A Trip to Africa and Switzerland
(Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania & Switzerland)
Summer 2009 (9 July – 1 4 August )
Part 2 – East Africa (Tanzania)
Date issued: 22 December 2009
Table of Contents
List of Figures
Overview of Tanzania
Tanzania (formerly Tanganyika) peacefully gained its independence from Britain in 1961. The neighbouring island of Zanzibar, became independent in 1963, and a year later the two nations joined to become the United Republic of Tanzania.
There are approximately 31 million people in Tanzania today spread unevenly throughout rural areas, close to the ocean or great lakes. About 98% of the population is made up of two indigenous groups: Bantu-speakers whose activities revolve around agriculture and food production and Nilotic-speakers who are pastoralists, originating from the Nile valley and who are primarily involved in cattle farming. The remaining 2% consists of Europeans, Asians and Arabs who dwell mainly in urban areas.
One of the most well known tribes in Africa live in the northwestern part of Tanzania – the Masai/Maasai. The Masai are semi-nomadic pastoralists who consider both the land and the cattle to be sacred. They are noticeably tall people, who are often seen wearing traditional clothing, with the young warriors - Ilmorani - carrying their traditional weapons. Donna was very excited to see these people who are a symbol of Africa.
Kiswahili or Swahili is the official language of Tanzania and is the mother tongue of the Bantu people living in Zanzibar and nearby coastal Tanzania; its vocabulary draws on a variety of sources, including Arabic and English, and it has become the lingua franca of central and eastern Africa. English is the official and primary language of commerce, administration, and higher education, while Arabic is widely spoken in Zanzibar.
Unfortunately, Tanzania remains one of the 25 poorest countries in the world.
We booked the Intrepid Tours “Gorillas, Game Parks & Beaches” trip (UON). This was a combination of the following two separate trips:
We started our 2nd trip in Nairobi on Monday, 27 July and finished it in Dar es Salaam on Saturday, 8 August. The outline of the route taken on Trip 2 is shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1. Route of travels around East Africa
Figure 2. Map showing days 17 to 22 in Tanzania
Day 17 (1) Nairobi to Mto Wa Mbu (27 Jul, Mon)
· Day 1: All day drive, 400 kms crossing into Tanzania to Mto Wa Mbu and well equipped and comfortable campsite
We left our hotel in Nairobi at about 0720 hours and there was heavy traffic coming into the city. Fortunately we were heading south out of the city so the traffic was light in that direction. Just leaving the city, we saw a mad scramble of men to get in the back of a dump truck heading south as well (left, Figure 3). We assumed that they were going off to seek work for the day.
I never got tired of seeing the names of shops and the activity in the towns and cities that we passed through. For example, south of Nairobi we saw a flock of sheep at ‘Ole Nkapu Meat Joint’ (right, Figure 3). It would seem that they were heading to the ‘Meat Joint’.
Figure 3. Everyone on truck near Nairobi (left), sheep at ‘Meat Joint’ (right)
Throughout East Africa, we saw big bags of charcoal stacked along side the road for pick up. Although these bags were large, they were not very heavy. It is a cause for concern that charcoal making operations and wood harvesting are occurring in areas with very few trees (Figure 4).
Figure 4. Bags of charcoal in desert area (left), women carrying bundles of fire wood (right)
An hour and a half south of Nairobi we enter the area populated by the Masai. It was fascinating to see the Masai herders dressed in predominately red cloaks (left, Figure 5).
While I was scanning the passing country to try and see wild animals, I caught glimpse of a giraffe starting the road in the distance. The giraffe was almost across the road when a truck appeared and the giraffe slammed on his brakes and decided to not cross the road (right, Figure 5). The giraffe turned back and ran off in the bush. This was the first and only time that we saw a giraffe running and it was very impressive. Fortunately I was able to make a brief video clip of the giraffe running. A woman on our 1st trip wanted to see giraffe running, but we never saw it happen until our 2nd trip.
Figure 5. Masai cattle herder (left), giraffe deciding not to cross road (right)
At 1030 hours, we stopped for a toilet break at the small Bemm Curio Shop. Looking around the shop, we found some carved wooden bowls with carved animals around the rim. We liked the one with the bowl carved in the shape of Africa and offered US $100 for it and beaded Masai necklace (left, Figure 6). Our offer was reluctantly accepted.
Figure 6. Donna with seller of Masai necklace (left), houses covered in feed bags (right)
We stopped for lunch at 1230 hours in a desert area (left, Figure 7). When we stopped a group of Masai women with their children stopped by to check us out and hopefully get a handout (right, Figure 8). As per normal, Donna helped our cook prepare the vegetables (right, Figure 7). As was typical of our lunches, we had a watered down juice mixture, bread, grated cheese, tomatoes and grated carrots. I regularly made a sandwich of grated carrots and cheese. Lunch was OK but became monotonous after two weeks.
Figure 7. Setting up for lunch in Masai area (left), Donna preparing veggies – note Masai women (right)
We saw some surprising sights like Masai on cell phones and riding a bicycle past a termite mound (right, Figure 8). We also saw zebras, giraffes and Mt. Kilimanjaro. Kilimanjaro was in the distance and just visible in the haze although we could clearly make out some snow on the summit.
Figure 8. Masai on bike passing termite mound (left), Masai women with children (right)
A couple of hours south of Nairobi, the road to Arusha changed to an unpaved one that was dusty and washboardy. Fortunately the dust from the passing truck was blown away from us (left, Figure 9). This area is very dry and desert-like yet people still live there (right, Figure 9).
Figure 9. Passing by overland truck on dusty road (left), women carrying wood in desert area (right)
The valley area about 50 minutes north of Arusha is frequented by large dust devils (Figure 10). As we drove through this area we saw many dust devils that looked like tornados.
Figure 10. Black dust devil north of Arusha (left), two dust devil and fire north of Arusha (right)
Eight hours after leaving Nairobi, we arrived in Arusha (population 300,000) which is a favourite staging site for safaris into north western Tanzania. Coming into Arusha, we saw the diversity of people in this city (right, Figure 11). Since we’d been to Rwanda, it was interesting to note that Arusha hosts the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), or the Tribunal pénal international pour le Rwanda (TPIR). This is an international court established in 1994 by the United Nations Security Council in order to judge people responsible for the Rwandan genocide and other serious violations of the international law in Rwanda, or by Rwandan citizens in nearby states, during the period of 1 January and 31 December 1994.
In Arusha we stopped for 1½ hours at a supermarket to stock up for our trip to the Serengeti. As there was a bank nearby, we exchanged US $100 for 133,000 Tanzanian shilling (TZS). While Donna help out our cook Emmanuel with the shopping (left, Figure 11), I went out to the street and much to my surprise, I saw a very high volcanic mountain nearby. It looked like Mt. Kilimanjaro but turned out to be Mt. Meru (left, Figure 13). Mt. Meru at 14,980 ft (4,566 m) is the little-known but fifth-highest peak in Africa. It is, of course, overshadowed in the consciousness of tourists by its neighbour Kilimanjaro (the highest mountain in Africa), 80 kilometres to the east and the highest mountain in Africa. Mt. Meru lies within Arusha National Park and is only 23 km by road from Arusha.
Figure 11. Food shopping with truck crew in Arusha (left), soldier, burka, African dress & matatus (right)
Exiting Arusha we passed by the impressive giant shield forming part of the Cultural Heritage Centre that displays the past and present of Tanzania's 120-plus tribes (left, Figure 12). Once outside of the city, there were coffee plantations along the road (right, Figure 12).
Figure 12. Giant shield at Cultural Heritage Centre (left), coffee plantation outside Arusha (right)
Although this was only the 1st day of our 2nd trip, we arrived at the campsite at Mto Wa Mbu (mosquito lake) after sunset which unfortunately became the norm for most days. The good point was that we saw a beautiful African sunset while driving to Mto Wa Mbu (right, Figure 13). We also saw a number of giraffes along the way (left, Figure 14).
Figure 13. Mt. Meru near Arusha (left), sunset at 1832 hours (right)
The campsite at Mto Wa Mbu was very crowded and we camped cheek-to-jowl. However some of the campers were on a luxury camping trip and so dined on nice dishes with table service (right, Figure 14). The campground has a good building for ablutions including flush toilets and hot showers.
Figure 14. Giraffe in the distance (left), dining for luxury campers (right)
At the Mto Wa Mbu campground we discovered the most interesting souvenir shop that we encountered during our stay in Africa. This small shop was run by a man who carved many of the items for sale, most of which were made of ebony (known in Swahili as mpingo). This was our first time handling ebony and we were surprised by the weight/density of this wood.
In the shop, my eye was immediately caught by a large
crèche carved out of a
piece of trunk of an ebony tree. The carver wanted US $70 for it. Donna was interested in
a beautifully carved cross that had removable arms to facilitate packing. As
we were heading off for a shower and then supper, we did not buy anything.
After supper, we returned at 2015 hours to the shop and fortunately it was still open. Donna decided not to buy the cross much to her later regret. I bartered for the crèche and a mask (left, Figure 15) which were finally obtained for US $ 55. Just as we were leaving, I noticed a beautiful 20” high ebony carving of a Masai warrior (right, Figure 15). We asked the carver if there was a spear to go in the hand of the carving. He took a spear out of his drawer of peripherals but its handle was too big to fit in the opening. He got a rattail file out of his box of simple carving tools and brusquely reamed out the hole until the spear fit. We then agreed on a price of US $35.
Figure 15. Carver and his mask (left), packing up our crèche while Donna holds warrior (right)
Before we left, the carver showed us his tools handed down from his father and some old photographs of him carving. All in all, it was the most interesting transaction that we experienced on our trip. Of course the problem that we now had was how to pack the carvings safely in our luggage given their size and then lug them around given their weight. Despite these difficulties, these souvenirs made it home undamaged.
Day 18 (2) Mto Wa Mbu to Karatu (28 Jul, Tue)
· Day 2: AM community visit. PM 120 kms drive to well equipped and comfortable campsite beneath Ngorongoro
We started this day with a village walk around Mto Wa Mbu which proved quite interesting. However before we started, I noticed that Lindsey was wearing flimsy leather-soled golden slippers which contrasted with our sturdier footwear (left, Figure 16). I suggested to her that she might want more foot support, however she explained that that was all she had as the trip notes advised bringing a comfortable pair of walking shoes and her slippers were comfortable. The surprising thing for me was that Lindsey wore those slippers for most of the rest of the trip over terrain that I would have thought impossible
Figure 16. Comfortable footwear includes slippers (left), watching rice farming (right)
Our first stop was a community rice field where we walked on elevated paths that separated the fields (right, Figure 16). In the fields, the men were working the soil (right, Figure 17) while the women planted rice (left, Figure 17).
Figure 17. Women planting rice in Mto Wa Mbu (left), men working rice fields (right)
We stopped by a hut where local ebony carvers were producing carving with simple hand tools and selling souvenirs (left, Figure 18). We walked over to a simple hut and met the children of the farmer (right, Figure 18).
Figure 18. Ebony carver (left), with children in front of hut (right)
Walking through the village we saw more examples of how hard the African women work. It appears that the work patterns of women and men follow those of the male lion and the lioness whereby the lioness does a lot of the hunting but the males dominate and benefit from all kills.
Figure 19. Old woman carrying load with young man (left), woman sorting wheat from chaff (right)
We visited the village primary school where the children were excited to see the mzungu (white travellers) in their class. The children like to give high-fives (left, Figure 20). The children not in school were similarly curious to see the mzungu in their midst (right, Figure 20).
Figure 20. Donna high-fiving school children (left), baby crawling over to see mzungus (right)
We visited an artists’ cooperative that was producing paintings using cans of house paint. We bought two paintings. Donna bought one of three Masai warriors for US $15 from the artist named Johnson (left, Figure 21), while I bought an abstract painting of zebras for US $10. There was an interesting mural at the cooperative showing the separation of the African animals into innocent animals that would go to heaven at the Last Judgement Day and the predators that would go to hell (right, Figure 21).
Figure 21. Donna with artist ‘Johnson’ (left), separating predators from innocent animals (right)
We stopped to have a taste of banana alcohol that was made locally and is very popular. It had an alcohol taste and was not unpleasant. We then went to see a woman cooking in a giant caldron over a wood fire as part of the process of making the banana alcohol (left, Figure 22). This was impressive to say the least. There were no shortage of bananas in the village as witnessed by the pile of bananas in front of a row of huts that were made of very rough slabs of logs (right, Figure 22). .
Figure 22. Cooking in caldron over wood fire (left), women working at shacks in village (right)
Leaving the village, we walked up a hillside through banana plantations and past some giant deciduous trees (left, Figure 23). We stopped at a hut where a mother had a baby wrapped in swaddling. The women in our group were quite taken with the baby and several got to hold it although the baby did not seem that pleased (right, Figure 23).
Figure 23. Giant deciduous tree (left), Donna pretending to be Madonna & take baby (right)
We walked up a hillside to a picnic area with a good view over the countryside. At the picnic area, a couple of village women were preparing our lunch in a series of heavy pots (left, Figure 24). Lunch was a buffet of local foods including spices, corn, rice and meat cubes. Walking back after lunch, we passed by a man hoeing a dry field (right, Figure 24). This type of manual farming techniques was widespread in East Africa.
Figure 24. Woman preparing our lunch (left), man hoeing field (right)
Returning to the truck, we passed through the Masai Market and went into a couple of shops. I was interesting in buying another carved mask but I asked about the price, the seller would invariably say US $35 for the mask which was worth about US $10. The starting price was too high to allow for realistic bartering so I simply walked on with the seller saying “Hey you’re supposed to barter – that’s how it’s done.” The sellers were too aggressive so we ended up buying nothing. Soon we were off for a 1½ drive to Karatu, our base for launching into our Serengeti safari.
While the village walk was interesting and we saw a lot, at 5½ hours, it was too long. This time was almost four times as long as our walking safari that only lasted 1½ hours.
Shortly after leaving Mto Wa Mbu we climbed steeply up the Rift Valley escarpment for an impressive view out over Lake Manyara and its eponymously named national park (left, Figure 25). Lake Manyara is a shallow alkaline or soda lake said by Ernest Hemingway to be the "loveliest [lake] ... in Africa." Lake Manyara NP it is also the home of a diverse set of landscapes and wildlife. From the viewpoint, we could see safaris vehicle down in the park and animals such as giraffes (right, Figure 25).
