Tantalizing Tanzania

Tanzania is surely one of the most breathtaking countries in East Africa. Home to the historic state of Zanzibar, the towering Mount Kilimanjaro and so many more beautiful sites and experiences, Tanzania is not to be missed on any trip to the continent.

After a considerable amount of advice and recommendations, I decided to start my trip in Zanzibar. Where better to start than Zanzibar city itself? Situated on the west coast of Unguja (the main island of the Zanzibar Archipelago), the city offers something to suit every taste and interest. For a dose of historic architecture, The Stone Town is the place to see. The House of Wonders is probably one of most well-known landmarks. It was built in 1883 as a Sultan’s residence and is simply spectacular. The Old Fort, a heavy stone fortress is also well worth a visit. Live dance and music shows are held daily in the internal courtyard. After a day of sightseeing in sweltering heat, it was time for something to eat. The Forodhani Gardens, fronting The House of Wonders is the place to go after sunset for great food. Expect everything from grilled seafood to typical Zanzibari recipes. Pilau Meat with coconut milk and rice was my particular favourite.

With a belly full of rich and exotic food, it was time to burn off the calories. What better way to do this than trekking Mount Kilimanjaro? The climb is not an easy one. High winds and altitude sickness can put many people off. But the views are simply stunning and well worth the trek. The Rongai and Marangu paths are the best camping routes for beginners. If you would rather gaze at the impressive mountain from a safe distance, the plains of Moshi town are ideal. Expect to see some giraffes casually wondering about too.

If it’s luxury you are after, staying in Tanzania completely satisfies this need. Lake Manyara Tree Lodge, quietly tucked away by a beautiful lake and mahogany forest is the perfect base to enjoy the Tanzania Royal Safari. Expect seven days of seeing all kinds of game and the stunning plains of Kilimanjaro. There are plenty of luxury safari packages out there to suit every budget and taste. Unfortunately, my wee budget could not stretch this far, but not to worry. The Zanzibar Palace Hotel in the Stone Town was my base of choice. With authentic architecture, friendly staff and yummy breakfasts, you couldn’t really go wrong. The Zanzibar Serena Inn is another great location in the centre of the Stone Town. With its historical features still intact, there is a real atmosphere to the place.

To be truthful, Tanzania completely exceeded my expectations. When people think of a great safari, perhaps Kenya or South Africa spring to mind. Or if people want a bustling, cosmopolitan city, maybe Cape Town would be top of their list? The truth is, Tanzania offers both of these things and so much more. Whether you are trekking Kilimanjaro, sightseeing in Zanzibar City or just looking at some spectacular game, it’s hard to know where to start.

For more info please see My Destination Tanzania

Primate censusing – a day in my life with the BBPP

Want to know what my typical day entailed during my tenure as a BBPP field assistant? Take a look at these two videos, which I took during our primate census. This happened to be a really unique monkey encounter – I only saw drills four times in two months, and it was pure luck that I happened to catch it on video. The bioko drill is an extremely unique animal, and is endangered – I am so fortunate to have been able to see it in the wild.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_xFnRG-Wrc&hl=en&fs=1]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gcPmmBz5OqQ&hl=en&fs=1]

Bucket List…of sorts :-)

In the next few months I will be traveling through much of southern and eastern Africa, and like any traveler, I have a wish list for my trip. Rather than listing every single tourist attraction I’d like to see, this is a list of personals feats – both mental and physical. After all, traveling isn’t about where you are…but how you change and what you learn, because of it.

1)      Correctly identify at least one species of animal during my stay.

2)      Learn how to play traditional music – doesn’t matter where, as long as it’s authentic and not a (total) tourist trap!

3)      Witness the World Cup in South Africa…and actually learn something about football!

4)      Learn how to cook local foods…and be able to *try* and do it again at home (in Florida!).

5)      Travel by myself, successfully!

6)      Stop at a random town, and just look around.

7)      Resist the urge to do adventure sports…expect for scuba diving, that is!

8)      Climb a big scary mountain. Preferably something that takes several days. The longer it takes, the harder it is….right?

9)      Become more sure of myself!

10)   Eat everything without asking what it is beforehand.

11)   Volunteer through the WWOOF program at an orphanage…away from internet access and modern day convenience.

12)   Camp…in the wild…and stay positive about it (Hello, Equatorial Guinea).

13)   Pretend like I actually know what’s going on at border checkpoints, and therefore avoid unnecessary trouble.

14)   Not be scared to talk to people and meet people.

15)   Accept help from strangers, and (hopefully) not become too jaded by a few bad incidents.

16)   Not calling family too much – nothing spurs homesickness like talking everyday to people at home.

17)   Finish the ENTIRE trip…without ending early.

18)   HAVE FUN!

I’m sure there will be moments when I wonder why the heck I’m traveling alone, with only four sets of clothing, and in a country seven or eight time zones away. This list will help remind me that life isn’t, in fact, as bad as it may seem.

Any of these strike a chord with you guys? I’d be interested to know what you think!

Planning, planning, planning – bioko island, vaccinations, and goodwill donations :-)

Hey Guys!

Today I did the unthinkable – I started going through my clothes so I can donate them goodwill! It’s just under two months until I leave and I’m starting the process (slowly) of decluttering, organizing, and packing. After my second glass of wine I decided that unworn clothes should be the first to go. I’ve been promising myself I will “one day” fit into about five pairs of jeans…and now they were the first articles thrown into the plastic trash bag. Sayonara lumpy sweaters and high school prom shoes!

So now that I’ve heaved my garbage of unwanted clothes to the front door, I’m nursing a glass of German sparkling wine (sounds so elegant!) courtesy of my German family, and I’m considering the next steps in my trip preparation.

Tomorrow: Travel clinic appointment AND the final round of interviews for my possible job position in Equatorial Guinea (which I found through the Ecolog listerv, mentioned in this post). By tomorrow night my left arm should be covered in little sore spots (thanks to my vaccinations) and I will hopefully be booking my flight to work for the BBPP on Bioko Island.

Speaking of Bioko Island, I feel like Equatorial Guinea is so off the backpacking trail – I haven’t seen it mentioned in any of the online blogs or in African itineraries, despite its almost pristine biology. I finally did some research into Equatorial Guinea and what the political and historical situation is like on this island; thankfully it seems to be pretty sound. I’m expecting the occasional bribe, but by all accounts, the BBPP is well respected, and I’m hoping to avoid most trouble by associating myself with it.

Thanks to my helpful comments on my previous post I’ve decided to take the plunge and buy a netbook! Ideally, I’ll be able to use it (and extra memory) to store my pictures and I’ll also be able to keep a computerized journal, making it much easier to blog when internet does become available.

Coming up this month, I’ll also be buying my camera!!! Both my sister and my dad have amazing Nikon cameras (which were also suggested by a reader) so I’ll be buying something when I find a good Christmas special. I’ve been practicing my photography skills, so hopefully I’ll be able to post some nice “artistic” pics :-)

Alrighty! It’s back to the wine and a delicious spaghetti dinner. I’ll be armchair traveling to Africa tonight…who is coming with? :-)