Saturday, September 2, 2017

Stone Town, Zanzibar - 2017

WOW! It's amazing how quickly time passes when I'm back in what I call the "rat race". It's been a few months since I left the "pole pole" life-style in Tanzania and since my last blog! East Africa is always on my mind - when I'm not planning safaris for others I am dreaming about being back with the amazing wildlife or relaxing on the warm sand and tranquil Indian Ocean.

At the end of March Moses and I spent a week travelling around Zanzibar, the spice island! We flew from Kilimanjaro airport to Dar es Salam with Fastjet, met up with family and enjoyed a nice BBQ dinner. Our stay at the Holiday Inn was short as we were taking the ferry to Zanzibar the following morning - I was anxious to get to the beach! Who wouldn't when you know you're on your way to a tropical paradise.  From Dar es Salam it's just a short flight, however, we wanted to experience the Azam Marine Catamaran Ferry (quick service)! I highly recommend to book the VIP seats if you are going this route, it's worth the extra money to sit in air conditioning in leather recliner seats. The check in process at the pier is quite a major chaotic process - with the porters aggressively harassing you to carry your bags - they are just trying to make a buck! Thankfully, knowing the language and how things operate there we pushed our way through and got checked-in and into the air conditioned VIP lounge. Our ferry was the Kilimanjaro VI and it took about 2 hours to reach the island from Dar. 

Our first two nights on the island were in Stone Town at the Tembo House Hotel, conveniently located in the heart of town. It is a great choice if you wish to explore the ancient town and be emerged with local culture. The hotel is not licensed to sell alcohol however, Livingstone Beach Restaurant is right next door to the Tembo Hotel, it's a great place to enjoy a drink on the beach - they have a decent menu as well. 

Tembo House Hotel has a large pool which helps keep you cool from the hot and sticky Zanzibar weather. Rooms are spacious and decorated in authentic Zanzibarian style, they offer air conditioned rooms and comfortable beds with unique designs, as well as the traditional hammam bath- we had a room with oceanview, which was lovely. The hotel is in walking distance to many shops and delicious restaurants. Be sure to explore and try new things. There is plenty of outdoor space for relaxing with their large terrace and balcony areas, one at beach level and the other is an upper level balcony -which is the ideal place to watch the sunset and the way of life. Each evening teens and children gather on the beach for some fun entrainment, jumping off tires and playing around in the boats that line the shore. 

The following morning we arranged a day trip with one of the locals on the beach, a short boat ride to Prison Island for a visit with the Aldabra Giant Tortoises, and to do a bit of snorkeling. Our departure point was the beach in front of our hotel, the Tembo House Hotel. Here's our guide preparing our boat...

Changuu Island (nicknamed Prison Island) is home to the giant Aldabra tortoises, which were a gift from the Seychelles. It is now a tourist site and a quite popular attraction for those visiting Stown Town. The tortoise numbers increase yearly as they raise the young on the island. There were about 50 young the day we had our tour.  If you do visit Prison Island you will notice they paint the age on the tortoises shell, some were as old as 158 years!! 


After walking around in the heat it was refreshing to jump in the ocean at the beach on Prison Island. As part of the tour you can relax here as long as you wish. Then it was time for a bit of snorkeling, the fish are so colourful and we saw many sea urchins and beautiful starfish.

Don't worry - it went back in the ocean :)

Heading back to Tembo House Hotel 

For those going on safari in East Africa I highly recommend you visit the vibrant spice island to experience not just the magic of the Indian ocean and beaches but the many cultures it has to offer. Exotic flavours and fresh seafood will warm your tummy. There are so many options for accommodations in Stone Town and the Tembo House Hotel is just one of my recommendations. Contact me to learn about other hotels or resorts that may suit your group, you can also check out an earlier blog post where I recommend hotels around the island. 

Keep following along as I continue to post about the rest of our adventures on Zanzibar island.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Nairobi Eye

The rains have started in Serengeti and with the rains comes more insects, which really does not bother me - I'm the girl who puts spiders back outside if found in the house. However, this little beetle - sorry, there's no mercy for the Nairobi Eye, if it crosses my path. It's easy to miss them as they are only 1cm long. 

