Saturday March 16 – 43 Hippos

March 19, 2013 by  

Today its a 7am Game Drive from the Manyara Tree Lodge with Titus who is very knowledgeable about the local animals, birds, trees and plants. He is the father of a 13 year old at boarding school in Arusha and is delighted to be a guide at And Beyond because he says it is one of the best companies around.
Today we watch a fascinating group of 40+ hippos in a mud pool near Lake Manyara, observe a troop of over a hundred baboons of all ages, eat a lovely breakfast overlooking the marshland of the lake watching hundreds of flamingoes, both stationary in the shallow waters, and in flight, and rest in the shade of our tree house in the afternoon.
Lake Manyara is yet another very interesting protected place in this very interesting country!

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March 15 – Serengeti to Lake Manyara

March 19, 2013 by  

We depart Ndutu Airstrip near the tented camp on Tanganyika Flying Co, and arrive at Manyara Airstrip about 30 minutes later. On the flight we pass over wonderful high mountain farms and Maasai villages with cattle grazing on the edge of the mountainsides. We fly over the Ngorongoro Crater with its millions of wild and protected animals grazing below. Julia leaves us on our arrival and goes on to Kilimanjaro, Nairobi, London, Toronto.
From the airstrip our guide Titus is waiting to take us on a safari ride that will end at the Lake Manyara Tree Lodge. It takes 5 hours to get there because we watch several families of elephants grazing on the roadside, we sight a leopard sleeping in the treetop, follow giraffe, buffalo, wildebeest, impala, gazelle, and several large troops of baboons, as well as many lovely birds, and thousands of flamingo in the shallow waters of the lake.
We are somewhat apprehensive about a tree house hotel with tree climbing lions in the neighbourhood! When we arrive the tree lodge is fascinating. And the staff welcome with us with song, cold drinks, warm face towels and big smiles. This has been a charming and welcome custom everywhere we have traveled on this trip. People are so dependent on tourists here that sometimes the service is overwhelming.
The lodge itself is completely open to the jungle that surrounds it. Apparently the elephants regularly come at night to drink in the swimming pool! There are no fences to keep the wildlife out so we must be cautious and not walk alone after dark. We have no intention of doing so anyway! In fact we are introduced to Santielli, a young Maasai who lives in the nearby village. He tells us he patrols all night. He carries a stick typical of the Maasai, which he says he uses to warn snakes he is coming. He tells us in broken English (since we don’t speak Maasai or Swahili – although we have learned a few words) he will walk us to our tree house and back whenever we request it. He is shy, conscientious and charming.
The lodge has wonderfully comfortable sitting and eating areas, a large open kitchen, bar areas, reading lounges, and a boma, where we eat dinner, that is beautifully made with local drift wood, ancient wooden boats, lots of candles, and cooking drums. At dinner a large fire is blazing in the middle of the boma and the stars are magnificent. Marc is our stargazer and we often sight Les Tres Marias at night. Amazingly even here in the thick jungle, we eat outdoors almost every night and are never bothered by mosquitoes – unlike Northern Ontario!

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Leopard Sightings in the Serengeti

March 19, 2013 by  

Today (which is our last in the Serengeti) the staff surprise us with a beautiful breakfast on the Serengeti plains with wildebeest, giraffe and zebra in the distance. I was sitting up front with Robert and wondered why he passed by a number of good breakfast spots. As it turned out he was on the radio – in Swahili – ensuring that everything was set up before our arrival.
A few of us went out on our final safari drive at 4pm and just before we headed back into camp we experienced a marvelous sighting – a breeding pair of leopards in a tree. We would have missed them – their camouflage is incredible! – but on admiring the unusual shape and size of the acacia tree we notice the male in the canopy and then the female lower down the branches. We watch mesmerized as the male slowly ambles down from his perch worrying about his mate – we were less than 10 metres away – and gives us a look and wanders off into the bush with her slowly following behind.
Back at camp we have a 40th anniversary celebration for our mates outside one of our tents. The staff have set up a campfire and provide sundowners for us to watch the sunset over the ridge, and then dinner on the lawn under the stars with a chef-made cake for the occasion and decorated with Happy Anniversary. The staff bring out the cake with a Swahili song. Fantastic night.
The next morning as we are saying good bye, Trish shows the staff the sketches she has been making and they are delighted to see her excellent work.
Interestingly, despite our apprehensions and the prophylactic malaria medication we are taking every day, we are not bothered by mosquitoes at all in the day or at night while eating outside.

