A Travellerspoint blog

April 2013

The Parks of the North – Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Lake Manyara

March 1 - March 6, 2013

sunny 26 °C

Once in Arusha our luggage was quickly unloaded and we carried it straight from the plane to the exit where a couple of guys with our name sign and a Toyota Landcruiser awaited us to take us to our hotel, which was a good 4-star place at the outskirts of town. DSC05361.jpg (Our ride for the next 5 days)

Included in our package was dinner and we could choose whatever we wanted from the menu, including appetizer, main and desert until we were so full we could hardly walk. We slept very well and went down to the reception area at 7AM the next morning, where our guides, Saloum and Kappande, were already waiting for us. Saloum was actually our guide, a reserved, good looking young guy and Kappande was like a “guide in training” since he didn’t know the parks of the Northern Circuit in Tanzania. So he was mainly tagging along and learning the routes and specific animals in this region from Saloum.
We finally started our safari experience and were heading towards Serengeti, which was a good 6-7 hours away. Below you find our itinerary, which was prepared by Samwel from Daigle Tours.

5 DAYS / 4 NIGHTS SERENGETI / NGORONGORO & LAKE MANYARA.

Day 1: ARRIVAL
Arrival at Arusha airport pick up and transfer to Snow crest hotel in Arusha for dinner and overnight. http://www.snowcresthotel.com

Day 2: ARUSHA - SERENGETI NATIONAL PARK
Morning after breakfast in your hotel depart to Serengeti National Park for game viewing. Oldest and most popular national park for its annual migration for wildebeest, Zebra and Thomson gazelle join the trek for fresh grazing. Box lunch Half day game viewing in Serengeti (buffalo, giraffe, eland, topi, kongoni, impala, grant gazelle, lion, cheetah, leopard, African Jackal) Game enroute via Ngorongoro. Dinner and Bonfire at Ikoma safari camp. http://www.ikomasafaricamp.com/contactus.html

Day 3: SERENGETI NATIONAL PARK
Morning after breakfast drive for full day game viewing in Serengeti National Park on Southern area. You will view the great migration of wildebeest, Zebra and Thomson gazelle join the trek for fresh grazing. Afternoon Box lunch and proceed with game viewing in Serengeti. Dinner and Bonfire at Ikoma safari camp. http://www.ikomasafaricamp.com/contactus.html

Day 4: SERENGETI - NGORONGORO CRATER & MAASAI BOMA
Early morning after breakfast depart to Ngorongoro passing to Maasai Boma where you will learn fascinating history of culture and Traditional way of life of Maasai and descent into the crater discovering the beauty and abundance of wildlife permanently resident on the crater floor and explore unbroken caldera. Box Lunch, Evening Dinner and overnight at Rhino lodge or Simba Campsite. http://www.ngorongoro.cc

Day 5: NGORONGORO - LAKE MANYARA NATIONAL PARK
After breakfast depart to Manyara for Full day game viewing (Buffalo, baboons, bushbuck, wildebeest, zebra, giraffe, lion and birds) with packed lunch. Evening drive to Arusha

The following 4 days on our safari were very exhilarating, especially since this was our first ‘real’ safari in some of the best National Parks in Africa. Although Anna had done a ‘day-tour safari’ close to Johannesburg a couple of years ago, this was very different and the ‘real thing’. We were not bused to a close by park in the morning and taken back in the evening to a 5-star hotel in the city, we actually spent 4 days in the middle of 3 great parks, which included the sight and sounds of wildlife day and night, like lions or hyenas hunting prey close to our camp.
The ride from Arusha to our first camp in the northern part of Serengeti on day two was already one of the most memorable experiences of our lives. Even before we entered the official entrance to the park where we had to stop, pay the relatively steep entrance fees and do the paperwork, we saw an abundance of wildlife in their natural habitat. In the last 3 hours of our drive before we reached our camp “Ikoma Lodge” we saw the following animals: herds of Thompson gazelles, impalas and topis, hundreds of zebras, spotted hyenas, families of giraffes crossing the road in front of us, hippos, elephants, wildebeests and hartebeests, cape buffalos, different types of monkeys, different species of interesting birds, ostriches, warthogs, eagles, vultures, mongooses, wild foxes and a crocodile. This should give you a picture as to how dense the wildlife is in this region and we hadn’t even gone on a search of the more elusive animals; it was merely a transfer to our first safari lodge. DSC05016.jpg (Maasai village on the way to Serengeti) DSC05024.jpg (Giraffe crossing the road in front of us)DSC05033.jpg (Young maasai men with the traditional face paintings after being circumcised)

