Thursday, 23 May 2013

AFRICAN SAFARI & PARADISE ISLAND - TANZANIA

Taken by Nicole from the other jeep.

- A quick little disclaimery thing; I’ll try and describe the whole trip as best possible, just like I did in the last post about Kili, but no matter how good the pictures or literature, nothing ever compares to the real thing. If you get a chance I’d advise going and doing these things yourselves – experience is key.

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After all that hard work, a little relaxation was in order - no lying around on beaches though, that’s boring….

Once our bus got back into Arusha, we headed up into our rooms in the hotel for a much needed scrub down – which meant having to take our boots & socks off, at which point both me and Georgie started gagging, they didn't smell too great.

Moving on - the Kili crew all decided to meet down in the restaurant that evening for our first proper meal in nearly a week – it didn't really go to plan though. After 3 months of no alcohol, a strict diet and then no substantial meals for a week, my first few drinks absolutely slaughtered me. I think in total I drank the equivalent of about 3 or 4 pints of cider, but I felt like I’d drank triple that. To make things worse, the service at the hotel was a joke. We sat for over 2 hours with no food coming out, until in the end me & Georgie were fed up, took two pizzas off of a waiter bringing food to another table and headed upstairs.

Safari – The Ngorrongorro Crater
The next morning we had a pretty early start, setting off for the Crater on our first day of Safari. We packed our bags for an overnight stay, closer to the nature reserves, leaving our main luggage with the reception at Arusha and went on our way. Driving through Africa, no matter where you are, is always interesting – there’s always something going on or cool to look at, this time was no different.



The cows don't care for traffic
I spent quite a lot of the time talking to our driver for the day about the Masai people, their traditions, beliefs, tendencies etc. There were loads of the Masai along the roads, but at one point I spotted two young boys in their teens maybe, covered head to toe in jet black paint, large black feathers strapped to the sides of their heads with quite freaky white face paintings. The driver told me these were Masai boys who have been sent away from their tribes, out into the wild to become men, at which point they can return. I asked him if we see any others could he slow down, for me to take a picture – he laughed and said okay, but they’re not going to like it. I believed him but I didn't anticipate what was to come. The next pair that appeared along the road both had spears and were decorated the same as the previous pair. We slowed down slightly when we came close, and the instant I lifted my camera to take a photograph, both young boys lifted their spears and swiped at the front passenger side of the jeep where I was sitting. Being a tough, plated safari jeep, it didn't get damaged, I was pretty shook up though. The driver then told me they are angry all the time because they've just been circumcised - I suppose that's a fair enough reason.

Nicole just about got a photo of them - pretty scary dudes.

My terrible attempt - this guy had some fancy feathers though
Closer to the crater we pulled in at a local store - I imagine the owners gave our drivers some sort of tip for stopping off with tourists. The place seemed pretty nice, fenced off with guards, but nice. What shook me up even more then the Masai boys however, was one of the guards reactions when I asked could I take a photo of him – I wanted to get as many portraiture photos of the people I met in Africa as possible. He was sitting down on a type of plastic garden chair, holding a shotgun. When I asked he shouted at me, pumped the shotgun and stood up raising it towards me. I didn't know what to say or do really so I started backing up towards the shop which everyone else had gone in to. He shouted something else about my friends inside at which point I turned and went inside. When I came back outside three soldiers were saying something to him, but he didn't look over at me or anything, we got into the jeeps and drove off.

We eventually arrived at the upper rim of the Ngorrongorro Crater – I've never before and don’t know if I will again see anything so vast in front of me. No matter what I write about it on this, no matter how many pictures I show of it, you can only appreciate its size when you visit the place yourself. It was seriously amazing and overwhelming to look at – I’d recommend it highly.

Dan & Me standing on the rim of the crater.

A Masai village just inside the crater
Once down inside the crater the amount of wildlife started picking up rapidly, starting with huge birds and some water buffalo, to eventually herds of wildebeest and zebra, hundreds, possibly even thousands strong, ostriches, foxes etc. Driving in deeper, we came across a lone bull elephant, feeding in some marshes, surrounded by a cloud of pink flamingos. I’d put that at the second most picturesque experience on the safari.

