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This year’s African safari began in Tanzania and was a mostly overland trip from Dar es Salaam to Livingstone with a ferry/flight to and from Zanzibar. We then flew Livingstone-JNB-Kimberly-JNB-Richards Bay for another mostly overland sector within South Africa from Tembe Elephant Park to Cape Town with just one flight from Durban to George.  Most destinations this year were new to me except for Ruaha NP, St Lucia and Cape Town, 3 special places I was very happy to re-visit.

 

Whilst the focus of the trip was wildlife, the itinerary featured some interesting cultural/history days that included a trip to world heritage listed Bagamoyo, Stone Town, the Isimilia stone age village near Iringa and Shiwa N’gandu in Northern Zambia. I found time for some quality birding in Livingstone, Hondo Hondo camp, Kapishya and throughout South Africa. During the trip there were ample opportunities to connect with birds in a range of felicitous habitats whilst the group focus was on mammals. Food and wine also got a look in during our time around Franschoek, lunch at the Royal Hotel in Riebeek-Casteel and in many lodges and restaurants along the way.

 

Seven intrepid travellers met in Sydney on 22nd June looking forward to a big adventure – Jo, Jane H., Jane C. and Don, Noel and Sharn and myself. The composition of the group changed along the way, with just 2 of the original 7 continuing from Richards Bay to Cape Town.

 

The final Tanzanian itinerary was:

  • ·         Dar es Salaam (3 nights)
  • ·         Zanzibar (4 nights)
  • ·         Mikumi (2 nights)
  • ·         Udzungwa NP (2 nights)
  • ·         Ruaha NP (4 nights)
  • ·         Iringa and Utengele (1 night each)

 

and in Zambia:

 

  • ·         Kapishya Hot Springs (2 nights)
  • ·         Mutinondo Wilderness (2 nights)
  • ·         Lusaka (1 night)
  • ·         Kafue NP (3 nights Konkamoya, 2 nights Kaingu and 1 night Nanzhila Plains)
  • ·         Livingstone (2 nights)

 

Highlights for me were:

·        

Swamp python in Mikumi NP

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·         Hondo Hondo Camp, Udzungwa NP for great birding, village visits, close-up primates

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·         Ruaha NP – such a great park that delivered 3 separate leopard sightings in one day!

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·         Kapishya Hot Springs and Shiwa N’gandu for R&R, history and birding

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Mutinondo Wilderness for great accommodation and the freedom to walk without a guard in the African bush

 

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4 new mammal species in Kafue NP - oribi, Sharpe's Grysbok, puku and Lichtenstein's Hartebeest.

 

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Edited by Treepol
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Great start to this TR that I've been much looking forward to.

 

And you got to see primates in Udzungwa - I'm jealous!

 

 

 

 

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Very much looking forward this TR and the SA portion!

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@Caracal the primates were the stars at Udzungwa, hopefully we will get there in the next couple of days. 

 

@lmSA84  I hope you can wade through Tanzania and Zambia as South Africa is  2-3 weeks away I suspect. My challenge is to have this TR finished by Christmas. 

 

The flight from Sydney to JNB was uneventful and 14 hours long, however we eventually decanted and made our way thru’ immigration and baggage collection before checking into the Airport City Lodge.  The breakfast spread at the hotel next day was as good as I remembered and set us up for the flight to Dar es Salaam.  This flight was pleasant although too hazy to see much, however the Rufiji River delta was a clear landmark. We are met by our Authentic Tanzania guide Stephen and after a trip to the ATM, the bags are loaded and we are on our way to the Mediterraneo at Muchenji. The rest of the day is spent relaxing and enjoying the beach.

 

Next morning the weather is warm and sultry and we know that we have arrived in the tropics, here is the Mediterraneo from the beach.

 

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Breakfast is served in the ocean front dining room - delicious omelettes, fruit, yoghurt....



tdarmed2.jpg.a99f76e314463cb3560ee95fe89f68cc.jpg(Photo: Noel and Sharn)

 

This colourful lizard sat nearby on the sunny windowsill.

 

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The Mediterraneo is a smart beachfront property situated in Muchenji, north of Dar and one of the refreshing aspects of this stay was the relatively undeveloped coast – this fishing village was just down the beach from the Mediterraneo.

 

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The rooms here were comfortable, and the décor reminiscent of the maritime heritage of the coast. These recycled canoes make functional shelving in the bar area.

 

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We opted for a late start today and just a half day tour of Dar es Salaam so we were pleased to see Stephen arrive at a very civilised 10 am.  We drove past the colonial hospital on the waterfront which has been re-purposed as a cancer treatment centre.

 

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Next we drive by Karimjee the first Parliament House for Tanzania, abandoned since the capital moved to Dodoma. The Botanical Gardens covered a small area, however they were a magnet for the birds and contained some interesting plants like this Traveller Palm and a nearby Ginger plant.

 

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An agitated sunbird alerted us to a stealthy Green Bush Snake twisting between the branches whilst a Green-backed cameroptera bounced higher in the tree.

 

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Overhead, a small colony of nesting Black-headed Herons has made a roost within the gardens.

 

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Next stop was the National Museum where an historic display of cars owned by former Presidents had pride of place.

 

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The Museum contained a history of German exploration, a timeline of early man and some grand furniture. The original museum building was closed but this magnificent Moorish door and the commemoration to King George V hark back to earlier times.

