Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Sun, Sand and Safari!


We were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to do some traveling around East Africa over the Christmas holidays. Since arriving on the continent, we have been itching for the chance to put our tourist caps on and to explore and experience Africa from a traveler’s point of view. We are happy to report that Africa did not disappoint! For those of you that are curious as to what Africa is like, please enjoy following our recent travels below. Hopefully it inspires you to come see for yourself how beautiful this continent (or at least parts of it) truly is (… and come visit us, of course!).

First Stop – Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
As mentioned before, Dar es Salaam was more of a transit destination, as opposed to a destination by choice. Due to our ghetto train arriving 9.5 hours late at 12:30 am, we only had one full day to spend in Dar es Salaam, which was more than enough. Despite it being a very large city, there’s not a whole lot to do there. We spent the day walking around Oyster Bay, the northern peninsula of Dar es Salaam (and most touristy destination) while sweating like fat messes.

Oyster Bay
Riding in a "Tuk Tuk" (basically, a motorized rickshaw)
Beautiful sunset!

Second Stop - Mombasa, Kenya
Mombasa was HOT and HUMID. The caps is necessary to emphasize just how hot and humid it was. In fact, after our first sponsor child visit, Byron came down with a serious fever due to the heat and the lack of water he drank that day. He, of course, eventually passed the fever on to Diane right before we left for Canada. Great times on the flight!

We were warned that Mombasa might be a dangerous place to be. Apparently, there has been a conflict between Mombasa and Somalia that has resulted in several random bombings in busy parts of Mombasa. Luckily for us, the city appeared very safe during our time there. Cars are subject to inspection and individuals are subject to metal detectors upon entering any establishment. The highlight of our tourist time in Mombasa was probably Haller Park, an animal reserve located within the city. Here, we got to feed giraffes, see and touch a 120-year old giant tortoise and watch a hippo and crocodile feeding. Although not in the wild, it was pretty cool seeing all these animals up close and learning more about them.

Feeding a giraffe

120 year old tortoise

Hippos coming out of the water for their daily feeding
Crocodile feeding. The guy looking straight up was the biggest croc we'd ever seen!


We made friends with our driver, Johnny, from the Compassion visits and he was kind enough to be our guide through Old Town, in the heart of Mombasa. It’s a good thing we had him with us because we would have had no idea where to go and it kept the rest of the locals off our back!

White washed buildings in Old Town
A traditional Kenyan meal!
In Old Town in front of Fort Jesus
A view of the harbour

Third Stop – Nairobi, Kenya
After coming back from our surprise trip to Canada, we spent 6 nights in Nairobi, where we met up with our friend, Jackie, a fellow volunteer with Hands. Lucky for us, Jackie is a local Kenyan and she, together with her good friend, Calvin, pretty much served as our Kenyan hosts the entire time we were there. We were taken care of extremely well!

The main highlight of our time in Nairobi was visiting the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, an orphanage for elephants and rhinos! They brought out the elephants in two groups for feedings (they fed the elephants giant bottles of milk for the giant babies they are): (a) those between 3 months and 3 years; and (b) those between 4 and 6 years. Each elephant was introduced by name and his/her story was told about he/she was rescued from the wild.  

Us with Jackie at the elephant orphanage
This baby elephant with the red blanket was our favorite!


Rescued black rhino
More giraffe feeding!
Highlights of other parts of our trip are shown in the pictures below. One interesting part of our tour through Nairobi was driving through Kibera, the largest slum in all of Africa. Unfortunately, out of respect for the community, we didn’t take any pictures during our drive-through.