A water buffalo hidden in the bushes - these guys probably shocked me the most in terms of their size, they are huge!
really zoomed in but still amazing to look at
Looking very excited with Dan & Holly
Now this is where the cool animals get involved – Simba and his crew. We noticed a group of jeeps huddled around these few trees and bushes, which when we drove over turned out to be because of a group of lions. Something that was quite annoying though was the fact that every single lion we saw, bar two cubs, was asleep, and we must have seen around thirty lions - not a good look guys. Some turned out to be quite funny to watch while they were asleep however – they like to roll around on their back, legs wide open.

Snooze
Lioness on her back, not a care in the world...
Our driver told us that after a big feed, lions will lie around and sleep for up to 30 hours.
When we came up to the last group of the day one was lying right beside the track, so far in that we were able to drive up against it almost. The driver told us the lions wouldn’t wake up no matter how loud the noise around them – I whistled at them, slapped the doors and against the roof etc, but in the end he was right. I was pretty gutted, I wanted it to jump up and just do something cool I suppose – kill something maybe?

Even though you know they'd kill you in an instant, they're still pretty cute

Later on, we drove towards one of the lakes in the crater, stopping off for a break, to get out of the jeep and walk around a little, there were many safari groups together here so it was pretty safe , I think – the guides seemed to think so anyway, regardless of a huge group of hippos being in the lake, Africa’s biggest man killer.


I climbed up onto the branch of a tree by the lakes shore, it was pretty cool just to sit back and take in the scenery, no photos or talking, just looking. At one point a group of school kids on a trip from North Africa, came up to me asking could they take a picture with me, I didn’t really know why, but in the end one told me they thought I was an English football player, which was funny because I hate football.

Me & the kids

After the stop off we drove around a little more, stopping off beside a herd of zebra who came in real close to the jeep, calm and comfortable being around us.

It amazed me how fine and precise their stripes are - i also used to think they were as big as some horses, when in fact they're more the size on donkeys

Two zebras standing in their camouflage formation 
Hanging out by the pool in our hotel for the evening.

The Tarangire –
Early start again, today was going to be busy, we had to do a lot of driving and safari, and make it back to Kilimanjaro airport for our flight to Zanzibar. We had a new driver now, he told us where we were going for our safari today was definite elephant country, so we were almost guaranteed to see them, which was exciting, I’d never seen an elephant up close.

Now I know Georgie isn't the biggest of guys, but I think you can still appreciate the size of this elephants skull
Chewing on an elephants thigh bone - this thing must have weighed 30kg atleast
Almost as soon as we arrived into the reserve, a family of elephants caught the drivers eye, walking in single file, left of the track. We drove along while they marched for a little while, until pulling up near another track headed for the river. A few moments later they emerged from the trees, still in single file, walking right in front of our jeep, it was incredible to see. Our driver got a call on his radio saying that something promising was in another area of the reserve so we drove on watching the elephants wander off.

To whoever was on the radio – cheers for the tip off, what we found when arrived at the place we were told about was the most picturesque thing in nature I ever have and probably ever will see; another group of elephants standing in a shallow river, while a pride of lions lay on the banks with their cubs played in the river. This is a prime example of my whole idea on pictures/literature not being enough – the pictures we all took are great but not enough.

Simply amazing.
Mama lion checking on the cubs - the only time we saw an adult lion awake.
We spent quite a while here, just taking it all in, I don’t think any amount of time, witnessing something as special as that could have been enough for me, it was truly amazing.
We then moved on, driving around for quite some time – there wasn’t as much wildlife here as in the carter but the experiences I had were far better I think. We came across a few more elephants, some alone, some in small groups, but nothing out of the ordinary. We then got another radio call telling us of some elephants near one of the tracks, and quickly made our way towards that area. Coming closer, we started spotting a few elephants, more and more, until at one point we drove through a narrow gap between some tress/bushes, which when we emerged, we were surround by a large group of them. The engine was quickly switched off and we were told to keep very quiet – I climbed up through the open roof to have a look at them all. A mother elephant with her calf were stood not even 10ft from my side of the jeep, just looking at us all hanging out of the roof staring at them – I tried to reach out and touch the calf but it was a bit of a longshot, plus the mother started making these sort of grunts and would have probably flipped the jeep.



This is taken standing on the seats inside the jeep, leaning out of the roof and they were still taller then me.

very close - I think the driver was nervous we'd freak it out and make it charge
I really wanted something like that to happen though. Not then and there because it was a bit too dangerous but I did hope for maybe a rhino to attack the jeep at some point, nothing major but a massive smash would have been pretty sick. I didn’t even get to see a rhino either – the number one thing I was hoping to get up close to.