Figure 25. Lake Manyara National Park viewpoint (left), safari vehicle & giraffes (right)
Reaching Karatu we setup camp in the Kudu Campsite (left, Figure 26). This campground was busy as it served as the starting point for many overland truck tours going to the Serengeti/Ngorongoro Crater. Hence it was cheek-to-jowl camping again. The campground had a nice bar and dining room (additional cost) but the showers in the shower/toilet building were mainly cold.
The shower building deserves special mention due to an interesting incident that arose there. Unlike other campgrounds that have a co-ed shower area (individual shower stalls with doors), this one had separate male and female areas. When I finished my shower, I went over to Donna’s shower stall on the female side and asked her if she needed anything before I returned to our tent. There was a Scottish woman washing clothes in the sink who told me not to come into the women’s side. I told her to chill out and went back to our truck.
The Scottish woman come over to our truck and told me again not to go into the women’s area and then she stalked off to her tent in her group’s area. This was embarrassing and very annoying so I walked over to her tent and said loudly enough for all to hear that if she ever spoke to me again, I’d report her to her tour leader for harassment. This probably confirmed her status as a prig.
The campground’s bar provided power strips for recharging batteries which was welcome before our trip out to the Serengeti. However, some of the power adapters that people plugged into the strips were so large they blocked two or three plugs.
On our way to the bar in the evening, we saw a dance group performing in a gravelled park area (right, Figure 26). We watched this performance for a while and were impressed by the barefooted dancers who stamped hard on the ground and made it shake. Later that night while waiting for Donna in the dark at the shower building, I stepped on a vertebra in the grass. The sharp spine of the vertebra pieced the sole of my shoes and punctured the sole of my foot. Fortunately I’d had a tetanus shot but I was afraid of getting an infection so I started taking the tetracycline that I’d bought along just in case.
Figure 26. Kudu Campsite at Karatu (left), natives dancers at campsite (right)
Day 19 (3) Serengeti National Park (29 Jul, Wed)
· Day 3: Drive to the Serengeti National Park. Overnight in basic bushcamp in the Serengeti
Today was the day that we’d been waiting for on this 2nd trip – we were off on safari to the Serengeti. Now in Swahili, the word safari means “journey” so we were off on a journey of discovery and since it is in the big outdoors, no two will ever be alike.
The drive to the Serengeti was to be in three Land Cruisers for the travellers and one for baggage and kitchen equipment. Unfortunately, the vehicles arrive an hour late and one Land Cruiser short. This meant that not everyone had a window seat – not a satisfactory situation.
Leaving Karatu in two Land Cruisers, we drove to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Driving up the steep road to the rim, the other vehicle in our group stalled and could not be started. Our vehicle towed it up to the Ngorongoro Crater viewpoint (left, Figure 27) where fortunately it started. At the viewpoint on the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater, there was not much to see since the crater was shrouded in mist. Leaving the viewpoint, we passed by a cargo truck that had inexplicably slid off the road and caused a bit of congestion (right, Figure 27).
Figure 27. Chaining up other vehicle in group (left), squeezing by cargo truck that slid off road (right)
The drive towards the Naabi Hill Gate of the Serengeti was long but interesting due to the beautiful hilly landscape (left, Figure 28) and the sightings of wildlife including many Masai Giraffes.
Figure 28. Beautiful view & plants covered by road dust (left), Masai youngsters in front of village (right)
Perhaps most interesting sights were the scenes of the Masai (right, Figure 28), their herds (left, Figure 29) and their villages (right, Figure 29). Before arriving at the gate, we stopped at a Masai village and then at the Olduvai Gorge.
Figure 29. Masai herders (left), Masai boma (village) surrounded by kraal (right)
In a desolate landscape, we stopped at Masai village that was a circular collection of some 20 huts surrounded by a kraal made of thorn-covered brush and branches (left, Figure 30). In effect this was a boma or fortified village designed to keep out wildlife and other tribes. The huts were made from wattle and daub – a woven lattice of wooden strips called wattle that is daubed with fresh cattle dung.
Figure 30. Masai hut & protective kraal (left), start of welcome ceremony (right)
The Masai/Maasai are semi-nomadic pastoralists who rear cattle (left, Figure 29) and sometimes have to travel searching for new grazing pastures. The cattle are fundamental to the tribe's survival and this has led to an almost mystical relationship. The Masai believe that their God Enkai granted all cattle to them for safe-keeping hence some feel this justifies them raiding cattle from other tribes.
The cattle serve many purposes: their milk and blood is used for food; their hide is used for mattresses, shoes and other accessories; their dung is used for plastering hut walls; their (sterile) urine has some medicinal and cleansing qualities; their meat is rarely taken for food (but may be used during ceremonies and in times of famine. Blood is obtained by shooting an arrow at close range through the cattle's jugular vein, then capturing the spilled blood into a gourd where it can be mixed with milk. The wound is not fatal and is patched afterwards.
Figure 31. Masai jumping at welcome ceremony (left), Masai women flapping bead necklace (right)
It cost us US $20/person for admission into the village and only half our group went in. Once the money was paid, the Masai in their regalia started a welcome ceremony (right, Figure 30). This ceremony included a welcome dance which included the men jumping high in the air (left, Figure 31) while the women moved so as to cause their beaded necklaces to flap up and down (right, Figure 31).
Figure 32. Entrance to hut (left), man’s bedroom in hut (right)
After the dance, each couple was assigned to a Masai who took us into his circular hut and explained how it was made and how they lived inside it. We stooped to pass through a narrow entrance way into the squat circular hut that is too low to stand upright it (left, Figure 32). Once inside, we could barely see in the gloom that there were two wall-less 'bedrooms' (right, Figure 32) and a communal area used primarily for cooking (left, Figure 33). The roof has a tiny hole in the center of it. The hole in the roof serves two purposes: it lets a little light into the hut but just as importantly it lets some smoke escape from the smouldering (cow-dung) fire which is kept alight for warmth and cooking. In theory the huts are temporary and new ones would be built elsewhere if the Masai had to migrate to fresh areas of grazing. However, migration is less feasible these days due to population growth.
Our guide told us that it took him a week to build the hut. He also explained that he used one of the ‘bedrooms' while his wife and children used the other. Their diet consisted mainly of products from their cattle, i.e. milk, fat and blood but only occasionally meat.
Figure 33. Communal cooking area (left), souvenirs on goat pen (right)
After our tour of the hut, our guide took us outside to goat pen in the center of the boma. On the outside of this pen were hung many souvenirs including beaded necklaces and bracelets (right, Figure 33). Our guide told us that we had to buy souvenirs from the house that we visited. This made us uncomfortable and I insisted that we look at all the available souvenirs. Since we were running out of time for our visit (another group was coming), he guide took us to see the one room school (left, Figure 34) and then back to the souvenir area where Donna bought a nice beaded bracelet decorated with the flag of Tanzania ... and so our village tour ended (right, Figure 34).
Figure 34. One room village school (left), goodbye to our guide (right)
As we were driving away from the village, another tour group arrived and we could see the welcome dance being performed. This village like several in the area makes significant income from tourism but at the expense of their heritage as herders.
At the start of our trip, Donna really wanted to see the Masai as they are synonymous with Africa in our mind’s eye. However her respect for the Masai melted after learning that they initiate female teenagers into adulthood by performing female genital mutilation (FGM) and they deny women access to higher education.
Figure 35. Dust plumes tracing out road to Serengeti (left), Masai giraffes along road (right)
Shortly after the Masai village visit, we passed by a group of Masai giraffes around an acacia tree (right, Figure 35). One of the giraffes was an impressively tall male giraffe that towered over the others.
The landscape along the road was beautiful but arid (left, Figure 36) as testified to by the dry streambed awaiting the rains (right, Figure 36).
Figure 36. Beautiful but arid landscape (left), dry streambed awaiting rains (right)
We then continued on but the people in the other vehicle wanted to stop and see the Olduvai Gorge. The tour leader decided to use the trip kitty to pay the entrance fee, a decision that would contribute to the deficit in the kitty at the trip’s end.
The Olduvai Gorge (named derived from oldupai in Masai where "Ol" means place and "dupai" means the wild sisal plant) is commonly referred to as “The Cradle of Mankind” (Figure 37). It is a deep, steep ravine that is roughly 48km long. Its fame arises from the discoveries of human precursors made by Louis and Mary Leakey over the period of 1935 to 1981. These discoveries included 3.5 million year-old fossil fragments of an early human precursor and footprints left in volcanic ashes some 3.6 million years ago. Accordingly, it is one of the most important prehistoric sites in the world and has been instrumental in furthering understanding of early human evolution.
Figure 37. Overlooking Olduvai Gorge (left), German team excavating in Olduvai Gorge (right)
The site also includes footprints made by Australopithecus afarensis 3.6 million years ago in the volcanic ash that then blanketed the landscape. The footprints show that at least two individuals were present, walking along side each other (right, Figure 38). These fossil footprints at Laetoli demonstrate incontrovertibly that 3.6 million years ago, early humans were bipedal (walking upright on two legs).
We visited the Olduvai Gorge Museum, founded by Mary Leakey, which is located at the edge of the gorge. This museum contains interesting displays of the discoveries made in the Olduvai Gorge. The museum was small and crowded even though is only receives around 150 visitors per day in the peak season.
Figure 38. Olduvai Gorge Museum (left), making footprints at Laetoli 3.6 million years ago (right)
In addition to the indoor museum exhibits there is an outdoor lecture area at the edge of the gorge, which is utilized for an orientation presentation given by museum staff. The staff mainly consists of members of the local Masai tribe, who are housed in what was once the Leakeys' camp. At the lecture area we watched yellow sparrows drinking water (left, Figure 39).
Figure 39. Yellow sparrows at Olduvai Gorge (left), Masai walking in desolate landscape (right)
Departing Olduvai Gorge we saw a lone Masai walking across the desolate landscape (right, Figure 39) which was evocative of the scene painted in the museum of making footprints at Laetoli 3.6 million years ago (right, Figure 38).
Just down the road from the gorge we came upon a trio of Masai or Kilimanjaro giraffes feeding on an acacia tree that looked pretty barren of leaves (left, Figure 40). It was amazing to watch these giraffes feeding despite the vicious thorns on the acacia (right, Figure 40).
The tallest of all land living animals, the giraffe is a common sight in the Serengeti, though they are notably absent from the Ngorongoro Crater due to the shortage of acacia to browse. Males can be 4.8 to 5.5 metres tall and weigh up to 900 kilograms while the females are generally slightly shorter and weigh less. Due to its height, a giraffe's heart, which can weigh up to 24 lb (10 kg), has to generate around double the normal blood pressure for a large mammal in order to maintain blood flow to the brain against gravity. However while its long neck helps it to feed, makes it difficult for the giraffe puts it head down low enough to drink so it has to spread its front legs wide apart to drink.
Figure 40. Masai giraffes feeding on acacia tree (left), large thorns of acacia tree (right)
Leaving Olduvai, it was a long and dusty road to the Naabi Hill Gate of Serengeti National Park which is 18 km inside the park. We ate lunch at the Naabi Hill Gate and climbed up to the top of the hill to see the wonderful view (left, Figure 41). After lunch we had to wait some two hours while our tour leader tried to get our park permits. There was elephant scat in the bush and an elephant skull on display (right, Figure 41). The skull was amazingly lightweight.
Figure 41. Long & dusty road seen from top of Naabi Hill (left), elephant skull (right)
Before we arrived at the Naabi Hill Gate, our vehicle’s engine was overheating so when we stopped for lunch our driver wanted to add some water to the radiator. In a fit of insanity, he decided to remove the radiator cap and needless to say, he was scalded by the geyser of steam that erupted from the radiator. The driver looked surprised but said nothing. However, later when we were driving along, he was holding his hand out of the window in the airstream in an obvious effort for pain relief, however, the hot sun beating down on his hand must have made it feel hellish. Donna noticed and asked him if he wanted some painkillers. He agreed and I gave him a couple of regular strength Tylenols. That evening at our campsite, Donna dressed the scald on our driver’s hand and gave him two Tylenol 3s to help him sleep the night (right, Figure 59).
As we had lunch at the Naabi Hill Gate so too did a large Marabou stork (left, Figure 42) and a small mouse (right, Figure 42).
Figure 42. Marabou stork at Naabi Hill (left), mouse at lunch (right)
Finally our tour leader returned with the permits and we were off driving through the Serengeti National Park. However, visiting the Serengeti by land vehicle is not cheap since it costs US $50/person to enter; US $30/person/day to camp and $30/day for the vehicle. Our vehicle with our baggage and cook went on its own and was to meet us at our campsite in the Seronera region of the Serengeti.
The Serengeti National Park is one of the most celebrated wildlife reserves in the world that covers nearly 15,000 square kilometres (7 times as large as the Masai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya). It preserves the path of the world’s largest migration circuit that includes the Masai Mara in Kenya. The name ‘Serengeti’ is a corruption of the Masai word ‘siringet’ meaning the land of ‘endless plains’ and these plains of short grasses provide an excellent landscape for wildlife viewing.
Our route in the Serengeti took us from the Naabi Hill Gate in the southeast to the Seronera Valley region in the center of the park (Figure 43).
Figure 43. Map of Serengeti and our route to the central Seronera Valley region
The Masai people arrived into the Serengeti plains in the 17th Century, forcing out the Datoga pastoralists who had previously lived there. They then lived an undisturbed, nomadic life in the region for hundreds of years, until the first westerner, Stewart Edward White, passed through in 1913. He recorded the plains in the chronicles of a journey that began in Nairobi, Kenya. What he wrote still applies today: “... We walked for miles over burnt out country... Then I saw the green trees of the river, walked 2 miles more and found myself in paradise”.
Stewart returned to the Serengeti in the 1920s and camped in the area around Seronera for three months during which time he and his companions shot 50 lions! It is this senseless slaughter of wildlife with powerful firearms that I found so disturbing. In my youth because of the Hollywood movies about Africa, I thought that the white hunters were brave but having seen animals in the wild, I’ve concluded that they were simply cowardly butchers. I could have easily shot many animals since they were unconcerned about the presence of man as undoubtedly they were when they were first being hunted.