Ikoma Lodge is not in Serengeti directly but bordering on it and we had to cross the check point to the Ikoma area by sunset (nobody without s epical permission is allowed inside the park and outside the lodges after sunset). It is an idyllic place and you feel that you are in the middle of the wilderness, surrounded by trees and bushes. The camp consists of several individual wooden buildings, which are the cabins for the guest, a few small huts spread across the area where you have your breakfast or sit at a fire in the evening and the main building, where there’s a small bar and restaurant. Since we booked a package we had a set dinner, which was decent, together with our two guides. Although very polite and knowledgeable, neither of them were very talkative, so after dinner, a small chat and a beer we said our good byes and retired to our cabin, which was quite comfortable, with a large bead, mosquito net, ensuite bathroom and a small balcony where you could sit and listen to the sounds of the bush and watch the sky, completely undisturbed by city lights. DSC05286.jpgDSC05280.jpgDSC05274.jpgDSC05290.jpg (Ikoma Lodge)

Since it was already dark when we walked back the 300 yards to our cabin after dinner we had to be accompanied by a maasai employed by the lodge who was armed with a bow and arrows. We are still not sure whether this was intended to provide real protection from wild animals or just a gesture to instill a sense of safety since they would have to be pretty accurate with their arrows in the middle of the night were there a need to fend off animals. Anyway, it was good fun to always find one of them on your side whenever you got up to walk to the bathroom or your cabin.

The next two days were equally exciting and we obviously saw many more animals, some of the same as on our first day and some different ones. DSC05127.jpgDSC05144.jpgDSC05150.jpgDSC05198.jpgDSC05218.jpgDSC05248.jpgDSC05462.jpgDSC05416.jpgDSC05393.jpgDSC05562_2.jpgDSC05356.jpgDSC05336.jpgDSC05315.jpgDSC05402_2.jpg (One of my favorite and very elusive animals - the "Günther's Dik Dik")

Particularly interesting was to observe a prey of 12 lions resting in the shade under a tree while two of the female lions were hunting wildebeests just a few meters away in the high grass. After a while they gave up the hunt as they realized that the chances of a kill were pretty slim since by now about half a dozens 4WDs were parked 5 yards from them to shoot photos. Once one car encounters interesting animals it doesn’t take long for others to arrive but it must be even more crowded during high season. DSC05497.jpgDSC05527.jpg

From Serengeti and after two nights at Ikoma Lodge we slowly made our way south to Ngorongoro Crater. On the way there however, we stopped at one of the small Maasai villages, or Bomas as they are called here. Half a dozen other vehicles were already parked in front of the village and a group of men and women performed a traditional maasai dance to welcome us. DSC05585.jpgDSC05581.jpgDSC05593.jpg (In front of a Maasai Boma)

As you can imagine these visits are not free and our maasai guide, who introduced himself as the son of the village chief, asked for roughly US$ 45 ‘donation’ for both of us. We were a bit surprised about the high amount and expected this to be part of the ‘package’ but this was not the case and the money goes straight to the maasai village, which we were happy to support. Although the maasai are known to be ‘wealthy’ in comparison to many other tribes in this part of Africa, they still live a very, very simple life and they try to preserve large parts of their traditional lifestyle. They are respected and even feared by other tribes and are known around the world and naturally a big tourist attraction. The colorful clothes, decorations and 'jump dances' of the men always draw large crowds of visitors who are taking hundreds of photos. DSC05599.jpgDSC05605.jpgDSC05606.jpgDSC05616.jpgDSC05634.jpg (At the Maasai Boma)

