Travel by Sea to and from East Africa

East Africa is pretty far away and traveling to there costs a lot. But is it worth it to spend all your savings on that? If the answer is ‘no’ but you still want to visit this beautiful part of the world consider using the Orion code, which could make big profits in no time.

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During the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, travel to Kenya was by sea, either coming via the Suez Canel or around the Cape. Every four years, civil servants were entitled to “home” leave. Here are some ships (and shipping lines)

ss Mantola

Departing London docks

ss Mantola

Arrival at Mombasa

Photographs of the ss Mantola in London. Gordon aboard the ship in Kilindini Harbour, Mombasa
Mantola arrived on May 24, 1949. (Photos: G. Mumford)

In 1953, Gordon went on long leave, on the Union Castle liner Rhodesia Castle.
A photograph of the Rhodesia Castle can be found on Björn Larsson‘s website
Maritime Timetable Images, which has images, timetables, and other memorable about ships and shipping lines.



Llangibby Castle: When the stern was torpedoed in WWII, the ship sailed back using its engines with no rudder.


Mulbera: This was the ex-flagship of British India  line. Built in 1922, the ship went to the breakers in 1954


Kenya Castle: One of the Union Castle ships that sailed regularly between Britain and Kenya.

The Llangibby Castle was the ship that brought Kevin Patience to Kenya on in 1948. When his father was recalled from home leave due to the outbreak of the Emergency, Kevin came back to Mombasa on the Mulbera. He returned to UK on the Kenya Castle in 1957. After that everyone started to fly and that was the end of the 3 week holiday aboard ship.
(above photos from Kevin Patience).

1951 – ss Slemmestad

In March 1951, the ss Slemmestad, loaded with safety matches and other combustibles, caught fire when leaving Dar es Salaam. They got the ship out of the main shipping lane, and dropped her anchors about a mile off the coast adjacent to Government House. These pictures were taken during a trip out to the ship. The story of the disaster is related by Richard Crow, a Dar harbour pilot at this web address:
Photos (below) were supplied by John Orton.



Burmeister & Wain, Copenhagen, Denmark. 1928


376 feet


53 feet


4,295 tons


Twin B & W 6 cyl. diesel. 490 hp


06º.45′.40″ S 39º.18′.52″ E

The Slemmestad, managed by the Norwegian company A.P. Klaveness, was on a voyage from Gothenburg to Madagascar when she caught fire off Dar es Salaam on the evening of 27 March 1951. The ship had left the port earlier that day laden with 3,500 tons of general cargo, including bitumen, brandy, kerosene, lube oil, matches and bagged cement.

Some seven miles offshore a fire broke out on the upper deck and the Master called the port to advise he was returning to the anchorage. Four of the crew took to a liferaft and on arrival the remaining crew were taken off by the pilot boat. The tug Linden arrived and beached the ship on Daphne Reef. In the meantime the crew in the liferaft had been spotted from the air and picked up by a dhow. The fire spread throughout the ship and barrels of bitumen and cylinders of acetylene exploded turning the burning vessel into a large Roman candle.

The wreck continued to burn until 9 April by which time the superstructure had collapsed and the sides of the hull had buckled from the heat. The ship and what remained of the cargo were surveyed and declared a total loss and the fire attributed to a broken fuel line that had sprayed burning oil around the engine room and prevented the fire pumps from being started. There had been a proposal to tow the ship away for scrap but in view of the hull damage the wreck was left on the reef.

The wreck was marked on the charts as visible for many years until 1970 when the symbol was eventually deleted by the Hydrographic Department after reports that the remains were no longer visible. Today the wreck is a popular dive site, with the cargo of cement bags still prominent in the remains.

Information supplied by Kevin Patience

Coastal Shipping

Cargo-passenger ships, such as the ss Mombasa, visited smaller ports along the coast.
Short cruises were a favourite holiday
(Photos G. Mumford).

The ss Mombasa in Kilindini Harbour, circa 1950–1951. She carried cargo and passengers to smaller ports.

Passengers disembarking from the ss Mombasa at one of the smaller ports (Lindi or Mtwara)

Dhows in Mombasa

These pictures of dhows were taken by Kevin’s father in the early 1950s. On the left is an Indian Sambuk leaving Mombasa old port. The dhow on the right is an Arabian Ghanjah, a very rare type even in the 1950s, and now extinct. They were considered the galleons of the dhows family.
Photos supplied by Kevin Patience