Sunday, November 25, 2012

Mnambe Falls, Tanzania

The first stop on our itinerary from Tarangire National Park to Canada was a two night visit to Moshi; a beautiful town located below the magnificent Mt. Kilimanjaro. 

We were welcomed at Kiliview by Moses’s mother, Martha.  One hour after we arrive Moses pointed out a picture Martha had on the wall. It was a photo of the most beautiful waterfalls. I asked her where they are located and if it is possible for us to visit them. She explained the location and got on the phone right away to start making arrangements for us to visit the following day, I was very excited!  The falls are located in the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro, I had no idea that I was in for such an amazing experience.

Martha, Moses, Godi (our guide) and I took the morning bus from downtown Moshi and headed to Uru.  If you have ever taken a local bus in Africa you know you will be in for a cozy ride. The small vans comfortably hold 12 people; however there are no specific rules as to the number of people they will attempt to squeeze into the buses!  This is an experience in itself, but I am always up for a little adventure and learning the ways of the locals. 
We drove for a few minutes before we turned left and headed up the hills of the mountain. These hills are where the Chagga tribe live and make a living from their field and fields of crops of fruits and vegetables.  Stepping out of the small bus I was amazed with the height we had already climbed, at 1700 meters it was a wonderful site to see Moshi town below. 
The hills were so green, it amazed me how the Chagga men and women made use of every inch, (and I mean every) of the land.  We hiked through fields of bananas trees, peaches, walked by passion fruit and avocado trees.  The smell of fresh eucalyptus plants was a pure delight!  Coffee plants, fields of lettuce and corn- everything was growing in these amazing hills.

As we climbed higher we passed by several schools and tiny villages, the children enjoy their life on the slopes of Kilimanjaro. There were local shops and bars scattered throughout the hills.  As we passed by a field of coffee plants we were greeted by a friendly local who was harvesting some of his plants, he offered to prepare for us a fresh cup of coffee.  As we were determined to reach the falls we expressed our desire to continue on.  The kind man let us know of a short cut to the falls that went behind his property; we let him lead the way.  

We walked up and down hills, around bends and over shaky wooden bridges.  The babbling brook that ran beside the narrow path was a peaceful sound as we headed towards the 87 meter falls.  Our newest guide pointed out plants and herbs which they used for medicine, he explained legends and tales which have been passed down for generations.  One story he shared was how the locals had believed that the falls where the tears from God.

As we turned the last bend, I was in awe at the magnificent sight before my eyes, the sound of the water rushing down over the rocks and the energy within the beautiful hills was much more then I was expecting. The water was cool but refreshing after the long hike.  We all jumped into the water and I thanked God for the beauty that surrounded me.  
There really is no way to deliver the beauty of this experience. I have attempted to share the magic that lies within these hills with my video of Mnambe Falls; however,  I recommend the best way to really discover the beauty is to visit them for yourself.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Baobabs!

The mighty baobabs, my favourite trees, are some of the oldest and largest trees in the world! If you have not yet had a chance to see these beauties up close you may remember them as the “Tree of Life” in Disney’s Lion King or as a centerpiece at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

During the wet season the Baobabs are a luscious green with thick leafy canopies. The stout trunk is fibrous and spongy and stores huge amounts of water. This is one of the reasons the elephants love to snack on the trees. You will often notice that the bottom sections of Baobabs are rubbed off or hollowed out as elephants regularly eat their bark and gouge holes in the trees during droughts. They cause a considerable amount of damage, but this is nature and the circle of life! The locals use the fibres to make string, cloth and baskets while the leaves are used for medicines and condiments.    

 
 
In the dry season the Baobabs are completely bare and look very much like it has its roots sticking up in the air.  Legends say that the Baobab tree came to be stuffed in the ground upside down, so it could no longer complain.
 
 The Baobabs are currently in bloom with white flowers which are pollinated by fruit bats - these large white flowers last only for one single day. 
The grayish green, furry coated fruits are starting to grow, their oblong woody fruits will grow up to 30cm in length.  A tasty juice can be prepared from the fruits of the baobab; you may also snack on the bitter fruit which is known as “monkey bread” – this is a great source of vitamin C. I enjoy the Baobab fruits as a morning treat. Judy cracked open a dried fruit for us this morning, yummy! 