We spent only an hour with these people and learned a bit more about their culture and lifestyle but left with more questions that we had before. But that’s probably part of what keeps the mythos of the maasai alive and helps them earn a living and provide for their families. They are aware of the fact that tourists are curious and fascinated by them and are willing to pay for the ‘privilege’ to rub shoulders with them. DSC05638.jpgDSC05640.jpg (School at the Maasai boma)

Only a short ride from the maasai boma we arrived at Ngorongoro Crater. The Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) is, as the name implies, a conservation area and a UNESCO World Heritage site. The crater itself is 8,288 km2 large and approximately 20 km in diameter. Most of the animals live at the bottom of the crater all year round, only some of the buffalos and gazelles leave the crater occasionally at night. There are very different microclimates and landscapes within the crater and we drove through desert like landscapes, along a large lake with thousands of flamingos to a small lake surrounded by palm and fig trees and teaming with hippos in the water. Again, a fascinating experience. DSC05005.jpgDSC05655.jpgDSC05689.jpgDSC05766.jpg (Inside the Ngorongoro Crater)

We stayed the night close to the crater rim at “Rhino Lodge”, overlooking a deep valley covered by rainforest. It is so close to the crater and wildlife that animals come very close – we had a whole family of water bucks grazing right in front of our room with a little balcony and in the evening a cape buffalo, one of the most dangerous animals in Africa, came by to get some of that green and moist grass surrounding the lodge. DSC05785.jpgDSC05795.jpg (Our room at Rhino Lodge)

The restaurant serves decent food in buffet style and you can sit outside on the large veranda if you are warm enough. It actually got pretty cold at night here and every room has a little wooden stove that can be fired up by the maasai staff if need be. We enjoyed our evening here and had a nice conversation with the couple managing the lodge, a French guy and a young Indian woman. Having lived in Tanzania for years, they also told us about some of the more remote parks in the southwest of Tanzania, which supposedly are even nicer and emptier than the parks of the north. Something to consider for next time since this was probably not our last safari. DSC05808.jpg (Stunning views from the terrace at Rhino Lodge)

After a proper breakfast and a last few moments taking in the stunning scenery behind this lodge, we were heading towards Lake Manyara National Park. Lake Manyara is a shallow lake in the Natron-Manyara-Balangida branch of the East African Rift in Manyara Region in Tanzania. Said by Ernest Hemingway to be the "loveliest [lake] ... in Africa," it is also the home of a diverse set of landscapes and wildlife, but it is best known for the many and large troops of baboons which are everywhere. DSC05848.jpg (One of the thousands of baby baboons)

We really enjoyed observing them in their natural habitat, many of the female baboons carrying newborn babies on their backs. But if you are lucky, you can even find all of the “Big Five” in the park, which include elephants, lions, cape buffalos, rhinos and leopards but some of them are more elusive than in Serengeti. We didn’t see lions, leopards or rhinos here but many hippos and a few elephants just a few feet from our car. DSC05873.jpg

Although we had seen plenty of elephants during the last couple of days, we were not getting tired of observing them at close range. Particularly amusing are the Vervet monkeys which sport large and bright blue testicles, hence they are often just called ‘Blue Balls Monkeys’. Evolution is sometimes very creative when it comes to attracting females☺ DSC05921.jpg (A Vervet monkey showing off his blue balls)

But finally it was time to head back to Arusha and our guide Saloum helped us find a very nice and affordable hotel in town and buy bus tickets for our ride back to Dar before he eventually left us. As always with staff who provide a very personalized service, we asked ourselves what an appropriate tip would be and landed at an amount comparable to US$20 per day of service. Saloum, although quiet and relatively reserved, was a very reliable, conscientious driver and guide and he was very knowledgeable about nature and wildlife and we wanted to recognize this. And although some other tourists may tip more, many tip less and US$100 overall is still a decent amount of money for a Tanzanian tour guide. The best advice that we can give other travellers regarding tipping in Africa is to tip according to the service received and the amount you can afford. A good tour guide is very important to make the safari experience memorable and it requires specialized skills and experience, so don’t be too stingy if you can afford it. But don’t be afraid to provide negative feedback to the tour operators as they are in a very competitive environment and well paying customers deserve good service. But as said earlier, in general you get pretty much what you pay for as standards have been established over many years when it comes to safaris in East Africa. DSC05926.jpg (View of Mount Meru from Arusha)

Posted by Elmar123 12:38 Archived in Tanzania Tagged landscapes lakes people animals birds Comments (0)

Jambo, Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar

February 23 - February 27, 2013

sunny 33 °C
View World Tour 2012/13 on Elmar123's travel map.