 

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Unfortunately, the restaurant Stephen chose for lunch was closed, but never fear the KFC just next door was open, so we grabbed a quick lunch before heading into the older part of Dar.

 

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We drove by St Joseph’s Church, the Lutheran Church and the pungent fish market before returning home along the waterfront where the embassies, high commissions and consuls are located.

 

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Indian crows are everywhere, yet I only have this one backview.

 

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We noticed a number of roadside garden businesses selling plants and garden ornaments and were told that these stayed onsite overnight and that no one stole or damaged the items for sale - amazing.

 

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Back at the Mediterraneo, I headed to the bar for a beer overlooking the Indian Ocean.

 

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Today is Sunday and the locals are enjoying some beach time.

 

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Tomorrow we are going up the coast to Bagamoyo, the former capital of German East Africa.

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A great teaser to a definitely epic trip, I look forward to following your cross-Africa adventure. Wow, that's a huge Python!

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Wow, this is going to be an epic report of an epic trip. Looking forward to much more!

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@michael-ibk and @Alexander33 I'm not sure which is the greater epic, the trip or the report! Lets move on...

 

Stephen picked us up at 8 am for the 90 minute drive to world heritage listed Bagamoyo, a19th century port that pre-dates Dar.   We parked opposite the local mosque and had a quick look around the craft market.

 

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Bagamoyo was the former capital of German East Africa and an important East African trading port – the white buildings must have looked very imposing from the sea. We walked along Ocean Road, previously known as Kaiserstrasse and later King Street, truly history in street names. The German Boma is first on the right

 

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before we stopped at a former Omani resort, which was later used by the Germans as a barracks and the British as a prison.

 

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 The buildings are quite amazing, but what's this? Someone has been at the altar wine!

 

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Below these buildings, through the metal doors was the hanging site where the Germans executed Africans who opposed their rule.

 

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The well in front of the monument provides fresh water for the locals and was built by the Germans in 1905. 

 

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A short walk along the beach past local girls collecting shells, anchored dhows and this guy waiting for the tide bought us to the German Cemetery, the final resting place of 18 Germans and one British District Officer.

 

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tbag22.jpg.744fc4295c802d08d5197e01816eb735.jpg(Photo : Jane H.)

 

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We walked back past the abandoned German supermarket

 

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and the Boma which was the centre for the German administration.

 

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and had wonderful views over the Indian Ocean.

 

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Further along Ocean Road is the Omani tea house, the Indian doctor's house and another Indian-built residence constructed about 1900.

 

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The former German post office was the first in Tanzania and is now a hotel where we waited out a short rain shower.

 

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The walk thru' the fish market was very interesting and even though most of the catch had been sold there were still some stalls cooking fish for sale.

 

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The market was hot and smoky and a popular meeting place for locals.

 

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Another shower of rain fell and this time we sheltered in the former German Customs House before passing a school built by the Germans in 1896 on our way to a traditional lunch at a local restaurant - beef stew, rice and vegetables.

 

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The last stop of the day was at the Mary of the Immaculate Heart museum which adjoins the church.

 

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David Livingstone's body was bought to this church for a night before being shipped to London after which the locals built the Livingstone Tower in memory of this honour.  

 

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This was the last stop, after which Stephen dropped the Bagamoyo guide back at the craft market and returned us to the Mediterraneo to re-pack our bags into small packs for the ferry trip to Zanzibar tomorrow.

 

 

Edited by Treepol
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1 hour ago, Treepol said:

I'm not sure which is the greater epic, the trip or the report! Lets move on...

 

It looks like the more epic will be the trip report! On average one need 2x the time of the trip for posting the trip report; by your start, I am thrilled this one might go well into 2019 ... and I will love each and every installment.

Tanzania was never on my to-go list but Zanzibar, it has its charms.

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@xelas thats an interesting and generous timeframe - twice as long to write the TR as the trip took - I like it! Maybe you will be converted to a Tanzania safari although it could be quite challenging for self-drivers as you will see as we travel further along the Tanzam Highway.
 

We were sad to leave the Mediterraneo, but looking forward to Zanzibar. We decided to travel to Zanzibar on the fast ferry so we could see Dar from the sea as we left the coast and fly back in order to get a good start on the Tanzam Highway to Mikumi NP.  Stephen drove us to the ferry terminal where we were immediately caught up in a scrum once the vehicle parked. During the next 3 hours we were herded, crushed and jostled while waiting to embark.
 

 

At the boarding gate 3 lines of passengers were trying to squeeze through a gap a metre wide, having passports checked on the way  like something out a Mr Bean movie. There was a major hold-up at security, where luggage was screened and we walked through a very sensitive metal detector having removed necklaces, watches and sunglasses. We eventually made it to the relative peace of the VIP lounge and enjoyed a cup of tea before boarding the ferry - I believe that Don may have flashed a Qantas Club pass to the guy on the door. ;) There were several more passport and ticket checks along the way. 
 

The trip over was comfortable and tea was served on board. It was interesting to see the variety of small boats way off shore, some with just a single occupant paddling along while dhows heeled under traditional sails. On disembarkation we were asked for Yellow Fever certificates (the only time I have been asked) and were shamboozled by having to complete immigration cards for the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar - aren't we already in Tanzania, didn't we obtain expensive visas from the Tanzania Consulate in Perth?? Whilst waiting to get thru' baggage x-ray (secuity again!) I heard Sharn yelling stop, stop, thats my bag and sure enough a guy had her day-pack on a little trolley and was about to make off with it. Noel said that he put his wallet and passport in the daypack before putting it on the rollers to go thru' the machine and thought that the guy saw him do it and targeted the bag. Not a great welcome to Zanzibar.
 