 



It is hard to tell the age of a Baobab because they do not lay down wood with annual rings.  Scientists have measured changes in their size and have calculated that they increase 2.7 meters (9 feet) in circumference every 100 years.  Thus, a tree 18 feet in girth is around 200 years old.  Many Baobabs are hollow, and provide homes for bees, owls, and bats – even people.  I had the opportunity to stand inside the monster sized tree, with the bats, bees and moths - and a few other creatures I’m sure! I love the energy of these magnificent trees.  You will notice sticks on the inside of this Baobab, they are used to climb to the bee hives. 
 
 

This young Baobab is just 17 years old. 
 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

After the hunt

Today we flew over a pride of nine lions; they had conquered two smaller buffalos early in the morning. They have been hanging around the river as this is the easiest place for them to find food.  Once we had landed we made our way to watch them from the ground.  The jackals were pointing us to the direction of the lions, as scavengers they circle around the area waiting for the perfect time to move in to join in on the feast.  The vultures also circle above and sit nearby, watching for their turn.








By the time we had arrived the lions had moved their catch to a covered area. We first discovered the male, lying under the tree; he was fighting to stay awake to protect his catch of the day.  As one has nothing but time while on safari, we sat and watched the jackals move in on the king of the jungle, wondering what was going to take place.  The jackals remind me of a character from a childhood show, the "Littlest Hobo".  Every time I see these clever little guys I can't help but sing... "Maybe tomorrow I'll want to settle down, until tomorrow I'll just keep moving on"!

The lion eventually fell asleep, the jackals slowly inched his way closer, in such an inconspicuous way!  One of the brave jackals continued closer yet, watching closely the lion’s laborious breathing. He managed to get very close before the lion lifted his head, a warning that now is not the time for such a disturbance!


A few yards away the females were also lazing about.  One of the elders was guarding their second buffalo and the rest were lying nearby under a tree.


I have watched this pride of lions on many occasions; it is quite amazing to watch the cubs as they grow over the months.  One of the females in this particular pride wears a GPS collar, which has been managed by a team of Lion Researchers working in Tarangire National Park.  In past discussions with the researchers - as a concerned animal lover, I have learned that the lions are not bothered by the collars nor does it affect their normal routine for survival.  

 
The lions in Tarangire have plenty of food as the park is full of their favourite hoofed wildlife. The large cats will follow the animals as they migrate the African land.  It is currently one of the best times to visit Tarangire National Park, due to the large number of herds, prides and packs that roam the wooded forest.
Earlier this week I met a wonderful artist by the name of Judy Nicholson, she was visiting Tarangire on her safari and had flown in the balloon for an unforgettable experience.  I enjoy her work, especially the animal pieces. I look forward to seeing more creations, inspired from her visit to Tarangire! With joy I share Trudy’s Artwork!  

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Tembo, Tembo, Tembo!!

How time flies when you are doing what you love to do! I am confused at how it can be September 23rd already! We had family visiting from Kenya, Dar es Salam and a friend from Canada who had a blast on his first safari. We’ve been busy, but of course that’s what keeps life interesting.

Speaking of interesting, yesterday when we arrived home from the flight we found ten elephants in our back yard. They have been making frequent visits during the last few weeks, slurping up water and chewing down the trees. I had a feeling that they would return later in the evening, to clean up the water from the bird bath. At 4:02am I woke to the sound of trees cracking, I got up to see how many where outside and quickly sat back down as there were five (one very large mama) right outside the window, one was looking right at me! I did not want to startle them and cause them to come any closer to the house, they already were a bit to close for comfort! Had I been able to open the window I could have grabbed their tails! The thoughts of how I could possibly capture a picture of these beautiful animals at work came to mind, after a bit of contemplation, I decided that it was best to just enjoy their company and this unique experience and remain with only a mental picture! The herd then moved off and made their way to the restaurant. As we headed out for the flight we saw all twenty of them heading down to the river.

Elephants (Tembo) have been my favourite animals since I can remember, even as a child I knew that I would one day spend a significant amount of time with them! I am extremely happy to announce the launch of our new website!! Our many hours learning the parks, safari towns and many products, combined with creativity, patience and inspiration from this beautiful land, has turned into something I am very grateful to share with our families and friends, their families and their friends, clients - current and future. We will be continually developing the site, adding new packages, excursions, East African wildlife videos and options for travellers to East Africa.