The trip from India to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania was quite long and tiring. Given the fact that we travelled from Kerala in South India to Delhi first and then to Dar es Salaam via Dubai it took us the better part of 28 hours to finally arrive here. It was already late afternoon on February 23 when we landed in Dar es Salaam and we got to the small immigration section where we had to fill out immigration forms and applications for our visa on arrival. Everything was a bit chaotic as one guy collected the completed forms and handed them to the immigration officers behind a number of windows. But after a relatively short wait of not more than 15 minutes we got our passports back, including fresh visas for Tanzania. Interestingly, the visa can only be paid in US dollars, so we were lucky that we had a small amount with us, just enough to pay for the 150 US$ fee for both of us – typically it’s 100 US$ pax though but for some reason they gave us a break.
After we got our passports back we just had to get through the official immigration counters and we were officially in the country, picked up our luggage and made our way outside to find transportation into the city. There were some taxi touts but we needed some money first and just picked one of the ATMs, fairly convenient if you just need some quick money but no one would change any Amex travelers checks – travelers checks seem to be less common here in Tanzania and no bank or business will accept them. They seem to become a thing of the past anyway, so make sure to stock up on cash and credit cards before travelling around the world. In Tanzania, preferably you pay in hard cash, dollars or Euros/GBP or in the local currency, the Tanzanian Shilling but dollars often give you better value for money. Once we got some money from an ATM we tried to figure out how the taxi scheme works here. Based on our experiences in India we suspected a scam behind every taxi, so we were very careful to not just follow one of the guys who said he’s an official taxi driver. Hence we talked to a couple of ladies from the local Tourist Information and they told us that taxi rates are pretty much fixed and the rates are even published on a board close to the taxi stand. So we just walked over there, saw the board, clarified the price with the guys sitting there and got a taxi driver who was assigned to us. The price for the taxi to our hotel downtown was pretty much what the two ladies told us, approximately 26 US$, which is quite high for the short ride but fuel is surprisingly expensive in a country that owns oil reserves. A liter of fuel is well over I US$, almost 5 US$ per gallon.
We arrived at our hotel downtown Dar es Salaam within 30 minutes, checked in, relaxed a bit after our long journey and reflected on our first impressions of the country.

DSC04691.jpg (View over Dar es Salaam from our hotel 'Sapphire')

First impressions: Dar es Salaam seems to have a fairly good infrastructure, good roads (if not under construction) and, quite surprisingly, the city looks pretty clean as hardly any garbage is lying around. This is in stark contrast to pretty much any Indian city we’ve visited in the last 5 weeks. Also, people seem to be very laid back, traffic can get heavy during rush hour but not as nearly as chaotic, frantic and aggressive as in India. We were a little surprised about the high prices of pretty much everything, from hotels to taxis and even half-decent food, which is very hard to find. Despite being a developing country, Tanzania certainly is not a “cheap” country and if you’d like to get any creature comforts when it comes to hotels etc., you have to shell out amounts that rival the US if not Europe in some cases. So we were a little concerned that it would be hard to manage our budget in this country. Other than that, Tanzanians seem to be polite yet reserved and even some of the touts at bus stands or the ferry pier are much less aggressive and persistent than in India. If you say “No, thanks” once or twice they actually stop pestering you.