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March 12 – Tents in the Serengeti

March 19, 2013 by  

Our morning safari starts at 630 am with Robert’s arrival with our comfortable truck. We are given coffee, tea and biscuits before departure and breakfast in the bush on the grassy plains watching huge herds of adult and baby wildebeest, gazelle, zebra and buffalo. This morning our special adventure was finding and tracking this beautiful male leopard for an hour or so. He was magnificent and very uninterested in us even though we were very interested in him!
We’re home about 1pm for lunch, shower and relaxation and on the truck again at 4pm. On arrival back at the camp the staff is always waiting with a cool drink, wet towels for everyone and questions about our experience. Dinner on the lawn under the stars is a treat. Then bed in our very comfortable tents.
The staff are all male, from several different tribes in the area – and all with Swahili as the common language, very much a national unifying ingredient in the continuing advancement of this wonderful country. We learn it was Julius Nyerere’s leadership in the 60s and 70s when Tanganyika and Zanzibar merged to become Tanzania that Swahili became the national language. Nyerere was apparently a great friend of Pierre Trudeau – both members of the Commonwealth.
Working for And Beyond is considered a privilege as they are said to be a very progressive company with considerable regard for the environment, for their staff, and for the well-being of the communities surrounding their many sites.

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Starting Home – Monday March 18

March 19, 2013 by  

Today its an early morning flight SAA187 Dar es Salaam to Johannesburg and a day at the lovely Westcliff Hotel with a SAA flight Tuesday evening to London, a brief stayover, and then AC to Toronto, arriving home Wednesday dinner time. The Westcliff employs a vey large contingent of black South Africans in numerous housekeeping, food and beverage, groundskeeping and technical jobs such as electrical, plumbing and air conditioning, as well as day trip guiding. Many of the staff members come from Soweto by taxi, which are vans carrying 20+ people back and forth to work. As we experienced last year, service is very good from smiling well-trained people who are thankful for these good jobs, efficient and friendly. There is often many more staff than there are guests (happily some of the guests are black) and we spend the last of our SA Rand on tips and thank yous. Time to make our way home. Fun to travel, good to get home.

Serengeti to Manyara Tree Lodge

March 19, 2013 by  

We depart Ndutu Airstrip near the tented camp on Tanganyika Flying Co, and arrive at Manyara Airstrip about 30 minutes later. On the flight we pass over wonderful high mountain farms and Maasai villages with cattle grazing on the edge of the mountainsides. We fly over the Ngorongoro Crater with its millions of wild and protected animals grazing below. Julia leaves us on our arrival and goes on to Kilimanjaro, Nairobi, London, Toronto. From the airstrip our guide Titus is waiting to take us on a safari ride that will end at the Lake Manyara Tree Lodge. It takes 5 hours to get there because we watch several families of elephants grazing on the roadside, we sight a leopard sleeping in the treetop, follow giraffe, buffalo, wildebeest, impala, gazelle, and several large troops of baboons, as well as many lovely birds, and thousands of flamingo in the shallow waters of the lake. We are somewhat apprehensive about a tree house hotel with tree climbing lions in the neighbourhood! When we arrive the tree lodge is fascinating. And the staff welcome with us with song, cold drinks, warm face towels and big smiles. This has been a charming and welcome custom everywhere we have traveled on this trip. People are so dependent on tourists here that sometimes the service is overwhelming.
The lodge itself is completely open to the jungle that surrounds it. Apparently the elephants regularly come at night to drink in the swimming pool! There are no fences to keep the wildlife out so we must be cautious and not walk alone after dark. In fact we are introduced to Santielli, a young Maasai who lives in the nearby village. He tells us he patrols all night. He carries a stick typical of the Maasai, which he says he uses to warn snakes he is coming. He tells us in broken English (since we don’t speak Maasai or Swahili – although we have learned a few words) he will walk us to our tree house and back whenever we request it. He is shy, conscientious and charming. The lodge has wonderfully comfortable sitting and eating areas, a large open kitchen, bar areas, reading lounges, and a boma, where we eat dinner, that is beautifully made with local drift wood, ancient wooden boats, lots of candles, and cooking drums. A large fire is blazing in the middle of the boma and the stars are magnificent. Marc is our stargazer and we often sight Les Tres Marias at night. Amazingly we eat outdoors almost every night and are never bothered by mosquitoes!

Cooking Lesson & Trip to the Reef

March 10, 2013 by  

My journey to the reef at The Palms today introduces me to Ali, a father of two and a fisherman in the nearby village. He walks with me to ensure I don’t fall or step on something that will cut or sting me. He shows me the octopus he has just caught with the primitive but effective tools he carries. He tells me in answer to my questions that on a good day he can find 3 octopus which together weigh about a kg and will net him 7000 Sterling (about 4 USD) at the market. He is so kind and does not ask me for money but ensures I get to the reef and safely back to the beach while he looks for octopus, I ask him to wait while I find money to give him. I hope that 20,000 Sterling will help him to feed his family today and tomorrow.
At lunch time William, our Kenyan trained chef who is very skilled gives us a cooking class as he makes a lobster dish for our lunch with local spices, vegetables, garlic and coconut milk. Delicious.
A late afternoon high tide swim is wonderful.
Tomorrow we leave Zanzibar on Zanair to Arusha, where we will lunch at the local Coffee House before a flight with Tanganyika Flying Co to Ndutu Airstrip to find a tent and search for the migration with And Beyond.