Anyway the taxi was waiting for us and a short drive bought us to the Dhow Palace Hotel. It's highly decorated in an Arabic style with lots of mirrors, dark furniture with inlaid tiles, black and white floor tiles and wide wooden staircases. Just the sort of vibe I was seeking on the fabled Spice Island. The Dhow Palace served the best home-made mango youghurt for breakfast, and a mystery dish that was labelled beef fighter which turned out to be a type of stir fry with lots of cabbage. Some mornings chicken fighter made an appearance. 
 

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Don (our very talented restaurant scout) found a small beachside restaurant where we could watch the dhows sailing out of the harbour and the local boys playing soccer on the beach – just as I had imagined.

 

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Tomorrow we have a morning walking tour of Stone Town.
 

Our guide talked to us about the history, economics and politics of Zanzibar. Highlights of the day were Tippu Tip's house and grave, he was a local identity who was involved in the slave trade until 1905. 
 

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The existing building has been purchased by the Kempinski Group who will incorporate part of the restored building into the new hotel development and hopefully clean up the garbage around Tippu's grave. Much of Stone Town is in poor condition, however the narrow walkways were mostly well paved and well used by pedestrians, cars and motorcycles. Not much vibe here amongst the crumbling buildings and garbage.

 

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Here is the door to Freddie Mercury's house - the guide said that the people of Zanzibar didn't know he had been born on the island until his death was announced. He left Zanzibar with his family when he was 9 years old and moved to India. 

 

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Arriving at the Old Fort I was surprised to see a Girl Guides badge emblazoned on the exterior wall, the headquarters were once located within the Arab built fort.

 

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Jo and Sharn bought hats and a kanga from the traders inside the fort.

 

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The tall building is the House of Wonders, one of 6 palaces built by the second sultan of Zanzibar, and reminiscent of old Zanzibar. Our walk took us to the front of the House of Wonders which is the largest and tallest landmark in Stone Town, built facing the Forodhani Gardens and the seafront. 

 

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The two lions over the door are from the British period and the guide said that the building had been the Museum of History and Culture (now closed) and that many of the exhibits were still locked inside. I wondered about that!

 

tst25.jpg.b08ff061a2387ed97b0e80d5d574d561.jpg(Photo Jane H.)

 

We noticed some very ornate doors as we walked around, most of which are not original. The guide explained that symbols in the original door below such as chains, fish scales, flowers and fruits indicated that the owner used slaves for fishing and plantation work.

 

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A visit to the Central Market revealed a mouth-watering selection of exotic fruits such as durian, jackfruit and soursop. Colourful pasta, children's birthday decorations, brooms and kitchen utensils reveal the diversity of items for sale.

 

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Our final stop was St Joseph's church, built by the French. It was the second church to be constructed in East Africa and is still used today.

 

 

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After lunch Jo, Jane and I wandered back to the fort to buy kangas and stopped at a gallery to purchase carved malachite elephants. I was surprised that we managed to find our way there and back to the Dhow Palace through the maze of narrow alleys. Tomorrow we are going on a dhow to a coastal marine park and the next day to the Jozani Forest NP and to a spice farm.
 

The weather wasn't great for the marine park trip, however people enjoyed swimming, snorkelling and lying on the beach.
 

tst26.jpg.51729b8a97e420891a2d6e3eb97bb387.jpg(Photo Jane H.)
 

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The weather was grey and drizzly for the trip to Jozani Forest and unfortunately our allocated guide said he was a botanist and talked a lot about medicinal plants, whereas I was more interested in the bird calls to which he seemed oblivious.  The national park folks do offer an early morning bird walk with the guru, Bakari and I think this would be a good activity. However, you need to book directly with the national park because the agents in town don't seem to know about it - they are focussed on packages for dhow trips, spice farms, town walks, Prison Island etc. I digress, but before I left home I looked for a local operator who would customise a day trip and take us out beyond the tourist fringe into rural Zanzibar and to some beaches that weren't over-crowded but couldn't find anyone. A Zim guide who is booking people to Zanzibar told me the only person he could find who would customise tours was a guy who ran hire cars and transit vehicles. Strange, but it seems to be how Stone Town agents work. Anyway back to the monkeys.
 

These guys were in a tree really close to the car park.

 

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We saw a tiny frog and a land snail before seeing a family of Sykes monkeys.

 

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The babies were having a great time zip-lining along a low power line. Next we did a mangrove board walk and saw no wildlife except for a tiny crab. 

 

 

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We drove up to a very touristy spice 'farm' and did a tour during which we were shown a number of spices at various stages of growth.

 

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It was fun guessing the spice by smell - the cinnamon bark was very aromatic. There was a large durian tree from which at least 2 fruit fell with a hard thud while we were there. Before lunch we tasted a range of locally grown fruit, including durian but the jackfruit that tasted like Juicy Fruit chewing gum was my favourite.  Lunch was prepared by a local family, delicious biryani, fish and vegetables which we ate in their front room. After lunch we made a quick trip back to the Dhow Palace before heading to the Park Hyatt to use wi-fi and drink masala tea.


