Jazani Forest

Today we drove to the Jazani Forest, home to several animals including the Red Colobus monkey which is only found in Zanzibar. We walked through the jungle seeing holes which were home to crabs and Speik Monkeys. After half an hour of trekking, the Colobus monkey showed itself, jumping from tree to tree. They didn’t look like what I had in my mind as I was expecting long, hairy monkeys like the Black and White Colobus you find on mainland Tanzania. After watching the monkeys for a while we decided to move on as the guide said they are known for urinating on people who hang around too long.

We continued to the Southeast Coast to visit The Residence Resort, White Sand Villas, Kisiwa and Breezes, where I would spend the night. All were beautiful accommodations with stunning white powder beaches. This time of year is kite surfing season and people come from around the world to master the sport.

 

Stone Town

Continuing through Stone Town we visited the Old Slave market, one of the world’s last slave markets. Though the history of the trade was interesting, it is sad to think how people were treated. We left to visit to the Fish market, though a little smelly, it was buzzing with life as the day’s fresh catch was auctioned off. The bigger catches and more sought after fish were left until last, bids were going back and forth on a 6 foot meaty marlin. We continued on to the produce and meat market where the stalls were so close together you could hardly fit your shoulders between. The chicken market was something completely unreal to me as there were prepared chickens hanging in the front window and live ones in behind. Those customers looking for a live chicken would take their pick, grab them by the feet and walk out as if they were grocery bags, hanging upside down by their ankles.

The rest of the day was spend walking through old Stone Town, down streets with no names, where you would get lost without a guide. Something I found very interesting was the old doors along each block and their meaning. If the door had a square top, Arabic people lived there while if they had a rounded top Indian people lived there. Each of the doors were symbolically carved specific to the family living inside. Carvings of fish meant they were fishermen or a pineapple meant they were farmers. Many doors were build with heavy, strong materials and had large metal spikes. This idea was brought from India where elephants would knock down doors. Though elephants are not a problem in Zanzibar the spikes were still used.

To finish up the day, I boarded a traditional dhow for a sunset cruise along the coastline with a Kilimanjaro Beer. A nice way to end the day!

Arrival in Zanzibar & the Spice Market

24 hours after departing, I landed in hot and humid Zanzibar (even at 2am), a nice change from what I left in Calgary. I stayed overnight here at an old Sultan’s Palace (a Heritage Site) located right on the Ocean and awoke to the sound of crashing waves, what a great way to start my day!

This morning I met my guide Joseph and we were on our way out of town towards the spice plantations. The drive was beautiful and we stopped at the Maruhubi Palace, which dated back to the late 1800s. The Palace once belonged to the 3rd Arab Sultan of Zanzibar and was the home of his secondary wives and where he hosted visitors from far away lands.

We continued on to the highest plantation in all of Zanzibar (120m above sea level). We tried a number of local spices including nutmeg, cloves (Zanzibar was once the largest clove producer in the world), cinnamon, turmeric and ginger, as well as many different types of tropical fruit. The herbs are grown for cooking but each also has their own medicinal use. Did you know cinnamon root is used in products like Vick’s Vapour Rub?

 

Packing for Bush and Beach

When it comes to packing for a trip I usually wait until the last minute to throw everything I need into a bag just before heading off to the airport. This usually leads to forgetting something. This time, I chose to do something different and pack several days prior. The experience has been great and I actually have time to buy items I am missing like travel size toothpaste, bug spray and sun screen!

When choosing what clothes to pack, I stick to versatile items that hide the dirt, dry quickly, are multi-purpose (zip off pants), and are warm for those cool mornings. This particular trip has the diversity of the white sand beaches of Zanzibar and the lush forests of Uganda so I packed some specific items such as a snorkel and work gloves to protect my hands from the jungle thistles.

A few of my favorite items: Tripod, Canon 7D with Tarmin 16 – 300 lens, GoPro Hero 5, Selfie stick, binoculars, and noise cancelling headphones (essential for the long haul flights)

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How it all began

This trip all began when my beautiful wife was looking at volunteering at a hospital in Uganda. As I started planning I decided while there I had to add one of my bucket list items…gorilla trekking. Having been to Africa ten times I still haven’t witnessed the gorilla families in the wild. With Uganda literally being around the world we thought it best to add on some beach time in Zanzibar to get the most out of the trip. However, my itinerary in Zanzibar is no snooze on the beach as I will be inspecting over 21 different properties around the island, searching for the best of the best. It has been a long time planning and now I’m finally heading out on another adventure!

