So much to write and so little time to write it! Here's a summary of what we have done so far. After leaving the Masai mara we met up with the rest of the group in Nairobi. They have been on the road for 2 months already, from Cairo, and we really are the new blood. In total there were 4 of us 'newbies'. Two people left the group in Nairobi, so there are 22 of us in total, plus Brendan our driver and Claire our guide. Well actually we are now 21 as Dan decided to stay in Dar es Salaam.....we hope he might rejoin the trip in Zimbabwe as he was only here for 10 days before he departed!!
Anyway, we first headed to Arusha, and were based at Snake park with several other overlanding trucks (not to be called buses as i keep forgetting). From there we headed out for a 3 day Serengeti safari. This was superb and quite different from the Masai mara. The views of the animals weren't as close but the scenery, especially Ngorongoro, the vastness of the plains and the sheer numbers of wildebeest were amazing. I can't remember ever seeing so many mammals of one species in one place, just wildebeest right to the horizon. We also saw more Lions, yet another Leopard (one of the single most impressive pieces of field skill i have ever seen - picked up by our driver at great distance, whilst driving, with just it's tail hanging down from a tree), another Cheetah and we completed the big 5 in a day with Black Rhinoceros. Bird wise it was also good, too many things to mention but Heuglin's and Two-banded Coursers were great, plus loads of raptors.
At snake park we checked out the snake collection....not sure who thought the idea of deadly snakes next to a bar was a good one, but i got to see a Black Mamba at less than a metre distance, which was very cool. Also some great looking vipers.
From Arusha we headed towards Dar es Salaam, stopping to bush camp along the way. In fact it was supposed to be a basic campsite but it had been closed a while. I was also on cook duty that night, so the 4 of us used our budget wisely to make veggie pasta sauce. The next morning we were up at 0430 to make breakfast.....20+ omelettes and no casualties!
Once in Dar we camped at a beachside campsite and had our first swim in a very warm, and dirty Indian ocean. The site also had a saltwater pool, and saltwater showers, the latter didn't work. It was a very warm, humid night and not used to there being so many tents in close proximity. We were up early again to take tuc-tucs to a ferry, then another ferry for the 3 hour boat to Zanzibar. Caught up with one of my main targets on the trip, Crab Plover but too far for photos. Also my first Brown Noddy. Once on Zanzibar we headed to our hostel, luxury of a double ensuite room for $40 incl breakfast. We spent the afternoon shopping for 'secret santa' before bumping into Dan and losing ourselves in the actual town market. On the way back we found Mercury's bar and it seemed rude to not to call in for a xmas eve drink. That evening we headed to the fish market, where it was possible to buy just about everything. Unfortunately i think i just chose badly as everything i ate was pretty bad! Others enjoyed it though.
Xmas morning - woke up early and opened my presents (Remke had hung stockings at the end of the bed) and then we had breakfast on the roof with a few of the others who were up early. Remke then set off for a day spice tour, whilst i opted to transfer to the north, and the beach, which was to be our home for the next 3 nights. So xmas day was spent with a bit of swimming, a bit of lazing about and in the evening we all went out for dinner. Im sure that we didn't disturb the other diners.....as we dished out our secret santa presents, and received gifts of equal value back. The food was excellent, especially the seafood...so im not sure why i ordered beef?
The next day was a really lazy one, swimming, reading, sleeping, drinking cocktails, etc. Dinner was late, slow and not great.
10 of us arranged to go snorkelling today, and we were joined by about 20 other tourists and set out, in the rain, to Mnemba atoll. As the rest of the group huddled under a tarpaulin to stay dry i was loving seeing more Noddys, Lesser-crested terns and best of all 2 Red-necked Phalaropes battling through the rain. Great to see this species on its winter quarters.
The sun did come out in the end, and it was scorching, nothing better than to jump in the inviting water, where Josh, our resident marine biologist told us that the jellyfish shouldn't sting too much.....and 10 minutes later we were nearly all back in the boat, sting after sting. They weren't painful but there just becomes a point where they are a pain in the ass! Before i got out of the water i did see some amazing fish and having never snorkelled over a coral reef before it was a great experience.