The Karen Blixen Museum (author of the famous book-turned-movie, "Out of Africa")
View of Rift Valley
Crossing the equator on our drive to Lake Bogoria
Lake Bogoria (a national park that we drove 6 hours to get to ... specifically to see hundreds of thousands of flamingos)
Hot springs at Lake Bogoria that we boiled some eggs in!
The famed Carnivore Restaurant (similar to a Brazilian steak house where meat comes non-stop on giant skewers)
Ox testicles, anyone?! 
Of course, we got our fix of dirty fried chicken from Chicken Inn - it was no KFC but it'll do, pig
 
Fourth Stop – Arusha, Tanzania
We decided to visit Arusha for the sole purpose of visiting our friend, Terry, a pilot who has been living in Africa for the last few years. Unfortunately for us (but good for Terry!), he up and got a new job while we were in Canada and was actually in Canada during the time we had planned to go to Arusha. Despite this, Terry insisted that we come to Arusha, stay at his place, hang out with his friends, and then head to the Ngorongoro Crater from there (which is a couple hours away from Arusha). Terry’s friends, all pilots themselves, were an amazing group of people and made us feel so at home during our one night in Arusha.

Terry's crew!
Flying to our safari the next day

Fifth Stop – The Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania
Probably the most beautiful and scenic stop on our journey (and possibly of our lives), we traveled by plane to Lake Manyara and, from there, drove an hour and a half to a place called the Ngorongoro Crater.  As a belated wedding present, Terry made all the arrangements for our time in Ngorongoro and hooked us up with an unbelievable deal using his pilot connections. Thank you, Terry! We were at Ngorongoro for two days, spending one day of safari in the crater itself and another day of safari in the Serengeti Desert. Consider this our African honeymoon! 

The view from our lodge
The Ngorongoro Crater


Ngorongoro Crater safari

Zebra with a Masai village in the background

Spotted Hyena
Lionness showing her fierce jibs
Uncle Scar giving us the staredown
A view from inside the Crater

Serengeti Desert safari

Giraffes showing some love
Migration of wildebeest
Lionness (from a pride of 15) posing for the camera 
Cheetahs on the hunt! (Unfortunately, we didn't see the kill)
  
Last Stop – Zanzibar, Tanzania
After much sightseeing and safari-ing, what better way to end our vacation than relaxing on the beach for 5 days in Zanzibar! We spent two nights on the east coast in Jambiani, two nights on the north coast in Nungwi and then the last night in Stone Town. The beach in Jambiani wasn’t great – during low tide, the sand was covered by seaweed and exposed rock. The beach in Nungwi was better, but not by a whole lot. We were actually quite surprised at this because we had heard that Zanzibar has some of the nicest beaches in the world. The interesting thing is that it’s not your typical beach island. People don’t actually chill and lie on the beach. Rather, they lounge by the pools or the small, elevated private beaches of their hotels/resorts that look out on to the beach. It seemed like the actual beach was more for locals to walk and for fishermen to do their thang. Having said that, as we walked from the northeast coast of Nungwi to the northwest coast of Kendwa (a walk that took about 2 hours), we began to see much nicer beach with softer sand (the west coast isn’t subject to high and low tide). But, regardless of where you were on the island, one thing we definitely appreciated was the warm, turquoise blue water of the Indian Ocean. It was like looking at a postcard!

Jambiani

In front of our guesthouse
Where the water be at?
Swimming (or hovering over for 2 seconds) with the dolphins
Red Colobus Monkey (only found in Zanzibar)
Catch of the day - Octopus! (We witnessed the kill while snorkelling!)

Nungwi

Masai security guard doing a serious man pose 
Our attempt at replicating a Peter Lik photo
View of the Indian Ocean from our room
Turquoise blue water along Kendwa Beach

Our time in Stone Town was quite interesting. We did a spice tour on a spice farm 30 minutes outside of Stone Town and then spent some time doing a tour through Stone Town. Food stalls, including a night food market, shops, restaurants and cafes were abundant here.

Stone Town

Diane getting blinged out during the Spice Tour
Inside a chamber of the former Slave Market
Night food market!
Seafood on a stick
The streets of Stone Town
The local fish market 
After all our traveling, we have a deep sense of gratitude for the opportunity to be able to go and experience all these great places and are left with a sense of awe for how beautiful God made this continent! We are now back in our home in Kitwe, Zambia, settling back into “normal” life and work as volunteers. Oh, how we’ll miss comfy beds and showers and the wonderful coffee of Tanzania and Kenya! We’re excited for what lies ahead in 2013 and will be sure to keep you posted! Now if only we could find our house and car keys (we wish we were joking …)