This slaughter of African animals was very popular with the ‘White Hunter’ generation in the early 20th century. For example in 1909, shortly after the end of his second term, US President Roosevelt went on an African safari (left, Figure 44). His party, led by Frederick Selous, the famous big game hunter and explorer, killed or trapped over 11,397 animals ranging from insects to elephants. They killed 512 big game animals of which 262 were consumed by the expedition. Similarly in 1933, Ernest Hemingway went on safari to kill African animals (right, Figure 44).
Figure 44. Theodore Roosevelt on safari in 1909 (left), Ernest Hemingway on safari in 1933 (right)
Because the hunting of lions made them so scarce, the British decided to make a partial Game Reserve of 800 acres in the area in 1921 and a full one in 1929. These actions became the basis for Serengeti National Park which was established in 1951. As part of the creation of the park and in order to preserve wildlife, the resident Masai were moved to the Ngorongoro highlands. There is still considerable controversy surrounding this move, with claims made of coercion and deceit on the part of the colonial authorities.
There are also restrictions on driving within the park, e.g. driving only allowed from 0600 to 1900 hours; no leaving the roads within 16km of Seronera River; and a speed limit of 50 km/h. Of course no one drives at the speed limit until they arrive at the areas where there is something to see, i.e. the Seronera River area. However even driving along above the speed limit, it still took us two hours to get from the Naabi Hill Gate to the Seronera River area.
The roads in the Serengeti are bad (washboardy) and dusty (left, Figure 45). They are very hard on the vehicles partly because the drivers must drive above the speed limit to make it to the campsite at a reasonable time and certainly before the 1900 hours restriction comes into effect. In fact the road is so bumpy that some vehicles do not even bother driving on the road which is destructive (right, Figure 45).
Figure 45. Washboardy and dusty road (left), vehicle racing along savannah off the road (right)
While driving along the road, we started to smell burning rubber and suddenly, our Land Cruiser blew a rear tire. The heat generated on the wheel was such that we had to push the vehicle to try and get the burnt tire off the rim (left, Figure 46). Once the tire was replaced, we had to get a bump-start from a passing vehicle to get started again (right, Figure 46). Our vehicle was not alone in having a flakey starter and it was common for our vehicle to either require a bump-start or a push start to get it started.
Figure 46. Pushing vehicle to replace tire (left), bump-starting our vehicle (right)
On our way to the Seronera Valley region, we saw numerous Grant's gazelles (left, Figure 47) on the plains. We were expecting to see herds of ungulates and lion prides covering the plains but that turned out to be a naïve expectation. There was not much to see along most of the way until we reached the Seronera River area, save for ungulates like the ubiquitous Thomson’s gazelle and the Grant's gazelle. However, we saw one of the few hartebeests seen during our African trip - a Coke’s Hartebeest (right, Figure 48). Until one hundred years ago the Coke’s Hartebeest was the most abundant plains antelope, but poaching and habitat encroachment have greatly reduced its numbers.
There were areas along the way that were blackened due to controlled burns made to encourage new growth.
Of interest along the route were the kopjes (right, Figure 47) where I expected to see animals but we did not get near them except at the Seronera Wildlife Lodge. Kopjes, which means ‘little heads’ in Dutch, are very different from the surrounding grassland in Serengeti. Most kopjes are granite intrusions into the softer metamorphic rock that has worn away. They have round boulders on them due to spherical weathering. The kopjes provide: protection from grass-fires; water in holes and cracks; caves for animals; and a vantage point for predators. Lions regularly hide their cubs on kopjes as do cheetahs.
Figure 47. Grant's gazelle (left), kopje on way to Seronera Valley region (right)
When we popped the top of our vehicle, the viewing and photographic possibilities increased (left, Figure 48).
Figure 48. Watching for wildlife with vehicle’s roof up (left), Coke’s Hartebeest (right)
Finally we reached the central Serengeti area that is centered on the Seronera Valley region. This is the region in which the migratory animals commonly calve in March each year. The Seronera region is mainly wide open grassy plains and rock kopjes, patched together within a network of rivers that ensure year-round water supplies and keep this region rich in wildlife throughout the year. All other areas of the Serengeti are more seasonal and much of the time wildlife viewing is dependent on the path of the wildebeest migration (Figure 49). Unfortunately for us the wildebeest migration was in the north in the Masai Mara so we’d not see it in the Seronera nor did we even we a single wildebeest during our stay in the Serengeti although we did see them in abundance in the Ngorongoro Crater.
Each year after the calving season, January to April, finishes the 'Great Wildebeest Migration' begins in the Ngorongoro area of the southern Serengeti (Figure 49). The timing of this natural phenomenon is determined by the availability of grazing. The migration consists of some 500,000 zebra that precede 1.8 million wildebeest and are followed by some 100,000 of other plains game. In all some 250,000 wildebeest die during this 1,800-mile journey - the sick, the lame, old and very young. However the next calving season will produce around 500,000 new calves who must take their chances along with the adults on the following 'Great Migration'.
Figure 49. Map of wildebeest migration in area of Serengeti
Our first stop in the Seronera Valley region was at the hippo pool which could be smelled from a distance (left, Figure 50). There were at least 30 hippopotamuses in the bloat. Hippos spend most of their days wallowing in the water or the mud, with the other members of their bloat. The water serves to keep their body temperature down, and to keep their skin from drying out. With the exception of eating, most of hippos’ lives – from childbirth, fighting with other hippos and reproduction – occur in the water. At dusk, hippos leave the water and travel inland, sometimes up to 8 kilometers (5 mi), to graze on short grass which is their main source of food. They spend four to five hours grazing and can consume 68 kilograms (150 lb) of grass each night.
Figure 50. Hippos in hippo pool (left), Thomson’s gazelle on road (right)
Unfortunately the hippos were mainly inactive so we moved along the road in the late afternoon sunshine scattering several gazelles (right, Figure 50).
Figure 51. Herd of elephants emerges from trees (left), elephants moving on (right)
We next came upon a herd of 30-40 elephants emerging from a copse of palms trees that line the Seronera River (Figure 51). This herd included elephants of both sexes and of the complete range of ages. Fortunately we stayed long enough to watch them cross the road between safari vehicles (right, Figure 52). Even the gazelles were impressed by their passage (left, Figure 52).
Figure 52. Herd of elephants passes by gazelle in grass (left), elephants cross road (right)
For a minute, I thought that we saw some meerkats on a mound but alas it was Vevet monkeys on termite mound (left, Figure 53). I very much wanted to see meerkats but we never did. We stopped briefly to see a Masai giraffe feeding (right, Figure 53)
Figure 53. Vevet monkeys on termite mound (left), Masai giraffe feeding (right)
We stopped again to see another herd of elephants enter the river to bathe and relieve themselves (left, Figure 54). A group in a safari vehicle stopped and told us that they’d just watched a pride of lions take down a buffalo up the road and we were off.
Figure 54. Elephants of all ages in river (left), obviously male elephant takes toilet break (right)
Making our way up the road, we came upon a group of 6 or 7 safari vehicles that were stopped to watch the lions at the site of the buffalo kill (left, Figure 55). It was an example of nature red in tooth and claw (right, Figure 55).
Figure 55. Three lions at buffalo kill site (left), nature red in tooth and claw (right)
Unfortunately because of the number of vehicles at the kill site, we could not move so I had to take photographs through the vegetation. The automatic focus on my camera had great difficulty in focusing on the lions and not the vegetation in the line of sight.
The lions were eating the buffalo starting at its rear end presumably because the skull, spine and rib cage do not interfere with easy access to the internal organs. The lions stuck their heads right inside the buffalo (left, Figure 56). The lions were not rushed in their feeding and they took turns feeding at the buffalo’s rear end.
Figure 56. Lion feeding from rear end of buffalo (left), lion with bloody muzzle (right)
After about 15 minutes, we left the kill site as we had to get to the Seronera Wildlife Lodge and then our campsite before sundown and the deadline of 1900 hours to be off the roads. We passed by more of the Plains Zebra (left, Figure 57) which are much less numerous than it once was because of human activities such as hunting as well as encroachment on much of its former habitat. A various times we saw the sun create impressive displays over the Serengeti (right, Figure 57).
Figure 57. A wary Plains Zebra (left), a sun burst through the clouds at 1756 hours (right)
At 1800 hours we pulled into the Seronera Wildlife Lodge and confirmed our balloon flight with the balloon company representative at the desk of the Serengeti Balloon Safaris. He told us that we’d be picked up at 0520 hours at our campsite and returned to the lodge at 1000 hours to meet our group. The Seronera Wildlife Lodge is a very interesting hotel and its rates start at about US $520 per night for a double.
We walked up to the lodge’s pool and bar area while avoiding stepping on the scat from the rock hyrax. The lodge is built around a kopje that is topped by a very large boulder (left, Figure 58). We did not stay long at the lodge as we had to drive to our camp before the driving ban took effect at 1900 hours.
Figure 58. Standing under boulder at top of kopje at Seronera Lodge (left), sunset at 1838 hours (right)
We arrive at our campsite at about 1900 hours (left, Figure 59) but the vehicle with our baggage and cook was not there. Our group leader phoned him on his cell phone (there is good cell phone coverage there and elsewhere in Africa) and told us that we could not drive over to where the cook was set up since our reservation was for our current campsite. He then drove off to bring the cook to our campsite and those who had a tent in their vehicles, including us, set them up. About a half hour later, our group leader sent a driver back in one of the vehicles and told us that we’d have to pack up and move to the campsite where the cook was located. However, the group refused to move. The driver then phoned the tour leader and explained the situation and the tour leader backed down and came to join us. Of course driving with a cooked supper in the vehicles was an accident waiting to happen.
The bush camp where we stay was very simple with only a basic toilet and no running water. It was an unfenced location in the middle of the plain where wild animals were free to roam.
Figure 59. ‘Open top’ hairdo (left), Donna treating our driver’s scalded hand (right)
After supper, Donna dressed the scald on our driver’s hand and gave him two Tylenol 3s to help him sleep that night (right, Figure 59). The following morning our driver told Donna that it was the best sleep he had in a long time.
Figure 60. Satellite photo of Seronera area in the Serengeti
Day 20 (4) Serengeti National Park (30 Jul, Thu)
· Day 4: All day in Serengeti National Park and second night camping in wilds
This was the big day of our balloon flight and we were excited with anticipation since neither of us had ever been in a balloon and Donna has a fear of heights.
Since there are only three balloons operating on the
Serengeti, booking a balloon flight in advance is important if one absolutely
wants to do it. We booked our Serengeti trip on 19 January but dithering meant
that we did not book the balloon flight until 31 March. The cost was Cdn $615
per person which is steep for a 1 hour flight. However, in the event the
balloon flight and associated English breakfast on the Serengeti under a
spreading acacia tree proved to be the highlight of our second two week trip.
Interestingly the price is the same whether one books ahead or books ‘standby’
on a space available basis in the Serengeti so there is little incentive to
There is a restriction on driving in Serengeti during the hours of darkness but fortunately we were located close by the Seronera Wildlife Lodge where the balloon company operates out of. Almost precisely at 0520 hours, a Land Cruiser from the Serengeti Balloon Safaris stopped at our campsite to pick up us and then we stopped by the lodge to pick up our balloon pilot, Frank, at the pilot's quarters. We then drove to the launch site near Maasai Kopjes but along the way there was a rabbit which slowed us down as it refused to run off the road, rather it kept moving along in front of the vehicle. We arrived at the launch site at 0600 hours and watched the ground crew inflate our balloon (left, Figure 61). The balloons can hold 16 passengers plus the pilot but ours had only 12 passengers.
Our hot air balloon pilot, Frank, started flying balloons in California in 1977 and had over 4,000 hours of flying. However he had only been flying over the Serengeti since June 2009 so the expertise and knowledge required to spot the difficult to see game below rested with the two African pilots in the other balloons.
Figure 61. Balloons being readied (left), loaded into basket for “space shuttle” liftoff (right)
As the balloons were being prepared, in the distance we watched several ostriches feeding and displaying by extending their wings. At 0630 hours, there was a beautiful sunrise over the Serengeti and then at 0645 hours it was finally time to load ourselves into the balloon's basket. The basket was on its side and we loaded up just like the astronauts do for a space shuttle launch (right, Figure 61). Since this was the first balloon ride for either of us, we did not know what exactly to expect but were pleasantly surprised.
As the air in the balloon was heated (left, Figure 62), the balloon rose up, righting the basket. We were positioned in the basket next to the burner and the heat from the flames was unbearably hot on Donna’s face. I gave her my hat to shield her face from the heat. Just before 0700 hours we and the other two balloons lifted off at sunrise for our hour long flight along the Seronera River Valley (right, Figure 62).
Figure 62. Heating up air in balloon (left), liftoff at sunrise @ 0700 hours (right)
During our balloon adventure, the rest of our group went on an early morning game drive and we were scheduled to meet up with them again at 1000 hours at the lodge.
I was a bit concerned that because we were in the backside of the basket, we'd not get a good view of the approaching scenery and animals. However, in the event, our pilot regularly rotated the balloon so that who was in the front or back of the basket became meaningless. As well, he varied the altitude of the balloon so that sometimes we were flying at treetop height and sometimes higher up. This offered a unique perspective and great photographic opportunities of the wildlife below. Unfortunately my Panasonic camera had great difficulty in accurately focussing on the scene below so many of the photographs were out of focus which I only discovered back home when viewing them on my computer.
The Seronera River Valley has excellent resident wildlife populations throughout the year with sightings of lion, leopard, hippo, buffalo, giraffe and various antelope possible. The wildebeest migration is dependent on the rains for grazing and the great herds usually pass through the Seronera Valley late May-June heading west and north with their new calves. They return again usually late October-November en route to the short grass plains in the south and east. Unfortunately it was not the migration season in the Seronera River valley but I was surprised and pleased by the variety of wildlife that we saw (Figure 63 to Figure 74) including the following:
· A cheetah lying in the grass.
· Five lions on the move.
· A herd of gazelles.
· A waterbuck.
· A herd of buffalos.
· A bloat of hippos in the hippo pond.
· A leopard well-camouflaged in the grass.
