After a long decision-making process, I am finally here in Zanzibar on my second trip to sub Saharan Africa (after South Africa) and glad to be here. The constant change of plans was due to the wife and child opting out! The lack of information on getting my money back from the agent, and being anxious on how it will all play out made this a difficult trip to look forward to, and with Prague already booked, I really needed to be here to finally take a breather and enjoy it. The plane from Dubai was about an hour late but we made it, and because I overdosed on crappy food in the airport lounge (and on the plane) I was looking forward to the hotel toilet (TMI).
Was nice to talk to the driver after getting a water bottle and a wet towelette (basically a fancy wet wipe) – in a van! Fancy, and a first for me. The Zanzibar airport was very tiny and basic (smallest I’ve ever been to I think, including Nepal’s). Made it after begging for a pen to fill out the forms (always fun) and having a hard time understanding the customs lady accent (she probably thought I was deaf for telling her to repeat everything like 5 times).
Our surreal hotel in Zanzibar
Took it easy the first day had some food in me, walked around and hit the beach. Took a much needed nap and toured my way through the hotel for when the wifey joins me here in Zanzibar after I do my Safari. All-in-all a pretty relaxing day and ready to take on the Safari tomorrow. Tried to get a snorkelling tour…. still looking, hopefully I can do it while I’m here (Saturday, 9:11p.m. – Zanzibar Neptune Pwani Hotel)**
Had an early morning getting ready to leave to Selous Park from Zanzibar, after the 45 minute ride from the hotel to the airport (which was really a room rather than an airport to say the least – I wasn’t expecting much after what I saw in the “international” terminal given that this was the domestic airlines terminal). Had a nice smooth ride from Zanzibar to Dar Es Salaam (I think the pilot was Iranian) and then from Dar Es Salaam to Selous air strip which was a bit rougher than the first. Having not yet settled in, I dived straight into a car safari for a good 3 and a half hours. Saw the predictable plentiful animals; giraffes, Zebras, Buffalos, Impalas, Baboons, and birds for good measure (especially the colourful bee eaters) and from far away the wilder beasts. Other than the awkward 35 minutes of the driver just falling asleep in the middle of the park – really random – no other eventful events, seeing the animals in their element is still a treat no matter how predictable it is. It’s truly an experience seeing animals in their natural day to day away from cages, and where people are the minority. Unlike Serengeti I was told Selous is much easier to spot animals because it’s larger, less touristy and they are more relaxed.
So what if a lion decides to jump into the open car?! Half hour of zzzzs
Had a light lunch and had the hotel open the safe after I got over anxious and locked it without reading the instructions. I was then spending an hour trying to figure out how to connect to the misses so that she wouldn’t worry for the next two days given there is no wifi in the camp (and rightly so) – finally for some random reason my phone finally connected and I was able to call and message her. Then it was off to the boat safari which was amazing, went with a Norwegian couple – we saw hippos, crocodiles, and a number of birds. The highlight was the pack of crocs tearing apart a hippo corpse right in front of us and the colony of bee eater birds which were hilarious! Coming back at sunset, I am now ready for a nice dinner and getting ready for the big one tomorrow; the all-day car safari tomorrow which should be a good test of stamina. I was hoping to do the walk but I was recommended to do the all-day safari to make sure I see a good number of animals I missed today so there we go. The camp grounds are incredible, the tent is massive (because I thought I would be joined by the fam, still beefed about that), had everything, very clean and incredible unforgettable views right on the Rufiji river – awesome and well worth the price! (Sunday, 7:03p.m. – Selous Rufiji River Camp)**
Staying in incredible style!
Day 2 in Selous Safari Park has been quiet a treat, it was a good decision to go with the full day Safari. Starting off with a simple breakfast consisting of a cinnamon roll, fresh fruit, and a hard boiled egg with a grilled tomato (I’ve been eating much healthier than I thought I would be). Headed out with a French family from near Lyon; a couple and their what-could-be 8 year old son. At first it was a slow start seeing animals I already saw such as the giraffes, baboons, and impalas with only the warthog being a new addition. Soon enough though we started to see the animals that I didn’t expect to see such as a group of lionesses (really up close, uncomfortably so), elephants (a large heard which wasn’t expected), and hyenas with a mother nursing a new baby (crazy!). After a good 7 hours of being on the safari (which flew by), we got a nice lunch consisting of a burger, light cake, and an orange from the guide (there was also pasta and a salad which I didn’t feel like trying). We pitched up the chairs and ate right at the park grounds, had a good conversation with our guide about some of the politics and what it was like to be a park ranger – very enlightening.
