Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Seaweed Farming in Jambiani Beach - Zanzibar, TZ

During my trip to the island of Zanzibar I spent three nights in Jambiani, which is located on the south east coast of the island. I choose this area as you get to enjoy the culture of the local life. The beaches in Jambiani are natural and not cleaned daily of seaweed. I stayed at the Red Monkey Lodge while in Jambiani.  The quaint resort offers a great place to relax and enjoy the beautiful Indian Ocean.

Coral reefs line the coast of Zanzibar and surrounding islands.  The fine white sand and warm turquoise waters will do wonders for your feet as you walk along the beautiful sandbar at low tide. When I arrived at the Red Monkey Lodge the tide was in, waves crashing on the beach. From my research and reading TripAdvisor reviews I knew that the tide would go out quite far and that the locals make a living from farming the seaweed along the coast of Jambiani. I went to bed the first night in my beautiful room, footsteps from the beach, very excited to wake up and learn how and why the locals did their farming of seaweed.  I woke in the morning, enjoyed my breakfast with a view.  The tide had gone out and the sand bar could be seen for miles. I could see women of all ages walking out to their farms, off I went with my camera - you must admit it looks quite inviting!

There were many different families along the shoreline working very hard to take advantage of the low tide. The farms can only be tended to at low tide so each day they make the best of their time.  Sticks of wood are driven into the sand and then twine or rope is tied from one end to the other. When the tide comes back in all evidence of the farms disappear and the seaweed is collected as it moves about the ocean. 

I walked along greeting the locals in Kiswahili, asking how their day was and blessing them for their days work. A young woman, probably the age of 16 or 17 asked me for some help as I walked by. She needed assistance in getting the heavy bag, full of seaweed on top of her head.

I kept walking though the warm shallow waters and came across the supplies that are needed for the farming, it was like the supplies were laid out just for my picture.  The supplies consisted of small pieces of seaweed, the bags for the harvested seaweed and the small bits of string.

I kept walking along the shoreline for a while and then decided to sit on the sand and enjoy the view.  A local teenage boy came along, he was out helping his mother and wanted to see where this "mzungu" (Kiswahili for tourist or white man) was visiting from. We chatted for a bit in Kiswahili and then I asked him to explain to me in English the process of the farming. He explained that the small pieces of seaweed are tied to the small pieces of string and then tied to the long strings in the water.  As the tide rises and falls day after day the seaweed grows in large bundles which then get sorted and picked when the time is right.  I asked what the seaweed is used for and his response was for making many things. He continued to explain that the seaweed is exported from Jambiani and used to make candles, soap and also used for medicine.  

The sun was shining bright and I knew it as time to have a little break as I had forgot to put on sunscreen, it was time to head into the shade. I enjoyed the walk back, snapping a few more photos of the wooden boats which now sat on the ocean floor and the interesting marine life, such as the beautiful spider fish.

Sitting in the shade I watched as the tide slowly started to come back in and the locals pole pole started to make their way back to the shore.  Some of the younger children were excited that their mamas were soon finished work, they gathered on the beach with their family and friends waiting for mama to return. The higher the tide became the harder it appeared for the women to haul in their loads, some ladies were pulling up to 15 full bags of seaweed. I took note that the farming was done mainly by the women.

Once they reached the shore the women re-counted their bags of seaweed, to make sure no bags where left behind. They then carried the bags to the rock wall behind the beach, where they would then get carried home and the drying process could begin. When I went for a walk later that evening I saw many bags of seaweed sprawled in the front and back yards. 

Swimming in Jambiani is great once the tide becomes high, the seaweed is once again covered and all presence of hard work has disappeared for another day. During the low-tide walking around the beautiful sandbanks and wadding in the warm pools is a wonderful way to spend your morning. 

For more beautiful photos of Zanzibar be sure to watch my Virtual Tour of Zanzibar.  You can also learn more about Zanzibar and the Slave Trade which once took place on the island. 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Test Flights in the Mighty Serengeti

It’s been an adventurous four weeks touring the Serengeti National Park.  My safari (journey in Kiswahili) started out as we made our way from Tarangire National park, passed by Lake Manyara National Park and headed towards the amazing Ngorongoro Crater.  This was my first visit to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, I was very excited to be crossing this one off the ole bucket list. 

