Sep 262016
 

We recently returned from a three week journey through northern Tanzania and Pemba Island in the Zanzibar Archipelago.  This is our travel diary.  We have many photos from our trip, and we will continue to post them in the following weeks.  

A Journey to Tanzania

Our Tanzanian journey began as we touched down at Kilimanjaro airport after a nine hour flight from Amsterdam. We were met by our amazing and tireless guide David Mark Makia (from Access2Tanzania) and taken to Arusha for a short stay.

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We visited three of Tanzania’s sixteen national parks during our safari – Arusha National Park, Tarangire National Park and Serengeti National Park. At 14,763 square kilometers (5,700 square miles), Serengeti is the second largest National Park in Tanzania (second only to Ruaha which is 20,300 square kilometers or 7,838 square miles). We also visited the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here you will find the vast Ngorongoro Crater – a volcanic caldera which is unique due to its dense population of wildlife living amongst human settlements (chiefly the Maasai tribe).

Tarangire Park Sign

Welcome to Serengeti

Steve and me at the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater

Steve and me at the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater

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During our scenic drives through northern Tanzania, we passed the Olduvai Gorge– the cradle of civilization and the site of Mary and Louis Leakey’s renowned archeological work. It is here that the earliest human footprints were found. Olduvai Gorge is located in the area called the Great Rift Valley, which crosses an expanse of East Africa. We were struck by an intense sense of awe and wonder as we traversed this area, as we realized that we are all African at our core.

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The Serengeti is truly the garden of Eden. Serengeti means “endless plain” in the Maasai language of Maa, and it’s easy to see why it was given this name. At first, a simple glimpse at the vast expanse of grassland reveals only flora of green and amber, a few hills and rock formations called kopjes. But once your eyes focus, the wildlife starts to reveal itself. You may spot a lion or pride of lions lying in the grass. If you are lucky, you may spot a leopard draped over a tree branch. Birds abound in every size and hue of the rainbow, with several reaching 1.5m (5 feet) tall . Overseeing the circle of life, eagles and vultures perch in the trees awaiting their turn to feast on a kill (there is a definitive pecking order as it pertains to a carcass). Zebras, antelopes and wildebeest appear all around – at times in great numbers. Elephants, giraffes and buffalo abound. Only a lucky few will catch a glimpse of a cheetah or rhino. We saw both.

A Leopard rests in a tree in Serengeti

A Leopard rests in a tree in Serengeti

The Great Migration of Wildebeest in Northern Serengeti

The Great Migration of Wildebeest in Northern Serengeti

Our guide for the ten day safari was truly a gifted naturalist and communicator. His knowledge of wildlife behavior and habitats appeared innate, although he went to university to study wildlife biology. He revealed himself to be a comedian, and he kept us entertained on the long and often bumpy drives through the parks. On most days, we were in the Land Cruiser for five hours or more, and several of our longer days we were in the truck for ten or twelve hours. Much of this time is spent driving through the reserves/game parks. For instance, our camp in Tarangire National Park was a two hour drive from the main entrance to the park. The drive to the camp is filled with wildlife, so it is quite thrilling.

Steve with our guide David in Ngorongoro Crater

Steve with our guide David in Ngorongoro Crater

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In the parks, we chose to stay in tented camps rather than lodges. We are happy to have made this choice, as the camps allow you to experience the wildlife as if you were part of its delicate ecosystem.

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The camps consist of a small number of large private tents and a central dining and meeting area. They are furnished with comfortable beds, desks, dressers and nice linens. The bathrooms are large and functional and some even have outdoor showers (we showered with elephants at Tarangire). At night, you can hear the lions roaring just outside of your tent – a reminder that you are truly in the wild. Most of the camps employ Maasai warriors as security guards. The Maasai aren’t guarding against mischievous intruders or thieves, rather, they are guarding against lions and other wildlife. In the camps, it is not permitted to walk alone before 6:00 am or after 6:30 pm. A guard must accompany you if you venture outside the tent during darkness. As soon as you unzip the tent or illuminate a flashlight, the Maasai guard was at your side in seconds.

