Category Archives: Tanzania

The Serengeti

Ah the Serengeti (Maasai – meaning endless plain).  12,000 square miles – flat and sprinkled with stunning acacia trees.  It’s everything I dreamed it would be.

As we entered the park they were doing a controlled burn to get rid of overgrowth to keep the floor of the plains healthy.  Burns are done sections at a time and the results are clearly visible. Lush green grass was growing in the areas previously burned.

It’s remarkable how different the flora, terrain and wildlife are in Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro Crater and in the Serengeti. Even Tsavo for that matter.  It is LUSH!!  Tanzania is the place to live if you’re a hungry animal.  Poor creatures in Tsavo, Kenya are starving.

We had hoped to see hyenas and cheetahs in Tsavo so it was a real treat to see them here.  The gazelles were the bunny rabbits – prolific and everywhere.

Day one we saw:
Hyaena
Ostriches
Thompson’s gazelles
Grants gazelles
Secretary birds – they peck with their feet like typing
Topi antelope
Serval cat like a cheetah
Cokes hartebeest
Cheetahs
Hippos
Blue Herons
Lots of different birds
Impalas
Elephants
Zebras

Click to enlarge photos…

We went with the beer budget safari and it was perfect.  However, I was thrilled to see a Micato Land Cruiser pull up next to us.  It was the same vehicle that we had and it had six people in it!  Same car and ours was just the two of us. Score one for us.  I did notice a tiny difference at lunch time.  The park had designated eating areas with bathrooms.  We had boxed lunches packed by the hotel and French press coffee made by Amon.  The chichi tours had a wicker basket with food, drinks and wine served on plates.  They sat at the same tables as we and peed in the same toilets. I’ll give that one to them.  I can’t speak about the accommodations.  Ours tent camp felt like we were one with nature.  Tents surrounded by zebras. Rustic but with everything one could need (I didn’t say want).  We left with money to live on for the next six months so I’d say we won.  Here’ our rustic…

Our tent was approximately 50 yards from the mess tent (reception, lounging and dining area).  We were given walkie talkies and were told not to venture from our tent in the dark.  “Call for an escort.”  We made it to dinner in the daylight but it was dark when it was time to go back to the tent.  One of the workers grabbed a flashlight and started leading the way.  “Where’s your gun?”, I asked.  “Oh we don’t need one.  We’ve been doing this for a long time and know what to look for.”  Say what??? Hello, we know from the Great Walk of Africa that guns are essential.  There were many times that the workers were armed and protecting us.  It reminded me of un-armed security guards back home.

Breakfast and dinner were served buffet style.  No Covid here.

New animals on the second day:
Cheetah and 2 Cubs eating an impala
Water buck
Lion laying on top of a huge rock
Leopard in the mouth of a big rock formation
Mongoose
Superb starling (blue and Orange bird)
Monitor lizard
Guinea Fowl
Parrots – One tree full of beautiful yellow birds
Ground hornby (big bird)
Dik Dik
Lion with a big mane
Leopard walking in the middle of the road!  Again, so lucky.  They are nocturnal.

Leopard gets its own gallery:

On our second night at camp – out cold and sleeping.  A zebra bumped up against the tent right by our heads and woke me up.  For the next 20 minutes it grazed.  I could hear it pulling the grass out with its teeth and chewing!  It was very cool.

Day 3 on the way out the most majestic and beautiful male lion walking in the field near our camp.

Impalas have one male that rules the herd. They fight for this position – retain it until they are challenged.  We watched younger males being trained to fight with their horns by the ruling male. We also watched the ram gather the females to cross a road.  He was quite impatient with the flaky females who lingered.  He actually wrangled each one individually until they were all in a group again.

The whole safari experience was tremendous.  We thoroughly enjoyed it.  At the pace we went we were glad it was only 4 days.  It was exhausting!

 

 

 

Safari Time Again….

We had a flight from Dar es Salaam to the Island of Comoros (north of Madagascar).  Comoros closed to tourism and our flight was not cancelled!  I tried to change our ticket online and their site was down.  I tried calling using the English option to only have them hang up on me (I was told that was because I did’t speak Swahili).  So our super Dar es Salaam hotel driver/business center manager went to the airport on one of his pick-ups to change our flight (change fees included).  