· A hyena along the bank of the stream.
· A hippo feeding on the land.
· A herd of startled elephants whose matriarch who challenged the balloon.
· A river full of hippos.
· Warthogs walking along.
· Zebras walking in single file.
· A Secretary bird on the ground.
· A Crested Hawk-eagle landing in a tree below us.
Figure 63. A cheetah lying at intersection of game trails (left), five lions on the move (right)
Figure 64. A herd of Thomson’s gazelles (left), a waterbuck (right)
Figure 65. A herd of buffaloes moving along (left), a bloat of hippos in the hippo pond (right)
The leopard was very hard to see (left, Figure 66) but he got up and walked through the grass almost directly below the balloon. I could clearly see his beautiful spotted coat and had him lined up for the perfect overhead shot but when I pressed the shutter release, he had disappeared into the tall grass.
Figure 66. Leopard well-camouflaged in the grass (left), overhead of termite mound with burrows (right)
We passed overhead of a termite mound with burrows dug into it, some of which were newly dug (right, Figure 66). Warthogs and other animals locate their burrows in abandoned termite mounds.
Figure 67. Balloon over bloat of hippos in river (left), other two balloons moving below us (right)
Seeing the Seronera River full of hippos was amazing as I never thought that there would be so many hippos in such a small river (left, Figure 67).
It was always interesting to look over and see what the other balloons were doing (right, Figure 67) but this placed second in importance to scanning the ground passing beneath for animals. Our pilot, Frank, was an American with over 30 years of ballooning experience but he’d only been flying over the Serengeti for a couple of months. It was the two African pilots in the other balloons who spotted most of the well camouflaged animals such as the cheetah and the leopard and then radioed the sightings to Frank. These African pilots had been with the company for many years so knew the animals and their habits very well. Without their knowledge and spotting ability we would not have seen as many of the interesting animals.
Figure 68. Hyena along the bank of the stream (left), hippo feeding on the land (right)
Figure 69. A network of well worn game tracks (left), balloon skimming low over Serengeti (right)
Figure 70. A herd of startled elephants running off (left), herd’s matriarch challenging the balloon (right)
We passed overhead a herd of elephants that became startled and moved off smartly (left, Figure 70) while the herd’s matriarch defiantly challenged the balloon (right, Figure 70).
Next we passed by the buffalo kill site, that we’d seen on the previous day, and watched a lion continuing to work on the carcass (left, Figure 71) while nearby a camouflaged hyena patiently awaited its turn on the carcass (right, Figure 71).
Figure 71. Lion on carcass at buffalo kill site (left), camouflaged hyena awaits turn on carcass (right)
At the buffalo kill site, we obtained a wonderful matching pair of photographs – one from our balloon and one from the ground. The rest of our group who did not go on the balloon safari went on a land safari and returned to the kill site in our Land Cruiser. As we passed by the kill site, Lindsey took at picture of us in the balloon (left, Figure 72) while coincidently I took a picture of her vehicle from the balloon (right, Figure 72). In both photographs, the lion is seen craning its head to watch the balloons float by. I was quite pleased with this matching pair of photographs.
Figure 72. Lion watching our balloon (left), our land-bound group watching the lion (right)
Figure 73. Zebras walking in single file and gazelles fleeing balloon (left), balloon skims trees (right)
Figure 74. Secretary bird on the ground (left), crested hawk-eagle landing in a tree below us (right)
It was also unique to fly overtop of birds roosting on top of trees (left, Figure 75). As well, there were opportunities to watch the other balloons and their shadows across the Serengeti (right, Figure 75).
Figure 75. Flying over roosting birds (left), balloons and their shadows across the Serengeti (right)
After almost exactly an hour, all balloons landed in an open field behind a row of trees (left, Figure 76). Unfortunately we did a stand-up landing and not the regular landing where the basket ends up on its side (right, Figure 76).
Figure 76. Coming into land (left), balloon basket upright at landing site (with pilot Frank) (right)
We climbed out of the basket and walked over to our Land Cruisers on the road where the balloon pilots popped the corks on the champagne bottles (left, Figure 77) and we drank champagne and mimosas (right, Figure 77). The 'champagne' was a Spanish sparkling wine labelled as Freixenet "Cordon Negro" (metodo tradicional, cava seleccion). It's only about US $10 a bottle but was very good especially considering the circumstances and it flowed almost endlessly (left, Figure 78).
Figure 77. Balloon pilots popping corks on the champagne (left), mimosas (right)
We then drove over the Serengeti and past wildlife including hyenas (right, Figure 78) and a lion (left, Figure 79).
Figure 78. Champagne en route to breakfast (left), pack of hyenas seen en route (right)
After some 20 minutes we arrived at the breakfast site under a spreading acacia tree (right, Figure 79).
Figure 79. Lion seen en route to breakfast (left), breakfast under a spreading acacia tree (right)
At our “Out of Africa” breakfast where we were greeted by a hand washing station manned by a server in Swahili servant’s garb of yesteryear (left, Figure 80). It was the start of an excellent English traditional breakfast of bacon, sausage, eggs, mushroom, tomato, a bun along with orange juice and champagne. The breakfast was served on real plates by waiters in the same servant’s garb (right, Figure 80) but if you looked closely, you could see their t-shirts underneath.
Figure 80. Washing up for breakfast (left), serving more champagne (right)
The champagne continued to flow (right, Figure 80) and the food was excellent (left, Figure 81) and a welcome change from our normal breakfasts of beans, sausages and bread. I lucked out and was able to have two complete servings. During breakfast we could watch a herd of elephants walking by in the distance (right, Figure 81).
Figure 81. Traditional English breakfast (left), elephants in the background at breakfast (right)
Unfortunately, just before 1000 hours, the breakfast was over and we were returned to reality back at the Seronera Wildlife Lodge where we met up with the rest of our group.
The table setting for breakfast was very nice as the table had a tablecloth and we used metal cutlery, china and glasses. My only complaint was that they had just repainted the metal on the camp chairs and my hands became soiled with green paint that had not thoroughly dried.
Apart from this breakfast and the time at our camp, this was the only time that we were out on the ground in the ‘wild’ Serengeti. There is a park regulation that prevents people from leaving their vehicles when outside in the wild areas. However this rule does not apply if one has lots of money as in the case of Silicon Valley billionaire Tom Siebel who on 1 August, 2009 suffered broken ribs and legs after an elephant charged at him and a tour guide in the Serengeti. Siebel says that he and his guide were watching a group of elephants from about 200 yards away when one animal charged at them without warning (Ref D). Clearly he was outside of his vehicle when the elephant hit him.
Our experience was that Serengeti Balloon Safaris runs a very professional operation using experienced pilot such as Frank. I’ve not heard of them having any accidents. However this is not the case in ballooning elsewhere in Africa. Every year ballooning accidents are reported in Luxor, Egypt. In only the first half of 2009, there have been three serious incidents, the most recent accident in May injuring 13 tourists when their balloon struck a mobile-phone transmission tower, crashing near a village. Of course there is a major difference in price between ballooning at the two locations – over 12 balloons and under US $100 per ride at Luxor compared to three balloons and US $500 per ride in the Serengeti – but crashing should not be a high risk in either case.
Even the balloon operation in the Masai Mara, Kenya that is similar to the one in the Serengeti in terms of price and offering, experienced a crash in 2006 in which the British balloon pilot and a tourist on a hot-air balloon safari were killed when their balloon crashed shortly after take-off.
After leaving the breakfast site at 1000 hours, a minute down the road we saw a leopard waiting grass (right, Figure 90). It was very hard to see but did not seem to be actively hunting. Nearby we saw a pool of water surrounded improbably by palm trees (left, Figure 82). Before seeing the Serengeti, I thought there would be acacia trees on a barren landscape but not palm trees. We came upon a poignant scene of a lonely antelope standing in the thin strip of shade provided by a lonely roadside tree (right, Figure 82).
Figure 82. Palm tree lined pond (left), lonely gazelle in tree’s shade (right)
After breakfast we were driven back to the Seronera Wildlife Lodge where we linked back up with our group at 1000 hours and so our balloon safari was over. Rarely have I paid so much (Cdn $615/pp) for an activity of such short duration (3 hours including the time for breakfast). However I felt that it was one of most rewarding activity that I’ve experienced. The balloon flight including breakfast was one of highlights of our African trip.
Finally if one is serious about taking a balloon flight then book early as generally your window of opportunity is small and the number of place available is limited. If a large group books on your day then you may be out of luck!
While we were on our balloon safari, they were on a land safari where they saw a large group of lions including males with full manes up close. Leaving the lodge, we then drove back to our campsite where Donna re-bandaged our driver’s hand again (left, Figure 83).
Figure 83. Donna re-bandages our driver’s hand (left), view of Serengeti from lodge’s pool deck (right)
We were supposed to stay in camp from 1130 hours until 1530 hours when we’d go for another game drive. It was very hot at the campsite and there was nothing to do so by 1300 hours I’d had enough and convinced the other campers to join me in demanding that we drive to the Seronera Wildlife Lodge and wait at the pool near the bar until the start of our 1530 hour game drive. Our tour leader finally agreed and we were off to the lodge and the bar area (right, Figure 83).
The Seronera Wildlife Lodge was the built around granite rock outcrops known as kopjes. It is the home to a number of small mammals including the slender mongoose and the rock hyrax. Hyraxes are sometimes described as being the closest living relative to the elephant because some believe that they share an ancestor in the distant past when hyraxes were larger and more diverse. The rock hyraxes ventured around the outdoor portions of the lodge as evidenced by the droppings they left behind and their ubiquitous presence that made for good photo opportunities (left, Figure 84). The rocks also hosted the colourful Red-headed Rock Agama lizard that is red on the front half of its body and blue on the back half. However at night, all males turn a dark shade of brown.
Figure 84. Four rock hyraxes (left) and red-headed agama lizard (right) at lodge
We saw some slender mongoose in the lodge’s parking lot (Figure 85). It is primarily carnivorous although it is omnivore when required. Of course it is most well known for its ability to kill and subsequently eat venomous snakes.
Figure 85. Slender mongoose at lodge
At 1530 hours, we left the bar of the lodge for a game drive. I never tired of seeing the fantastically striped zebras whose stripes extended onto their tails, ears and manes (right, Figure 86). It was amusing to see them chumming around by putting their heads on their confreres’ backs (Figure 86).
Figure 86. Zebras chumming about (note striped tails, ears and manes)
We passed by some topi, a large antelope species, feeding on the grass (left, Figure 87) and then came upon an interesting algae-filled wet area (right, Figure 87).
Figure 87. Topis feeding (left), duckweed-filled wet area (right)
Beside this wet area was an isolated acacia tree under which were a group of five lions flaked out in its shade (left, Figure 88). The lions were relaxing but after a couple of minutes, one became alert and then got up and wandered away from the group until it settled down again about 20 meters away. This provided me the best photograph that I was able to take of a lion (right, Figure 88).
Figure 88. Five lions flaked out in shade (left), lion alert (right)
Leaving the lions relaxing, we drove on and within one minute and I announced that I saw a leopard. However, its large ears and black stripes on its shoulders told me that it was a serval cat (left, Figure 89). This cat was hunting something in the tall grass, probably a rodent since it is specialized for catching them although its diet includes other small animals including birds. As part of its adaptations for hunting in the savannas, the serval has long legs (the longest of all cats, relative to body size) for jumping, running (top speed of 50 mph) and seeing over tall grasses. It is able to leap over 20 feet (7 m) horizontally from a sitting position, landing precisely on target with sufficient force to stun or kill their prey upon impact. Its evident large ears provide acute hearing to detect prey, even those burrowing underground - the serval may pause for up to 15 minutes at a time to listen with eyes closed.
Figure 89. Serval cat (left), mud-covered hippos in hippo pool (right)
We again passed by the hippo pool with its hippos covered in mud to protect their sensitive skins from the sun (right, Figure 89).
Just past the hippo pool, we saw a lion lying in wait near a shrub (left, Figure 90). This was very similar to the scene of the leopard waiting grass that we saw a minute down the road from where we had breakfast after our balloon flight (right, Figure 90). The camouflage of these predators is quite effective in this environment.
Figure 90. Lion lying in wait near shrub (left), leopard waiting in grass (right)
The guides and drivers exchange information about sighting but in our case the best way to find rare animals was to look at where other vehicles were stopped. Luckily within 10 minutes of leaving the lions, we came upon a large group of vehicles stopped and their occupants watching a large lonely acacia tree. There on the big lower branch of the tree was a leopard lying down with its tail hanging down (Figure 91).
Figure 91. Leopard lying on tree (left), leopard yawning (center), leopard walking on branch (right)
The leopard is the most feared predator in Africa due to its combination of speed and power. It is far more powerful then a cheetah – able to bring down a zebra. It is an ambush predator relying on stalking its prey and then bringing it down with a rush and killing it by biting the skull or the neck. It is powerful enough to drag prey up trees to hide it from prowling lions or hyenas.
Leopards are considered one of the rarer ‘Big 5’ sighting as not everyone gets to see one. This time our group displayed some patience and we stayed for a half hour watching the leopard in the tree. Since it was about 1620 hours, the leopard started to become active in preparation for evening hunting. It yawned and stretched and started walking around on the big branch, eventually coming over to the trunk. We were hoping that it would climb down the tree and lo and behold that it exactly what it did. Fortunately after taking some 64 still photographs and 14 video clips, I was ready and in the right position to capture a good clip of the leopard climbing down the tree (left, Figure 92) and moving off into the tall grass. Surprisingly the leopard backed down the first third of the trunk, then turned around while wrapping its tail tightly against the tree trunk and descended to the ground head first.
Apart from watching the lions at the buffalo kill site, watching the leopard descend from the tree was the most interesting animal sighting during our Serengeti safari. This viewing was only possible because the group displayed enough patience to see how the situation developed. The group on our first trip did not display such patience rather the people were more interesting in ticking off the checkboxes on their animal sighting list and then moving on to the next sighting.
Figure 92. Leopard descending tree (left), leopard’s tail in grass & leopard walking in grass (right)
Once on the ground in the grass, the leopard moved about and was difficult to see except for the white flashing on the underside of its long tail that was held vertically as the leopard moved through the grass (right, Figure 92). If you ever see such a tail moving through the grass, its time to run!