Back on land we went back to our xmas day restaurant and this time enjoyed a good fish meal.
28th dec - ferry back to Dar es Salaam. Uneventful until Katka and i offered to take Remke and Katies luggage back for them as they were doing cook group shopping. It was only 15 minutes walk to the ferry, so with my luggage on my back, my hand baggage on my chest and Remkes bag on my head we sweated our way to the ferry. The fact that Katka had to carry 2 bags made me wonder if the local guys thought i was a wimp for not offering to carry hers as well?? This feat of human endurance saved us $2! That night was back at the beach camp, this time some pool swimming, showers working and the news that we are leaving at 0430. Roll on through a warm, humid night, a tent full of things that bite and it's time to leave. Our guide is somewhere passed out on the beach apparently and Dan tells us he's staying behind! Rumours abound about who he has met, and most of us assume he was joking, but sure enough he stayed in Dar! Hopefully he will catch us up later, otherwise we will never know!
So early start, long drive, great scenery (as most days have been, forgot to say how amazing the water colour on Zanzibar was) and some heavy traffic meant we missed our hoped for bush camp and set up at a quiet campsite with no power but some water, and loos!
Next day another early start and we cross over into Malawi. Stopped en route to do our cook group shopping, and buy bits for our 'animal' theme party. Remke and i wanted to go as dung beetles but settled for leopard, zebra type hybrids. Due to conservative local customs i (the group) was saved from me wearing a leopard print mini skirt! Although it fitted perfectly and was nice and airy in the humid climate.
After dinner we all dressed up, had a few beers and before i know it's 3am....i had sacrificed my shirt to a beach bonfire and at the same time lost my headtorch (the single most useful item i have with me). Now using the wind up torch Renate gave me until we get to the shops. Somewhere during the night my ipod was also used for the disco, and thankfully no one played 'african bird sounds' by mistake.
Woke up on new years day with a slight hangover, which when inside a tent, and 30 degrees is really not to be recommended. Still some people looked worse and some were still drinking til lunchtime. The sight of others swigging neat rum for breakfast, followed by vodka and beer at the bar made me realise that my alcohol consumption really was very tame by comparison!
That evening we were on cook duty, made all the easier by Claire ordering a spit roast, so we made some side salads, chucked some sweet potatos in the fire and our job was done.
Today, 2nd of jan, is a day of doing nothing, writing this blog post, maybe a swim later. Dinner tonight is at a local house in the village, which should be fun. Tomorrow we leave for Lilongwe, where we have 2 nights. This will give Claire time to sort our Mozambique visas (just a transit visit), on our way to Zimbabwe. I can also buy a head torch, hopefully find wifi, stock up on supplies etc.
Still no internet and now 4th jan. Our evening meal in a local village was ok, food was good, and local kids did a few dances before us. Before it was our turn to dance with them.....had they been Masai then my dance style of jumping up and down might have impressed them. However they weren't and i didn't. We also sung for them, old macdonald seemed like a good idea at the time : )
Back at camp i tried playing thr ipod for African Wood Owl (Brendan had seen 2 owls in the daytime yday). Sure enough after 5 secs of playing 4 flew in, and then called above our tent for an hour.
After leaving camp on 3rd it rained most of the way to Lilongwe (did see Southern Ground Hornbill along the road) then we had 2 free hours to do some shopping. First port of call was a local grill house to use their loos.....where i couldn't help but notice 'giblets galore' on the menu, maybe tomorrow?
I also found a head torch, Remke found muesli and now we are heading back for a whole day of shopping, blogging etc whilst others post their shoppingr home, chairs, tables, etc!
Last night there there were 00's of small falcons flying over the town in the twilight. They looked like Amur types but hope to see them in better light tonight.
Tomorrow we reach Mozambique, a night camping in the bush along the formerly infamous 'gun corridor', before reaching Zimbabwe the next day. We have a few days in Harare, plus chances to track rhinos on foot, feed lion cubs, and then we reach Vic falls.