Jambo Number 5 - Tanzania/Zanzibar/Kenya


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Africa » Tanzania » North » Serengeti National Park
October 6th 2008
Published: October 15th 2008
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Nungwi
Whilst I still have a slight tan and memories from our recent travels fresh in my mind, I thought it best to update this blog...the title reminds me of the Lou Bega classic that also serves well (with a little adaptation) in making a tenuous link to our holiday. Jambo meaning 'Hello' in Swahili and Number 5 referring to the 'big 5' we saw on holiday, anyway I digress (heh, that’s never happened before!)

After an overnight flight to Nairobi, we touched down at 6.30am expecting a 6 hour wait for our transfer flight to Dar Es Salam. Luckily we noticed that there was in fact a connecting flight in just over an hour, after being told to go to various gates we spoke to lady who even though did not seem to do much organised us to go on the earlier flight. Nick was nervous that our bags would not be going with us as they had originally been checked through to Dar Es Salam; checking with 5 different ground stewardesses that our bags were on the connecting flight did not satisfy him so before boarding the flight we checked the trailers of luggage that were waiting to be
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Picnic in Ngorogoro
loaded onto the plane - success, they were there!

Our flights were quite scenic, we flew over the Eiffel Tower, all lit up and covered with fairy lights looking pretty, and then we flew over Mount Kilimanjaro - that was very cool and gave us a good reason not to climb it - we were never going to get a better view of the highest mountain in Africa!

Impressed with the efficiency of Kenyan Airways (that would never have happened in LHR), we then proceeded to be 'green' travelers and fall for the oldest trick in the book - getting touts to buy our tickets for the ferry to Zanzibar. "Its $50" we were told "and there is a boat in 2 minutes, you have to hurry" - the latter was true but the former wasn't - once safely on board we saw that the price of the ticket was only $30 - whoopsee!

We sailed in the midday sun and arrived to the beautiful island of Zanzibar, greeted by the slightly dilapidated colonial buildings of Stone Town. The next hour was spent avec backpacks trouncing through the maze of alleyways and getting hopelessly lost looking for a hotel we had read about in the trusty Lonely Planet. Not so trusty actually as the maps were rubbish, plus its not easy being relaxed looking for a hotel with a 15kg backpack and being followed by a tout who will not take a 'polite' no, a 'raised voice' no and a 'please will you just leave us alone' for an answer. Eventually we find somewhere and the scoundrel got a few pennies for hassling us for an hour from the hotelkeeper - they will never learn. Our first night was spent watching sunset from Africa house with the 100s of other tourists all vying for a picture of the sunset followed by a typical Zanzibar meal where despite the loud Taarab band Nick and I dozed off due to jet lag.

The next day we joined a group for an interesting Spice Tour around the island where we were shown how they grow every spice from Cardamom, to Nutmeg to Vanilla. The locals even had a plant that produced hair gel! After lunch in some local's house (it was Ramadan so we had to eat indoors so as not to offend / tempt the Muslims sitting outside with rumbling tummies), we got a transfer to what the Lonely Planet claim to be the most beautiful beach on Zanzibar 'Matemwe'. What the LP should have highlighted in big red 24 point size text is that you cannot swim 80% of the time in Matemwe because of the reef and tide. Our hotel was great; pool, right on the white sandy beach but a bit lifeless as it was at the end of the high season. There we were expecting copious fresh fish on the menu and our hotel did not offer any fish (they were pretty lazy) but we did find a cool bar that served up some good prawns. Being typically (and stupidly) English we got thoroughly burnt on our second day (well you don't need suntan lotion when it's cloudy) which made putting on our wet suits when we went diving a complete joy. Apart from forgetting our masks Scuba Libra was quite a cool diving outfit. Having not dived for 9 years I made a graceful entry into the water as I flapped, looked goggle eyed through my mask, cleverly worked my buoyancy aid by sinking to the bottom in record time and disturbed the
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Being chased by Buffalo's
majority of sand on the ocean floor (sorry fellow snorkellers). After being told to calm down using hand signals, Nick, myself, our dive master and his girlfriend went on a couple of dives on Mnemba Atol Reef; visibility was very good, we got to see about 5 huge turtles, a massive Octopus that Nick spotted under a rock, a box fish, and lots of other colourful fish. The next day we decided to go to a beach on Zanzibar westside to a resort called Nungwi that promised swimming pool sea all day long - fat lot of good really as we were burnt to a cinder and could not go out in the midday sun. Our trip there was in a local Dalla Dalla that was crammed full of far too many people and a.n.other tourist; an unfortunate Japanese woman who had her foot stamped on, shouted 'hi he hi he' in a loud voice and then got the whole van laughing raucously at her because of her high pitched squeal.

Nungwi was a bit livelier with a mix of honeymooners and travelers - made up of a few beaches, cafes and restaurants on the sand coupled with gorgeous water and sunshine. We did not do much there except for a quick walk and getting up at 6am to go and watch a fisherman’s market. Actually a market is probably a too sophisticated term, it consisted of an old man in a 80s shell suit, and tired fisherman (they fish through the night miles away from shore by moonlight) slamming down their fish for sale on the sand to the local restaurants. We saw a variety of fish from yellow finned tuna to dorado to a massive sting ray that went for $100 - that fisherman must have been happy!