We invite you to check out

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Kiswahili

When traveling to another country it is always respectful to learn the words for basic communication in the local language.  In just over seven months I have learned quite a bit of Kiswahili.  I enjoy learning from the locals daily and always have a new word or two as my “words of the day”.  I am thankful for their patience and enjoy the fun while learning their language.  My philosophy when I teach and as I learn is to make learning fun, just like life!  Let me share with you some Kiswahili that would be great to learn before coming on Safari in East Africa! Some of my teachers are pictured below, smiling at work!


There are a few different greetings in Kiswahili, the most popular is Jambo which means hello.  When someone asks you this you can respond with msuri which means good.  Sana means much and is said following many words so you could respond with msuri sana. Habari Asubuhi is how are you this morning, again you may respond with msuri sana or a more formal way would be salama or salama sana.  Habari za mchana is good afternoon and habari za jioni means good evening.
A more casual greeting is Mambo which translates to how are you.  You would answer with poa which means cool or you could also say safi sana which is another way to say very good.  Sawa is ok. To respond with yes, ndio or no, hapana.  Here is hapa, sasa is now and semahani is excuse me.  Kidogo is a little, to say you know a bit of Kiswhaili you would say Kiswhaili kidogo.
Pole is the word for sorry, pole sana means very sorry, as in sorry for your troubles or sorry for your hard work.  Pole pole however means slowly and taratibu is slowly with care. To tell someone to have a good evening is Usiku mwayma. Many times you will hear lala salama following this phrase which means have a good sleep.
During your safari you want to be sure you have lots of maji safi, good water, or perhaps you’re looking for a fresh Tanzania kahawa, coffee.  It’s important to mention that you want your beverages baradi, which is cold.  Many Africans prefer to drink their soda and pompe (beer) moto, which means warm.   
To thank someone you will say Karibu, this means welcome.  You can also say Karibu to welcome someone into your home or you will hear it as a greeting when you arrive. If you wish to express thank you very much you say karibu sana.  Asante means thank you and is often followed with sana for thank you very much!
Moja, Mbili, Tatu, Nne, Tano, Sita, Saba, Nane, Tisa, Kumi , that’s one through ten. Eleven is kume na moja which means ten plus one, therefore twelve would be kume na (and) mbili…you get the picture! Of course on safari you will be looking for many wanyama (animals) that’s what safari is all about! I keep learning new animal names each day. 
Punda Milia (Zebra), Tembo (Elephant), Pumba (Warthog) , Simba (Lion), Twiga (Giraffe), Fisi (Hyena), Chewi ( Cheeta),  Duma (Leopard),you also will see ndege wengi sana (many birds) and if you are driving through Masai land you will see Mbuzi (goat), Kuku (chickens), Punda (donkeys) and  ng’ombe (cows).
 
A very common phrase used in Kenya is hakuna matata or humna shita in Tanzania -it means no worries and I love this phrase! It is used often as it expresses the way of thinking and life in East Africa. There are many people who feel that a third world country is less fortunate than a first or second world country as they may not have all the money and possessions a first world country does.  What I experience daily is that people are very happy and less stressed than those of a first world country. I hear less complaning and more gratitude here than I do when living in North America, people seem much happier here.  Many of the locals understand that money and possessions do not equal happiness and they have tremendous faith that everything works out as it is meant to.  My wish is for people to learn how hakuna matata could be helpful in having a more joyful life!   My mini Kiswahili lesson is sure to help you to communicate with locals while on safari - thanks to my many Kiswahili teachers!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Buffalo Stampede


Todays flight was a beautiful flight like all flights but the one thing that really made it extra special was seeing the largest herd of Cape Buffalo I’ve seen so far in East Africa. The sound of hundreds of buffalos running through the grass is a wonderful sound at 6:45am. When I first noticed the large herd to the west I did a double take as I thought it was perhaps just a thick section of trees but as we lowered down and rode the winds I quickly confirmed it was a very large herd of Cape Buffalo - it was an amazing sight! Shortly after the herd of buffalo we spotted four lions lounging by the river.






 



On the way to the breakfast in the bush we spotted many animals, elephants, zebras, many colorful birds and this beautiful Waterbuck - he was standing picture perfect for us.

Each day I learn more and more about beautiful East Africa and the way of life and cultures.  I would like to thank my mother, Margo Strowbridge for being the first to start a donation fund for those in need in Tanzania.  This has inspired me to learn of more opportunities and ways to help support those who are less fortunate then me.  