 

Overall, Zanzibar was a disappointment. I had been looking for a vibe, something exotic from the fabled Spice Island but the nearest I got to this was the view of the dhows leaving the harbour from the restaurant terrace on the first night together with the décor of the Dhow Palace. Stone Town was very rundown and crumbling, although landmarks such as the Old Fort and the House of Wonders provided a glimpse back in history to a more exotic time.  I was told that ‘the scene’ had moved to the resorts north of Stone Town.

 

Tomorrow we are bundu bound aka Mikumi NP.

 

 

 

Edited by Treepol
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Our group left the Dhow Palace at 7 am for the trip to the airport and 20 minute flight to Dar. Below, dhows sailed over the blue sea and a fast ferry cut through the sea to Zanzibar.  Stephen was waiting for us and we were at last on our way to see animals.  It took about 45 minutes to clear the city and then we were on the Tanzam Highway, headed west to Mikumi NP. The number of trucks was phenomenal, I would estimate they comprised 75% of the traffic. This is a 2 km queue at a weighbridge where other traffic created a new ‘lane’ on the bottom side of the road to get around trucks. The drop-off was quite steep and we were pleased to have the Landcruiser as there were a couple of wrecks that had come to grief.

zroa12.jpg.717fe09e5dfe12e920ba9259da52bbe5.jpg(Photo: Noel and Sharn)


We stopped for a buffet lunch at a town before Moragoro, found an ATM and then continued to Mikumi NP. The park is bordered by the Tanzam highway and there are signs up showing the penalties for hitting an animal. For e.g. an ele is 19K US, a lion 4.5K and baboon $110 US.


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There are also signs warning people not to take photos from the road without a permit! Just as well we were legal with the correct permits because we did see wildlife while driving alongside the park - yellow baboons, giraffe, impala, zebra and surprisingly a large lioness lying on some burnt ground. Stephen said this was the first time he had seen a Mikumi lion from the highway, and we saw that local traffic including trucks slowed to look at this girl. I guess for many passers-by it was their first view of a wild lion.
 

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Arriving in Mikumi town, we checked into the Tan Swiss Inn and had delicious rosti for dinner. Tomorrow is a full day in Mikumi NP. 


  I didn't have high expectations of this park as it is bordered by the Tanzam Highway and seems to be very close to a number of villages and Mikumi town. However, I was pleasantly surprised as we had good birding and a number of other specials.  The first sighting was of a pair of striped kingfishers followed by a coy black-backed jackal peeping out of the long grass.
 

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We watched a giraffe-ele standoff - a family of four eles (2 adults and 2 young ones) were on a collision course with a journey of 8 giraffes. The mature giraffes pushed forward while the eles held their ground. Eventually the stand-off finished and the giraffes took a leisurely walk around the eles, who had held their place but not gained any ground.

 

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tmik29.jpg.bf231eda091deb4cb22048e813c456b0.jpg(Photo: Noel and Sharn)


Further on, a small family of eles tolerated the antics of a three month old calf. He ducked and dived between the adults before waking an elder sibling for a game. The baby then pushed amongst the adults before crossing in front of us.

 

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Then we were into the birds again - red-necked spur fowl,

 

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white-browned coucal,
 

 

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little egret, water thick-knee, superb starling, LBR
 

 

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and so many long-tailed fiscal shrikes.
 

 

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Two buffalo chewed cud on a mud bank and a long line of siafu crossed the road ahead of the vehicle.   The birds started again with Fischer's Sparrowlark,

 

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Red-cheeked cordon Bleu, Greater blue-eared starling,
 

 

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Crowned lapwing,

 

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Yellow-throated Longclaw, juvenile Malachite Kingfisher



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and Lesser Striped Swallow.


 

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This avian feast was interrupted with views of warthog and a solitary male elephant.  After passing a Black-chested snake eagle, we stopped for lunch at a designated lunch stop where a White-browned sparrow weaver was busy making a nest. These wildebeest were having a midday rest.
 

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My highlight of the day was a plump African Swamp Python crossing the road ahead of us, which had Stephen reaching for his camera!

 

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We were into a reptile space now as the python was quickly followed by 4 large Nile Crocodiles and a water monitor at the edge of the waterhole where 5 hippo bobbed and snorted. Our time in the park finished with a Blacksmith Plover, Vervet monkey and an African Grey Hornbill.  Another guide told Stephen about a lion kill close to the highway and on the way back to the Tan Swiss we saw a giraffe skin that looked like a piece of old carpet lying about 70 metres from the road with a very full male lion lying nearby. No doubt the lioness we saw yesterday was partly responsible for this kill.
 

Heavy rain fell during the night, drumming on the tin roof and dripping onto the balcony. We wondered if it would be possible to get back into Mikumi NP or if the roads would be closed due to rain. Along the Tanzam Stephen stopped at the dead giraffe and this time there were 2 male lions nearby. Further on, a hamerkop was eating a frog on the road.  The park was much quieter this morning. A mixed flock of Superb and Hildebrandt Starlings lit up the grey day with their iridescent feathers.
 

 

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We passed several Impala bachelor clubs, a young ele testing his strength and a Black-bellied bustard lurking in the high grass.

 

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A family of 6 eles ran from the vehicle across an area of burnt grass where a Capped Wheatear was feeding. 
 

 

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A couple of groups of Southern Reedbuck were first sightings of this species on the trip. We left the flat landscape of Mikumi after lunch and headed for Udzungwa NP – this Hamerkop made sure we got away OK.
 

