Situated on the eastern shores of Lake Victoria, Musoma is the administrative centre of Mara Region, and a reasonably substantial town, with a population estimated at just over 100,000 in 2002. The compact town centre shares with Mwanza and Bukoba a likeable combination of run-down colonial architecture – the old Boma on Mkendo Hill dates to the German period – and friendly African bustle. And its setting, on a narrow, rocky peninsula, is the equal of any port on Lake Victoria, terminating in an impressive granite outcrop covered in clucking cormorants and offering an almost 360º vantage point for sunsets over the lake. Unfortunately, however, because it is tucked up so close to the Kenyan border, Musoma is something of a dead end in terms of travel within Tanzania, and it would be difficult to justify a special diversion there. For travellers headed between Mwanza and the Kenyan port of Kisumu, however, this remote but hospitable port is likely to prove a more than agreeable place to break up the trip. Two possible water excursions from Musoma are to Lukuba Island, known for its impressive breeding bird colonies, and to the crocodile-infested Mara River mouth. The Nyerere Museum in Butiama also makes for an easy day trip out of Musoma.
GETTING THERE AND AWAY Musoma lies about 180km from Mwanza along an 18km-long side road branching west from the main road towards the Kenya border. The road between Mwanza and Musoma is surfaced and in pretty good nick for most of its length. The drive takes around two hours in a private vehicle. Regular buses run along the road, taking about four hours one-way; the most reliable is Muhammed Trans which runs three services daily, departing Musoma at 06.00, 09.00 and 13.30. Small and very regular minibuses cover the stretch between Musoma and Bunda, but don’t seem to operate any further south towards Mwanza. Coming from the Kenya side, direct buses between Kisumu and Mwanza run past the junction to Musoma, but generally bypass the town itself. If you need to get out at the junction, you’ll have no difficulty finding transport on to Musoma.
An airstrip lies on the outskirts of central Musoma between the Catholic Hostel and the Peninsula Hotel. Precision Air flies a few times weekly from Dar es Salaam.
However you arrive in Musoma, should you want to stay at one of the beach hotels, the standard fare for a taxi is around US$1.50.
WHERE TO STAY AND EAT
A Lukuba Island Lodge (5 rooms) Ø 027 254 8840; e firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.lukuba.com. Set on a small island a 45min boat ride from Musoma, this peaceful retreat is ideally suited to keen birdwatchers, with more than 70 species recorded, & it‘s also home to spotted-necked otters, vervet monkeys & agama lizards, while anglers have the prospect of hooking Nile perches that clock in at up to 80kg. Accommodation is in 5 stone bungalows with thatch roofs & verandas offering idyllic lake views. US$320/590 sgl/dbl FB.
ANew Peninsula Hotel [427 A5] m 0787-679620. The former government Lake Hotel, now privatised, revamped & renamed, is a well-maintained & atmospheric wood & whitewash set-up on a somewhat sterile stretch of lakeshore about 500m west of the town centre. Coming from elsewhere in Tanzania, it seems a little pricey, however. The open-sided restaurant on the ground floor serves a variety of western & Indian dishes for around Tsh5,000. US$20/40 en-suite sgl/dbl with satellite TV, AC, fridge & hot bath; US$55 suites.
AAfrilux Hotel [427 C6] Ø 028 262 0031; Ø 028 262 0534; m 0713 40917; e email@example.com; http://www.afriluxhotel.nyatwalibeach.co.tz. This smart modern 4-storey hotel is situated right in the town centre, 500m from the bus station. The clean en-suite rooms with satellite TV, fan & running hot water are all you could possibly ask for the price. The restaurant & garden bar serves decent continental & Indian meals for around Tsh4,000. US$18/25 sgl/dbl.
A Tembo Beach Hotel [427 B3] (7 rooms)Ø 028 262 2887; e firstname.lastname@example.org. Set on a small strip of beach around 500m from the centre of town, Tembo Beach is a popular stop-off on the overland route. The rooms, with their fabulous retro 70s ski lodge appeal – loads of wood panelling; some with loft beds – seem optimistically priced. There’s a campsite, & a friendly bar & restaurant serves meals for around US$4–6. Bike hire is also available & boat trips on the Mara River can be arranged. US$30 B&B en-suite dbl with fan; camping US$10 pp.
A Orange Tree Hotel [427 C7] Ø 028 262 2353. This long-established budget hotel has seen better days, but it remains a friendly, sensibly priced option. US$7/10 en-suite sgl/dbl.
(c) Philip Briggs 2012
A Roman Catholic Conference Centre & Hostel [427 C4] Ø 028 262 0168. This is the best budget option in town, about 200m from the bus station along the road towards the airport, & consisting of 30 clean dbls with netting (but no fan). A canteen serves inexpensive local meals. US$6 dbl.