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Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Tanzania 2

Day 16 – 4/2/13
A rather listless day. After a leisurely start, we had breakfast with Funmi we took the vehicle for a run to ensure the batteries were charged for the duration it will be stationary. Again the traffic in Dar was thick, but the drivers well behaved. We then did some emails, caught up with global news, Avril did some clothes washing and ironing and we packed some clothes for our upcoming safari. Funmi cooked a delicious dinner.

Day 17 – 5/2/13
Ray filled the water tank on the vehicle and we made our way to the airport through the Dar traffic. As Ludo had predicted, the Precision Air flight was 30 min late. Still, we made it to Arusha and the colonial Arusha Hotel.
We did not have long to wait until the “kids” arrived from Australia via Doha, Dar and Kilimanjaro Airport. We were super excited to see them.
Dinner was a buffet at the hotel and a great time to catch up and chat.

Guest blogger entry – we were very excited to catch up with and see Ray and Avril (Mum & Dad), the car drive from the airport could not go fast enough! As we drove the 45 mins from Kilimanjaro Airport to Arusha we could already see that the landscape was very prosperous. Everyone and everything looked very healthy and well fed, with fields full of crops and large groups of good looking domestic animals, mainly cows and goats – some might say that Cameroon was already a distant memory!

Arusha Hotel S 030 22’ 22.0’’ E 0360 41’ 41.0’’

Day 18 – 6/2/13

We set off from Arusha with our driver Livingston from Leopard Tours, who will be our driver/guide for the entirety of our safari, to arrive in Serena Lodge at Lake Manyara and arrived just in time for lunch! Lunch was over-looking the park that we would drive to in the afternoon. During lunch we had a competition of which animal we would see first, Gabrielle won, we saw a Zebra first, outside the game park and very far from home! Second was Hayley, a squirrel, which was in line with our spotting in Cameroon, already we were ahead of our animal sightings after half a day, compared to that in Cameroon. After lunch we relaxed and had a swim in the infinity-like pool overlooking around 1,000 acres of plains. After lunch was our first game drive, we left the lodge at 3pm, with slightly low expectations given our experiences in Cameroon…not seeing many animals. On the drive on the way to the park we stopped at a look-out point, as it was Hayley’s first game viewing we let her use the super-dooper binoculars, she spotted wilderbeast,  giraffe and zebra, we all took a deep sigh of relief, thankfully there were animals in the park!

With much excitement we entered the park, we were very quickly greeted by baboons and small black faced ververt monkeys! Hayley had high expectations and suggested that today was the day that we would see at least wilderbeast, zebra, giraffe, bush buck, hippos, warthogs, Thomson gazelle, mongoose, elephant, buffalo, impala, dik dik and most importantly a leopard…and that we did, we saw all these things within three hours! Ray asked Livingston if he could please see a tree sitting lion because he had never seen one…and that we did, actually we saw four of them! The day was a success all round and we got to see the start of the great migration!!
Lake Manyara  Serena S 030 22’ 22.2’’ E 0350 49’ 39.8’’

Day 19 – 7/2/13

We set off at 8am as we had a long drive ahead of us to get to Ndutu National Park and Lake Ndutu. The drive started off well, Livingston filled the car up with fuel to last us the drive and also the game viewing for the next few days ahead (although he will probably secretly fill the fuel up whilst we are sleeping). We entered the National Park and again we were greeted by lots of baboons, some getting a bit too close to the tourists! The drive was long and the road for about two hours was quite rough with heavy corrugations…therefore lots of dust. We saw many wilderbeasts and zebras starting their long journey up north in search of fresh water and food. Livingston explained that it’s generally a happy marriage between wilderbeast and zebras. Wilderbeast sense water so the zebras stick with them and the zebras are the ones that know the way up north so the wilderbeast stick with the zebras. There were lots of Thomson gazelle and Grants gazelle along the way, although they were heavily outnumbered by the wilderbeast and zebras. Once we were around the top of the crater we saw a group of six young male elephants wondering through the long grass and not very concerned about us being there, although there was a little bit of ear flapping as if to just gently warn us not to come any closer. The guides seem very good at keeping their distance from the animals and the animals seem to not be very worried about humans and cars passing by, a happy existence! There were lots of Maasai communities along the way with very large herds of cattle and goats. In one large parkland that we drove around there were large Maasai communities with their livestock grazing and about 100m away were large herds of wilderbeast and zebras and a couple of harterbeest. The land is quite green, a lot greener than you would expect, especially because it’s now the dry season. The next corner we turned around and over a rise was one of the most amazing scenes, around 20 giraffes grazing on medium height trees on the side of a large rolling hillside. It was like a scene out of the movie Jurassic Park, they are such prehistoric looking creatures and so tall compared to the rest of the countryside. We have noticed in all herds of animals there are a lot of young, so the breeding regime they have going on is working well! We also saw a lioness with two cubs, probably around two years old, just resting in the long grass near a waterhole in the open plain.