Small World

This morning was our earliest start to the day yet, with a 430 am wake up to catch a long awaited balloon ride over the Mara. Unfortunately plans can change when relying so heavily on nature and due to the high winds this morning we were unable to take off! A rare incident, however unavoidable on this occasion. Safety always comes first!

Since we were up early we continued on our game drive with Timothy, looking for the more than usually elusive mara giraffe. We had spotted the odd mara giraffe from afar, however it was time to focus on this animal up close and find the feature differences to the Reticulated and Rothschild Giraffe previously sighted. There are much fewer trees in the Mara for them to munch on and in the evenings they would make their way to the comfort of the trees and back to the plains in the morning. Today we had no trouble finding them and we found a “tower” of 21 giraffes! 2 teenage males were practising ‘necking’ the art of giraffe fighting which can sometimes end in death!

After this final game drive in the mara triangle and saying goodbye to Timothy we were delivered to Little Governors where we took their “ferry” boat across the Mara river over to main Governors camp. Not quite like the wildebeest crossing, however an experience none the less! Especially in the rain.

Once we’d checked in and had a wonderful three course lunch at camp it was time to see the other Governors’ properties, game driving along the way of course. This was our first day of rain and everything was a little greener because of it. The dust had settled and the wildebeest were running around with delight. On this side of the river the wildebeest were plentiful! To us they looked abundant across the plains – we can only imagine what 1.5 million of them in September brings to the same area.

While at Il Moran camp, we bumped into a couple of Brian and Dee Keating’s friends from Australia, what a small world! An Antarctic expedition leader, it made perfect sense as to how they knew each other.

Our afternoon game drive took us to see two sister lions playing with each other. Lots of snuggles, playful slaps across the face and the odd pounce while the other one was napping! A little while later a big male lion, (one of the known 6 warrior males of the area) came over to greet the ladies and they approved, he was poa (cool) and could stick around. These same lions reside right by the camp grounds, only metres from the manager’s house. they had hidden their cubs in the thick of the foliage, only weeks old. They would greet all the guests as they set out for a morning drive right by the gate!
Duncan our new guide for this side of the Mara was keen to show us something new. While the rain slowly dampened the dirt, we watched on as a hyena family gathered outside their den also enjoying the cooler weather – a multi generational family of 15, the usual size. Who would have thought the babies could be so cute! At this age appearing black in colour and yet to adopt their spots! We watched them ponder about for an hour learning their behaviour and interacting with eachother. Playing and resting at the same time, depending on their age. The (matriarch) always patrolling the grounds, fascinating and hilarious creatures. As the nature book goes, known as ‘the land cleaner’, it is the 4th animal in line to feed after a lion kill, second is the jackel, third the vulture, and finally leaving only the bones and skin for the hyena.

Tonight we fell asleep to the wonderful sounds of the rain pattering on our tent, the hippos talking and roars of the lion as we were located ideally right by the river.

How does each day bring such reward? Because this is absorbing yourself in nature. Thanks again Africa, time is running short!

The Mara Triangle

Timothy picked us up bright and early today at 6:20am and off we set for a morning of leopard tracking. We saw many paw prints on the dirt road but didn’t manage to track down this elusive cat before one of our compatriots had to fly out. Returning them to the airstrip and us to camp for a great buffet lunch. Timothy was set on a more active game drive for us, so we made a plan and headed back out to complete our wildlife experience and look for a cheetah before heading to a Maasai village.

We set off to the plains of the Mara triangle and to our delight we found a beautiful cheetah and her two cubs poised on a termite mound surveying the area for a lunch of their own. We stalked the cheetah and her babies as she followed her prey in the distance. The kids finding a lone tree to climb while mama looked for a bite, never straying far from her cute little fluff balls!

After leaving these three speedy cats it was time to hit the village. But not before running into an extremely full lion family of 6 beautiful beasts panting heavily in the shade of a tall tree. They had just finished dining on a huge feast! Lions do not sweat and therefore dramatically pant so that they can cool off after eating such a large meal. Their bellies were stretched so tight you could see the veins and fresh blood on their faces…..what a smorgasboard they had finished. They were all so sleepy and would now nap for most of the day, so it was now time to again go on or way to the village. Like the Samburu, the local Maasai warriors danced and sang on our arrival, showing us into their community culture and homes.

Unbenounced to us, after leaving these lovely people we were on our way to an incredible sundowner. Perched on a hill overlooking the magnificent plains stretching far into the serengeti, with Maasai dancing, a large bonfire, drinks and some of the best guacamole we’d ever tasted. This really made for an incredible sunset. Each experience going further than our expectations!