Within in 15 minutes of leaving the leopard in the grass, we came upon another group of vehicles watching a cheetah lying in the tall grass (Figure 93). The cheetah lacks climbing abilities but it is the fastest land animal, reaching speeds between 112 and 120 km/h (70 and 75 mph) in short bursts covering distances up to 1,500 ft (460 m). It has the ability to accelerate from 0 to 110 km/h (68 mph) in three seconds. The cheetah’s diet consists of mammals under 88 lbs (40 kg) including the Thomson's gazelle, the Grant's gazelle, the springbok and the impala. It usually hunts either early in the morning or later in the evening when it is not so hot, but there is still enough light.
Figure 93. Cheetah lying in grass
Due to its camouflage, the cheetah was very difficult to locate in the grass but after locating it, we watched for about 15 minutes but nothing developed so off we went to watch sunset from the pool of the Seronera Wildlife Lodge. Along the way we passed by the fascinating sight of a large acacia tree that had fallen over revealing its shallow roots (left, Figure 94).
Figure 94. Large fallen acacia tree with shallow roots (left), Deck of the Seronera Wildlife Lodge (right)
Arriving at the lodge, we returned to the pool area and got drinks from its bar. The view over the Serengeti was impressive (right, Figure 94) and the comfort of lying in a lounger waiting for sunset was luxurious (left, Figure 95). Finally at 1835 hours, after an enjoyable one hour wait, we were treated to a beautiful sunset luxurious over the Serengeti (right, Figure 95).
Figure 95. Waiting for sunset at lodge’s pool (left), view of sunset from pool (right)
After the sun set, we returned to our lowly campsite where Donna had a Tusker beer before we headed off to our tent for bed (left, Figure 96). Once in our tent at 2100 hours, we heard the sound of grass being torn off and eaten. Although it was dark, I went out and tried to get a photograph of the grazers. There were several large buffaloes feeding beside our tents but they were too far away for my camera flash to be effective.
Figure 96. Tusker beer at campsite (left), tsetse fly trap (right)
Before leaving the campsite, I went out to see one of the many tsetse fly traps that we had seen in East Africa (right, Figure 96). Like the mosquito, the tsetse fly carries an organism that is transmitted to animals that they bite – in this case sleeping sickness (African trypanosomiasis) which is invariably fatal unless treated. Hence to control the tsetse fly, chemically treated traps are setup. These often use electric blue cloth, since this colour attracts the flies.
Figure 97. Map showing days 21 to 29 in Tanzania
· Day 5: AM game drives by jeep back to Ngorongoro Reserve and then descend Crater for more game drives. Late PM leave Ngorongoro and camp at well equipped and comfortable campsite
The following morning we were up early at 0600 hours because we had to be at Ngorongoro Crater at 1130 hours for a game drive through it. The sunrise was again pretty (left, Figure 98).
Figure 98. Sunrise over campsite at 0703 hours (left), sun over Seronera airstrip at 0722 hours (right)
Just past the Seronera airstrip (right, Figure 98), other tourists were on safari were stopped very close to a group of zebras to take close up photographs (left, Figure 99). The hyenas prowling nearby in the grass were on alert looking keenly in the distance (right, Figure 99).
Figure 99. Tourists photographing zebras up close (left), alert spotted hyenas (right)
Just before leaving the Seronera River area, we came upon the safari balloons landing prior to the passengers going to breakfast on the Serengeti (Figure 100).
Figure 100. Balloons landing on Serengeti at 0750 hours (right)
Out on the treeless Serengeti towards the Naabi Hill, we saw some large animals that we’d not seen on our drive to the Seronera River area. These animals were a male lion with a mane (left, Figure 101) and a herd of elephants (right, Figure 101).
Figure 101. Male lion with mane on the prowl (left), herd of elephants near Naabi Hill (right)
Again we had a long stop at the Naabi Hill Gate, 45 minutes this time. This give us time to climb up to the top of the hill and survey the Serengeti (left, Figure 102).
Figure 102. Overview of Serengeti from Naabi Hill (left), vehicle on Descent Road into crater (right)
Leaving the Naabi Hill Gate, we spent 1½ hours on the road to reach the Descent Road into the Ngorongoro Crater (right, Figure 102). The Ngorongoro Crater is the world's largest unbroken, unflooded volcanic caldera. The crater, formed when a giant volcano exploded and collapsed on itself some two to three million years ago, is 2,001 ft (610 m) deep and 15 miles (22 km) across at its widest. The crater is not an unspoiled environment. In 1905 during the period of Deutsch-Ostafrika (German East Africa), a German farmer settled in the floor of the crater that was occupied by some 20 Masai families. The ruins of his farm buildings are in the northeast quadrant of the crater along the Mandusi River (Figure 103).
Although the walls of the crater are high, the crater is not a "natural enclosure" preventing its 30,000 animals from entering or leaving. For example up to 20% or more of the wildebeest and half the zebra leave the crater in the wet season. However, for some species the crater is so bountiful that they do not leave which can lead to inbreeding. The Ngorongoro lions are severely inbred with many genetic problems passed from generation to generation. These lions have a static local gene pool due to the very few migrating lions that enter the crater from the outside.
Animal populations in the crater include most of the species found in East Africa, but there are no impalas, topis, giraffes or crocodiles.
Figure 103. Map of Ngorongoro Crater during the dry season
During our drive down into the crater along the Descend Road (right, Figure 102), we passed by Masai moving their herds down into the crater (left, Figure 104). Ngorongoro Crater is not a national park but rather a conservation area to protect the local Masai’s grazing rights as they’d already lost grazing land when the Serengeti was established as a park in 1951. The Masai graze their cattle in the crater and we met some herders down on the crater floor who were also selling souvenirs.
Figure 104. Masai herder descending into crater (left), on crater floor (right)
Finally it was very exciting to see the mythic Blue Wildebeest (sometimes called Brindled Gnu) which for me is the quintessential Serengeti animal (right, Figure 105) due to its mass migration. In the Serengeti we did not see any wildebeest as they had migrated up north to the Masai Mara. Blue Wildebeest often graze together with other species such as the Plains zebras for purposes of mutual protection against predators such as lions (left, Figure 105). As well, the zebra’s presence is beneficial to the wildebeest since they mow down highly vegetated areas leaving the wildebeests to eat the newly exposed and more nutritional short grass which is their preferred diet.
Figure 105. Wildebeest & zebra crossing road (left), wildebeest (right)
The wildebeest have a more the passing resemblance to the North American buffalo in their shoulder hump and large front end compared to their smaller back end (right, Figure 105). As they were moving around, the odd dustdevil would form in the distance (left, Figure 105).
Figure 106. Dustdevil behind wildebeest (left), wildebeest walking beside Lake Magadi (right)
The Crowned Crane is a stately bird and there were many near Lake Magadi (left, Figure 107). It is the national bird of Uganda and its likeness is found on some of the Ugandan money. An adult can be 3 feet high with a wing span of up to 6 1/2 feet. They stamp their feet as they walk along to flush out insects.
Figure 107. Crowned Crane near Lake Magadi (left), hippos & hyena hunting flamingos in lake (right)
Lake Magadi, also known as Lake Makat (Masai for salt), is a seasonal lake which shrinks significantly in the dry season. Looking out to the lake I took a picture of a hyena walking along the shoreline of the remaining water where the flamingos were feeding. When I looked at this picture full screen on a computer, I saw the there were three hippos in the frame and a hyena behind the flamingos (right, Figure 107). I assume that this hyena was hunting the flamingos. We had seen a video clip showing a hyena running along the shoreline to catch a flamingo that was feeding.
We were very lucky to see a black-backed jackal resting very near the road (left, Figure 108). They look much like the coyotes in North America. I was excited to see a jackal since I was always intrigued by Anubis, the jackal-headed god associated with mummification and the afterlife in Egyptian mythology.
Figure 108. A black-backed jackal resting (left), Anubis from Egyptian mythology (right)
We also saw a jackal on the move out on the plain filled with wildebeest, gazelles and safari vehicles (Figure 109).
Figure 109. Jackal on the move
In the middle of the crater floor we saw a couple male lions with full manes lounging around in the distance (right, Figure 110). Also watching the lions but with even more interest were some Thomson’s gazelles and Plains zebras (left, Figure 110).
Figure 110. ‘I thought I saw a puddy cat!’ (left), pair of lions, gazelles & zebras (right)
We saw several ostriches mainly traveling in small groups. The male is mainly black with a white tail (left, Figure 111) while the female is brownish-gray (right, Figure 111). It is a flightless bird with the ability to run at maximum speeds of about 45mph (72 km/h), the top land speed of any bird. The ostrich is the largest living species of bird and lays the largest egg of any living bird.
Figure 111. Male ostrich & warthog feeding (left), female ostrich (right)
We drove to the Mandusi Swamp area which is formed by the Munge stream on its way to Lake Magadi. This area was surrounded by a large herd of wildebeest (right, Figure 112). The hippo pool in the swamp contained tens of hippos. There were birds on the backs of the some of the hippos who weren’t shy about pooping on their host (left, Figure 112).
Figure 112. Hippos & bird pooping on back (left), itchy wildebeest (right)
Leaving the central part of the crater, we drove to the southeast section where the Ngoitokitok Springs have formed a lake which has spread into the vast Gorigor Swamp. In the dry season, the local lion pride uses the swamp’s edge for cover when they ambush animals coming to drink. We saw a pride of 6 lions at the edge of the swamp (left, Figure 113). Across the lake we saw a large elephant with a very impressive pairs of tusks feeding in the reeds with a bloat of hippos in front (right, Figure 113).
Figure 113. 6 lions near Ngokokitok Springs (left), large elephant & hippos in the spring lake (right)
We picnicked at the spring lake along with tens of other vehicles (left, Figure 114). We sat near the lake beside a buffalo skull and could see zebras in the distance (right, Figure 114). There was a hawk that circled about our heads looking for any opportunity to dive down and snatch someone’s lunch.
Figure 114. Lots of vehicles at picnic site (left), picnicking at the spring lake (right)
Leaving the picnic site, we passed near Ngokokitok Springs and this time there was riot of animal species at swamp – elephant, hippo, zebra and wildebeest (left, Figure 115). For us this scene was quite unbelievable. Just seeing the large elephant with the huge tusk would have interesting but instead we saw so much more at a glance.
Moving on after seeing from the large animals, we came across a mother Grant's gazelle with her fawn (right, Figure 115).
Figure 115. A riot of animals at swamp (left), Grant's gazelle mother with baby (right)
Driving by the hippo pool at the west end of the Gorigor Swamp, we saw a trio of hippos walking along the shore line (left, Figure 116). One stopped for a big yawn before they all headed back into the water to protect the skin from the strong sun. A nearby zebra looked rather sad, perhaps because of the bite mark on its back likely from a dustup with a zebra stallion (right, Figure 116).
Figure 116. Yawning hippo & pelicans in hippo pond (left), zebra with bite mark on back (right)
For some unexplained reason, our tour leader decided to drive through the Lerai Forest south of Lake Magadi. Both driving in and out of the Lerai Forest, we scanned in vain the scene for wildlife (left, Figure 117). He did not bother to tell us what we should be looking for in the forest and in the end, we saw nothing much of interest except a fleeting glimpse of a monkey. It was this sort of arrogance that turned us off our tour leader.
Figure 117. Donna scanning for animals (left), ascending road out of crater (right)
Leaving the Lerai Forest, we drove up the steep Ascent Road out of the crater (right, Figure 117). As we ascended, I was disappointed with our drive through the crater. I thought we were short changed in terms of the time that we spend there (4 hours) and not viewing much of the big game close up.
Leaving the crater behind we drove back to the Kudu Lodge and Camp in Karatu to return to our truck and spent another night there. The grounds around the bar and dining room contained some colourful bushes in blossom (left, Figure 118).
Figure 118. Pretty blossoms at Kudu Lodge and Camp (left), drying laundry in truck (right)
· Day 6: AM 290 kms drive via Arusha to Mt. Kilimanjaro. PM visit the Amani Children's home. Camp at basic campsite at the Kilimanjaro Education Project
We were up early and had a poor breakfast that was too typical of this trip – bread and beans with some pineapple (left, Figure 119). Since our laundry had not dried over night on our clothes line, we had to spread out our clothes to dry in the truck (right, Figure 118).
We left the campground just before 0800 hours for the drive to Marangu via Arusha. Just outside of Mto Wa Mbu, we passed by some fields of yellow sunflowers and some camels in the desert outside of Arusha (left, Figure 119).
Figure 119. Dreary breakfast (left), camels near Arusha (right)
In several areas in our travels we saw the impressive and unusual baobab tree. Other common names for this tree include boab, boaboa, bottle tree, upside-down tree, and monkey bread tree. The species reach heights of 5 to 30 metres (16 to 98 ft) and trunk diameters of 7 to 11 metres (23 to 36 ft). Radio-carbon dating has measured that age of some Baobab trees at over 2,000 years old.
The baobab is called the “Tree of Life” since it is capable of providing shelter, food and water for the animal and human inhabitants of the African savannah regions. Its cork-like bark is fire resistant and is used for cloth and rope. The leaves are used for condiments and medicines. The fruit, called "monkey bread", is rich in vitamin C and is eaten. The tree is capable of storing up to 120,000 litres (32,000 US gal) inside its swollen trunk to endure the harsh drought conditions particular to each region. People tap this water in dry periods.
Figure 120. Very large baobab tree near Lake Manyara (left), baobab in Dar es Salaam (right)
The baobab is deciduous and sheds its leaves during the dry season. Hence for most of the year, the tree is leafless, and looks very much like it has its roots sticking up in the air. There are numerous legends offering explanations of how the tree came to be stuffed in the ground upside down, so it could no longer complain.
High on the side of the Great Rift Valley above Lake Manyara National Park near Mto Wa Mbu, we stopped to see one of the larger baobab trees that we saw (left, Figure 120 – note me standing near center of trunk). This is truly an impressive specimen but it was too dry for it to be in leaf. Later on as we drove toward the coast of Tanzania near Dar es Salaam, we started to see baobab trees in leaf as the amount of precipitation increased (right, Figure 120). We saw baobab trees along with other types of trees used to host beehives (right, Figure 135). These beehives were generally suspended from the tree branches with chains and were either cylindrical or rectangular in shape.