The entire drive through the Conservation Area was breathtaking.  We passed through the lush green forest, climbing our way to the top of the crater - a whopping 7700 feet above sea level.  The anticipation kept growing as I wondered what was around each bend. Finally we reach the lookout point and I hopped out of the safari vehicle.  The area is being re-built and we weren’t supposed to walk on it but I could not help it, I wanted to get as close as I could to edge of the crater.  After a few Kodak moments we drove along to the other look out point where I sat for a bit and marveled at my view.  The Ngorongoro Crater is the largest caldera in the world and is a must see if coming to Tanzania. The animals and the Massai live all along the crater rim and surrounding hills and valleys, in peace.

We continued onwards to Central Serengeti where Mada Hotels is building their new lodge and balloon operation.  Adventures Aloft is now offering hot air balloon rides in two new locations in the Serengeti.  Togoro Plains is located in the Central part of the Serengeti near Lobo area. The second base will be situated in Kogatende which is right on the Mara River, both locations are great for viewing the Great Migration, a once and a life time experience to view from a balloon.

Moses started his test flights as soon as we arrived, it was exciting being the first to be in a balloon over this part of the park.  It was great to be waking up with the sun again every morning.  We had a lot of fun and quite a few adventures, checking out new sites for launching,  doing the flight to see how the site worked out and hoping that the crew would find us!  After a few tries  Moses found the perfect launching site but the search continues as he works on making new roads through the thick bush, so the chase crew can get to the balloon once it lands.  A few more adventures and we’ll be moving on to the next balloon site to start test flights over the Mara River! I’m really looking forward to seeing more hippos and crocs!

The Serengeti National park is famous for the annual Great Migration of Wildebeest and Zebra, as they roam the land searching for greener grasses.  Currently the hoofed friends are making their way from the south portion of the Serengeti where they had been hanging out while their calves were born. The wildebeest head north towards Kenya and typically reach the Mara River near mid or the end of July. Over 2 million wildebeest migrate annually, this is an amazing site to see!

Of course with all of the gnu on the move the cats are right behind them.  I’ve seen many lions living in Tarangire and the Masai Mara  but in the Serengeti they seem to be everywhere I look.  We have one pride of lions that live fairly close to the camp. Just the other day they decided that they wanted to hang out with us and spent the night at camp. One of these small cubs spent the night just 15 feet from our deck.

Having spent a considerable amount of time living in the African woods  I’m quite adjusted to the adventures that go along with bush life.  It’s been neat to watch the camp as it’s being built, so much hard work and co-ordination goes into making sure the camp gets built on time. Just think of the  many miles in which all the supplies and materials travel to reach Togoro Plains. I’m thankful for the shipment of water which is delivered every two days so I can enjoy a nice hot shower everyday! 

I hope you enjoy a few more of my favorite photos from the Sergengeti National Park. There will be many more great photos to come as we will spend the majority of our time this year in the Mighty Serengeti!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Lucas & Rashidi

I did not have a chance to visit Lucas and Rashidi during my visit to Moshi for the school visits so Martha visited the schools after I had left for Kilifi, Kenya. 

Martha recently sent along her photos of both visits, for me to share with you. Thank you once again to those who are responsible for funding the children and making it possible for them to attend school for the year 2013. 

Lucas Costatin, brother to Julianna, was born on February 9th 2007.  Both Lucas and Juillanna's parents are deceased and the children live in separate homes, with family members. Their guardians were unable to pay for school fees.  Thanks to kind donations Lucas is now attending KKKT Dayosisi Primary School. 

Martha and Josie went to visit Lucas at his school, they had a great time on the swings!

Lucas gave Marth and Josie a tour of his school.

   Lucas showed them his workbooks with his good grades.

The last of the school visits was to Rashidi's school. Rashidi Ramathani Rashidi was born on January 4th, 1998.  He is now attending Mjimpya Secondary School, thanks to donations from the Whalen family in Nova Scotia. Many thanks to Andrea, Victor, Drew and Madison. Rashidi and his family are very grateful for the funds which now allow their son to attend school. Martha shared a few words from her visit, I am happy to share with you. 

I walked down to the school Mjimpya and found Rashidi and his mother standing out on the road to meet me.  Too slippery to take the truck down that road.  It was at least 2 kms each way- fun indeed under the umbrella. We had to walk around the outside road of the school to find and opening that wasnt muddy to get into the school yard.