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Back on the Tanzam Stephen mixed it with the trucks and buses until we came to the Udzungwa NP turnoff after which we drove into a quieter region of villages flanked on one side by the huge Kilombero Sugar Plantation whilst on the other side streams tumbled down the mountainside and eventually rainforest appeared. Hondo Hondo Camp is located in a forest setting where the endemic Udzungwa Red Colobus, yellow baboons and Sykes monkeys gambol around the camp area. The antics of the young baboons entertained us during the afternoon, watched by this handsome Udzungwa Red Colobus.
 

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Dinner tonight was soup, pepper steak with veg and banana fritters. Tomorrow morning Noel, Jo and I have booked a bird walk with camp guide Emmanuel.

Edited by Treepol
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Very nice sightings in Mikumi indeed, and great photo of the Udzwunga Red Colobus. Sorry that Zanzibar didn't live up to your expectations. Actually I quite enjoyed it back in 2011, alhough we added on some proper beach relax days as well.

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2 hours ago, michael-ibk said:

Very nice sightings in Mikumi indeed, and great photo of the Udzwunga Red Colobus. Sorry that Zanzibar didn't live up to your expectations. Actually I quite enjoyed it back in 2011, alhough we added on some proper beach relax days as well.

 

Like you I was in Zanzibar in 2011 but it had already changed a fair bit from my first visit and I imagine that coat of paint it needed then is even more needed now. I obviously love the place having been a few times but for anyone looking to go now then absolutely the best time is February during Sauti Za Busara. 

 

I was actually very surprised as well at how good Mikumi was. Didn't know about the camera fine but we had lions kill a giraffe right on the side of the highway with cubs laying right on the road, I imagine quite a few pictures were being taken that day.

 

Loved all the pics of the coast especially Zanzibar, can't wait for more.

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Really enjoyed seeing Bagamayo and Zanzibar through your eyes. So much history there that I've read about.

 

I too was pleasantly surprised by Mikumi when I was there in 2005.

 

Lovely shot of that Red Colobus ................ Hmmm! I can still remember the pungent smell of their urine when we walked under trees they'd spent the night in but never got to see one!

 

I know there's going to be so much more to enjoy.

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Good to read some nice things about Mikumi, supported by your photos.  Love the Lesser Striped Swallow.  Python would be a thrill.  Red colobus is a standout.

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@michael-ibk, @dlo maybe I went to Zanzibar at the wrong time of year!

 

@dlo@Caracal @Atravelynn looks like Mikumi could be a hidden (safari) gem. Yes, the python was a special sighting, I've not seen anything like it before. 

 

Anyway, lets head back to Udzungwa...

 

 

There was a heavy downpour around 5.30 am and I wondered if the bird walk would be cancelled. Fortunately it wasn't and after an early cuppa Jo, Noel and I followed Emmanuel into the nearby village where Tawny-flanked Prinia, Bronze and Mudpie Manikin were our first spots. Trumpeter and Silvery-cheeked hornbills perched in the tops of distant trees, whilst a Brown-headed Kingfisher looked down from an overhead power line. We walked through neat, carefully tended shambas and the quiet village, dodging light showers of rain.


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The villages provided good sightings of Blue-spotted dove, Red-billed Firefinch, Southern Grey-headed sparrow and Yellow-fronted Canary. We saw a kindergarten and primary school, village shops and a pig on its final journey by motorcycle.

 

Lesser striped and wire-tailed swallows are perched along a power line near the village chairman's office whilst over the road a Black-winged Red Bishop posed in the morning gloom.  All too soon it's time to return to the camp for breakfast, with a short detour for the Lesser Seed Cracker which we could hear in a patch of long grass.
 

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Breakfast was fresh fruit, delicious omelettes and toast with local honey. The nearby villages have great success using bees to deter elephants from crop raiding, and derive additional income from honey sales. The rest of the morning is our own so I retired to my tent to catch up on notes and emails. The ever-present Yellow Baboons are wandering past, there are many young ones, two of which have just climbed up onto the roof of the tent and are peering down over the thatch at me.

 

The baboons are around all day, but they don't come close to us and at night they are tucked up in bed early like all good primates. However we have been asked not to leave anything in the bathrooms because the baboons will quickly remove and destroy anything they get their hands on.

 

We have vegetable pizza for lunch, before the afternoon bird walk. Crowned Hornbills are in camp as we head off to the village where this backdrop of the Udzungwa Mountains catches our attention.

 

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The Black-winged Red Bishop was fluttering around a reed-bed on the edge of the village where a Fan-tailed Widowbird and a Pin-tailed Whydah were also seen.

 

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A Bronze Mannikin gazes down from a power line. Emmanuel searched hard for a Lesser Seed Cracker and eventually we spotted 3 juveniles on the way back to Hondo Hondo. (Don thought we were talking about biscuits...)

 

Our last dinner was avocado salad, chicken in coconut milk and banoffee pie which were all delicious. Sharon Moore is the Manager here and she runs an excellent camp. I liked everything about the camp from its setting at the foot of the Udzungwa Mountains, the roaming yellow baboons and Udzungwa Red Colobus, friendly staff, good food and range of activities.

 

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Edited by Treepol
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Our last breakfast was delicious and just what we needed before we left Hondo Hondo to re-trace our steps back to the Tanzam Highway and were once again mixing it with the big trucks heading west. Highlights of the drive were the Valley of the Baobabs and the scenic Ruaha Gorge.
 