Our Maasai security guard at Lemala Ewanjan Camp in Serengeti

Our Maasai security guard at Lemala Ewanjan Camp in Serengeti

Tented lounge area at Lemala Ewanjan Camp in Serengeti

Tented lounge area at Lemala Ewanjan Camp in Serengeti

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The Maasai are found only in Kenya and Tanzania. They are an autonomous people with a semi-nomadic nature. There are currently around 1.7 million Maasai people, and they live mainly around the game parks. Their livelihood is based on their livestock, and they consume only meat, milk and blood (although some have started to eat grains). Interestingly, they consume no vegetables. We visited a Maasai village in Ngorongoro, and they explained their culture and showed us the inside of a hut and also the school. Despite being a warrior culture, the people are kind and subdued. They have a proud and regal nature.

Maasai Warriors in Ngorongoro

Maasai Warriors in Ngorongoro

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At the end of the 10-day Safari we flew to Pemba Island, just north of Zanzibar in the Zanzibar Archipelago. These islands have been dubbed the Spice Islands, and the aroma of cloves, lemongrass and cinnamon fill the air. Pemba produces 70% of the world’s cloves. Pemba is a lush, verdant and hilly island where fruits and vegetables fall off the trees and vines. It is also known for its excellent diving, and we were able to experience some beautiful reef dives while there.  Pemba and Zanzibar share a Muslim culture, and the people are some of the kindest I have ever met. We were warmly welcomed to the island and treated with the utmost respect.

View from Manta Resort on Pemba Island

View from Manta Resort on Pemba Island

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We would like to thank Karen Stupic at Access2Tanzania for helping us plan and execute this trip of a lifetime. We also wish to thank our tireless guide David Mark Makia, who we now consider a part of our family.

 

Have you been on an African safari? If so, we’d love to hear about your experience.

Aug 172016
 

“The Heat is On”.  That’s my theme song this week.  Today it is 90° F/32° C with 64% humidity.  The bathwater sea is currently a lovely 83° F.

We had a really nice dive at Front Porch with a good friend on Sunday.  We bounced down to the wreck of the tugboat New York.  We expected to find lionfish under the wreck, but they were absent.  Another testament to the dedicated team of hunters we have on the island, which is doing a fantastic job keeping the population down.

Sand Canyon Goby in the rubble at Front Porch

Sand Canyon Goby in the rubble at Front Porch

Peacock Flounder at Front Porch

Peacock Flounder at Front Porch

Honeycomb Cowfish at Front Porch

Honeycomb Cowfish at Front Porch

Squirrelfish at Front Porch

Squirrelfish at Front Porch

Christmas Tree Worms at Front Porch

Christmas Tree Worms at Front Porch

Sailfin Blenny at Front Porch

Sailfin Blenny at Front Porch

Juvenile French Angelfish at Front Porch

Juvenile French Angelfish at Front Porch

I go to the beach almost daily to swim and photograph waves.  Lately I’ve been enthralled by the small things I find near the sea.

Today I was fascinated by this chiton that I found while sitting in the waves.  A chiton is a marine invertebrate that typically lives on rocks near the sea (tidal zone) and feeds on algae.  This particular chiton was about an inch in length (2.54 cm).

Squamous Chiton in Bonaire

Squamous Chiton in Bonaire

This is a Nerite Snail, and it is a common sea snail found in the inner tidal zones.  They are often seen clustered on rocks in full sun.  Like the Chiton above, this species is an algae eater.

sea snail bachelors

Nerite Snail in Bonaire

Nerite Snail in Bonai

And finally, here’s a pic of the wave action I was trying to capture while admiring the chitons and snails.

beach in Bonaire

What have you seen/done/heard in Bonaire this week?

Aug 102016
 

This week on Bonaire has been hot!  Given that we are now well into August, this comes as no surprise.

Before we get to this week’s pics, I want to mention a few restaurants (some rather new) that we have recently tried and loved.

Barrel Wine Bar – This rather new addition to the island is a great place to grab a waterfront drink and dinner. They have recently started serving dinner, expertly prepared by Chef Hagen (of Cactus Blue fame).  Yes, Hagen is back on the island!  We tried his lionfish ceviche this weekend, and it was fantastic.

Italy in the World – This is a high-end wine and Italian specialty store, which now serves dinner as well.  Their pasta is simply fantastic, as was everything else that we tried.  This is a really nice spot for a special occasion dinner.

Italy wines

La Creperie – Another new addition to the island, this is a nice spot for breakfast or lunch.  They serve crepes and waffles in the traditional french style.  The atmosphere is chic, and the owners are friendly and helpful.  They also make an amazing cappuccino.