The baobabs in the Lake Manyara National Park are subjected to elephant-induced bark damage and resultant mortality. Lake Manyara NP is where Ernest Hemingway camped on the hunting safari that inspired his book the “Green Hills of Africa”.
Arriving in Arusha, we stayed for two hours at the same shopping center that we previous stopped at on our way to the Serengeti only this time we ate lunch in a small restaurant which included an excellent panini and an exquisite chocolate-dipped ice cream cone (left, Figure 121). Before departing Arusha, we stopped at a pharmacy so one of the travelers could purchase some anti-diarrhea medicine. While waiting one, of the ubiquitous pushcart men in Arusha went by looking for a load to transport.
Figure 121. Enjoying chocolate-dipped ice cream cone (left), pushcart man in Arusha (right)
In Moshi, we stopped in at the Amani Children's Home for three long hours. Amani supports street children by giving them a safe place to stay and educational and emotional support. Thanks to donors, their facility is new and it is essentially like a boarding school. We were led on a boring tour of the school followed by a long period of watching some of the younger mzungus on our trip playing a pickup game of soccer against a group of inmates. In short, the visit to Amani’s was a waste of our time and was the first time on an Intrepid Tours trip that I felt that we were being used to further someone’s personnel objective.
Finally we left Amani and drove through Moshi. As it was a Saturday afternoon, we saw a wedding convoy that included a pickup truck carrying a brass band playing loud jolly tunes as the newlyweds were chauffeured around the city streets (left, Figure 122). It was a veritable party on wheels and is a common sight every Saturday in Tanzania.
We passed by the Askari Monument dedicated to African soldiers who died in World War II. Incongruously, the monument has a ‘Water for Life’ sign at its base (right, Figure 122). Why this is so was not clear but the United Nations General Assembly adopted a draft resolution proclaiming the decade 2005-2015 as the International Decade for Action - Water for Life.
Figure 122. Wedding convoy with brass band (left), Askari (soldier) Monument in Moshi (right)
The amount of stuff that people could load onto vehicles was always impressive (left, Figure 123). However the frequent scenes of people, mainly women and children, queuing for water was depressing (right, Figure 123).
Figure 123. Big load in small truck (left), Queuing for water at village (right)
Nearing Himo, we passed by a cliff where men were mining bricks from the volcanic tuff (left, Figure 124).
Figure 124. Mining tuff bricks (left), official shaking down truckers at weight station (right)
At the town of Himo where we needed to take the road north to Marangu on the slopes of Kilimanjaro (Figure 125), we drove up to a vehicle weigh station and were waved through by a soldier. This was good because many other vehicles were obviously being hassled by officials (right, Figure 124). However, about ten minutes later, we were stopped by a police car and forced to return to the weigh station where our vehicle along with another was impounded (left, Figure 126). Waiting around, the scene in the impound lot changed as the officials came and went (right, Figure 126).
Figure 125. Relief map of area from Arusha to Kilimanjaro
We stayed locked in the vehicle impound for 1½ hours until Intrepid Tours paid a US $2,000 fine for not stopping at the weigh station! This was the most glaring example of official corruption that we witnessed in East Africa. The local police had set up a scheme to rip off overland tour trucks. We were not the only truck stopped but on our return, some official had called up the weigh station and told them to back off impounding tourist trucks.
Figure 126. Overland truck locked in impound lot (left), police mama in vehicle compound (right)
The good things about our time in the impound lot were seeing the nice sunset (left, Figure 127) and getting our second and best glimpse of Kilimanjaro (right, Figure 127). There was not much snow on the mountain at that time of year.
Kilimanjaro is an inactive volcano that is the highest mountain in Africa at 19,331 ft (5,892 m). The glaciers on top of the mountain have seen a retreat with the ice cap volume dropping by more than 80%. The range of dates when it is estimated the glaciers will be gone due to melting varies between 2015 and 2040.
Figure 127. Nice sunset over hill by impound lot @ 1822 hours (left), Kilimanjaro at sunset (right)
Leaving the vehicle impound, we were running very late as we drove up the slopes of Kilimanjaro through the village of Marangu to reach the campsite at Mshiri Village. The final road to the campsite was very narrow, bumpy and harrowing in the dark. We then had to walk in the dark, using just our headlamps along a narrow path on the slide of a hill, carrying our camping equipment. It was dark so we pitched our tent in the first available open space but this turned out to be a mistake as we were located right next to the cookhouse (left, Figure 128) which became noisy starting at 0430 hours! While waiting to eat I had an excellent shower and we finished supper at 2200 hours – the end of a long day (right, Figure 128).
Figure 128. In morning we were camped beside kitchen (left), long day’s end @ 2200 hours (right)
Day 23 (7) Marangu to Usambara Mountains (2 Aug, Tue)
· Day 7: AM Kilimanjaro Village Education Project. PM 230 kms drive to Usambara Mountains and Lushoto. Camp at well equipped and comfortable campsite in grounds of colonial hotel
In the morning we could not see much since it was foggy which was disappointing since we were on the slopes of Kilimanjaro. We carried our personal stuff along the trail back to the truck while locals, mainly women, carried heavy loads like a couple of tents on their heads (left, Figure 129). These tents weight about 40 lbs so carrying two was impressive if not a chiropractor’s delight.
Figure 129. Woman carrying two tents on head (left), squashing up cloves (right)
Soon we were off on another village walk which lasted too long at four hours and involved too much purposeless walking. The tour was led by an English school administrator who was there for five months to help out the local schools. Before we went on the obligatory school visit, I talked to some English girls on their gap year as teachers of English and who were helping the locals to prepare our lunch. It was interesting to see the woman crushing cloves with a traditional wooden mortar and pestle (right, Figure 129).
Figure 130. Mural on school (left), Donna in school sewing room (right)
The Mshiri Village is in the area populated by the Chagga tribe which is the third largest ethnic group in Tanzania. They live on the southern and eastern slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro and their relative wealth comes from not only the favourable climate of the area, but also from their successful agricultural methods which include irrigation systems and continuous fertilization practiced for millennium.
Figure 131. In school’s woodworking shop (left), kids at clapboard house (right)
The school had many murals on its exterior walls including safari animals (left, Figure 130), a sewing machine class (right, Figure 130) and a woodworking class (left, Figure 131). The village had many huts (right, Figure 131) and a butcher with not much in the way of meat (left, Figure 132).
Figure 132. Not much at butcher shop (left), chameleon (right)
After a lunch of rice, meat cubes and vegetables, we visited a pretty twin waterfall (left, Figure 133) and then walked down to the village of Marangu to visit the store run by locals from Mshiri Village. There was not much of interest there for me except for a chameleon (right, Figure 132), so I walked further down the road and entered a curio shop (right, Figure 133) where I bought a carved giraffe for US $15. Marangu is the jumping off point for climbers wanting to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.
Figure 133. Twin falls near Mshiri Village (left), curio shop in Marangu (right)
We left Marangu at about 1400 hours, which was late given the 230 km drive to get to Lushoto in the Usambara Mountains. Passing through Himo, we saw men spreading out canvases containing wheat to be dried in the sun (left, Figure 134). The chicken walking amidst the canvases seemed pleased.
Figure 134. Spreading out grain to dry in Himo (left), giant East African land snail (right)
East of Himo, we passed by many fields of sisal which resemble pineapple plants (left, Figure 135). The leaves of sisal yield a stiff fibre that is traditionally used in making twine, rope and dartboards. The plant is believed to have originated from the Yucatan. Tanzania ranks second in terms of annual global production of sisal fibre at 37,000 tons after Brazil which produces four times more.
Figure 135. Sisal plantation (left), beehives in baobab tree (right)
In East Africa we frequently saw beehives hung from trees (right, Figure 135). This is done so the bee hives can escape the ravages of the rater (honey badger). Interestingly research has shown that elephants react with obvious alarm and retreating behaviour to bee sounds so that elephants will actually avoid trees with beehives. It is hoped that that beehives can be used as an eco-barrier protecting fields of crops from foraging elephants.
About 1½ hours into our drive, the truck’s fan belt broke in a virtual desert area near a small village. During the forty minutes it took the crew to change the fan belt, we saw some interesting sights. For example, I found some long abandoned shells of the giant East African land snail (left, Figure 134) at what appeared to be the site of a campfire. This mollusc is now known as one of the worst invasive species in the world since it eats a wide range of plant material and it is a hermaphrodite (each individual has both testes and ovaries) capable of producing both sperm and oval so self-fertilisation is possible.
While waiting for the truck to be repaired, we experienced one of the most poignant scenes of our travels. The children from the nearby village were curious about the group of mzungu near their village so some drifted out to see us. This drew out some of the young mothers with their toddlers and the crowd around our truck drew (left, Figure 134). Lindsey gave out pieces of paper and pencils to the great delight of the mothers and children (right, Figure 134). It is always amazing to see how little it takes to make someone happy who has virtually nothing.
Figure 136. Village children & women at truck (left), happy mother with piece of paper & pencil (right)
An hour after the repairs were affected, we reached the Usambara Mountains situated in the northeastern part of Tanzania bordered by Kenya. High up in these mountains was our destination of Lushoto in the Tanga Region which during the German colonial period from the 1890s to 1918 was called Wilhelmstal (William's Valley) after Emperor Wilhelm II. It was popular with German settlers due to its pleasant mountain climate and they established large farms, plantations and church missions. One of the lasting contributions of the Germans in this area, is the excellently engineered road the snakes its way up the mountainside to Lushoto. The views of the plains (left, Figure 137) and the terracing (right, Figure 137) from this road are impressive. Donna was very concerned that our truck would fall off the narrow road but that did not happen although we came close to meeting a vehicle coming down the road.
Figure 137. Views of the plains from mountain road (left), terraced field along road (right)
After an hour we arrived at the grounds of the Lawns Hotel in Lushoto where we camped (left, Figure 138). The basic wood fired water heating system was fascinating (right, Figure 138).
Figure 138. Overlooking golf course at back of Lawns Hotel (left), wood-fired hot water heater (right)
The grounds of the hotel were lush (Figure 139) and even included a mini-golf course. Unfortunately the hotel was run by a Greek man who was very curt with his local help. He even decided to disrupt a large group of us watching the movie “Taken” in the hotel’s TV room. Halfway through the movie he came in and turned down the TV, which was not overly loud, without any hint of politeness. This caused a mini-scene that was more interesting than the movie.
Figure 139. Vine-covered old part of hotel (left), Flowers at the Lawns Hotel (right)
The nights in the tent at Lushoto were the coldest that we experienced on our trip. To stay warm, we had to wear our clothes and toques to bed.
Day 24 (8) Usambara Mountains (3 Aug, Wed)
· Day 8: Non driving day, free day for hiking, community visits and a second night at campsite
This was a free day with an option of taking a guided walk up to the Irente Viewpoint (Figure 140). I went on the Irente Viewpoint walk that I assumed would last for a couple of hours but it turned out that it was scheduled to last 4 to 6 hours! Donna wisely decided to stay at the campsite and relax. The Irente Viewpoint is the most famous viewpoint in the Usambara Mountains.
Figure 140. Satellite view of Lushoto area in the Usambara Mountains
Our guides were two locals who dressed like Jamaicans and loved Bob Marley (left, Figure 141).
Figure 141. ‘Jamaican’ guide (left), pretty view of Lushoto (right)
The scenery along the hike was quite pretty (right, Figure 141) and there were many interesting sights on the hike up to the Irente Viewpoint including:
§ A lovely green chameleon found by our guide (left, Figure 142). In chameleons, the five toes are fused into a group of two and a group of three, giving the foot a tongs-like appearance. However each toes is equipped with a sharp claw to gain traction on surfaces such as bark when climbing. These specialized feet allow chameleons to grip tightly to narrow branches. The upper and lower eyelids are joined, with only a pinhole large enough for the pupil to see through. They can rotate and focus separately their eyes to observe two different objects simultaneously!
§ We saw a plant with serious thorns along the major veins of the leaves (right, Figure 142). I’d never seen such a plant before.
Figure 142. West Usambara Two-Horned Chameleon (left), leaf with thorns (right)
§ We passed by lots of friendly children (left, Figure 143). As elsewhere in Africa, the children played soccer using homemade soccer balls (right, Figure 143).
Figure 143. Friendly children (left), homemade soccer ball (right)
§ The local shops along the way were very basic but sold a colourful variety of fruits and vegetables (Figure 144).
Figure 144. Fish, fruit & vegetables stand (left), mother vendor with children (right)
§ Out working in the fields were prisoners dressed in orange coveralls (left, Figure 145). Apparently they take being a prisoner seriously.
§ We saw a reminder that AIDS is a problem in Africa in the sign for the African Women Aids Working Group (AFRIWAG). This is a NGO lead by a woman whose mission is to ‘Turn hopelessness into hope’ with objective to ‘Mobilize women’s efforts against HIV/AIDS epidemic’. Tanzania is one of the 15 countries, which collectively represent approximately 50 percent of HIV infections worldwide. Tanzania faces a mature and generalized HIV epidemic with some 1.4 million people living with HIV/AIDS: 70.5 percent are 25 to 49 years old; and 15 percent are 15-24 years.
Figure 145. Orange-suited prisoners working in field (left), AIDS program (right)
§ Some of the locals were out in the fields doing their laundry (Figure 146).
Figure 146. Doing laundry by a stream and using nature’s dryer
§ Women carrying various loads on their heads and backs (Figure 147).
Figure 147. Colourfully dressed women carrying heavy loads
§ Throughout Africa we saw the locals making mud bricks for their houses (Figure 148). The durability of these bricks must be questionable without kiln-drying.
Figure 148. Making mud bricks (left), digging clay for brick making (right)
Finally after two hours of uphill walking from Lushoto, we arrived at the Irente Viewpoint (left, Figure 149) which was very impressive. It affords views out over the plains and the village of Mazinde almost 1,000 meters below. It was cloudy but fortunately the cloud base was just above us (right, Figure 149).
Figure 149. At Irente Viewpoint (left), view out over plain & Mazinde 1,000 meters below (right)
Returning from the Irente Viewpoint, we stopped to watch folks crushing sugar cane to collect the juice (left, Figure 150). I was able to take a turn on the bar and crush some sugar cane and then to sample the sweet juice. You have to walk fast when on the end of this long bar.