March 9 Indian Ocean & Red Colobus Monkeys

March 10, 2013 by  

Today we are in serious relaxation mode at The Palms. Its beautiful here – hot (at least 30C) and humid. The Indian Ocean on the east coast of Zanzibar is very warm and has a long tidal basin – maybe a kilometre at ankle depth – with a long reef that effectively blocks the waves. Swimming is lovely at high tide; at low tide wandering out to the reef is fun with lots to see. The locals are helpful at telling you what’s there – huge starfish, octopus which they catch and sell to the hotels – snakes that look like long worms, coral (alive and dead) and very small blue fish, to name a few. Lobsters must be plentiful somewhere nearby as are large shrimp because both are often on the menu and delicious.
Mid-afternoon we travel 30 minutes to see the rare Red Colobus Monkeys that are indigenous only to Zanzibar. Our guide Ramadan, a student of project management at Zanzibar University, finds them easily in the National Park and they let us get very close and take their pictures. Near their habitat, we visit the beautiful protected mangrove forest that prevents coastal erosion which can be so damaging on a sea island such as Zanzibar.

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Friday March 8 leaving Stone Town

March 10, 2013 by  

We awake to warm, humid weather with very low cloud ceiling and threatening rain which begins just after breakfast and delays our trip to the spice farm for which Zanzibar is very well known. On our way to our next adventure, we stop at the Vodacom store in the market area of Stone Town. As our hosts rearrange some technology, we sit and watch the diverse and interesting life at the marketplace across the street.

We drive to The Residence Zanzibar, a beautiful relatively new open air resort on the Indian Ocean for lunch. As our travel takes us farther outside Stone Town’s medina, the depth of jungle flora increases significantly and so does the poverty. We pass numerous subsistence-living families selling wood, home made charcoal, maybe a few eggs from free range chickens we see On the roadsides. We pass many woodworking ventures, tire dealers, small restaurants with coke signs. We see cows grazing anywhere, running free on the roadsides or on the lawns of houses, and very young children playing close to the roads, men chatting on porches, women doing laundry, carrying water or wood French on their heads. We know there is a wide gap between rich and poor in the western world but it seems to be much greater in the developing African world where the middle class is growing albeit slowly.
After a beautiful lunch we arrive at our charming resort The Palms Zanzibar where we will relax and enjoy the Indian Ocean at our doorstep, and the warm pool for 3 days. Heaven. While on this continent we are very much aware that our presence and tourist dollars are a great source of jobs and wages for local people. Everywhere we have travelled in Africa the staff have been charming, polite, well-groomed and very welcoming. Dinner is beautifully prepared and served. The hotel employs an excellent chef, trained in Kenya. He is teaching local kitchen staff how to prepare delicious dishes, often made with local seafood and Zanzibar-grown spices.

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Thursday March 7 touring Stone Town Zanzibar

March 10, 2013 by  

This morning we begin a marvelous walking tour of Stone Town with our local guide named Hamed. Much as I love to see the animals of this wonderful continent, I also really enjoy trying to better understand the people, their family life and how they live and work. We take a million pictures of this town trying to avoid offending anyone by openly taking their pictures. Life in Stone Town is hectic with a large market culture, many varieties of fish, meats, fruit and vegetables are available in the open air market. Women in traditional arab dress (very few fully veiled but all with head scarves) walk easily in the streets often alone. Many are very beautiful, slim and elegant; their robes often black, their headscarves made of fine fabrics with very bright colours and lovey patterns. The men are more likely to be in groups, talking or working at something or zooming their motor bikes through the narrow streets.

After a beautiful buffet lunch at the Zanzibar Senora Hotel we visit the ruins of the Maruhubi Palace, Mtoni Palace and drive around the town in our air-conditioned van/bus with Hamed explaining the highlights and answering our questions. Hamed grew up in Pemba, the sister island to this one which is called Unguja, both islands comprise Zanzibar. Pemba is more agricultural. Unguja is more cosmopolitan; Stone Town attracts tourists from everywhere and has fascinating markets. As is true everywhere in the world, young people gravitate here to the city for jobs and nightlife. Those who want to (and are able to) farm are attracted to Pemba. The highlight of a day filled with highlights was a sunset dhow cruise that took us out for 3 hours on the water. On our return the beach is alive with kids swimming, adults relaxing and tourists wandering. We decide to indulge in gin and tonics and enjoy the beach vibe. We are sitting next to the deserted British Embassy which is run down and needs a wealthy owner. We enjoy a light dinner back at the Jafferji House hotel. We are so fortunate to be travelling with our hosts – and now friends – from Commendable Travels, a new and charming friend from Toronto and the recently-retired Canadian ambassador to France, Spain and Chile (in separate postings) and his wife, who is also just retired from the foreign service. They have many stories and perspectives about the world and are charming, knowledgeable and fun, all wonderful travelling companions.

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