DSC04676.jpg (One of the many Christian churches in Dar) DSC04684.jpg (Enjoying the breeze on the beach road in Dar)

Over the course of the next few weeks we obviously formed a slightly broader perspective and while we continued to enjoy the laid back and ‘non-aggressive’ attitude in Tanzania, being too laid back can get annoying as well, for example in hotels, restaurants or any business that delivers a service. Finding good service, at least what you would describe as good service in the West, is literally like finding the needle in the haystack. You could sit in an empty restaurant for hours and nobody would take your order until you start frantically waiving your hands and desperately trying to establish eye contact. Getting your order right is almost impossible and it often takes several attempts to get all the items that you ordered correctly. And for some reason, Tanzanian service personnel seems to be obsessed with cleaning your table rather than taking an order for additional food or drinks. In many restaurants it also seems to be uncommon to have a menu, which can create interesting scenarios, especially if the waiting staff are not very capable of speaking English. One time in Arusha in an outside pub/restaurant we just wanted to order a small serving of chips (French fries) as a snack and 15 minutes later the waiter came back with two large portions of fries and a whole grilled chicken – naturally accompanied with the relatively expensive bill of 20 US$. Lesson learned: if you can’t see (and touch) what you will get, don’t order it since you are in for a surprise.
A final point I want to make here before moving on is about the food in Tanzania but before I get to that let me very briefly describe a few facts about Tanzania. Tanzania, officially the United Republic of Tanzania, is a result of a union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar, which was formed in 1964, hence the name “Tan-Zan-ia”. Until 1961 Tanganyika was a British colony (Zanzibar was ruled by Arabs) and you still can see the influence in architecture, education and the second official language being English. Due to long established trading routes between India, the Middle East and East Africa there’s a strong Arab and Middle Eastern influence in Tanzania, which is apparent in the many Indian and Arab residents in Tanzania, especially in the big cities like Dar es Salaam. Interestingly, the official national language “Swahili” is a mix between Bantu (an African dialect), Hindi and Arabic. So it’s quite a melting pot of ethnic groups, religions and influences. Unfortunately this has not translated in a succulent and sophisticated cuisine, au contraire. Once you leave the big hotels or some Indian restaurants, which serve the typical decent Indian fare, food seems to mainly consist of grilled chicken and chips – boy do Tanzanians love their chicken! You literally get it everywhere and often it is the only dish that is being served. There are a few rather bland local dishes, like Ugali (made out of maize) and some rice and bean dishes, sometimes complemented by equally bland fish. So, I would not describe Tanzania as a “Foodie” destination but who cares if you have some of the most amazing wildlife right in front of your nose. And that is THE main reason to visit Tanzania, not necessarily the great history, culture, ruins or cuisine – it is the wildlife and the stunning and diverse nature that provides the backdrop for it.

So, for the next three days we just explored Dar es Salaam, taking walks across the city and along the windy beach road, which was refreshing given temperatures of 33+ degrees Celcius (> 90 degrees Fahrenheit) and high humidity. While the city is pleasant it is nothing to write home about. When we took our first walk through the city on the Sunday after our arrival it almost felt like a “ghost city” since most streets were almost empty and pretty much every store and business was closed. After India this felt eerie but we also somehow enjoyed the quietness after having been bombarded with noise for weeks.

As said above, during the first couple of days in Dar es Salaam we figured out our schedule, planned out the next few weeks and decided to travel to Zanzibar for a few days first and then to Arusha in the North of Tanzania from where we were supposed to start our safari. At this point let me say a few words about planning a safari since this can be an overwhelming experience.

Planning a safari in Tanzania:

Most tourists travel to Tanzania for the ultimate wildlife experience and understandably so. The number and size of game reserves in Tanzania is astounding and they are typically divided into the “Northern, Southern and Western Circuit”, the three main areas in Tanzania with high concentrations of national parks. In addition, there is the Kilimanjaro region and thousands of people climb Mount Kilimanjaro each year. We decided not to join the fun, firstly because we are in no shape physically to get to over 6000 meters without problems und secondly, we didn’t carry any equipment with us that would be needed, like warm clothes, hiking boots, warm sleeping bags etc. So instead of torturing our bodies I decided to stick with the local brew named after Kilimanjaro and have a “Kill time” as often displayed on some of the big advertising boards.

