Published: August 10th 2009June 23rd 2009
The Scene of the Crime
My bathroom area in Zanzibar.
And thus... the end to my second school year in Dar Es Salaam! On the eve of the last day of school, Dad and Nina arrived! They came to visit the campus and meet some students and co-workers when school ended on Thursday, and after a brief tour around Dar, we were ready to head off on our safari on Friday.
We started our trip in Zanzibar, with a brief hiccup of missing our flight due to traffic and having to buy tickets on the next flight out! We stayed in Stone Town, as it is my favorite part of Zanzibar, and checked into our lovely hotel- 236 Hurumzi, recommended by Kim and Nico. Upon being shown to our rooms, Dad decided that this recommendation was really just a veiled attempt on his life, as we had to climb up 7 rather difficult flights of stairs to get to our rooms, and back down to go out and wander the town. We survived the first few "ups and downs," however, and spent our afternoon spiraling around the streets of Stone Town, shopping and interacting with the locals. We found all sorts of great vendors- handmade pillowcases, wood carving, antiques, and I
even got the Henna Galery painting that I'd been pining for since seeing them at a fair in Dar a few months before! We headed over to the Swahili house for a fantastic dinner, having pretty much the whole restaurant to ourselves, and then climbed back up our mountain of stairs for what we thought would be a good night's sleep.
Well, as it turns out, our luxurious top floor room, with open air bathing area, and windows, were really just an easy access "in" for the local pests! I woke up at midnight to some noises in my room, rustling of my toiletries and scurrying on the floor. I convinced myself that it was not a big deal and that I was safe under my mosquito net, and went back to sleep. At 2am, however, I woke up to something chewing on my finger- A RAT! I screamed some choice expletives and immediately called down to the front desk for a room change. They sent a guy up and he helped me to move down to a first floor, completely closed to the outside world, room. I slept much more comfortably from then on. Nina had a little scare
During our forest tour, Zanzibar.
the next morning though, when she came by my room to make sure I was awake and getting ready for breakfast, only to find that my room was empty of both me and my luggage. I had planned to meet them in their room before something like this would happen, but I guess I didn't make it up there early enough! Whoops. Needless to say the rats had also visited Dad and Nina's room, chewing on their shoes and bags, so they changed rooms after breakfast as well. Welcome to Africa!
We then headed out to see the Jambiani Forest and do a Spice Plantation Tour, before finishing our afternoon around Stone Town again and having a relaxing dinner in our hotel's rooftop restaurant.
We left in the morning to fly to Katavi National Park, via an overnight in Arusha. We met up with some friends in Arusha, for both drinks and dinner, and tried to do some shopping (tried- everything was closed on a Sunday), and Dad and Nina got to see what a different city Arusha is compared to Dar.
Katavi National Park was wonderful! We stayed in a tented camp right on a plains area of the
Creatures in the Jungle...
we found all sorts of creatures, great and small...
park, and had a great view of all sorts of wildlife from our rooms and dining tent. Every game drive was full of sightings, and rarely did we see any other cars or people. One of the coolest things about Katavi was the abundance of hippos there. There are thousands of hippos all congregated together into small pool areas. You could see them walking around, jogging after each other, and sleeping in their large huddles. We also saw some lion families, large herds of buffalo, and elephants. One night there was both a hippo wandering by the tent, and an elephant practically crashing into the tent! Yikes! We saw leopard paw prints, but alas no leopard itself.
After seeing all that we could see in Katavi, and killing more tsetse flies than I ever thought possible, we jumped back into our little plane and headed over to Mahale Mountains National Park.
In Mahale, we stayed in a gorgeous lodge, right on Lake Tanganyika. We were the only people staying in all of Mahale, which made for a very quiet and personalized stay. On our first full day in the mountains, Nina and I headed up with a tracker, 2 guides,
On the leaf!
and a Park Authority, to try and spot some chimpanzees! We left camp at 8:30 am, and soon found ourselves hiking up very steep paths, which required us to pull on the vines in order to step up! Machetes were used to cut paths for us to walk on, and by 1pm, still no chimps were spotted. We walked, and walked, and walked, and walked, and got real tired, and then were persuaded to walk some more, and still ... no chimps. We finally called it quits at 2:30 and then had to go downhill for another 3 hours! Needless to say, morale, and energy was low by the time we got to camp at 5:30, having missed lunch on top of it all. Apparently it was not the season to go chimpanzee trekking, hence the empty camp!
We took the next day off, lounging on the beach, reading books, and even heading out on the lake to do some African fishing (in the same vein as our trekking, nothing was caught). We enjoyed fireside drinks that evening, and made a plan for a shortened version of chimpanzee trekking the following day. So, on our third and final full day
Last Night in Stone Town
Dinner on the top of our hotel!
in camp, we headed out at 8am and set a limit of 12pm for hiking uphill. If we hadn't seen chimps by then we would turn back. At 11:35 our guide (who had split off to go look for chimps ahead of us) radioed that he had found some chimpanzees! We got to the site (deep in the middle of the jungle with no set path to follow) at 11:55 and spent the next hour watching 2 grown female chimps nap and preen while a baby chimp jumped around and pulled faces in the trees! It was wonderful! I'd love to go back and see the troops of 40-60 chimps all at once, but seeing just 3 was a treat as well!
A short hour walk down and we were back at camp for our final night, and special dinner on the beach. The next morning we caught the boat, to the plane, which took us to Arusha for our last night together, and dinner with some more friends.
It was a super fun trip, and I was so lucky to share it with Dad and Nina. They got to see what my day to day life was like, some
off to Katavi!
of my favorite spots to go on weekends, and the special treasures that Tanzania has to offer!
There are more photos below