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Great Migration

I did not think I would get to experience the migration in the Masai Mara this year but to our surprise we had to make a last minute trip from Tarangire National Park, Tanzania to the Masai Mara, Kenya.  From Tarangire to Arusha, onwards to the border town Namunga reaching Nairobi and then the four to five hour drive into the Masai Mara from Nairobi.

Normally we fly into the Mara on the bush plane so this was my first experience by road.  It's a long bumpy ride however the experience is worth it, at least one direction anyway - especially for those who enjoy taking in the culture and sights of the Great Rift Valley along the way.  Flying over the Great Rift Valley in a bush plane is a wonderful experience as well. Your drivers will be waiting at the airstrip for you and your safari will begin. 

 
It is currently high season in the Masai Mara and the Great Migration of Wildebeest and Zebra has begun.The Wildebeest and Zebra were a bit late this year due to a longer than normal rainy season. The open savannah grasses were very long therefore they did not need to move from their grazing grounds in the Serengeti. 

Better late than never they have started to flow into the Masai Mara from the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania.  It is amazing to see the hundreds of thousands of Wildebeest running with their friends the Zebra. Over one million Wildebeest migrate annually from the Serengeti to the Masai Mara. As we fly overhead in the balloon I am amazed with the numbers, it was more breath taking then I had expected. I am happy to have crossed off another item on my bucket list!  Whether you have the opportunity to watch the migration in Tanzania or Kenya it will be an experience you will never forget. The best way to get the full experience and see just how many Wildebeest their are definitely is in a hot air balloon! 





Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Pied Kingfisher

Earlier this week while driving home from breakfast in the bush we spotted four Pied Kingfishers sitting on the sandbar in the river. I did not think there were any fish for them to catch in this small section of the river that had little water. To our delight they proved us wrong and caught quite a few! It was too cute not to share!

I hope you enjoy my YouTube video of the Pied Kingfisher diving for fish!

 

 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Tree Tops

I recently had the chance to visit a lodge that I had been waiting to see for a very long time. It was nice to check off another item on my bucket list and enjoy the serenity of this beautiful lodge. The uniqueness of these properties has amazed me since I first laid eyes on the pictures in travel magazines many years ago when I was in Travel College.

The entire grounds of Tarangire Tree Tops are a nature lover’s paradise. The food is top notch and a treat upon returning from a long day of game driving. Sit back and relax fireside listening to the great outdoors while enjoying the sky of shining light. My favourite part of this hideaway are the rooms which are built into large Baobab trees - adult size tree houses in the most peaceful setting.


Sleeping in a tree is an experience that everyone should try once in their life, well that’s just my opinion! I hope you enjoy my virtual tour of Tarangire Tree Tops.



In case you missed it last week - check out my video of the

Friday, June 29, 2012

Karibu Punda Milia!

It feels like months but has only been a few weeks without what feels like my third arm! I patiently wait for my computer to return from the repair shop and my mind is filling with stories and adventures to share with my readers. Sharing a computer between the two of us has been pole pole. Having lots of work to complete for my new website, booking clients on trips to Hawaii, Panama, South Padres Island, weddings to the Caribbean and of course to East Africa for Safari has been taking up my share of the computer time!

This morning I woke to lions moaning, most likely they had just found breakfast and were enjoying their catch.  Headed for the balloon launch site I was excited to see what animals would be around the corner as we left camp.  Being back in Tarangire with all the animals is wonderful.  The Zebra are starting to make their way back to the park and their offspring are right alongside of them.  The wildebeest are scattered with the Zebra and the many herds of elephants are also finding their way home.  After the flight we drove through an enormous group of Zebra. The younger ones gave us a little show and did a little playing around. I was able to capture this with my lens and as soon as the winds decide to blow the right way or I get into town for 3g connection (which ever comes first) I will be able to share the fun video with you.

When not working behind the computer I am out enjoying the wonders of this beautiful park.  Game drives to check out wildlife returning to the swamp and watching the birds who show up at our bird bath is how I often spend my afternoons. I see beauty every where I look; the people who teach me much more than Kiswahili, the landscape, trees, birds and animals- even the bats are cute here!