We arrived at the place that will be our campsite for the next three nights, and when I say campsite…there are flushing toilets and running water in the en-suite attached to your tent! We were given a briefing when we arrived, ‘please do not leave your tent at night, however if you have to you must make sure you are escorted by a Maasai warrior. A stark reminder that we are in the middle of a real life David Attenborough situation, there could be a lion around any corner!

The afternoon game drive started off the same as the first, Hayley ‘suggesting’ that we should see at least one more leopard, given that we had seen one on the first game drive…and that we did! A leopard fast asleep in a tree! We also saw the usual suspects (wilderbeast, zebras, Thomson gazelle, impala, grants gazelle, warthog) and we saw two lioness’ very slowly walking towards the open plain, they had very full stomachs, they had just had an early dinner! We stopped the car and they came so close to us because they wanted to sit in the shade of our car, amazing! Not too far away was a lion sitting in the shade, not that far away from the baby wilderbeast he and his lioness’ had just eaten. He was very impressive with his lightly ginger coloured mane, again not worried at all about the presence of our car and the many tourists taking prized photos of him. Once the lion decided that he would like to get a bit of privacy, he relieved himself in front of all the cars and then went to find the rest of his pride. Random fact – vultures are so desperate for food sometimes they eat the spoor of the lion!!There are always flamingos lining the shores of the nearest lake constantly stomping and nuzzling the water for their food.

One our way back to camp Ray commented that the day is never over until we see a Jackal…and that we did, Hayley spotted one deep in the long grass. He is a black backed jackal. When we got back to the camp they had cold washers ready for us to wash our hands and showers already prepared, a wonderful welcome home! Every night at the camp we were served a three course dinner with drinks included, it’s amazing what some people can cook in the middle of nowhere! We were escorted back to our tents by the Maasai and then had an early night as tomorrow would be a big day, we needed maximum concentration levels available!

Ndutu Explorer Lodge; S 020 58’ 59.9’’ E 0340 58’ 56.4’’

Day 20 – 8/2/13

Today started off with a sighting of approx. 25 giraffes surrounding a waterhole all preparing to drink, it was a magnificent sight. We have some great photos of a few of them spreading their front legs so they can drink, they look a little bit uncoordinated, but they have obviously done this before! Hayley has decided that giraffes are probably her favourite safari/Africa animal. We drove a little bit further along the nearly dried up river bed and could see a lot of movement from the herd of wilderbeest and zebras in the distance. In the clearing to the left of the dried river bed was a huge stampead of wilderbeest and zebras from over the hill, we stopped car and waited right in the middle of the pack for at least 10-15 minutes and they just kept coming. It was actually like the scene out of the Lion King when Simba is down in the gorge and is nearly trampled by all the wilderbeests. It was a great sight to see and it captured the essence of the great migration! We also saw a tawny eagle and lilac breasted roller birds. One of the predators we hadn’t yet seen on this safari was the hyena, today was the day. We saw a couple of them hiding in dried swamp areas and long grass patches, they were the spotted hyenda, which are mostly found in this area.

The next major spotting we had was a very large group of cars gathered in the distance, Livingston was madly on the radio, so we headed for a random tree in the distance. We arrived to two magnificent cheetahs, two males, sitting in the shade of the tree. One was asleep and the other was keeping a look out. They both acknowledged our presence and then promptly went back to sleep. We were stoked, our first cheetah sighting with the kids since our last holiday in Zambia!