While the Nairobi Eye (aka Nairobi fly) does not sting or bite, if you find one near or on you - DO NOT squish it. Their body contains a very potent corrosive toxin called pederin - it is stronger than cobra venom and when it comes into contact with human skin it will cause paederus dermatitis, a skin irritation appearing as a redrash which developes into blisters. 

You likely will not notice anything right away if you have encountered one of these very small, red and black beetles. The rash typically starts to appear 12-36 hours after contact with the noxious substance contained in their body. Yes, it's painful. 

11 days ago I woke up with a few small reds spots on my chest, which I thought maybe was a heat rash. I scratched it, rubbed a bit of moisturizer on it, thinking it would go away. Well, it only got worse, it appeared to just keep spreading and spreading wherever I had put the lotion. The more I scratched the more it started to burn.  At this point I didn't clue in that maybe I had squished a Nairobi Eye down my shirt!? 

The next day, things only kept getting worse. I showed a friend and right away he said  - "oh no, Nairobi fly" and the light bulb went off, YES - the same thing I had five years ago when I first went to Kenya. 

I immediately took a shower and washed the burnt spots, which by now have spread down my stomach and side. This is common due to the "kissing or mirror-image" of paederus dermatitis. 

Day 3

What to do if you see one on you ? Blow the beetle off - do not squish it!

Nairobi Eye Burn
If it does get squished without you knowing - wash the area with soap and water as soon as you realize. Wash the clothes you had on and if you were in bed, wash all the sheets. 

Do not touch the infected area as it can spread around the body. If you scratch the area then touch another part of your body it will cause mirror-image lesions. 

Go to the doctor for quicker healing. Because my rash had spread quite a bit they gave me an injection and pills (antihistamine) and hycorum topical cream (hydrocortisone). 

Nairobi Eye blisters - spread from chest to stomach 
Day 7 - feeling much better

The rash and blisters are pretty much gone now and I'm dealing with the peeling skin. I stopped taking the medication after five days and started to use natural tea-tree oil to prevent any scaring. I have had four more of these little buggers cross my path in the last few days! One crawling on my foot, which thankfully I saw so I could BLOW IT OFF - remember to do the same if you find one on you! 

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Dreams DO come true!

Since starting the Rudisha Foundation in 2013 I had a dream to take the children on their first safari. One of the things travelling around and living in Africa has taught me the most is patience, the second is faith. 

With faith that my dream was achievable I wrote a blog explaining my wish for the Safari Adventure for Rudisha Foundation. Within two days I reached the goal and the planning for the safari trip began - the first time for the children and parents to see their own wildlife and visit one of their National Parks. 

I contacted a friend in Moshi, who runs his climbing business (Summit Odyssey), to see if he had a contact for a bus rental. I explained it was for Rudisha Foundation (charity) so our budget was not huge and asked if he could do us a "favour" and give a very reasonable price, which he did 😀 

The date was set for the 21st of January - we sent out the invites to all the children and their parents, guardians. Each child was to come with one parent or guardian so they too could join in on the fun! It was a first for all the adults as well, to visit one of the National Parks and see their beautiful wildlife. Martha met with Mushi, the owner of the bus company, and arranged all the details and told him our plans. He was very happy with what we were doing so he decided he would be the driver for this trip. 

Five days before the safari adventure I flew into Arusha from the Serengeti, then on to Moshi the following day. Shopping for supplies in Arusha and Moshi is not like shopping at home in Canada. 

It took a few days of walking around the many small shops (in 38℃ blazing 🌞 ) searching for the right price and number of items for all the supplies. Martha and I walked around the sokoni (marketplace) and maduka (shops) with our lists for food, snacks, drinks and gift bag supplies. Moshi is great for a bargain if you have the patience and can mind the heat - and I will take the heat over the bitter cold, any day 😎

Each child received a new toothbrush and toothpaste, pencils, clipboards with their safari list, paper and marker, candies, cookies, suckers and gum, popcorn and a safari animal stuffy - all in a recyclable shopping bag. 

I created safari animal checklists for the children and had it printed in colour on glossy paper which made a great keep sake of their fun adventure. Three pages of all the possible animals one may see on safari in Arusha National Park. 

We had everyone gather at Martha's house for 7am - which in "African time" I knew it meant we would be at least a hour behind. Here in Tanzania life moves pole pole (slowly) and there is no real rush - which is something I admire about the country and way of life. I find I'm able to be much more in the moment. 