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We drove through a number of small towns strung out along the highway, most had a market area and one a busy bus station. The local people were selling onions, baobab fruit and tamarind root at roadside stalls and displayed the onions artfully in circular pyramids.
 

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After traveling about 3 hours we began to climb the escarpment to Iringa. The trucks were crawling both ways on this part of the road, watched closely by sharp-eyed yellow baboons hoping for free food falling from loads at tight corners or speed bumps.  Iringa is a town of about 900,000 people and is the provincial capital and a busy service centre for the outlying area. Stephen topped up the diesel and we set off on the last leg of our journey - over the escarpment and down into Ruaha NP. Once again we passed through many villages - the last one was 20 km from the park gate. 
 

I first visited Ruaha in 2008 and have been wanting to return for many years as the park delivered some amazing safari experiences in 2008, of course there were wonderful animal sightings but the wildness, isolation and the low density of traffic and other guests were a treat I wanted to share with my friends this year. (Now I am plotting a return in 2021 ;))

We arrived at Tandala Camp at 5 pm and were met by Yanni, the owner. We had booked Kilimatonge Camp, a seasonal camp run by Authentic Tanzania (AT) inside the park, although as it turned out this camp isn't that far from Tandala as the crow flies. However, AT advised me on the morning I was leaving home that TANAPA would not issue a permit for the camp before 21st July due to safety issues surrounding heavy rains and the resulting long grass in Ruaha this year.  Fortunately, AT were able to book 5 tents at Tandala just outside the park gate on short notice. This last minute change cost us in terms of easy access to the river areas in Ruaha. The lodge doesn't serve breakfast before 6.30, so we didn't get away before 7.20, it's a 10-15 minute drive to the main gate and a further 15-20 minutes to register entry and pay by card, or cardi as it is called here and then at least about an hour's drive to Msembe.  However, Tandala was comfortable, and we were fortunate to be able to stay together as a group on short notice. Here is a photo of our beautiful purpose-built safari vehicle supplied by Authentic Tanzania – the best vehicle of the whole trip.
 

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The first stop was at a bridge from where we could see hippo, crocs, Egyptian Geese, Hamerkop, Pied Kingfisher, Green-backed heron, a Water Thick Knee and Wattled Plover.
 

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From here we made our way slowly towards the Ruaha River with frequent stops for new birds and old friends such as Red-billed Firefinch, Northern White-headed Shrike,
 

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Tanzanian Red-billed Hornbill,
 

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Emerald Spotted Dove, 
 

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Speckle-fronted Weaver,


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Fork-tailed Drongo,
 

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Little Bee-eater,
 

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D'Arnaud's Barbet,  and Nubian Woodpecker. Mammals seen on the way in were Kirk's Dikdik, Grant's Gazelles,


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Greater Kudu, Dassie, vervet monkeys and yellow baboons. The Ruaha landscape was a highlight of the day.
 

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We drove slowly downriver, admiring the scenery and wildlife which included crocs, hippos, Grey Crowned Cranes, Goliath Heron, Grey Heron, Ashy Starlings, Saddle-billed Stork and Hadada Ibis. 
 

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We ate lunch at one of the designated stops and watched an ele family demolish a dead tree.  This part of the road, river and river bank looked very familiar and I think its possible that it was the site of this lion kill in 2008 #39.  A Greater Kudu grazed in the shade and a family of Banded Mongoose scampered through the long grass. Suddenly a lioness appeared over a bank, blinked and stared at us and wandered off.
 

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She looked very fat and we wondered if she had been gorging or was pregnant. Stephen drove around a thicket where we saw a male lion and a second lioness. They were all bloated, so that answers the previous question. They made their way down into the riverbed where one of the lionesses made a "scrape" in order to find cool sand.
 

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Continuing on down the river we saw 3 hooded vultures on a sandbar and a Brown Parrot tucking into the fruit of a Sausage Tree. After turning towards Tandala for the drive home we saw zebra, ostrich, a Lappet-faced vulture, eland, White-crowned Tchagra, giraffe, eles and Grey-headed flycatchers.
 

Eles have been foraging around camp ever since we returned this afternoon and at dinner a lion started calling from about 1 km away - Yanni sent a Maasai to investigate. I was shown to my tent around 8.30 by an askari, after which the night became very noisy with serious ele trumpeting, ear-flapping and rumbling mixed with lion grunting - I wonder if the lions  threatened a young ele?
 

Unbeknownst to me, over on the other side of camp a tragedy was unfolding. The Maasai took Jo to her tent and when she arrived she found a mouse with a furry tail desperate to escape. Jo called the Maasai back and asked him to put it outside. Instead the rungu was raised and lashed the mouse with deadly accuracy - Jo was heartbroken, and looked on as the Maasai removed the little furry body. :(

 

Tomorrow we are leaving Tandala at 10.30 and heading to the Mwagusi sector of the park with a return by 6 pm.

 

 

Edited by Treepol
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Today was a spectacular day for game viewing! Not many birds but the big cat sightings were exemplary.
 

Stephen drove us to the site of Kilimatonge Camp where we had booked to stay (before being diverted to Tandala) and on the way he spotted a young female leopard snoozing at the base of a baobab tree.
 

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The rest of the morning passed quietly with sightings of giraffe,
 

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eles,  zebra, impala, dassies and scenery. 
 

