Saturday, February 18, 2023

Zanzibar - a bit of spice - is this the real life?

Zanzibar joined the rest of Tanzania (Tanganyika) in 1964 but until then had been under the rule of sultans from Oman, and later was a British protectorate. The Arab influence is clear to see, mostly in their architecture and religion (95+% Muslim). 

We stayed a couple of nights in Stonetown, the old section of Zanzibar city. It’s basically a maze of narrow alleys, including markets, shops, hotels,etc. There are no cars and even a motorbike barely makes it through the narrow streets.

Our hotel had some interesting design features. Our room was on the 3rd floor (no elevator - I think I counted 70 stairs) and you entered through the bathroom. The 'bathroom' had a bench and several chairs and we hosted drinks there one evening mostly because it had a large fridge for our beverages. The toilet is behind that curtain and the whole room was basically 'outside'.

Fortunately the bedroom had air conditioning as it was hot and humid. Like all the beds we’ve been in this one had mosquito netting.

Through some saloon type doors was a small sitting area with stairs leading to a large sitting area on the roof. From there we could see out to the ocean and view the sunset.

To get to the rooftop dining room we had to go down lots of stairs then up some more. We enjoyed a traditional sunset dinner there one evening complete with music and dancing.

On our way to the east side of the island we stopped for a tour of a spice farm and a cooking lesson. It was interesting to see how spices such as cinnamon, clove, turmeric, cardamom, etc grow. Lots of different fruits as well - pineapple, coconut, mango, bungo, passionfruit. The fresh juices here are amazing.

We were gifted with some souvenirs.

Our cooking class featured falafal, pilau (rice dish) and a vegetable curry all made with freshly ground spices. Also some deliciously flakey chapati (flatbread). Thanks Cori.

We finally arrived ar our R'n'R spot for the next few days. No scheduled plans and a beautiful white, deserted sandy beach. This is the view out our door and the water is just beyond the greenery.

They call this the 'cocktail' pool and Ross is making full use of the 'honesty bar'.

Trying not to think about the shock to my system based on the weather predictions for Vernon when we get back (-16!!) but you can see there isn’t much variety here.

Pretty boring! Well, maybe not.

Oh yeah I’d forgotten that Freddy Mercury was from here until we drove past his museum on our way out of Stonetown. But then again this whole trip brings to mind:

Is this the real life? 
Is this just fantasy? 

A fantasy soon ending.


Monday, February 13, 2023

Bush People of Tanzania

Another fabulous lesson on a culture that has almost nothing in common with ours. The Hadzabe people are hunter gatherers and are in danger of becoming extinct. We had to drive quite a ways along a very rough road that resembled a dry river bed. There are only about 1300 Hadzabe spread over many small groups - some so remote the government doesn’t even know how many or where they are. The men mostly wear animal skins but had 'western' clothes as well.

This group had about 30 men, women, children. Their homes begin as wood frames which are then covered in sisal (a type of agave). 

During the rainy season they live inside the baobab trees which are naturally hollow.

They are a very vocal, animated and gregarious people. Their language is one of the few click languages still surviving and really hard for us (me) to replicate. One member grabbed a two stringed instrument called a zeze and led the others in song. Their music is more polyphonous than the Maasai (blending melodies with some harmony) and call and response is common. 

Then they invited the music teacher up for a song. I tried my best!

The Hadzabe people are the only tribe in Tanzania allowed to hunt/kill animals and it’s their main source of food besides gathering. They'll hunt baboons, zebras, even wildebeest. They seem very proud of their hunting skill.

They gave us a chance to try their bows. Some limited success and the general consensus was that these were powerful weapons.

The tips of their arrows are unique to each type of prey. Bird arrows have a wooden tip and a piece of corn cob intended to knock the bird down. Baboon arrowheads are barbed metal and arrowheads for larger animals will have poisonous tips. I think there are 8 types in all.

Time to take us hunting. On the way some women had found and dug up a type of edible tuber among some trees.