After a plush night back in Stone Town in the beautiful Coffee House Hotel, we took a taxi to the airport. There was an hour to go until our flight but no-one on the check in desk, by the time we had visited the airline office and I had got accused of nicking the office manager's English novel, 4 Italians had checked in and taken our places on the plane. Subsequently we had to wait another hour for our disgruntled pilot to fly us to the mainland - it was like having our own 12 seater plane as there was only 2 other people on the flight. We arrived in Arusha and got a right royal rip off taxi ride to the town centre, the driver must have earned his weekly wage through that journey! On arrival to our plush 1 star hotel complete with a dirty pair of flip flops for the shower, we got instantly jumped upon by many of the touts that we had been warned about in Arusha, trying to sell us a safari - its big business with over 100 operators and touts printing fake business cards to lure you in - hence we were quite skeptical.

After 5 minutes, we saw a group of tourists leaving a few jeeps with happy faces - that was good enough for us - we jumped in the jeep and told the guy to take us to his offices as we wanted to book a safari - his face looked puzzled and ours became more so as we went further out of town to their 'offices' than we had spent $30 in our taxi 😉 Turns out that it was a company who take all bookings over the internet from Dutch tourists - the boss
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Carnivore
was quite surprised asking the office staff 'where they picked us up from', they were friendly enough but in the end we decided to go with the Richard Branson of Arusha 'Bobby' who not only ran safaris, but also produced water and had a shuttle bus business.

After losing 17% on a very bad exchange rate from a cash advance we boarded our own private jeep safari the next morning with our lovely guide Bakari. It was 2 hours before we arrived at our first park - Lake Manyara and as we drove through a town called Mosquito River we made a note to self to take our malaria tablets. Our first day was pretty relaxed; Lake Manyara is one of the smallest parks that enjoys the backdrop of the rift valley. We saw a few animals, my favourite being the 'Black Faced Monkey' with bright blue balls (that made our driver chuckle). Our first night was spent in a gorgeous lodge overlooking the lake on the escarpment, we were welcomed with hot towels and cold drinks and spent the evening eating copious amounts of food from the free flowing buffet. On the first evening we made sure that
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We had to pay for the safari in Cash! We were millionaires - and Sally slept for some of it!
our balcony door was closed as we were warned about the nosey baboons. The next morning I returned from breakfast to our room to find my clothes and sunglasses strewn over the floor, I was a bit shocked but relieved to find all our camera paraphernalia still on the dressing table only then to realise that Nick had left our balcony door open so a baboon had obviously been on the hunt for food - typically Nick's rucksack was not touched!

After a quick re-pack, we were soon on our way to the Serengeti with a quick stop at Ngorongoro Crater that turned into a long stop as we had a puncture. Our jack was too dusty to work so we were lucky when the 10th jeep that passed stopped out of sympathy to help. En route to the Serengeti we passed mountains and small Masai villages before experiencing a bumpy ride for a good hour and half prior to arriving at the entrance gate to the park. After a quick lunch stop we started our first game drive in the Serengeti, the most well known national park and for good reason for its vast expanse (the size of Ireland), its massive herds of hoofed animals and its beautiful landscape, dotted with acacia trees. Within an hour our clever driver had spotted our first lioness soaking up the sun on a rock whilst her partner chilled out in the long grass. Next stop was an awesome spot - 2 cheetahs stretching out under a tree - they were so beautiful and not fazed by the closeness of our jeep, we felt very pleased as we were the first jeep to spot them and sniggered at a jeep that we had just passed who seemed to be staring at a rock with no animals on (apparently the reflection of the acacia tree can sometimes mimic a cheetah). Onwards we went as we followed a few other jeeps to watch a leopard asleep in a tree - that is interestinng for so long. The leopard is a solitary animal and spends the majority of their 20 year life alone - quite sad really. We spent the rest of the safari viewing the lazy hippos in the smelly pool and hoards of zebra, gazelle, wilderbeast, giraffe and elephants - an amazing 2nd day. The evening was quite relaxed apart from the excitement
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Our Excellent Driver
of Nick spotting a hippo grazing outside our room.

An early start the next day afforded us an exciting show of machismo with a heard of buffalo antagonizing a lion and his lioness. This spectacle went on for approximately 1/2 hour or so with brave buffalos taking turn to goad the lion and the lion growling accordingly, pulse racing stuff. After a long lunch in the sun we hastily made our way back to the gate as we were running out of time before our 24 hour pass was up. However we could not resist taking a snap of 3 lionesses perched in a tree; our driver got out to have a look as he stood on his footplate only to hear a rustle behind him in the grass - seeing a lion he quickly jumped back into his driver’s seat. Whilst driving fast down the road Nick spotted a herd of Wilder beast running and then spotted the reason why - a lioness chasing the herd - oh my god what heart pumping excitement as we saw the lioness quickly pounced on an unsuspecting wilder beast and taking it to the ground - unfortunately behind a bush so we did not get to see much more action but it was like watching a live documentary! In a 24 hour period we had seen 4 of the big 5 and a kill - amazing stuff!