We were pretty open as to what parks we were going to visit and after talking with two tour operators and getting itineraries and quotes from a couple of others via email, we landed on some of the parks of the Northern Circuit, namely Serengeti, the Ngrorongoro Crater area and Lake Manyara. We hadn’t even heard of Lake Manayara before but Serengeti and Ngorongoro were names that we always associated with abundant wildlife and stunning landscapes. There are certainly numerous safari tour operators in Dar but the number of operators in Arusha is clearly dwarfing this number. But since we wanted to have a tour finalized before travelling to Zanzibar in order to not loose more time in Arusha we chose a small company with an office in Dar. Their name is Daigle Tours and is owned by a Tanzanian with a (French) Canadian passport. Since we never organized a safari before and were hesitant to fork over hundreds or thousands of dollars online without even knowing the company we made it a point to visit their small office in the Kigamboni area of Dar, which is where you find some of the beaches and beach resorts. So we took the ferry to the other side a small bay and after a small taxi ride we reached the office of Daigle Tours, right next to a fuel station. Inside the tiny office we met Samwel and his assistant and we had a chat with them about our expectations, requirements, time and money budget etc. We both felt very comfortable with Samwel, who listened well and made good suggestions as to what the best options were, so we asked him to send us an updated itinerary before making a decision. By the time we got back to our hotel in the evening and after having a lovely dinner at one of the hotels on Dar es Salaam’s South Beach Samwel had already sent us the itinerary including costs.

DSC04708.jpg (On the ferry to Kigamboni. Cost is 20 cents)

Now, for everybody who hasn’t been on a safari in East Africa…it ain’t cheap. Even the budget safari tours, which mean sleeping in very simple tents and having shared bathrooms, no frills food and a bunch of people cramped into one 4WD, it’s still difficult to get much below 150-200 US$ per day per person. But safaris are also relatively cost intensive endeavors since you need an expensive 4WD, a driver/tour guide who speaks good English or other languages, three meals a day, accommodation and park fees, which are quite expensive as well; so it really adds up. We eventually ended up with a tour in the mid-range but that meant we had our own car and driver/guide, modest but comfortable accommodation and decent food. But this was only possible since it was low season and tour operators provide good deals in order to have at least some business. Many people plan their safaris from home months in advance, and during high season from June to September and then again in December/January this is also advisable, but during low season you can walk into any tour operator office and organize a safari within two to three days. We actually were here during the “perfect” time since the weather was still very good and it didn’t rain during our safari; there are a few weeks between the high season in January and March where the weather is typically relatively stable but prices are lower. Low season also means that you are not competing with hundreds of other Land Cruisers and Range Rovers for the best spots when watching wildlife at close range. So we were quite happy about that and we could often enjoy relatively “empty landscapes” and even some of the lodges we stayed at were very quiet and only half occupied.

Zanzibar

After we had taken care of our safari planning we had a couple of days to kill before the start of our trip from Arusha in the north of Tanzania, which is located at the footsteps of Mount Meru, the second highest mountain in Tanzania after Mount Kilimanjaro. It just worked out perfectly so we could visit Zanzibar for a couple of days and head to Arusha from there. Everybody has probably heard the name Zanzibar, which many associate with the ultimate exotic destination and spice trade. But many, including us, wouldn’t know exactly where it is located. We had now the chance to find out first hand and we bought our ferry tickets for the next day from Dar to Zanzibar; the ferry sets you back approx.35 US$ per person for the two hour ferry ride. We took the 9 AM ferry the next morning and in perfect sunny weather we headed over to Zanzibar in one of the fast ferries. DSC04742.jpg (Arrival in Stone Town in Zanzibar)

Interestingly, upon arrival at Zanzibar port you need to go through a “mini immigration” procedure again. There’s no need to fork over an insane amount for the visa if you have a Tanzania visa but other than that you need to fill out the same immigration form again and show proof of your yellow fever vaccination – so all travellers to Zanzibar or many other East African countries for that matter: make sure you got your yellow fever shots and carry your immunization pass with you.

