Dar es Salaam

Kivukoni Fish Market, Dar es Salaam

Fish vendors in Kivukoni Fish Market, Dar es Salaam

LESS than a mile from where tourists board ferries to Zanzibar is the biggest fish market in eastern Africa.

The Kivukoni Fish Market is one of the most chaotic places in Dar es Salaam where frantic trading more typical of Wall Street stockbrokers is enacted over the best fish from the Indian Ocean.

The fish landed here comes from all along the 1,424 kilometre Tanzanian coastline – from Tanga in the northeast to the Lindi region bordering Mozambique in the south – as well as from the paradise islands of Zanzibar.

From 6am in the morning until 8pm at night, people as brightly dressed as the fish they come to buy visit the market and pick up everything from tuna and barracuda to octopus and squid.

Every day, 4,887 fishermen land their catches at the market shore.

Between 12,000 and 14,000 people pass through its gates – some filling large orders for Dar es Salaam’s restaurants and hotels, while others are simply buying their evening meal.

The market is divided by a road into two sections and comprises of eight zones in total.

Bidding at the fish auction in Kivukoni Fish Market, Dar es Salaam

In zone one, where all the auction takes place, many people gather from early morning to buy fish in an eye-opening display of Tanzanian trade.

The most common fish for sale within the market are octopus, squid, kingfish, tuna, prawns, rabbit fish, mackerel and sardines. Standing amidst a large group of people gathered around a concrete table, I enviously watched as one man went home with a large red snapper for a mere 3,000 Tzh (€1.50).

Kivukoni Fish Market, Dar es Salaam

In zone two, the fish are cleaned and the scales removed, while in zone three, the traders, who have bought fish at auction, sell their stock throughout the day.

Here, fish-favouring locals can pick up a three kilogramme octopus for 16,000 Tzh (€8.85), a kilogramme of giant prawns for 25,000 Tzh (€13.80) or live crabs for 5,000 Tzh (€2.75) per kilogramme.

Prawns, Kivukoni Fish Market, Dar es Salaam

Onto zone four where, despite the 30 degree sweltering heat, dozens of women dressed in white, stand throughout the day cooking food for the fishermen. Some sit outside grating coconut on sharpened sticks while indoors others stir huge pots of ugali – east Africa’s staple food: a cornmeal polenta – to serve with the freshly cooked fish.

Women preparing ugali and vegetables for the fish vendors

The market continues across the street, where shoppers can pick up their fruit, vegetables, rice and flour and where tourists often buy souvenirs.

The first row of stalls features dried starfish and seahorses, dainty sea shells and souvenirs. You can even pick up a stuffed baby shark or hollow blowfish. Despite being tempted to pick up one of these colourful keepstakes and support the stall owners who slowly weave thread through shell after shell until they’ve created a teapot stand, tourists are advised not to buy any such items as doing so has a direct impact on the country’s coral reef ecology.

It also happens to be illegal to export many species from Tanzania even if they are openly available here.

Souvenirs at Kivukoni Fish Market, Dar es Salaam

Hollow blowfish Kivukoni Fish Market, Dar es Salaam

In what felt like entering a furnace, I move on to zone six, where men stand cooking over huge open griddles – hoping to entice the passers-by, Government officials from nearby offices and the rare tourist brave enough to sample some of the finest fish on offer.

Fish being cooked for sale in Kivukoni Fish Market, Dar es Salaam

Directly beside this area is zone seven, where vendors can buy firewood and charcoal for cooking their produce.

Getting ready to leave Kivukoni, one passes zone eight, out-of-bound to tourists, where the fish is landed and where fishermen sit mending and repairing their fishing nets and equipment getting ready to begin the process all over again tomorrow.



  1. The kivukoni fish market is of very potential to livelihood as it
    support the people around the coastal areas and therefore the government has to pay great attention to this market and assess its perfomance and its sustainability.

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