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We stopped at a public campsite for lunch and were surprised to find a brand new public toilet block and an enclosed camp kitchen. The park infrastructure has been developed significantly since my 2008 visit, when all I can remember were the public toilets around the airfield at Msembe.
 

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Stephen.


 

The first sight after lunch was a Tawny Eagle followed by buffalo and 4 lions sleeping in a river bed, 2 lionesses and 2 4-5 month old cubs.  
 

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Further along an ele family were teaching young ones to dig for water in the sandy river bed.  

 

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Just after this a leopard was walking up the road ahead of the vehicle, sadly, no time for a photo.  The day ended with a real bang - a third leopard in a baobab tree with an impala kill and a pride of 7 lions.
 

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Still exclaiming about these sightings we pulled over to watch a pair of Kirk's dikdiks feeding in the fading light.

 

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The absolutely final sighting was of a family of eles, one of which was munching at a baobab tree, and not for the first time either! 
 

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Tomorrow we are heading into the park at 7.15 in search of cheetah and lesser kudu and to see what has happened to the leopard with the impala kill with 7 lions nearby.

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Treepol
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Breakfast was at 6.30 this morning so that we could get into the park reasonably early. Cheetah and lesser kudu were our targets for today. The first sightings were at the bridge where hippos were enjoying the morning sun, followed by an Augur Buzzard perched high in a tree and a White- Browed Coucal.
 

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Early mammals included a zebra family with a foal, eles and Greater Kudu.  A mouse basked at the entrance to its burrow.


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(Photo: Noel and Sharn)


Bird wise we saw an African Harrier Hawk and a Brown Snake Eagle, before an ele family showed up. A large herd of impala (the ballerinas of the bush) stepped daintily down the Mwagusi River bed.
 

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After crossing the causeway we saw a Black-shouldered Kite, a pair of dik-diks, Red-headed Agama,
 

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Dassie, dust-bathing guinea fowl
 

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and a bee hive built into the side of a crossing.

 

A burnt piece of ground served as a feeding ground for a group of Red-billed, Crowned and African Grey Hornbills, as well as Ashy Starlings.
 

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Grant's Gazelles hugged the shade of the tree line. Near the confluence of the Mwagusi and Great Ruaha Rivers we stopped for Defassa Waterbuck,

 

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hippos, crocs, Little Bee-eater,

 

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African Fish Eagle

 

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Goliath and Grey Herons, 

 

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Saddle and Yellow-billed storks, Collared Sunbird and Brown Parrots. An Eastern Chanting Goshawk was the last bird seen on this stretch of the river.
 

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This ele had found a water source. 
 

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After lunch we began a leisurely drive back to Tandala via the leopard tree from yesterday. This time the leopard lay panting in the shade of the baobab tree, lifting his eyes skyward to check that the impala kill was still wedged in the tree above him. Given that the leopard was relaxing on the ground, we were certain that the pride of lions had left the area.
 

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The day had passed so quickly I couldn't believe that we were leaving Ruaha NP for the last time - this park definitely deserves another visit.

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Great sightings you had at Ruaha @Treepol

 

Agree that its a fantastic park, the varying landscapes are a real pleasure to visit.

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@mopsy thanks for reading along.

 

 

We were very sad to leave Tandala today - and even sadder when Stephen turned right towards Iringa instead of left towards Ruaha. The road through the villages is less busy than it was on the way in because today is Sunday. Many were dressed in their Sunday best for church and there was the usual local traffic with people walking, cycling and a few motorcycles. There are at least 4 Greek Orthodox churches along this road, no doubt a legacy of the Iringa Greek community. The churches are painted blue and white and all have a side verandah which looked incongruously Mediterranean in this dusty corner of Africa. At least 2 of these were closed but all were obviously being maintained whereas the Catholic Churches were well attended. 
 

Stephen stopped along the road for a chameleon and later to show us the raw ingredient for Amarula.
 

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This afternoon we went to see the Isimila Stone Age village which is about 30 minutes from Iringa. The site is littered with flints and a few fossils, although nothing is known of the people who lived here. The guide told us that current thinking is that Isimila was a working site for manufacturing flints for trade. The track took us in a loop around past the Pillars, tall standing columns of sandstone eroded by water and vaguely reminiscent of Cappadocia.  
 

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Vervets are always with us!
 

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After lunch and the presentation to Stephen we drove into Iringa to find Sai Villa, our accommodation for the night. Sai Villa is in a leafy suburb of Iringa and the original building is a former British colonial residence. The garden is lovely and the view from the terrace overlooks Iringa.


Stephen started on the long trip back to Dar (he hoped to make Mikumi town for the night) and we settled into Sai Villa. The wine choice at dinner was extremely limited so Noel settled on a Dodoma White. Jane H. is a wine buff and after a first sip she immortalised this wine with an exclamation of "Holy Shit"!  The true measure of the wine was the amount left in the bottle at the end of the night.
 

Later in the evening Johnny Russell of Doug Macdonald Safaris arrived. He is our guide and will drive us from Iringa to Livingstone along the last sector of the Tanzam Highway through Southern Tanzania and then across the border into Zambia where the Tanzam becomes the Great North Road.  Johnny arranged for a 7.30 am departure for Utengele Coffee Lodge with a stop beforehand at the Neema Craft Shop.  

Edited by Treepol
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3 hours ago, Treepol said:

she immortalised this wine with an exclamation of "Holy Shit"!  The true measure of the wine was the amount left in the bottle at the end of the night.