It was time to leave, we drove back towards the gates, but had to stop off for something, I can’t remember why, but me and Dan hopped out and took a walk around, bearing in mind this was still technically the wild. We found these small monkeys, quite a lot of them, running up and down some tress collecting bit and bobs from the floor. I’ve always known any type of wild monkey can be quite dangerous, and bite, but these guys seemed okay – not that I’m an expert on monkeys. We took some food out of our jeep and started giving it to them. Far more suddenly appeared jumping down from the trees, hoping for food. It was funny watching them argue over pieces of Pringles and whatever else we gave them, until our driver got really pissed at us and had a bit of a hissy fit - he said they’ll now always expect food, but we couldn’t resist giving them a little snack, I don’t think it really did any harm.

Poor little fella was probably starving

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On our drive to the airport, we took a route through a busy road, packed with cars, bikes, people, cows and dogs. We were driving pretty slow due to the traffic, and out of nowhere the driver in the jeep ahead of us hit and run over a dog. The poor thing ran off squealing holding up its back leg. Everyone in the jeep was so shocked and angry at how the driver in front had just done that to an innocent dog, except our driver; he was cracking up, thought it was hilarious. He wasn’t laughing though when we got to the airport and no one tipped him, arsehole.

although its not tiny, its the smallest plane I've been on

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Flying to Zanzibar, out of Kilimanjaro airport means you fly along side the mountain, not above it. This was really was insane to see and take in. Mid flight our plane flew at 12,000 ft, and as we passed Kili, we looked out and still had to face up to see its peak, sitting at 19,341 ft. That really put into perspective what we’d achieved.


We arrived in Zanzibar in the late evening, and after a couple of hours in a bus we arrived at our hotel, sat down and ordered dinner. Zanzibar is one of my favourite places I’ve been, and the food some of the best I’ve tasted. That night I had grilled red snapper with some sort of pepper sauce, vegetables and rice – it was beautiful, so fresh and organic.

Sadie & Me on the beach outside our hotel
Later on some of us decided we wanted to have a few drinks and after speaking to some Swedish girls, they pointed us over to a bar the locals knew as ‘Gangsta bar’ – we thought that was its actual name, turned out it wasn't, it was where the dealers and pimps hung out.

We sat down at what I suppose you could call a bar, more of a board across two blocks, and ordered some drinks. Almost immediately one of the men in the bar sat on a stool beside me. He had short hair, with one long deadlock at the back of his head, his body covered in tattoos which were clearly done through some sort of gang ritual and it was obvious he was high on drugs. He had one hand in his shorts and in the other he was holding a small revolver – I wasn't too nervous though because lots of people over there carried guns, but at the same time the scenario we were in was a bit sketchy. He asked me if I wanted any ketamine – instead of answering I said isn't that what they use to knock out elephants, he laughed and then pointed to a woman sitting beside us and asked if I wanted sex with her for a good price. I said no thank you and bought him a beer to break the atmosphere a little. I've never seen someone so surprised at being given a beer before. He turned out to be one of my best mates I've ever met while abroad, I still speak to him now a little on Facebook – his name’s Respect.


Something I came to understand while in Zanzibar is at home in London, anyone who sells drugs or traffics women is seen as scum, but over there almost everyone is involved in it some way or another, its juts a different way of life, people forget that sometimes. – Not that I condone any of it.

We spent the next few days taking it easy, eating, drinking, taking walks around the island a little. I spent a lot of time with the locals – spending time with the locals and getting to know them in my opinion is one of the best way to experience somewhere – I made quite a few friends with a lot of the boys working the beach, who sold boat trips, snorkels etc and of course, sex and drugs, but mainly Respect and his crew.


After spending some time with him, Respect told me a lot about himself; his life growing up, his crew, his fights with Masai tribes on the island, that type of thing. He showed me some of his scars from fights he’d had. His stomach was covered in loads of small bits of scar tissue; he told me he’d been shot, hence the marks. His right shoulder had a huge dip in it, which he told me a Masai tribesman done to him with a machete, swiping at him trying to kill him in a fight. It was surprising how open he was about it all. I asked him about his tattoos, and what they all meant – that he wouldn’t tell me however; instead he laughed and said the whole ‘if I told you I’d have to kill you’ line.