Figure 150. Crushing sugar cane (left), the bread tree (right)
It started to rain lightly just about the time we ate lunch. The lunch consisted of bread, jam, cheese and fruit but we stopped for too long as it was cold and most of us were sweating when we arrived.
After lunch we started the long downhill slog back to Lushoto. We walked past an orphanage with many inmates who were albinos perhaps for their own protection since discrimination against albinos is a serious problem throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Recently in Tanzania this discrimination has taken a wicked twist with at least 19 albinos, including children, having been killed and mutilated in the past year – victims of what Tanzanian officials say is a growing criminal trade in albino body parts. Many people in Tanzania - and across Africa, for that matter - believe albinos have magical powers. They stand out, often the lone white face in a black crowd, as a result of a genetic condition that impairs normal skin pigmentation and affects about 1 in 3,000 people here. Tanzanian officials say witch doctors are now marketing albino skin, bones and hair as ingredients in potions that are promised to make people rich (Ref H).
We arrived back in Lushoto and visited the market but surprisingly there were not any souvenirs to be had. Under a spreading tree was where the bread was sold – a veritable ‘tree of life’ (right, Figure 150). The market was also the pick up point for the bus which was loaded to the gunwales with people and cargo (left, Figure 151).
Figure 151. Bus loaded down (left), unhappy charcoal sellers (right)
While waiting near the market for others in the group, I took a picture of some charcoal vendors. Evidently they were not happy having their picture taken since a couple of pieces of charcoal landed at my feet, which I ignored (right, Figure 151).
Finally at 1500 hours we arrived back the campsite after 6 hours and I was some glad that it was over.
Day 25 (9) Dar es Salaam (4 Aug, Thu)
· Day 9: All day drive, 380 kms to Dar es Salaam and beach campsite on Indian Ocean
We left the campsite around 0700 hours to start the long travel day to Dar es Salaam. Unfortunately it was cloudy and raining so we did not get a view of Kilimanjaro. As we moved closer to the coast, the countryside grew greener since there was more precipitation. It took us about 6½ hours to reach Dar es Salaam including a lunch break with yet another carrot and tomato sandwich (right, Figure 152).
We saw a traditionally dressed tribesman wearing a purple cloak (right, Figure 152). He looked quite regal in the grass along side the road but was by himself and was not herding.
Figure 152. Regally dressed tribesman (left), another carrot & tomato sandwich for lunch (right)
Just outside of Dar es Salaam we passed another business offering pool table rental (left, Figure 153). Outdoor pool tables are a regular sight in East Africa.
Figure 153. Pool table for rent (left), heavy traffic in Dar es Salaam @ 1445 hours (right)
Arriving in Dar es Salaam we stopped at the Mlimani City shopping center. This modern shopping center that opened in 2008 would fit into any North American city which made for a very uninteresting shopping experience. After an hour’s stop we then proceeded on to catch the local ferry across the harbour to Kigamboni also known as "South Beach". However, the traffic was heavy even though it was only 1445 hours (right, Figure 153).
We had to dismount from our truck and in a big crowd (1620 hours), we surged onto the ferry (left, Figure 154) which costs 100Tsh for the 5 minute crossing. At the terminus, people and vehicles exited together in controlled chaos (right, Figure 154).
Figure 154. People surge onto "South Beach" ferry (left), people & vehicles surge off ferry (right)
At Kipepeo Beach Campsite (1730 hours), for the last time we set up our tent on the sandy beach of the Indian Ocean (left, Figure 155). After a nice shower in air temperature water, we dipped our feet in the Indian Ocean with a couple of dhows just off shore (right, Figure 155). After this ritual dip, we went for a group supper at the campsite’s restaurant and then had to repack since it was our last day with the truck.
Figure 155. Pitching tent beside Indian Ocean (left), testing out the Indian Ocean (right)
That night we all ate together at the restaurant since we’d be saying goodbye in the morning to our cook, Emmanuel, and our driver. The tour leader decided to pay for our food from the kitty which subsequently contributed to the deficit in the kitty. At least for this group meal, we ordered à la carte and did not have another poor buffet like we had at Eldoret at the end of our 1st trip.
Day 26 (10) Zanzibar (5 Aug, Wed)
· Day 10: AM Ferry to Zanzibar. PM Free. Overnight guesthouse in Stone Town
We got up a 0500 hours in the morning of 5 August to ensure that we could catch the 0600 hour ferry at Kigamboni to return to the Dar es Salaam side of the harbour and catch the 0715 hours passenger ferry to Zanzibar. On the harbour ferry, Donna bid goodbye to Emmanuel (left, Figure 156), the cook, who became a friend during our 3½ weeks on the truck with him. Emmanuel and the driver dropped us off at the Zanzibar ferry terminal and then proceeded on their two day return drive to Nairobi.
At the Zanzibar ferry terminal, we stood in the long line to get on the smallish ferry (right, Figure 156). Since we had three large bags and two backpacks, we used the services of a porter to have our bags loaded onto the front of the ferry where the luggage is stowed. I was nervous having the porter handling our bags out of our sight but we had no choice and in the end all was OK.
Figure 156. Bidding goodbye to Emmanuel (left), smallish Zanzibar ferry on right (right)
The ferry was very crowded with probably more passengers than life preserving equipment aboard. I went upstairs and sat on a box while Donna sat in a seat downstairs. While waiting for departure, I watched the men carrying refrigerators on their backs along the quay (left, Figure 157). At 0720 hours, we shoved off and slipped out of the Dar es Salaam harbour (right, Figure 157).
Figure 157. Men carrying refrigerators on back (left), leaving ferry terminus (right)
On our way to Zanzibar, we passed by a number of dhows (left, Figure 158) and freighters including a big new 345 vehicle carrier carried named “Osaka Car” that was just launched in 2009 at the Xiamen Shipbuilding Industry yard in China (right, Figure 158).
Figure 158. Passing by a dhow (left), vehicle carrier carried named “Osaka Car” (right)
The passengers were a mix of tourists and locals. Many of the locals were dressed in a manner the showed their Arabic and Muslim heritage, in fact about 98% of the population of Zanzibar is Muslim. There were men dressed in robes and wearing Islamic skull caps (left, Figure 159) while there were women with henna designs tattooed on hands and feet, including one using a cell phone (right, Figure 159). The tattooing even extended into their nail beds.
Figure 159. Islamic skull caps in front of Chumbe Island (left), henna designs tattooed on hands (right)
The ferry crossing to Zanzibar was calm and relatively smooth. It was in stark contrast to the rough, seasick inducing return crossing.
After about 1½ hours, the islands in the Zanzibar archipelago hove into view (left, Figure 159). Zanzibar itself is a large island in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of Tanganyika (Figure 160). In April 1964, the Republic of Zanzibar united with the Republic of Tanganyika to form the United Republic of Tanzania. The island had been under the nominal control of the Sultans of Oman since 1698 when they expelled the Portuguese settlers who had claimed it in 1499. Sultan Majid bin Said declared the island independent of Oman in 1858, which was recognised by Great Britain. The subsequent Sultans established their capital and seat of government at Stone Town (Zanzibar Town) where a palace complex was built on the sea front. By 1896, this consisted of the palace itself (the Beit al-Hukm), an attached harem and the "House of Wonders", the Beit al-Hajaib (right, Figure 161) which was a ceremonial palace said to be the first building in East Africa to be provided with electricity.
Figure 160. Map of Zanzibar
Over time, control of Zanzibar came into the British Empire partly due to the 19th century movement for the abolition of the slave trade. The islands gained independence from Britain in December 1963 as a constitutional monarchy. A month later, the bloody Zanzibar Revolution, in which thousands of Arabs and Indians were killed and thousands more expelled, led to the establishment of the Republic of Zanzibar and Pemba. In April 1964, the republic was subsumed by the mainland former colony of Tanganyika. This United Republic of Tanganyika and Zanzibar was soon renamed the United Republic of Tanzania. Zanzibar remains a semi-autonomous region and so one must present a passport on entry and fill out a visa form.
Zanzibar is a conservative, Sunni Muslim society. Its history was influenced by the Arabs, Persians, Indians, Portuguese, British and the African mainland.
Figure 161. Ladened dhow off Stone Town (left), Zanzibar National Museum/"House of Wonders” (right)
Coming into Stone Town, a.k.a. Zanzibar Town, we passed by working dhows (left, Figure 161) and the interesting Zanzibar National Museum, the "House of Wonders" (right, Figure 161). At about 0930 hours we docked and then it was time to retrieve our luggage from the growing pile of baggage being off loaded and drag our bags over to the immigration control office to fill out an immigration form and show our passports. While waiting for a tour leader to guide us to the Safari Lodge hotel, we saw a woman wearing a black burka don a matching black helmet and sit down side-saddle on a motorbike (left, Figure 162). We then set off pulling our luggage through the narrow winding alleys of Stone Town (right, Figure 162) to our hotel, the Safari Lodge.
Figure 162. Wearing burka with matching motorbike helmet (left), narrow alleys of Stone Town (right)
Since we could not check into our rooms at 1030 hours, we went on a short tour of the old section of Stone Town. The harbour always had dhows moving about (left, Figure 163) while on the beach, there were some sailors recaulking their dhows on the beach (right, Figure 163). Later on our spice tour, our guide showed us the tree from which plant fibre is obtained that is put between the plank edges as caulking.
Figure 163. Dhow moving about (left), recaulking dhow on the beach (right)
After our tour, we walked around and stopped into the luxury Zanzibar Serena Inn (US $360 - $850 for a double) on the shoreline (left, Figure 164) for a look around (right, Figure 164) and to use their bathroom.
Figure 164. View of shore thru lattice work (left), impressive pool (right)
As in Kampala, this Serena hotel did not disappoint and we sat on a bench swing and watched the dhows (left, Figure 165) and punters (right, Figure 165) pass by the hotel.
Figure 165. Two dhows apparently stacked up (left), punting along beach (right)
Near sunset we returned to the hotel and found that they had set up hookah pipes for their clients (left, Figure 166). While we were there, a dhow passed by as the sun was setting (right, Figure 166).
Figure 166. Hookah pipes at Hotel Serena (left), dhow at sunset (right)
Stone Town is known for its elaborately carved doors and we saw some of these (Figure 167). These were fashionable throughout eastern Africa among the immigrant Indian and Arab merchant class. By their size and the intricacy of their carvings, the doors broadcast to the community such attributes as the owner's profession, level of prosperity, personal interests, and abiding faith in Islam. Despite some overlap in styles, the doors have two origins: Indian doors are rectangular, simple, and more often found on shop fronts and modest homes; while Omani and Persian styles are usually more ornate, with both the door and frame carved in florid detail. Above the door, an arched or semicircular panel carved with rosettes contains a passage from the Koran and often the owner's name.
Unfortunately, the souvenir doors that were on sale bore little resemblance to the real life doors so we did not buy one.
Figure 167. Some elaborately carved doors in Stone Town
While walking around the old part of the town we came across some interesting buildings (left, Figure 168) including ones that could have been in the bombed out sections of Beirut (right, Figure 168).
Figure 168. Interesting building (left), Stone Town’s tribute to Beirut (right)
For supper, Donna made a reservation at the highly rated Archipelago Restaurant for 1830 hours so we could see the sunset from a harbour-side table (left, Figure 169). We had a good meal of chicken pilau and red snapper (right, Figure 169). The service was good and the prices reasonable.
Figure 169. Sunset at the Archipelago Restaurant (left), a good meal (right)
Following supper we returned to our room at 2000 hours and looked out our balcony at the night time scene (left, Figure 170).
Figure 170. Night time scene from hotel balcony (left), covered-up street sweeper & ‘Scottish’ car (right)
Stone Town is where we encounter the most pressure to buy trinkets. Walking down the alley lined with shops we were constantly called upon to enter a store or had a tout trying to take us into a store. As well we encounter children who simply said in English “Give me money!” or “Give me a loan!” To the later, I suggested that the kid go to a bank and get a loan. The constant harassment to buy or give money made Stone Town my least favourite stop during our East African trip.
Day 27 (11) Zanzibar (6 Aug, Thu)
· Day 11: AM spice tour. PM minibus transfer to northern beaches. Overnight small beach bungalows
This day was my birthday! After breakfast, we left the hotel at 0815 hours to drive north for our spice tour and our hotel on the beach at Nungwi. While waiting in the mini-bus, we watched a covered-up street sweeper working beside what looked like a car covered in Scottish plaid (right, Figure 170).
Before leaving Stone Town, we stopped at the site of the former Zanzibar slave market. For many years, Stone Town was a major centre for the slave trade. Slaves would be shipped in from mainland Africa and traded with merchants and porters from the Middle East. Before they were shipped out they were kept there for several days without food or water, chained in a dark cell approximately about the same size as the pit in the sculpture of slaves in cell (left, Figure 171).
Figure 171. Sculpture of slaves in cell (left), Cathedral Church of Christ (right)
The slave trade was in full swing before the arrival of Europeans, driven by the sultanates of the Middle East who were trading in slaves for over one thousand years, transporting African slaves across the Indian Ocean to the Persian Gulf and Asia. The slaves served different purposes including porters in the ivory trade; labourers on clove plantations; and women sold as sex slaves. The early Arab dealers were small scale and sailed on dhows transporting less than 100 slaves at a time. At the height of the trade around 15,000 slaves were exported annually from Zanzibar. It is thought than only 6% of slaves survived from capture to market.
British anti-slavers like Dr. David Livingstone felt it their Christian duty to oppose the trade. He observed the horrific and inhuman treaty of slaves at first hand whilst in Zanzibar. In 1873, under British threat, Zanzibar was forced to end the sea-borne slave trade and the market in Zanzibar was closed, replaced by the Cathedral Church of Christ (right, Figure 171) was built on the site of the slave auction block and fittingly there is a mosque in the background of the slave market (left, Figure 172).
After leaving the site of the slave market, we stopped across the road from Livingstone House (left, Figure 172). This house was built in 1860 for Sultan Majid. It became a base for missionaries and explorers before they headed to the mainland. It is remembered as the place where David Livingstone stayed in 1866 before his last expedition. David Livingstone is the best-known of all the European explorers who traveled in 19th-century Africa with many of his journeys beginning and ending in Zanzibar. Currently it is the home of the Zanzibar Tourist Board.
