Vanga: Kenya’s ‘last town’ with no bank, church or guest house

Tuesday February 21 2023
Vanga town

An old structure that was previously used as an administrative office in the pre-colonial era in Vanga town, near the border of Kenya and Tanzania. Despite being a major fishing port, the residents in the town live a traditional lifestyle with no church, bar or guest houses. PHOTO | SIAGO CECE | NMG


It's a sunny Tuesday morning, at 9.30 am and Feruz Mohammed just picked up a visitor from the bus stop in Vanga, about 17km from the Kenya/Tanzania border post in Lunga Lunga.

The visitor is new in town. And she may just spend a night or two.

Feruz walks her along a fairly narrow street on cabro blocks. There is not much activity on the streets. Only a one-storey building can be noticed at the entrance of the town. It belongs to the Member of County Assembly for Vanga ward.

“Umetuletea mgeni?” (You’ve brought us a visitor?)  said one old man on the veranda of the old rusty iron sheet shops.

"Our town is small. Everyone knows the other. It's no surprise that they already know you are a visitor," Feruz, who was born and bred in the area said.

Kenya's last town


Vanga is a small town with a population of about 10,000 people. It is located at the farthest end of Southeast Kenya. It is known as Kenya's last town since the only place it neighbours is Tanzania and the Indian Ocean.

Here, the majority of the residents except for a few business people, are Muslim. This has made the small town in a fishing port stick to its tradition amidst a modern world where there is no church, bar, guest houses or lodging.

There are no supermarkets, shopping malls, banks or taxis as seen in most Kenyan towns.

A close source said that most of the fishermen were not used to the saving culture and hence the absence of a bank.

Many believed in fetching fish from the sea, hence not worried about tomorrow.

'Brother's keeper'

He said the fact that everyone knew each other, even without street lights in the seven streets available, the security of the area was still tight since everyone is their 'brother's keeper'. Feruz further explained that there were only five known thieves in the town who because of drug abuse, got into crime.

"Our people are deeply rooted in religion and culture. It is believed that lodgings promote promiscuity. That is why there isn't one. The majority are also Muslim and that explains the absence of a church here," he said.

Vanga is a strategic town, other than being Kenya's last village, it is also a fishing port where fishermen dock tens of their boats.

Historical significance

Feruz said the town is of rich historical significance, as it played host to monuments and historical buildings used during World War II.

By evening, things are much slower in Vanga. A walk along the narrow streets meets one’s eyes with some women seated out on verandas. Some are selling Swahili snacks while others are packing the sardines that had been drying up during the day into baskets. But the evening is also the most dreading time for any visitor. First, the last of the countable 14-seater public vehicles out of the town leave by 6.30 pm. This means if a visitor wants to leave the town, they may have to take a motorbike to Lunga Lunga town 20km away or choose to start the hustle of finding a place to sleep.

However, one family decided to use the extra room in their houses to host only specific visitors that were either in the town to research environmental issues, or a guest well known by a resident that lives in the town.