Designing plans for many great advenutres to see more of this beautiful country keeps me on my toes! In the near furture I will head to Ngorongoro Crater and Lake Manyara to spot more wildlife. I will also be visiting Peace Matunda Orphanage and School on the slopes of Mt. Meru.  It is important for me to help the locals in anyway I can while at the same time providing a trip of a life time for my clients. Working with PeaceMatunda allows me this opportunity in East Africa.

Living in a national park meeting travelers from all around the globe I have learned very quickly what those on safari are looking for. A common comment from travelers is how they are thankful that they booked with a travel agent!  There is a lot to coordinate for this amazing journey and you want to be sure you are booking with reputable suppliers that use reliable vehicles and have knowledgeable staff.  It is also a smart idea to visit at a time of year that fulfills your dreams for your African Safari.  Speaking to a specialist with first-hand knowledge is very helpful for you - the traveller!  I leave you with the lions that are hanging around the Tarangire Sand River this week....kwa heri

Friday, June 8, 2012

Tembo!

While I had hoped to be blogging about the Giraffe Manor and the Elephant Orphanage I gained more life experiences by not visiting on my most recent stop in Nairobi.  The pole pole way is to be sure to intersect your day.  Nairobi is a very busy city and just like any other growing city there is always construction being done.  The day’s adventure to visit the Giraffes and Elephants started out well, the traffic jam in construction was a surprise and put a twist in the plans.  To visit the Elephant Orphanage you want to arrive around 10am. The exhibit does close at noon as the elephants return to the park for play time, so be sure to get an early start on your day.   I will enjoy my time being surrounded by the Elephants in Tarangire and will patiently wait to visit the Orphanage and Giraffe Manor in November when I return to Nairobi, hakuna matata!

The Elephant population in Tarangire is one of the best known in Africa, thanks to the Tarangire Elephant project which began in 1993.  The project monitors the location, associations and life history of about 32 family groups and 250 bull elephants.

About 2500 elephants live in Tarangire ecosystem.  In the dry season they all depend on the water of the Tarangire river inside the park.  In the wet season many of them wander widely in the Maasai Steepe in search for better forage. Bulls range far, they may visit neighbouring populations in Lake Manyara and even in the Ngorongoro highlands.

Elephants prefer to eat grass but in dry times they turn to trees for food, especially baobob and acacia trees. They strip bark, break branches, smash ebony bushes and pluck seedlings of many kinds.   While causing some damage, they also “trim” and shape the trees. The seeds that pass through their gigantic bellies are left in convenient manure piles, ready to become new trees.

Whatever elephants are doing, they are fascinating to watch. Family groups forging, bathing, drinking, and playing will provide you with hours of pleasure.  My love for these amazing creatures inspires me to share ways you can help support the orphans and adopt an elephant at Sheldrick Wildlife Trust or even better book your safari to get up close and personal with the world’s largest animal.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Fig Tree Camp, Masai Mara, Kenya

As time winds down with less than a week in the Masai Mara I continue to take in the beauty that surrounds me. I have enjoyed my time learning the ins and outs of the park and the many camps and lodges located within the Masai Mara Game Reserve.  The most memorable time spent here was with the many animals.  I have had the pleasure of following them from land and from above, floating along in the sky.

When planning your East African Safari there are many choices for camps and lodges for your stay in the Masai Mara.  A favorite of mine is Fig Tree Camp, located along the Talek River.  Fig Tree Camp is a wonderful place to rest and relax while on safari.  Your stay will be warm and cozy in one of the luxury tents along the banks of the river or in a chalet mingled among the trees and beautiful flowers that surround the camp.  

The staff at Fig Tree Camp are  kind and welcoming; they are always there to cater to your every need.  Before you set out on your game drive enjoy your morning tea watching the animals from the lookout built into the huge FigTree in the middle of the camp. 
Amazing sunrises can be viewed daily in Hot Air Balloon flights available at Fig Tree Camp, followed by a wonderful bush breakfast in the open Savannah this will be an experience that you will never forget.
You may need to swim a few laps in the pool to work off the great food you’ll be eating.  Four course meals for your delight will keep you fueled for your busy days.  Evening campfires with new friends will create lasting memories, talking of the days exciting activities and sightings.  







I am excited to head to Nairobi to visit the Elephant Orphanage and the Giraffe Manor, for sure my next blog post!  A big thank you to my readers who have been following along on my journey to becoming an East African Specialist.  My journey will continue as I make my way back to Tarangire National Park in Tanzania.  Keep following me as I share my travels and experiences in East Africa