Once the bus arrived all the supplies from Martha's porch were loaded to the top of the bus - the boxes of food, snacks, juice and lots of water. Never go on safari without lots of water! 

As the children anxiously got on the bus they received their goody bags. They still were not sure where we were going as our destination was a surprise. 

Two of the families live along the way from Moshi to Arusha so we arranged to pick them up on our way to the park. Once everyone was onboard we passed out the mandazi's (Swahili buns - similar to a donut) and mango juice, for a morning snack. 

Arriving at the park gate for Arusha National Park everyone got off the bus and Martha took photos by the big elephant statue as I went with the bus driver to register, pay and get our park permits, again, on Tanzania time, pole pole. 45 minutes later we were on our way. 

We hired a young guide who explained so much about the wildlife and eco-systems, the variety of jobs the children could consider in the tourism industry once they finish school. They were inspired. The eldest in the program is now telling me she wishes to be a safari guide one day. 

The children and parents asked many great questions and were so excited as we entered the park and saw buffalo and zebra - they started to tick off the animals on their checklist. Feelings of pure joy came over me as I watched the smiles on their faces and their interest in the animals. I am fortunate enough to have spent the last five years living on safari. It brought me to tears to be able to share this with all of them - their very first safari. 

We stopped for lunch at the picnic site overlooking the lake, where we enjoyed chicken salad sandwiches and Zanzibar pizzas, apples, carrots, mango juice - check out all of our photos to see more of our fun day!

We then moved along to Big Momella Lake where the children changed into their school uniforms so I could take the annual pictures for 

After pictures, we continued along on safari and saw more giraffes, warthog, hippo, waterbuck, bushbuck, duiker, blue monkeys and a variety of birds. 

Before leaving the park we stopped at the little museum where they had various animal skulls and birds on display. The children enjoyed this! 


Our last stop of the day was for a refreshing ice cream snack on the drive home.

Rather than posting all the photos from our safari adventure in this blog we have uploaded them onto the Rudisha Foundation website.

Thank you; Daphne Strowbridge, MarryAnn Bennett, Susan MacKinnon, Sebastian & Doreen Msuya, Leslie Moore, Norma & Tom Isotamm, Jenn & Chung Tang, Micheline Bissonnette-Kuras, Shawn & Pam Glover and Kathie Baer for your donations, which made this safari adventure possible. I am not sure we can ever find a way to thank you enough! The children and families also pass along MANY thank yous'. 

To learn how to make a difference in a child's life and support the Rudisha Foundation, please, contact Amanda or donate online.


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

School Visit - January 18,2017

I am in Moshi right now for our annual Rudisha Foundation Celebration. This year is going to be one of the most exciting as we were fortunate enough to raise the funds for the Rudisha Safari Adventure. I am so grateful, beyond words, for the generosity from those who donated funds to make my wish come true - to be able to take the children on their fist safari! Our "big day" is on the 21st of January - I am very excited and so are the children. Keep following my blog for photos of our safari!!

I wanted to share a few photos from the first school visit in 2017 for Rudisha Foundation. This morning Martha and I had a visit and tour at Ebenezer English Medium Pre-Primary, Primary and Secondary School. It is the fist year attending Ebenezer for Loveness and Gidion Njiro and we are excited for them as it is a wonderful school. A big thanks to their sponsors for the support which allows them to attend a great school. English is spoken all the time (except for Swahili class, of course). Walking around the school grounds with the Academic Master we heard a lot of children singing their lessons. The school has great energy all around! As all the students were busy learning, we didn't go into the classrooms because it causes a "BIG" distraction when a "mzungu" walks in with a camera!

The buses used for the kids who live further from school. 

"Speak English" signs are all around the school grounds - even the teachers must speak English to each other. 

Computer lab 

Certain mornings the children do their marching parade in this area, drumming and singing - note the beautiful back-drop of Mount Kilimanajro's Mawenzi and Uhuru peaks! 

Meal hall 

The cooks hard at work, preparing for lunch


Loveness and Gidion

Each morning the students do their multiplications - in English!

Martha with the Academic Master

The view leaving the school drive way - Mount Kilimanjaro's Uhuru Peak, in all it's beauty!