We had to come up with a plan since Covid and civil fighting were closing off previously planned options.  I said, very much to Bill’s dismay.  “Let’s go on another Safari!  We’re here in Safari Land let’s not go home and wish we had done it.”

Bill’s thought, “We walked the ultimate safari and saw animals in their natural environment why do another???”  

Because the princess wants to……

Tanzanian safaris start in Arusha. So I, in my delirium, asked the driver to change our flight – Dar es Salaam to Arusha.  He was able to do that for us.  Great! We had a plan.

Onward to Zanzibar and now you are caught up.

Zanzibar was just what the doctor ordered.

We hired our same taxi driver to drive us back to Stone Town so we could to take the ferry back to Dar es Salaam, spend the night and fly to Arusha the next day.

The departures screen told us the Arusha flight gate number. However, the gate said Zanzibar.  I inquired and learned the flight went from Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar on to Arusha.  Yes, Zanzibar.  We paid for a ferry ride, hotel stay and one extra leg of a flight to only to go back to where we started.  

I did that! I was so proud that hours before we were to take off to a place we couldn’t go I saved the day by changing our non-refundable flight only to find out we wasted all the money we saved changing the flight by picking the wrong departure town.

Check out the casual airport in Arusha.  How about that baggage claim?  Now that’s efficient!

Click photos to enlarge….

I searched the web for private safaris. A gal from Australia blogged about a company called Wild and Me, the company that she used to do a solo safari. She said she spent hours researching to find the one that fit her needs. Luckily, our needs aligned with hers.

For years I wanted to go on a Micato safari. The magazine quality multi page pamphlet they send out had me drooling every time one showed up in the mailbox. The price told me I could buy a car with the money.  This girl has champagne taste and a cheap gene!

I messaged Wild and Me and started a dialog. The owner said all the rights things. I told her we’d let her know but it might be last minute.

Since we were unable to personally verify the safari company we figured the tourist office in Arusha could give us a recommendation and an opinion about Wild and Me.

The tour “rating” booklet listed thousands of licensed safari companies. The good news was Wild and Me got an A.  The worker said they were not allowed to recommend a company but if I reached out to him personally he would connect us with a quality tour.  They ended up being more expensive so Wild and Me it was.

Then you have to choose a budget, mid-range or luxury safari. Our wallet wanted budget. I wanted luxury but not willing to pay for it. So we settled on mid-range.

Many tour companies have their own vehicles as well as lodges and/or campgrounds. Wild and Me has their own guides and modified 4×4 Land Cruisers and then they book hotels, lodges or camps depending on their client’s needs and price range.

We decided on four days and three nights. We go from morning to night. No lounging around like you do at those luxury lodges.

This gave us a couple days to hang in Arusha.

Our driver, Amon, picked us up from the hotel at 8 am. and we drove 3 hours to Another UNESCO site – Lake Manyara.  A shallow, alkaline lake. Known for having masses of flamingos – a photographer’s dream.  

It is so stimulating driving out of the city. The burbs had many rundown moldy concrete “Russian type” housing projects.  Many hosting government workers and teachers who are provided free housing, water and electricity.

The countryside is riddled with Maasai men and boys herding cattle and goats.  More about that later…

It was a hazy day at Lake Manyara.  The lake was overflowing its banks.  Wildlife were plentiful if you’ve never been on a safari before (tee hee).  The flamingos were non-existent.  Waaaa.  It was a lot easier to keep track of what we saw:

Springer antelopes
Baboons
Silver bill Horn bills (big beak)
Elephants are called Tembo
Impalas
Zebras
Ververt monkeys
Egyptian geese
Worthogs
Bush Buck – Antelope
Giraffe
Water Buck

So just a heads up.  I’m sure you don’t need me to explain but my pride makes me.  My camera lens is only 20-70mm.  That means unless the animals are real close they will look like dots on the horizon.  I believe that wildlife photographers (which I am not) use something close a 200-600mm lens.  