Blue Garden Brazilian Grill & Pizza Gourmet – In addition to the tradition Brazilian steakhouse offerings, they have an eclectic menu of pizzas to suit all tastes (even a dessert pizza).  The food and atmosphere are wonderful, as are the owners.

Wills Tropical Grill – Wil’s is one of our longstanding favorites on the island.  His smoked marlin is legendary, and for good reason.  Wil’s cooking is unique and flavorful, reflecting his passion for food.

Now, on to the pics…

This critter is a Rough Fileclam, also known as a Flame Scallop.

This interesting critter is a Rough Fileclam, also known as a Flame Scallop.

Flamingos gathered near the "mushroom tree", as we affectionately call it.

Flamingos gathered near the “mushroom tree”, as we affectionately call it.

If you've been to Lac Cai, you're sure to recognize this beautiful piece of driftwood.

If you’ve been to Lac Cai, you’re sure to recognize this beautiful piece of driftwood.

A yellow trumpetfish hiding amongst the coral

A yellow trumpetfish hiding amongst the coral

Seafoam at Bachelor's Beach

Seafoam at Bachelor’s Beach

A tropical mockingbird with flamingo in the background

A tropical mockingbird with flamingo in the background

West Indian Top Shells (also called whelks or wilks) in a tidal pool

West Indian Top Shells (also called whelks or wilks) in a tidal pool

What have you done in Bonaire this week?  Have you tried any new or notable restaurants?

Aug 032016
 

Today brought much needed showers to the island with cooler temps and a nice breeze.  Here’s a peek into island life this week on Bonaire.

A flock of 60 flamingos at Pekelmeer

A flock of 60 flamingos at Pekelmeer

Making a splash at Bachelor's Beach

Making a splash at Bachelor’s Beach

A mangrove root reflection. Mangroves are important coastal barriers against storms and erosion, and they also provide crucial habitats for juvenile fish, crustaceans and birds.

A mangrove root reflection. Mangroves are important coastal barriers against storms and erosion, and they also provide crucial habitats for juvenile fish, crustaceans and birds.

From a kind soul in Belnem

From a kind soul in Belnem

Just sand and sea

Just sand and sea

A church in historic Rincon

A church in historic Rincon

A pelican roosting near Pink Beach

A pelican roosting near Pink Beach

And finally, we recently took part in the 13th annual Jellyfish Jamboree hosted by jellyfish expert Bud Gillan. Below is a specimen of Alatina alata, a box jellyfish seen in Bonaire’s coastal waters 8-10 days after the full moon.  This and other samples are collected, with permit, for research at CIEE in its tropical marine ecology program.

alatina alata in bonaire

Jul 272016
 

Here are some scenes captured this week on this divers’ paradise known as Bonaire.

This reef butterflyfish was spotted near the dive site Front Porch

This Reef Butterflyfish was spotted near the dive site Front Porch.

Also seen at Front Porch was this Yellowhead Jawfish.

Also seen at Front Porch was this Yellowhead Jawfish.

Looking north into the town of Kralendijk from Windsock Beach.

Looking north into the town of Kralendijk from Windsock Beach.

A Pelican perches atop a rocky outcrop near Pink Beach.

A Pelican perches atop a rocky outcrop near Pink Beach.

Turquoise waves crash over the rocks at Pink Beach.

Turquoise waves crash over the rocks at Pink Beach.

A Pelican soars over the ocean searching for prey.

A Pelican soars over the ocean searching for prey.

A Sailfin Blenny spotted at the dive site Atlantis. Also, known as Kite Beach, this site can only be safely dived on a windless day when there are no kiteboarders.

A Sailfin Blenny spotted at the dive site Atlantis. Also, known as Kite Beach, this site can only be safely dived on a windless day when there are no kiteboarders.

Due to the fact that Kiteboarder's have claimed the Atlantis dive site, it rarely sees scuba divers. This has allowed the sea fans and coral to flourish. Here is a shot of a very healthy and large fan.

Due to the fact that Kiteboarder’s have claimed the Atlantis dive site, it rarely sees scuba divers. This has allowed the sea fans and coral to flourish. Here is a shot of a very healthy and large fan.

A Tui Boeing 787 Dreamliner on final approach to Bonaire's Flamingo International Airport.

A Tui Boeing 787 Dreamliner on final approach to Bonaire’s Flamingo International Airport.

What have you seen in Bonaire this week?