Figure 172. Wishful thinking (left), Livingstone House (right)
Leaving Stone Town we drove past the locally well known corkscrew palm tree (left, Figure 173) near the town of Bububu and our spice farm tour (Figure 160). We also passed by the Persian Baths (right, Figure 173) built in 1850 by Seyyid Said bin Sultan (first Sultan of Zanzibar) for his wife Princess Shehrzard - granddaughter of Fateh Ali Shah of Persia. The Sultan owned many of the plantations in this area and the baths were constructed so that the royal personages could refresh themselves during visits to the plantations. The bathing and toilet facilities are still standing as is the underground furnace which maintained the supply of hot water.
Figure 173. Corkscrew palm tree (left), the Persian Baths of the first Sultan of Zanzibar (right)
The Zanzibar archipeligo, mainly Pemba Island, was once the world's leading clove producer, but annual clove sales have plummeted since the 1970's by 80%. Explanations given for this are a fast-moving global market, international competition and a hangover from Tanzania's failed experiment with socialism in the 1960s and 1970s, when the government controlled clove prices and exports. Zanzibar now ranks a distant third with Indonesia supplying 75% of the world's cloves compared to Zanzibar's 7%. Hence the spice farm that we visited at Kizimbani (near Bububu), like most of the spice farms tourist visit, is not a working farm rather it is set up for tourists by the government. This is part of the fallout from the socialist experiment of 1964 that resulted in state-owned collective farms displacing private ones. While not a working farm, it was interesting to see the plants where many different spices come from including cardamom, clove, nutmeg, cinnamon, black pepper, turmeric, and lemongrass, cinnamon bark (left, Figure 174), vanilla bean (right, Figure 174) and others.
Figure 174. Cinnamon bark (left), dried and living vanilla beans (right)
We also saw the sources of various tropical fruits (jackfruit, breadfruit, pineapples, bananas, and coconuts) and rare plants such as henna bush, the perfume tree and lipstick tree. We smelled the spices and sampled fruit including the jackfruit that tastes like an apple-pineapple (Figure 175).
Figure 175. Our guide beside Jackfruit tree (left), cutting up jackfruit samples (right)
After three hours of walking around the tourist spice farm, we arrived at the stall where various spices were on sale and Donna bought a bottle of vanilla extract (left, Figure 176). Then it was time to walk to a small village where we sat down for a communal lunch at a local’s house (right, Figure 176). Drinks had to be purchased and at the end of the meal, the local wanted us to buy the textiles that he had on display while the children gathered outside tried to give us flowers while demanding money. This was yet another example of the being pushed to buy trinkets in Zanzibar that we found tiring.
Figure 176. Donna buying spices (left), communal lunch at a local’s house (right)
While our guide told us about the spices and fruits, our guide’s assistant makes us some trinkets out of palm leaves, including eyeglasses (left, Figure 177), a necklace (center, Figure 177) a hat, a tie and a purse (right, Figure 177).
Figure 177. Natural eyeglasses (left), necklace (center) hat, tie and purse (right)
Leaving the spice farm, we headed north for about an hour to the Amaan Bungalow Resort in the Nungwi village on the coast at the northern tip of Zanzibar (Figure 160). Donna was bushed after the spice tour walk, so slept during much of the drive. The matatus in Zanzibar are mini-trucks rather than the mini-vans we saw elsewhere in East Africa (left, Figure 178).
Driving through in the village of Nungwi, there was a sign making it clear that wearing bathing suits village was not welcome (left, Figure 178). It is odd that when we go aboard, we try and respect local culture and traditions but immigrants to Canada expect Canadian culture and traditions to be changed to accommodate them.
Figure 178. Locals loading into matatu (left), no bathing suits in Nungwi village (right)
Our room at the Amaan Bungalow Resort was back from the beach so we were excited to head down to the beach. However we were shocked and disappointed to find that the beach at Amaan Bungalow Resort was under high tide (left, Figure 179). For a while, we thought that there was no beach! However, exploring further along the shoreline, we found the beach near the Z Hotel that remains dry (right, Figure 179). This beach has fine white sand and is lovely. Since it is small, it would be crowded during peak season.
Figure 179. Submerged beach at Amaan Bungalow Resort (left), beach at Z Hotel (right)
When we walked down the beach, we were surprised to see the hotel security guards dressed as Masai warriors in traditional dress (left, Figure 180). We watched the dhows at sunset before going to supper (right, Figure 180).
Figure 180. Masai security guard at hotel (left), dhow at sunset @ 1812 hours (right)
We dined that evening at the ocean side restaurant of the Amaan Bungalow Resort (left, Figure 181). The food was good but the service slow. After supper we descended from the boardwalk down to the beach which was now exposed at low tide. The restaurant and cocktail bar at the Z Hotel were nicely lit up at night (right, Figure 181).
Figure 181. Dining at the Amaan Bungalow restaurant (left), Z Hotel restaurant & bar at night (right)
Day 28 (12) Zanzibar (7 Aug, Fri)
· Day 12: Free day and beaches. Overnight in same beach bungalows
This was a free day and our last full day on the 2nd tour. So although our trip was not over, I was thinking of our upcoming time in Switzerland since our first day in Switzerland involved a lot of transportation changes to get us from the Zurichflughaven to Lugano over the Luzernsee.
In the morning, I went on a three hour local snorkelling trip from 1000 to 1300 hours while Donna paid for a reserved lounger on the beach at the Z Hotel (US $8/day). Donna enjoyed her day on the lounger despite a brief period of rain – the same rain that we experienced while on the boat during the snorkelling trip.
Figure 182. Photographs from snorkelling off of Nungwi resorts
For snorkelling we took a small boat (left center, Figure 182) from in front of the Amaan Bungalows to the area off of the Royal Zanzibar Resort. It rained on us while we were on the boat and also rained on Donna back on the beach.
We stopped at three different sites for snorkelling and saw some interesting sights including colourful orange growths on the coral (right center, Figure 182); blue coloured tube growth that felt like it was made of rubber (bottom left, Figure 182); and divers (bottom right, Figure 182). At one of the sites, I was stung by a couple of small transparent jelly fish that were hard to see. Overall the snorkelling was a marginal rating 4 on a scale of 1 to 10.
After the returning from the snorkelling, I rejoined Donna on her lounger at the Z Hotel (left, Figure 183). I thought I’d walk down the beach to see the beach market that I’d seen while snorkelling off the Royal Zanzibar Resort. Unfortunately one cannot walk along the beach due to the tides and rocky shoreline (right, Figure 183).
Figure 183. Rented lounger at Z Hotel (left), interesting shoreline (right)
There is a continuous series of resorts to walk through until I finally arrived at the 5-star Royal Zanzibar Resort (left, Figure 184) where a fence prevented further progress towards the beach market. On the walk back, there were fishermen tending to their nets (right, Figure 184).
Figure 184. Loungers at Royal Zanzibar Resort (left), fishermen with nets on shoreline (right)
It was Swahili Night with dancers at the ‘Saruche’ restaurant of the Z Hotel located on the seaside. Since the Cinnamon Cocktail Bar overlooked the dance floor of the ‘Saruche’ restaurant, we reserved a table for 1900 hours at the bar. At our wrap-up meeting before supper that night, our tour leader announced that we all owed US $25 to the kitty. This came as a surprise since the leader did not adequately track the kitty expenditures and warn people that the budget for the kitty would likely be exceeded before it happened.
After the wrap-up meeting, we went to the Cinnamon Cocktail Bar to take advantage of the US $4 cocktails served between 1800 and 2000 hours (right, Figure 185). We had a few (left, Figure 185) and then ordered spring rolls as a starter. Once the dancers started performing in the restaurant below, we could watch their performance (right, Figure 186). The performance was not what we were expecting perhaps because we were erroneously expecting Masai dancers.
Figure 185. Cocktails at the Cinnamon Cocktail Bar (left), good cocktail menu (right)
For the main course, Donna had large prawns while I had catch of the day (white snapper). Amazingly, half of my fish was missing (left, Figure 186) and after complaining, they brought a fillet. Donna was missing the fresh peas from her dish but mentioning this to the food manager when he stopped by to check our opinion of the food produced nothing. Hence when the US $45 bill arrived, I asked for US $2 off because of the missing food and they agreed. However when I paid with a US $50 bill they only returned US $5 in change. This perturbed me so I asked for the correct change and after a time they returned with US $2.
Figure 186. Missing half of white snapper (left), Swahili Night with dancers (right)
Following our meal at the Cinnamon Cocktail Bar, both of us came down with diarrhea - mine passed but Donna had to use Ciprofloxacin to put an end to it. I have no doubt that our meal was the cause of our sickness since this was the only time that we had diarrhea on our trip.
This was the last day of our stay on the beach in Zanzibar. Although the beach stay was fine, it was not much different than staying on the beaches in the Caribbean, e.g. Cuba and the Dominican Republic.
Day 29 (13) Dar es Salaam (8 Aug, Sat)
· Day 13 (Final day): Ferry to Dar es Salaam. Trip Ends at about at about 1700 hrs
This was our final day with the Intrepid Tours group. Five of the group were staying on at the Amaan Bungalows for several more days while two were flying out home from Zanzibar.
We left the Amaan Bungalows in a mini-bus at 0900 hours for the one hour trip back to Stone Town and the scheduled 1315 hours departure of the ferry back to Dar es Salaam.
While driving from the beaches in the north back to Stone Town, we passed by a number of scenes (Figure 187): cattle-drawn carts; a stick yard; numerous matatus (mini-bus) with people packed in like sardines; a traffic jam caused by a VIP visit to a local factory; the dhow shipyard in Stone Town; and finally a wardrobe maker.
Figure 187. Scenes in Zanzibar while driving from the beaches in the north to Stone Town
At Stone Town, while the rest of the group dropped off their bags at the Safari Lodge Hotel and spent a couple of hours in Stone Town, we went straight to the ferry terminal and passed through immigration since we had too much luggage to move about comfortably (left, Figure 188).
Figure 188. Waiting with luggage for ferry to Dar es Salaam (left), mysterious Zanzibar (right)
After about a two hour wait the line up formed with lots of exotically dressed locals (left, Figure 188). Since there was no barrier separating the arriving passengers from the departing ones, it was very congested (left, Figure 189). We used the services of a porter who broke trail for us though the cattle herd-like crowd of people. He found a place for us to deposit our bags on the ferry and we tipped him US $2.
Figure 189. Crowds jostling off of & on to ferry (left), stevedores carrying 100 lb sacks (right)
Again I went upstairs on the covered deck for the voyage while Donna got a seat below in the cabin. I got a seat near the starboard side and was quite pleased however once underway I had to abandon this seat along with others as the ocean spray kept ripping across this area. Fortunately I found a plastic lawn chair and was able to put it in an area of shelter for the rest of the crossing (right, Figure 191).
Before the ferry set sail, I watched stevedores carrying 100 lb sacks onto a freighter (right, Figure 189). At 1320 hours we pulled out of Stone Town and bid adieu to Zanzibar (left, Figure 190). Shortly we passed by the lighthouse and the visitor’s centre on Chumbe Island (right, Figure 190). The Chumbe Island Coral Park Resort has seven bungalows and allows only 14 guests at a time. It costs US $500 for a bungalow.
Figure 190. Goodbye to Stone Town (left), Chumbe Island Coral Park Resort (right)
The ferry crew went around passing out seasickness bags so we concluded that the return crossing would not be as smooth as the crossing to Zanzibar. This was soon borne out as the ferry battered into the ocean swells and some of the passengers succumbed to seasickness. It was not long before the most affected passengers were sprawled out on the deck in the aisles (left, Figure 191). After a long 2¼ hour crossing we arrived in Dar es Salaam.
Figure 191. Seasick passenger on floor (left), sit wherever you can (right)
While the others in our group had booked return flights on the 9th or 10th, I had booked a return flight on the 8th so that we would have another day in Switzerland. Hence we needed to get to the airport and not stay with the rest of the group who were returning to the Kipepeo Beach Camp in the South Beach area of Dar es Salaam where the trip officially ended and they had booked an additional night of accommodation. Fortunately a taxi driver arrived on the scene while we were still inside the ferry asking if anyone wanted a taxi. One couple talked to him but decided that they would not use his services, so we asked if he would take us to the airport for US $15. He agreed and picked up one of our bags over his head and headed out through the crowd like an icebreaker with us in tow. He had an old mini-van so we had lots of space for our bags (left, Figure 192). During the 20 minute drive to the airport we passed by a bus that was decorated with swastikas (right, Figure 192). It was unclear whether these were the Hindu symbol for good luck or a political statement.
Figure 192. Our prized taxi driver (left), bus with swastikas (right)
At about 1600 hours, we were at the airport and looking to enter the departure terminal for our Swiss Airline flight (LX0293) that departed at 2120 hours. The official at the entrance told us that we were too early but that he would send us to an area where we could pay to have our bags stored – we declined. After a wait of some 20 minutes, we noticed that he was gone so we tried again and this time we passed through the screening and into the departure area. Since the counter for our flight would not open until 1830 hours we had a long wait in a small area with very limited seating.
After finally checking in, we went upstairs to the departure lounge and looked in the stores which were somewhat expensive. However in one store, I found a hand carved ebony cross that Donna had been looking for since she decided not to buy one for US $15 from the nice craver at the Mto Wa Mbu campground. Since a vendor at Nungwi, Zanzibar was trying to sell a broken one of these for US $70, I expected to see a US $50 price tag when I turned it over. However to my great surprise, it was only US $10 and we immediately purchased it (left, Figure 193). Donna saw this incident as positive karma.
Figure 193. An ebony cross at last (left), breakfast of champions (right)
Although the final security screening check was not opened until the last minute, the flight left close to its scheduled departure and after a stop in Nairobi to pick up a complete plane load of passengers, we were off on our 7½ hour flight to Zurich. Swiss Airlines provides excellent service with good meals and an open bar. I took the opportunity to have the breakfast of champions – Bailey’s Irish Cream, tomato juice, yogurt and apple juice (right, Figure 193).
… and so ended our 30 day visit to East Africa.
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