The view we had overlooking the Mara, is where parts of the movie “Out of Africa” were shot!

As we arrived back at camp we had planned to go to our room and clean up a bit before dinner; to our delight we walked in to find a romantic surprise for 2! The managers at Bateleur Camp had kindly arranged for an exclusive surprise dinner on our own private deck. An experience they proudly provide on a special occasion. And wow did it blow us away, once we confirmed it was definitely for us and not for the honeymooners in the tent next door haha! We happily accepted the beautiful rose pedaled floor, covering every surface of our room. The deck was surrounded by lanterns….and all we had to do was take in the incredible sounds of Africa!

Let the Mara games begin

This morning we said goodbye to our gracious hosts in Samburu and hello to the Masai Mara. Flying over the landscape was a sight to be had, the winding rivers and small villages below being an incredible show for our 1.5 hour flight. On arrival to the Mara we could see herds of elephants and zebra. It was certainly a scenic flight!

A warm welcome awaited us at the airstrip with tea, coffee and cookies. This wonderful service continued all the way to Kichwa Tembo Camp where they sang and danced on our arrival. After checking in and seeing all the tents, including the beautiful pool view and stunning communal lounge and bar area, we were off on our first Masai Mara game drive. Directly leaving the camp we visited a den of hyenas, followed by a speedy drive down the gravel road to find two black rhinos, a couple grazing near the forest’s edge. A rare sighting in the area! After leaving them a slice of privacy we continued our drive. We were surprised by the large number of elephant families roaming in the area. With only a lioness sighting under our belt, we were estactic to come across two grand male lions feasting on a warthog, they were beautiful! Watching them feast while vultures from above and jackel from aside lurked for their turn to eat. Nature’s pecking order working its magic. It was not a huge feast on this occasion, however enough to warrant a nap as the 2 lionesses of the group walked on by them.

After a very successful game drive it was time to meet with our hippo friends for a full moon sundowner! As the moon reflected off the water we watched the hippos yawn and listened to the sounds of them bellow in preparation for their exit, as they started emerging from the shelter of the water to graze for the evening.

After a couple of gin and tonics the sky grew dark and we joined Timothy, our new guide, for an unexpected bush dinner. This event took our breath away even as we pulled up; lanterns were hung all around this wooded area by the river, and a special table was set for each group. A massive fire roared in the middle of the area, dinner cooked over huge bbqs, all next to a spectacular bar with every drink you could imagine. Everyone was abuzz with anticipation. The event started with a dance by local maasai warriors, singing, dancing and jumping around the fire. This is a welcoming dance and well received by everyone. What another fantastic end to a wonderful day! Time for bed!

Lions, leopards and elephants oh my!

What a way to wake up, coffee and cookies at the door delivered by a handsome Samburu Warrior. We joined Alois at 6am today for a morning game drive, at first all was quiet. After sighting the poisonous puff ader snake we got a call on the radio that a leopard had been spotted. No pun intended 🙂 We drove as fast as we could to ensure we didn’t miss the leopard…it was well worth it! Lying in the shade of a small riverine acacia tree was this stunning lady! After some time spent taking in this moment, we decided to find a spot for breakfast but not two minutes later we were off following a ‘hot tip’ there was a lioness in the area so we went to inspect. The lioness was hiding in the bushes, perfectly popping out to greet us for a wonderful viewing. After a short time she was into the bushes again…which meant it was really time for breakfast. Bush breakfast with the crocodiles by the river was just what we needed at this point. Never a dull moment!

Returning to the villa in the heat of the day after a wonderful game drive welcomes a moment to take in the luxury, relaxed atmosphere and stunning views from this hilltop oasis with its spectacular backdrop. We used this well deserved opportunity to experience the mountain top pool to cool off and the spa for a massage, all of which posess another spectacular vista.

To keep things interesting we opted for an afternoon walking safari with our Samburu warrior guide and, on this occasion, an armed guard joined us. It was lovely to see the smaller flora and fauna of the Kalama Conservancy. We stopped along the way to observe a cave, an important site for the samburu culture. Young men would use this site in the development of becoming a warrior. These caves were full of paintings used as a communication method and meeting point for communal meals.

After our walk and an early dinner we took off on our first night game drive. The twilight helped us spy on some nocturnal animals, a genet cat, a jackel, white tailed mongoose and an owl. A great end to a wonderful day!