We got a taxi and drove to a small guesthouse that we had booked online before. It’s a very simple place called Mnazi House but has nice owners, free wifi and a small breakfast was included. DSC04837.jpg (Our small room at our B&B 'Mnzai House')

A small mosque is right behind the building so we definitely got our dose of Muslim prayers early in the morning and late evening. On the opposite side of the guest house is the building of the Zanzibar Weightlifting Association, presumably to ensure physical fitness after the spiritual one although we never saw a soul actually lifting any weights inside; everybody was just sitting around chatting all day. Well, I don’t blame them since the temperatures in Zanzibar were super hot when we were there. The only way to feel comfortable during the way was to sit in one of the small cafes at the harbor or in the old Stone Town. Besides the many beautiful beaches the Old Town of Zanzibar city is really the main reason why many people visit the island and we really fell in love with it. DSC04883.jpg (A beautiful beach in Zanzibar)

The architecture is hard to describe since it is very eclectic but it has a Mediterranean feel to it and is a mix of Indian, Middle Eastern and other ‘Oriental’ influences. DSC04758.jpgDSC04769.jpgDSC04798.jpg (The Stone Town in Zanzibar)

Wandering around the Old City, the fish market at the harbor and the small parks along the way is a visual adventure and luckily there are many small bars and cafes where you can rest, have a drink and take in the atmosphere. We also found out that Zanzibar is the birthplace and former home of Freddie Mercury, the legendary lead singer of one of the greatest bands ever, Queen. Freddie had spent his first years right here in Zanzibar before going to boarding school in Bombay in India and from there to the UK. DSC04824.jpg (Market in Zanzibar)DSC04787.jpg (Freddie Mercury's birth place in Stone Town)

We had dinner at a small local place, which a taxi driver recommended to us. It is called “Lukman” (pronounced ‘Look Maan’), which served rice with veggies, greens, beans etc. but also small fish and chicken. It was very cheap and Zanzibar is not necessarily a cheap place, even a little more expensive than the rest of Tanziania, which is pricey in the first place. But even here, while it tasted ok we would have expected better seasoned food being on the “spice island” and all. So don’t get your hopes up and expect great food anywhere in Tanzania or even Zanzibar; it is mediocre at best.
Two other things were on our list of Must Do’s while being here: visiting a spice farm and the former slave market. So we visited a spice farm in the mountains and did a very informative tour of the different spices and fruits that grow here. It was quite fascinating to taste the spices right from the tree or plant and we started to understand why Zanzibar got the reputation it still has today. Some of the spices just taste phenomenal, for instance the Zanzibarian cinnamon doesn’t just taste like your monther’s regular cinnamon that you buy at Walmart; it is also very sweet and very spicy – I am sure you’ve never tasted anything like it…we hadn’t. DSC04859.jpg (Spice farm tour)

Finally, we spent some time at the former slave market. It is located in Stone Town and it is a fascinating and at the same time utterly depressing and sad experience. This site was the last slave trading post in Africa and it used to be a slave trading hub for slaves from South and East Africa and as far as the modern DRC (Congo). Slaves that were captured in their villages, in fact often by their own countrymen, had to walk in shackles sometimes for weeks or months to reach the east coast of Tanganyika from where they were shipped to Zanzibar. Once there, they were kept for days in hot, filthy and dark small chambers in the basement of St. Monica's Hostel, which was built in 1890 above the slave chambers. As you can imagine, many of the slaves died either on their long march or in the inhuman conditions in the chambers. As cruel as it sounds, and we all know what monstrosities humans are capable of, this was a way to select the strongest slaves out of the crowd who were eventually shipped, again under appalling conditions, to countries like Oman, other Arab countries, Jamaica/Caribbean etc. It was hard to listen to the explanations of the guide but eventually slavery was abolished in 1873. Following the closure of the Slave Market by Sultan Barghash, missionaries bought the site and built the Anglican Cathedral (Cathedral Church of Christ) on this location and freed slaves helped with its construction under the guidance of Bishop Edward Steere. The altar of the cathedral stands on the spot of the whipping tree, which is a chilling sight. A window is dedicated to Dr. David Livingstone, the initiator of the abolition of slavery. The church's crucifix is made from the wood of a tree in Zambia, under which the heart of Livingstone is buried. Behind the cathedral there is a stone sculpture of five slaves in a pit, tied with original iron shackles and chains. DSC04832.jpg (Zanzibar's former slave market) DSC04889.jpgDSC04891.jpg (The slave chambers) DSC04893.jpg (The Cathedral Church of Christ at the site of the former slave market) DSC04901.jpg (Stone memorial at the former slave market) DSC04907.jpg (Whipping post inside the Anglican Cathedral)