Then there was a flurry of activity and the hunters all raced over to a small bush with bows drawn. We had no idea what was happening.

Within a few seconds one young hunter emerged with a mouse on the end of his arrow.

Then it was time to cook the mouse. Fire was started using a stick and piece of wood (just like they try to teach you in Girl Guides). They made it look pretty easy.

After roasting the mouse they offered us a taste. No takers!

A final song/dance. Here the leader is in the centre and has some metal jingles on his ankle that you can hear.

I couldn’t help but think that we tourists had witnessed a 'performance' but the entire experience seemed authentic and from their hearts which made it so memorable.

Sunday, February 12, 2023

The Serengeti

It’s impossible in words or pictures to describe the vastness and intensity of the Serengeti. The first day we arrived there had been a vicious rain storm the previous night. A lion had left these prints on the path to our tents. Yikes  

During our drive that day we saw many lions in different groupings. These two young males had trouble getting comfortable in this tree and kept repositioning but I like this pose. 

The Serengeti has large rock outcrops called kopjes not unlike Pride Rock (from Lion King) and we searched a lot of then until we found this guy. You’ll need to zoom in. 

I used to think seeing a herd of 100 zebras would be impressive. Or even 1000. But looking out over the expanse of the savannah there were zebras as far as the eye could see. It was indescribable. I’m estimating tens of thousands. All migrating with the wildebeest. Just as we thought we’d seen it all a cheetah appeared by the roadside. 

After dinner we were required to have an employee to guide us back to our tent in case there were animals. On the last night after we got into bed something walked across the front of our tent. Before long there was something moving the back of the tent by our heads. As Ross snored away I lay, petrified and imagining the very worst - I froze and didn’t move for about 1/2 hour hoping whatever it was wouldn’t know I was inside! I didn’t manage to get much sleep. In the morning we could see hyena and jackal footprints outside our tent. Then we found out that there had been a group of lions around the tents while we ate dinner. That’s a little too close for comfort. And of course I had to Google 'tourists killed by animals in the Serengeti' (possibly none).

Part of our encampment: (


Directly adjacent to the Serengeti is the Ngorongoro Conservation area. The Ngorongoro crater (a UNESCO heritage site) was formed several million years ago after a volcanic explosion and collapse. You descend about 2000 feet into the caldera which is about 100 square miles but with many of the same animals as the Serengeti. Again the animals were very cooperative, often posing right by the roadside. 

Lots of evidence of previous kills. Likely the remains of a buffalo.

We saw the last of the Big Five - 3 rhinoceroses - but they were quite a distance away.

The variety of large colourful birds was amazing. At one little pond we saw several varieties of storks, herons, ibises, cranes, egrets. We even saw some cool spoonbills (no photo unfortunately). This Egyptian eagle is one of about 5 eagles species we saw. 

And this marabou stork that tried to steal our food when we stopped for lunch at a picnic site. They’re about 3 feet tall and scavengers. There were also kites (a type of bird), and Guinea fowl competing for our lunch. We ended up eating in the vehicle. 

Going on safari is about 95% driving on rough, dusty roads, and 5% happening, but the 5% make it all worthwhile. 

Our guides for this trip were booked through which is partially run by Sandra, an archeologist from Vernon who had a connection through one of our travel companions. She travelled with us along with our expert drivers Amos and Joseph (Suma). Top notch service. Highly recommended.

Friday, February 10, 2023

More Cats and Random animals

We started the day on the hunt for cheetahs but instead we came across a pride of lions finishing up the buffalo from their hunt the night before. The pic doesn’t really show it but there were about 18 lions gnawing on the ribs to start but they gradually moved away.

This is a topi - an animal I’ve never seen before.

The bad news is that my camera broke (maybe sand in the lens mechanism) but the good news is we’re getting so close to the animals no zoom is necessary. These are all iPhone pics.

This leopard is looking out for something. 

Three brothers in a coalition group (they are still young and work together).

This may not look like much but there are about 100 hippos in this pond.

See the lions on the hill behind me. 

There were actually 3 lions on the hill.