Super thankful to be out in the fresh air seeing animals in their natural habitat but it had us wondering…  Was Bill right? Was the walking safari the best? Should have left it at that?

We stayed in one night Karatu. Our hotel was fabulous.  The room was huge.  The grounds were well thought out.  A pool, fireplace area and veggi gardens. The lounge area and dining room were open air, rustic and comfy.  We could have stayed an extra day.

 

 

 

Zanzibar – Nungwi

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe – Bill judiciously picked a cab driver to drive us one hour north to a village called Nungwi. Nungwi is known for its lack of wind, white sand beaches and turquoise water. 

It’s hit and miss taking photos out of a car but here’s a look at the countryside.  The island is mostly Muslim, homes are mostly made of mud and transportation is mostly by motorcycle or on foot.

Click to enlarge photos…

We continued walking five miles a day hoping I would sweat out my sickness. Here we were in paradise and it was hard to put one foot in front of another.  It was suggested the I try antibiotics. We always have Cipro in our arsenal.  That was plan A .  Plan B was to go to a hospital (scary) or fly home (not any easy task with Covid and PCR testing – it would have taken days).   48 hours of later I finally turned the corner.  

Life on the beach was interesting. Right outside our hotel several Maasai warriors interacted with tourists all day long. Maasai are a Nilotic ethnic group inhabiting Kenya and northern Tanzania. Known by their distinct dress. They wear checkered patterned fabric much like a sarong to cover their bodies and carry a long stick. Customarily they live in the country where men and boys herd cattle and goats. It seemed strange to see them on the beach. More about them later…

The coast is riddled with wooden boats and fishermen.

Everyone including children forage in the sand for worms and for fish in the tide pools.

Large groups of colorfully dressed women sorted through silver fish much like oversized anchovies.

They must eat puffer fish. I thought they were poisonous.

Starfish (some look like Covid) and especially sea urchins were plentiful.

A swing had me captivated.

Our beach came alive as the sun lowered.

 

A dress code wasn’t enforced at the hotel but we read that in town women with uncovered shoulders and/or knees and shirtless men were subject to a $1,000. fine.

We vegged the last two days so I could gain some strength back. Walking was probably better than laying in bed but laying by the pool worked better. I lost six pounds in only a few days.

Zanzibar – Stone Town

Doesn’t that sound so sexy and exciting? Zanzibar.

After a two hour ferry ride across the Indian Ocean heading due East we docked in another UNESCO World Heritage site called Stone Town.

From the UNESCO website: The buildings of the Stone Town, executed principally in coralline ragstone and mangrove timber, set in a thick lime mortar and then plastered and lime-washed, reflect a complex fusion of Swahili, Indian, Arab and European influences in building traditions and town planning. The two storey houses with long narrow rooms disposed round an open courtyard, reached through a narrow corridor, are distinguished externally by elaborately carved double ‘Zanzibar’ doors, and some by wide vernadahs, and by richly decorated interiors. Together with, the simple ground floor Swahili houses and the narrow façade Indian shops along “bazaar” streets constructed around a commercial space “duka”.

The old carved doors in Lamu and Shella originated in Zanzibar. They are truly a work of art and the focal point of most facades.

Click to enlarge photos…

We stayed in an old converted mansion. Much like a Mexican hacienda but probably Portuguese. The decor is old, stylish and ornate. It felt like we had stepped back in time.

Still sick and dragging. We managed to explore everything Old Town had to offer. We’d walk and walk and then I’d collapse in bed.

The streets in the old portion of town were narrow and filled with cars and motorcycles making passage on foot quite dangerous.

Every 15 seconds we were asked if we wanted a taxi ride or to visit a shop. Zanzibar is still reeling from the shutdown – there are 30 parked taxis for every person visiting. 

Once off the beaten path we were able to avoid being on alert and were able to experience the quiet more “normal” non-tourist life.