The following day, after a short walk in blistering heat and a refreshing lunch in one of the many cozy cafes of Stone Town we headed out to the airport to take our flight to Arusha. It’s always an experience to fly from these small remote airports. When our flight was called - called in the literal sense by a person shouting our destination Arusha into the waiting room - we walked to our plane along the runway, which was a small 6 seater and our pilot was a young French guy, who didn’t look older than 20 years old. With us was just one more passenger, a young German guy travelling alone through East Africa. Our pilot was a pretty funny guy and since it was so hot, he just opened his door and held it open until we had taken off, so the colder air cooled down the temperature inside the boiling hot plane. Once at cruising altitude, he took out his Kindle and started reading, only occasionally looking out the window to orient himself and until it was time to start the approach into Arusha. A Pretty relaxed attitude for a pilot, especially given the fact that in these small planes there’s no autopilot or the like but it was still fun having the small plane almost to ourselves and being able to have some interesting little chats with the pilot, sitting just behind his seat. DSC04930.jpg (Our pilot enjoying a good book)

Posted by Elmar123 10:59 Archived in Tanzania Tagged people animals city historic Comments (0)

Africa – the “Dark Continent”

February 23 - March 29, 2013

semi-overcast 34 °C
View World Tour 2012/13 on Elmar123's travel map.

In the olden days and even today many people referred to Africa as the “dark continent” since so little was known about it. Nowadays, this has obviously changed and many countries and locations in Africa are well known, relatively well developed and travelled. However, for us Africa is still admittedly unknown since we never travelled here with the exception of Egypt, which is very different from many sub Saharan countries. But before our arrival in Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania, our first port of entry, we literally knew nothing about sub Saharan Africa beyond what we could read on the internet and the picture that we’ve formed over the years based on TV and newspaper reports. As you can imagine this is a very ambiguous and varied picture and is very different by regions and countries in Africa; things that come to mind are on the one hand negative descriptors like war, corruption, tribal or ethnic conflicts, famines and droughts or economic struggles. On the other hand there are of course the pictures of vast plains with grazing herds of wildlife but also recent success stories about Africa including a thriving movie industry (i.e. Nollywood) or fast growing and increasingly economically successful local economies, Tanzania being one of them. We also mainly picked Dar es Salaam in Tanzania as our entry point into Africa because of stories about the great wildlife in this country but other than that we were pretty ‘blank’ and had not much of an idea what to expect.

Now, three and a half days after arriving in Dar Es Salaam we’ve formed a much better picture about the country and what our plans are for the rest of our trip in the “dark continent”. It always makes it much easier to connect with a country and determine what to do once you are on the ground, at least that’s our experience. In the last few days we’ve done some more research and talked to people on the ground, a few tourists but mostly locals and a few travel agents; the internet is always a great resource of course. So we have a good idea as to how our next few weeks shape up and here’s a brief outline of our travel plans:

Zanzibar (2-3 days): Zanzibar is a short ferry ride from Dar Es Salaam and the “old town” and pristine beaches sound very interesting.

Safari (5-6 days): We have finalized a trip with a local tour operator for a safari to the Serengeti, Ngorogoro Crater and Lake Manyara, the “big three” wildlife parks in Tanzania.

Scuba Diving (6-8 days): in Tofo in Mozambique; we’ve heard many good reports about diving in this South African country.

South Africa/Cape Town (8-10 days): we’ve always wanted to visit Cape Town based on the many glowing reports from friends but also in order to do cage diving with great white sharks.

We are still flexible and things can change based on changing visa requirements etc. but at this point the above is our rough plan and below is a map, which shows the different locations in an overview.

Posted by Elmar123 05:50 Archived in Tanzania Tagged landscapes people animals diving city Comments (0)

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