 

Was that the 2016 vintage? I hear that wasn't a good year :wacko:,

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The Stone Age Village site looks extraordinary, what a fascinating place!

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Very interested to read this, I’ve never visited Bagamoyo it looks like it’s worth a look if you have an interest in history. I have been to both Dar and Zanzibar, I'd thought that a fair bit of restoration work had been carried out in Stone Town since my visit back in the 90s but clearly not as much as I thought, the clock tower on the House of Wonders looks like it needs repainting fairly urgently. I never made it to Freddie Mercury’s House but it looks like I didn't miss much, I’m sure I must have seen Tippu Tip’s House, but I don’t particularly remember it, perhaps that's because I was saving film and didn't take a photo, how times have changed in the digital age. it seems slightly strange that, that sign doesn’t mention at all that the huge trading empire that he created was built on ivory and slaves. His empire that extended deep into the Congo was established to acquire ivory, but of course they found that they couldn’t use pack animals to take the ivory back to the coast because of tsetse flies, so started capturing slaves to carry it. The production of cloves that were increasingly being grown in plantations on Zanzibar was very labour intensive, so there was a ready market for slaves to supply these plantations. By 1895 he had acquired 7 clove plantations and apparently had 10,000 slaves, you'd think they perhaps ought to mention this.  

 

Very glad to see a visit to Hondo-Hondo and Udzungwa it is a special place, I hope more people might be tempted to visit. I haven’t spent a lot of time in Mikumi but I think it is an interesting little park that would be worth spending some time in, but as with Udzungwa most people fly over the top and bypass it when going to Ruaha. I always think that’s a bit of a shame and they miss out on the drive up through the Ruaha Gorge which must be one of the most spectacular drives in the country, the Neverending Road on beyond Iringa that takes you to Ruaha, is not perhaps such a great drive.

 

Interested to see Isimila Stone Age village, I’ve been through Iringa and in the surrounding area a few times and to my shame I confess I don’t think I knew about it, despite my interest in history.

 

I hope you found something better to drink later on than Dodoma wine, a wine critic once described one of their wines as having all the subtlety of a charging rhinoceros.:lol:   

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@AfricIan based on @inyathi comments, it seems that the Dodoma White has an international reputation!

 

 

@michael-ibk the visit to Isimila provided diversity to the trip, it would be good if more could be discovered about the flint-makers.

 

@inyathi I thought Bagamoyo was a great site. It desperately needs some maintenance, and although this sign indicated that plans were afoot, we saw no evidence of investment - such a shame.
 

 

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It would be wonderful if UNESCO could find a few $$$ to begin preservation work on this unique site. You didn't miss anything at the Freddie Mercury house which seems to be part of the Tembo House Hotel - we weren't allowed inside, but I suppose house guests may have a better view. Oh, I remember worrying about saving film - isn't digital absolutely fantastic? Thanks for the extra info on Tippu Tip - I agree it would be better if this was available at the site.

 

Your TR was my inspiration for including Hondo Hondo in this year's safari. Udzungwa NP broke the long trip between Mikumi and Ruaha and provided a rainforest experience, interesting village visits with great birding, good sightings of the Udzungwa Red Colobus and the enterrtaining yellow baboons.  One of the reasons we did a road trip this year was to have a close-up look at the country, villages and people along the highway, that the fly-ins miss (like I did in 2008). Mikumi and Udzungwa NPs were worth both the visit and the time it took to drive there. I'm going to write an 'Along the road' section after the Zambia sector concludes because the road trip was central to this year's safari experience. We didn't mind the  Neverending road so much and found the villages, churches and local traffic interesting, but then we've only driven this way once. Maybe the interest would wane on a second visit. 

 

There is more history coming up when we visit Shiwa Estate over the border in Zambia.

 

 

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This morning we visited the Neema Crafts Shop which is attached to the Neema Guest House and Cafe both of which are staffed by disabled people. We were short of time and the shop was late opening so I went to reception to ask them to open up for a group of 7. A young guy ran down and apologised for being late because they were still praying!
 

There were a lot of textiles for sale, some jewellery, cards, notebooks, stuffed animals and lampshades. I was talking to a guy who was staying at the guesthouse who said it was a great place and that they had freshly made cinnamon rolls for breakfast.  We left at 9.15 for a very long day's travel to Utengele Coffee Lodge due to roadworks and lots of trucks (Sino Truk and China Civil at work). There were the usual breakdowns and rollovers and frequent police checkpoints. The police sit in roadside shelters sponsored by a dairy company which look like ice-cream stalls. The first one to stop us just wanted to chat! He was wondering about the GP on the South African registered mini-bus which didn't quite gel with Johnny's Zim license. 
 

After 7.5 hours travel we arrived at Utengele lodge which oozes colonial ambience and has a commanding site overlooking the surrounding countryside.


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The verandah is a pleasant place to sit and enjoy the view over the colourful bougainvillea. I went for a wander with the camera and found Variable Sunbird and Speckled Mousebird in the garden. Dinner is served in the lounge where a roaring fire enhances the ambience. Its possible to do a coffee farm/factory tour at 9 am each day and if I ever come back, that will be on my to-do list.
 

 

Tonight Johnny told us that we had been upgraded to Konkamoya Lodge in Kafue NP because eles had eaten our reed hut accommodation at Hippo Bay Campsite – well, I think the huts were damaged during the last wet season, but being eaten by eles is a better story!

 

 

Edited by Treepol
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