Some warthog parents with a few babies.

Then finally we spotted 2 cheetahs hidden in the grass and they were beauties. This one even sat up and posed for us.

We watched awhile while the zebras got closer and closer but we never saw the hunt. Whew.

Wednesday, February 08, 2023

The great Migration

Every year several million wildebeest travel almost 500 kilometres in a circular route around the Serengeti. They are joined on their journey by several thousand zebras, gazelles, and eland. This migration is one of the iconic features of the Serengeti and is one of the main things that drew us to this safari. We’ve seen the National Geographic videos and had kept this on our bucket list. 

We started early in the morning and came across hundreds and hundreds of wildebeest crossing a small river. This isn't the river with crocodiles in it so they’re not risking their lives here. 

This went on for about 10mins before we moved on.

Wildebeest may have originated the phrase 'the grass is always greener' as they follow the rains in order to feast on the new growth. Right now in the migration they are calving and they may stay here for a month. If the rains are late they can delay having their babies for 2 or 3 weeks. That’s a neat trick. We saw lots of babies today. The camp we're staying in is pretty basic, large tents with showers/toilets but this camp is temporary and will move with the migration in a month or so.


See the pink colour in the lake below - flamingos - many, many - the photo shows 1/1000 of the total we could see.  

Today was lion day as well - we got up close and personal with about 16. This big guy was a beauty and in a group with six others

Then another male by himself and yes we were that close.

Meanwhile the females were out on a chase and although we didn’t see the kill they did get a zebra. These two might have been responsible. They look a little guilty. Or hungry.

Such amazing sights!

Tuesday, February 07, 2023

Getting Cultured

I’ve long been interested in music and cultures of Africa so I was glad when I heard there was entertainment at the lodge we were staying at. 

A group of musicians started and were soon joined by the dancers - traditional performance from the Makonde people.

Following that we had a nice acrobatic show. 

We were able to visit a boma, which is the traditional home of the Masai people. They build round huts out of mud, dung, and straw and often keep the animals inside. 

They performed a few songs and dances for us. 

One of the songs included a jumping contest. This guy did pretty good. 

Then they wanted us to join in - jumping isn’t my forte unfortunately.

I learned that the Masai don’t really use any musical instruments such as drums or rattles like many other African tribes do  likely because they spend most of their time walking and travelling with their herds and the singing voice is the easiest thing to carry.


Monday, February 06, 2023

Baobab Trees and a Surprise Circus

There’s an elephant between the baobab trees. 

This area has 2 main types of trees - the acacia and the baobab. Baobab trees have a very distinctive shape and can be up to 3000 years old and reach up to 50 m in circumference. They store water in their spongy trunks so they can survive in this dry climate. Acacia tree has great big thorns, one of which went right through the sole of Ross's sandal and into his foot. 

The safari vehicles we ride in every day are enclosed but have a pop up roof so you can stand and look out. They’re pretty rugged, but comfortable and they need to be rugged for these roads. Our driver/guide Joseph is here waiting for us.

The tent in the safari camp has a concrete floor, canvas sides and thatched roof. See that little monkey - he and a group of friends had just created havoc when our neighbours (no names mentioned) left some snacks out for mere seconds. Needless to say the rule in this camp is 'no food in this area'.

And inside - plenty of room.

The lodge has a beautiful terrace area looking out over the park. We’d often see buffalo, impala, elephants, and more from this vantage point. We were doing just that when a hornbill (who we called Zazu from the Lion King) decided we should share our snacks. Ross did his best to fend him off.

Our second park is Lake Manyara, which is very forested. To get there we went through an area populated by the Mbulu people. They live very much like the Masai, but are not nomadic. All along the way we were greeted by small children waving and calling out greetings.

Today seemed to be baboon day as we encountered large families of them, some of them with very small babies.

In the middle of nowhere we encountered a 3 person circus/acrobat routine. I'm not sure we met another vehicle for miles so they must just wait patiently (or practice) until one comes along.

Africa is full of surprises!!!

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