I got so used to seeing amazing beasts from the car on safari that I was still looking for cheetahs when we drove from Zanzibar Airport to Stone Town! Alas, no! The traffic jams were no longer a sign of wild animal sightings but the real thing. However, if there is a city vibe that will spark up the senses, it is found in abundance in Stone Town, the old quarter of Zanzibar City. Some places just have it. Kathmandu, Bandaneira, Jodhpur, Cochin, and Mrauk U immediately come to mind.
Welcome to Zanzibar
Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous region of Tanzania, a small archipelago in the Indian Ocean. The main island, also known as Zanzibar, is famous for its white sand palm fringed beaches, the atmospheric historic city of Stone Town, and competes for the title of Spice Islands with the Maluku islands of Indonesia. It is a center of Swahili culture, the mingling of Bantu, Arab, Persian, and Indian people on the Indian Ocean trade routes. Sounds like a place we would love!… Read more
Safari lodges try to portray themselves as oases of calm amid all the intense activity of a safari. However, it is a little difficult to chill when the room service book contains information on the following:
- What to do when baboons approach you.
- What to do in the event of a scorpion sting.
- How to call up your armed guard to escort you to the restaurant.
- Information on the mating rituals of scorpions.
- How to catch tsetse flies and identify them using your binoculars.
- What to do if a snake enters the room. (You will be relieved to know that the hotel will switch rooms for you if they cannot find the snake).
No mention of lions, leopards, or cheetahs. Maybe the hotel has made its point after mentioning the snakes. Its a jungle out there. Well, a grassland. Thank you Mbalageti Serengeti Lodge for making the stay seem scarier than going for a pee out in the park!
The lodges, of course, have plenty of the deadliest animals on the planet. People. In all their miserable glory. Bitching about the food, the service, the rooms, color of the sunset. I sometimes wonder why some people bother leaving their houses. … Read more
Pay your respects to the vultures
For they are your future
-Coil, Amethyst Deceivers
Everyone in the Serengeti wants to see a kill. This is somewhat ironic given that most meat-eating humans prefer not to know how their food lived and died before being served up in hygienic packaging. But “Did you see a kill?” was a constant refrain on the trip from our fellow in-humans.
In these vast plains of teeming wildlife, the odds seemed pretty good. There are plenty of meat eating cats and dogs. Plenty of herbivores provide the meat. However, the Serengeti is surprisingly clean of carcasses. It’s rare to see a rotting corpse, or a pile of cleaned off bones, never mind a kill close up. The reason for the apparent cleanliness? Vultures! Watch the vultures and you see our future. A rabble of squawking beasts polishing off the leftovers of the apex killers. Follow the vultures and find the dead. … Read more
The animals always grab the headlines when it comes to blogs about Tanzania. But let’s hear it for the astonishing landscape too! The jewel in the crown of Tanzania’s topography is the vast crater known as Ngorongoro. The 100 square mile crater formed when the volcano erupted and collapsed in on itself. The crater floor is at 5900 feet above sea level, surrounded by high walls that help protect the dense wildlife population. The palpable sense of otherworldliness or ‘out of time-ness’ was tangible. … Read more
‘The horror! The horror!’
Did he live his life again in every detail of desire, temptation, and surrender during that supreme moment of complete knowledge? He cried in a whisper at some image, at some vision, –he cried out twice, a cry that was no more than a breath–
‘The horror! The horror!’
(Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness)
Yep, that was me as we walked through the door of the Ilboru Lodge in Arusha, Tanzania and all my fears (and snobbery) about package tours smacked me on the nose. Before us was an assorted bunch of sun-blasted, blobby tourists lying on sun loungers sipping cocktails, or worse, donning grass skirts and giddily wobbling to warbling local riddims. Local fellas were doing cheesy acrobatic routines while asking for tips. One minute in and I was feeling queasy. I put it down to the thirty hours of flying and sloped off to the room post-haste.
A Year Earlier
“So, I want to take you kids on the holiday of a lifetime. I will pick up the tab.”
So began the conversations with Laura’s mother that eventually landed us along with her sister Kelsey in Tanzania in June 2018. Mama unexpectedly came into … Read more