Relaxed evenings on paradise island
The crew decided to book a boat trip for one of the days, I’m pretty sure everyone came long, it included snorkeling gear, drinks on the boat, and a stop off on a small inhabited island for a grilled fish meal. Previous to this, all the boats I’d been on were factory manufactured, relatively new models; this one however was probably the coolest I’d ever been on. It was literally tree trunks bound together with ropes and nails, with planks attached here and there. It was purely powered by the wind, with its sail being a large sheet of some form of hand made cloth. Sailing along the coast on Zanzibar on this boat was another experience where I just sat back and took it all in, appreciating where I was and the beauty of what was around me.


Goofing about up the front of the boat
Growing up, dad got my and my brother into scuba diving, so being in the water with a snorkel chasing fish about was nothing new to me. Whenever I’d dived before however it was clearly made known that it is prohibited to touch any of the wildlife and corals. In Zanzibar nothing like this was said though, we pulled up just off the shore of an island and hopped in. After swimming around for a while I noticed there was another group of people in the same spot walking up through the coral, snapping it with their flippers with no concern about it at all, which pissed me off quite a bit, pure idiots. It annoys me when people visit places wherever it may be and have no respect, just because they are a paying customer, especially when it comes to nature.

The guys pulled the boat up at another small island, this time real close in – we all hopped out, and walked in towards the shore carrying all our stuff for the BBQ. I’d heard Zanzibar had the whitest beaches in Africa, and yeah they were all pretty white but nothing compared to this beach – you couldn’t walk around without being blinded by the reflection off the sand, sun glasses were a necessity.






We were cooked king fish, which was served with rice and vegetables in a sauce. Easily, this was by miles, the best fish I’d ever eaten, beyond delicious. As I said earlier the food in Zanzibar was incredible. We spent a while longer on the island, messing about, just enjoying where we were, and then packed up and began sailing home.

Typical set up for our dinners in Zanzibar

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The next day, we’d organized to take a trip into Stone Town, Zanzibar’s busiest town. This was really exciting for me, as it had a strong essence of the culture of Zanzibar. Being an island known for its fish and spice markets, this was the place to be if you wanted to be right in the middle of the hustle and bustle – which I did. As always I enjoyed the drive, sitting near the window, taking in as much as I could as it flew past my window. When we arrived in Zanzibar, it was clear there was an edgy atmosphere manifested in the people rushing towards one part of the town. Sadly, this turned out to be the friends and family of passengers who were on the MV Skagit ferry, which capsized and eventually sank. People lined the banks around the port looking out at the rescue ferry coming towards us, whilst crowds were in a frenzy, up against the gates fighting to get past the guards and find survivors. I felt quite, rude and insignificant standing there, watching some of these peoples lives being torn apart, I think we all did, so we moved on.


My dads line of work is architectural salvage – I think it’s because of this that I’m hugely interested in architecture and architectural features. Zanzibar was magnificent in that aspect; its buildings were plated with finely detailed woodwork, doors hand carved to precise accuracy and so so much intricate fretwork almost everywhere.  It kept my eyes and attention busy, almost on overdrive.



Stone Town, Town Hall
We were told to stick in groups and that the markets aren't too safe in terms of muggings and the potential of being pick pocketed, but like I said earlier that’s what I wanted to see so me and Tom took a walk through some of the main isles of the market. While we were walking through I noticed that each stall either smelled really good, or really bad, there was no middle ground (apart from the clothes stalls). I’m almost certain on saying I think we were the only tourists in the market, it was simply just the locals, each giving me and Tom a dodgy look as we’d walk past, some smiling and waving afterwards, but it was clear that it was out of the ordinary for us to walk down through these areas – another way of experiencing somewhere; don’t just stick to the main attractions.


Some home made chicken me and Tom tried - really nice



The end of the day, and our trip came, we drove back to our hotel, packed our stuff ready to leave in the morning and fly back to Nairobi, and had one last evening in Zanzibar. I had a few drinks with Respect and his boys and headed to bed. All in all Zanzibar would easily go into my top 3 places I've ever been, It was such an amazing place, with the most chilled vibe and easy going people I’d met. No one was in a hurry to be somewhere or stressed about getting things done, it had great food, good weather, and the most I spent on a bottle of cider was the equivalent of around 65p - it really was like a paradise island.

Hope you enjoyed the post! Feel free to ask any questions!
- Jamie


Fisherman bringing their boats in for the night

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