Strolling through markets can be enlightening. The colors and activity are invigorating. It’s mind-blogging to see how meat and fish sit out unrefrigerated. It’s always an opportunity for me to explain (haha – often with hand signals) that our son does the same job in America (albeit wayyy different). This precipitates smiles and invitations for me to take photos.

A dark side to Zanzibar was the slave trade market that started in 1811. The world’s last open slave market. Over the course of 60 years one million enslaved were traded here. Taken from Central and East Africa and brought across the Indian Ocean to Stone Town.  Some slaves remained in Zanzibar to work in the plantations and the remaining were sent overseas to the Persian Gulf and Asia.  David Livingston in 1857 made an appeal to Cambridge and Oxford Universities to end the slave trade in Africa. By decree of the Sultan of Zanzibar slave trade ended in 1873.  In 1874 the Cathedral Church of Christ was built in its place. The haunting Slave Market Memorial was created in 1998 by Clara Sornas of Scandinavia.  This day a class of high schoolers were learning about this site.

Side note:  Tanzania has two presidents.  One for mainland Tanzania and one for Zanzibar.  When we entered Zanzibar we went through customs even though technically it is Tanzania.  They went from a Covid denying President (on the mainland who died during the pandemic) to new one (five months in office) who is trying to change the perception and response to Covid.  The only people with masks on are hotel workers.  As I am writing this and doing research online the first (not the “first” but that’s his title) VP of Zanzibar died today of Covid.  The USA State Department issued warning for its citizens not travel to Tanzania because they have not reported their Covid cases.  I should also add that no one on the island of Lamu in Kenya wore face masks.  It was strange, a bit unnerving but in the same breath fun to see people being normal.

Off to the beach…

 

 

 

 

Goodbye Kenya – Jambo Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Swahili is spoken in Tanzania as well as Kenya. Asante sana is thank you very much and karibu is welcome – as in welcome to our hotel, shop, etc. or you’re welcome. When someone presents you with something – for example a cup of coffee they say karibu (you’re welcome) before you get a chance to say asante sana (thank you).  It is as if they believe karibu is “here’s your…”.

We’ve all heard hakuna matata (no worries, take it easy) from Disney. Every time I heard that I thought they we’re pulling my leg.  That’s a Disney word!  Of course the first time I heard Washii (the Samburu bush man) say simba to Iian I knew exactly what he was saying.  Again, from Disney!

Bill wanted to go to Dar es Salaam – place of peace. The largest city in Tanzania and the gateway to Zanzibar. Due to all the Covid shutdowns we had to fly back to Nairobi to get to Dar es Salaam which is normally a direct 45 minute flight from Mombasa. This one is just another big city with 7 million people.

We walked and walked. Along side the Indian Ocean and down to the port. First stop the museum where we ran into a bunch of kids on a field trip from another city.  At one point they spotted us.  They wanted to fist bump!  

We decided to check out the Lutheran Church (this was a German colony until lost to Britain at the conclusion of WW1). The church cleaner, a 30 year employee, invited us to climb up the clock tower. Bill passed and I challenged my lungs. The church was built in 1898 by German missionaries and had a zillion steps to the German bells. The view was endless. The 100+ year old clock still worked.

A unique way to sell shoes. On the Lutheran Church’s fence.

Click to enlarge photos….

The Catholic Cathedral was two blocks away. As we approached there were a lot of police and machine gun packing military. They asked our intentions and we said it was to visit the church. They pointed to the side gate where we have our temperatures taken by security. Upon walking up the steps to the church a lady cop ran over to us and demanded to know what we were doing. Visiting the Church, of course. You can’t do that the President is inside – come back later!

Exiting to the street allowed us to remain inside the police barricade where we stopped and watched. It was a wedding. When the festivities were over the President was escorted off the property by 16 security vehicles. To think we got that close.

While waiting for our take out dinner I suddenly felt like I’d been hit by a freight train. I was sick. Lunch from the museum? We grabbed a tuk tuk ride back to the hotel where the bed became my sanctuary.

Day three and still super sick.  We walked five miles to the ferry building and back with tickets to Zanzibar in hand. I thought I could force myself to get better if I walked it off.

Dragging, the next day we headed to the ferry for our next stop.