Ngorongoro Crater was our 3rd park, the largest crater in the world that houses the densest population of lions and is pretty spectacular - it was also Bakari's favourite park so we were quite excited about seeing lots of animals. Unfortunately the most excitement was having a risky toilet stop behind our truck in the lion infested park (ok bit of poetic license there) and watching scavenging birds trying to steal some of the other tourist's lunch when we had all stopped for a picnic. We did see some animals: Rhino, Jackals, Hyenas, Elephants, Lions but nothing too close up which was quite a shame ; actually I was quite ashamed as I fell asleep on part of the safari - its tiring stuff doing nothing! Luckily Nick was on watch so I did not miss anything.

Our penultimate day on the Safari was spent traveling back towards Arusha and taking a right hand turn towards Tarangire, our last park. They saved the best lodge till last as we stayed in a beautiful 8 month old 21-tented lodge where each 'tent on stilts' had their own animal theme with bedposts, chairs and dressing tables carved into said animal. It was also on the edge of the park that meant cheetah footprints were on the sandy paths outside our lodge and elephants came to drink from the hotel pool at night - I was in my element and did not want to go to sleep in case I missed out on the action, Nick was scared though and made sure we stayed inside whilst it was dark as he said a big cat could easily jump up onto our deck! We also had the place to ourselves so having 10+ staff to wait on us and a beautiful steak dinner was a right grind. On leaving I announced to the most hospitable Hotel Manager that I did not want to leave!

The last day was to prove the most exciting. Nick was keen to get up close and personal to the 100s of elephants that lived close to the river bed. We stopped as an elephant started to cross the road, the elephant did not cross the road but instead ate from a bush centimeters from our jeep. It was all pretty amazing until the elephant then chose to get a bit angry and went head on to our jeep, shook its head and flapped its ears furiously in anger. As my hand holding the video camera started to shake our driver told us to get down and keep quiet - himself taking the precaution on turning off his mobile phone and lying across his front seat. The elephant proceeded to go round to the other side of the jeep and eat for a further 10 minutes, by this time my adrenalin rush was so major I was experiencing heavy breathing and was not even affected by the Tetse flies biting me. Ellie then went to the front of our vehicle again and shook his trunk across the bonnet, decided we were not that interesting and walked off. Once at a safe distance we started the car and made a quick getaway sighing loudly - apparently Elephants do sometimes get angry and attack jeeps so it had been a close call. The excitement did not stop there, before we left we spotted
A bit close for comfortA bit close for comfortA bit close for comfort

This Elephant was pretty intimidating
countless other animals - mainly more Elephants and then got very close to a lioness and lion - a real treat. All in all, what a wonderful safari experience and what luck to have such a fantastic driver / spotter who knew where to go as when you first enter the parks you think that finding the animals is a bit like finding needles in a haystack.

Once back in Arusha it was straight back down to earth as we got dropped off at the recommended Meru Inn - god knows why is was recommended as it was like a prison, my only guess is the price at a cheap $15 a night! The next morning we took a 6 hour bus trip to Nairobi where we went to the cinema and spent the night in the dubiously named Comfort Hotel. Our last day was spent bargaining salad bowls and candlesticks at the local masai market. In the evening we went to Carnivores, the infamous restaurant on the outskirts of town which is an 'eat as much as you can' place - in the old days they use to serve up Giraffe and Gazelle but government restrictions have put an end to this and its all standard meat now - still very good fun and when you have had enough you give up by putting your flag down.

So that’s it, a very long account of our 16 day holiday - well to those who are still reading, hope you enjoyed this blog as much as we did our holiday and hope you are all well!

Sal and Nick



Additional photos below
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We snuck off road to get this shot
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Lioness

The tag is because she is pregnant
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Mt Kilimanjaro

Mt Meru in the background
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Slave Cell

Stone Town - Up to 80 people were kept in these rooms.


15th October 2008

Lovely pictures you two. One day we'll have to retrace your steps. Perhaps when the children are older!
15th October 2008

Jambo Sal & Nick
We've just read your latest blog. What a super holiday and what wonderful photos, especially the ones of the animals!!! I'd like you to e-mail me the ones of the lion peeking around the tree, the big one of the zebras at the top and the one of the giraffes. We did enjoy hearing all about your adventures.
19th October 2008

Jambo
Love the photos of your trip - what a wonderful experience. am trying to find the rest of your blogs but think i am doing something wrong. Will keep trying.
19th October 2008

love it love you XX
21st October 2008

Another excellent holiday, a little different to Wales! Loved the photo of the giant Hippo, and the roasted Nick.
22nd October 2008

Another exciting adventure
Wow you 2 sure do get around. Great shots and a different experience of accommodation etc than what we did all those years ago! I loved Zanzibar too!
24th March 2010

Kenya Safari
Travel to this beautiful East African country for a Kenya Safari and you will find a delightful mix of wildlife adventures, miles of sugary white sand beach and some of the most hospitable people in Africa.

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