to remember”, says Martha, a member of the UDSM student team. Like many of the tourists, “I really enjoyed the culture and the authenticity of the people especially engaged fishermen at the beach.” “Walking from one street to another, and restaurant to restaurant to talk to tourists and get their feelings about Bagamoyo was my first experience but indeed evidence that undergraduate and postgraduate students can collaborate to produce tangible outputs” says Neema, another team member and UDSM postgraduate student.
Photo: Martha and Javern interviewing tourist from United States of America (U.S.A)
Photo by an unknown
Bagamoyo is a quiet town, with a seafront area that is packed with historic buildings, some of which are crumbling, while others are still in use. It was once a very prosperous settlement, and the main port of mainland Tanzania until the increasing size of ships moved international trade to Dar Es Salaam. It was also a major port for ivory and slaves.
Currently, the historical buildings of Bagamoyo are managed by Tanzania Forest Services (TFS) and Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA), which aim to revitalizing the old ‘stone town’ area.
For a better experience in Bagamoyo, tourists said they also wanted a good map of the town, and better signage, street lighting and public transport. One Brazilian tourist interviewed by Noella Mrosso also suggested “better prices on accommodation and better internet.”
Bahari Yetu, Urithi Wetu is a collaborative research project investigating ways of leveraging Bagamoyo’s rich maritime heritage for social benefit. Part of the Rising from the Depths Network, it brings together researchers from the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and the Universities of Exeter and Southampton in the UK. It is funded by the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council, and Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).