Looking forward to a light dinner, a walking safari (hopefully, to be confirmed) in the morning on the way to the airstrip on my way back to Zanzibar and (also to be confirmed) snorkelling once I reach there – I also need to exchange money. Highlights from the safari that stuck with me include learning about this tree which secretes a chemical when Giraffes eat it to change the taste of the leaves to something unpleasant, as a defence mechanism, and it communicates this to other nearby trees through the roots to do the same – crazy! The lionesses and hyenas (which I always thought were underestimated, especially size wise) were also great highlights of the trip. Looking forward to great new experiences tomorrow and soon after looking forward to boo joining me in Zanzibar. The sky at night here is magical – literally – you can see all the stars it’s like a punctured rooftop full of lights and all the constellations are easy to see and figure out – I haven’t seen anything like this in a long time if ever. (Monday, 9:13p.m. – Selous Rafiji River Camp)**
More Selous beauty
Forgot to do an entry for yesterday – but wasn’t much to report. After a less than eventful bushwalk (saw some giraffes up front) had a good 4 hours of travel time between Selous and Zanzibar to the hotel. Wasn’t able to do snorkelling the same day but booked a good one with a good price through the hotel for Friday late morning. Caught up on messages and emails and getting ready for ma lady to join. Saw a couple of good movies and chilled at the beach for a bit. Today will chill until my better half comes and then do Stonetown in the afternoon – this trip is going by way too fast and I wouldn’t have minded staying longer to explore some other parts of the beautiful country (especially Dar Es Salaam). The people are very friendly – it is a cliché but for the jaded traveller like me I got a sense it was genuine. The stars are so nice and clear, even here in Zanzibar within the resort which is always awe-inspiring. A nice experience was sitting next to the pilot in the cockpit between Selous and Dar Es Salaam, was a great once in a lifetime experience! (Wednesday, 4:33a.m. – Zanzibar Neptune Pwani Hotel)**
First time – and probably last time – of my co-piloting career
Missed a day of writing (which I am doing a lot of on this trip – only because I’m so caught up in it all); but it was quiet eventful. After my wife arrived, we took a nice deep nap and were barely able to wake up from our paralysed state we got ready for lunch and then off to Stonetown. Stonetown had a few highlights, notably some of the walls and how they were made of local materials, we got a ton of souvenirs in the local markets, and the souk which had a decent variety of fruits and more so of the sea life here; spices were a big thing. It was a tiring 5-hour trek though, and we started to feel things were becoming redundant after a while. It was nice to see the wood carvings, the traditional doors Zanzibar is famous for, and hear about the slave history, the local museum exhibition was much nicer than I thought and very interesting.
This morning was even more eventful at Jozani forest, we saw tons of Red Calabo (I think that’s what they’re called) monkeys and Blue Sykes. They were very docile, would come close but not aggressive and duly posed for the camera. We had a nice hike in the forest learning about trees (lots of Mahogany trees), traditional medicine and walked through the mangroves. Very nice juxtaposition after the hustle and bustle of Stonetown. The rides can get tedious at times despite the lush green scenery, but bearable.
Stonetown and market
Tonight we will relax and looking forward to another highlight tomorrow snorkelling before we jet back. Missing our kid loads (who we left with his grandparents for the last couple of days) and cannot wait to get him, hug and kiss him for a long while.
Hakuna Matata – will miss you
Has been a fantastic trip to remember and definitely one I would not forget it for the rest of my life, the safari, the plane, Jozani forest, white powder beaches of Zanzibar, Stonetown (and tomorrow’s snorkelling I’m sure), the exotic food which was full of flavour and really delicious, the nice people who are genuinely kind and the amazing weather has been incredible. Highly recommend it to anyone for some great R & R and a more authentic Safari experience. Didn’t make use much of the beautiful white beaches but lots to see for sure. (Thursday, 2:44p.m. – Zanzibar Neptune Pwani Hotel)***
What should be my next sub-saharan destination?