One the way to another section of the park Gabrielle spotted an owl asleep in the tree and Hayley spotted some ostriches in the distance. We started to predict Livingston’s behaviour, he would drive with much more of a mission when one of his colleagues had communicated over the radio about a particular sighting, this one was no different. We made a quick dash across a very large plain to see another cheetah sitting upright in the long grass, potentially looking for dinner with many of the hundreds of gazelle, wilderbeest babies and zebras around. Just when we thought our luck of cheetah sightings in one day couldn’t get any better we made another made dash for something else…5 more cheetash, a mother and 4 youngsters, probably about 1.5 – 2 years old. She was sitting upright in the longer grass with the cubs not that far away, she was clearly eyeing off the gazelle in the foreground. We waited patiently in the distance, all the drivers kept back so as not to interrupt a potential kill and dinner for her cubs. We waited for about 30 minutes but nothing happened, so we went a little bit closer. The zebras that were quite close could see the cheetahs so they were very aware, however no one else had seen them. When we moved a bit closer the mother stalked a bit closer to her prey and had clearly told the cubs to stay put otherwise they would be sent to bed without their dinner. She stalked and stalked and they stayed put, however nothing eventuated from her stalking. Either she wasn’t that hungry or something disturbed her, or maybe she couldn’t decide which one of the hundreds of animals to go for first. We waited a bit longer and the cubs came so close to our car at one stage we thought they were going to jump on it just like they did in those videos on YouTube, however no such luck, or maybe this was a fortunate occurrence. She changed direction and started walking away with her cubs closely behind, it was then time for our very late lunch. We were told later that evening that nothing eventuated from her kill as some other tourists waited until 6pm to see if anything would happen. On our way back to the campsite for lunch we spotted two lioness under a tree, they were heavily panting, we thought it was because of the heat. We took a few photos and then moved on, however we saw a dead wilderbeest about 50m away from them, which they had obviously just caught. Livingston thought that they had just caught it and would drag it into the shade later and eat it when they had recovered and it was a bit cooler. It was now time for our lunch!

After lunch we found a large herd of wilderbeest crossing one of the smaller lakes. This confirmed our opinion that wilderbeest aren’t the smartest animals on earth, as they could have easily gone around it if they thought about it for 2 seconds. Although, we could be underestimating them, they could be practising for the crossing of the Mara which will happen for them in a few months’ time. One of the highlights of the afternoon was that we saw a lioness and her three cubs, they were probably around 2 years old, according to Livingston. He agreed with all the other vehicles to move backwards as we thought the mother was going to hunt one of the nearby wilderbeest or zebras for dinner, although nothing happened. The day wouldn’t be complete until we had seen a jackal, and that we did, not too far from home.

Once we were showered and dressed we all sat around the campfire which was prepared for us each night to share stories of our sightings that day. A fantastic way to end the day!

Day 21 – 9/2/13

Today started with some more anticipation, we couldn’t believe our luck in seeing all the animals we had seen in the last couple of days! Not far from the campsite and relatively close to the lake Gabrielle spotted some movement in the short grass in the distance. It was a family of bat eared foxes, 8 of them all together! Livingston informed us that this was a very rare sighting as they are night animals and are also very shy. We were able to get quite close to them as they sat and soaked up the warmth from the early sunlight hours. some great photos of their very large ears and cute little faces. Next on the agenda was the hippo lake, we saw at least 20 of them occasionally bobbing their heads up nostrils and ears first to see what was going on and to take a breath. We saw a mother and her baby, she was lying in the shallow water on her side so that her baby could drink her milk, he had to keep popping up for air which made the whole process quite entertaining. As we were stopped next to a drying up riverbed we came across a group of zebras trying to skim the last dregs of clear water left from the top of the puddles, this would soon turn to think mud. We then noticed a group of very pretty birds in a tree nearby, they were fishers love birds, they looked like parrots, with orange beaks and green and yellow bodies, very beautiful. We decided that today was so far the day of discovering new things that we hadn’t seen before and things that aren’t usually on the documentaries you see of Africa. Next on the schedule was a middle aged male elephant playing in a waterhole, he was having a wonderful time splashing himself with water, stomping in the mud and rolling around until he was caked in the watery dirt. We were able to stop the car quite close to the waterhole, I think he knew we were enjoying the show he was putting on as he continued to fool around but kept a keen eye on us. When he had decided that he’d had enough he left the water and came quite close to our car, we were instructed to stay still and remain quiet until he left. He flapped his ears a little bit and then wondered off into the reeds to have some morning tea. I must say it’s a little bit daunting having a very large elephant directly in front of your car when you know that it could do some serious damage if it wanted to! We then made another spotting, some eland in the far distance, they are very shy and very large, they stand out compared to any of the other gazelles and bucks. We got a couple of great photos albeit from a distance. Before we went in for lunch we also saw another lion family with two females, two juvenile females and a male. They were resting in the shade of the long grass and as we watched they moved into the shade of some trees close by and weren’t worried at all by our presence, they must see hundreds of tourists each year.

After lunch we saw some more interesting animals including the leopard tortoise and the crested crane, they are both very beautiful! We saw a few secretary birds, they have very long legs and have black feathers down to their knee which makes them look like they’re wearing stockings. Apparently they attach/kill their prey by stomping on them in a typing fashion, hence their name! we thought we’d seen enough cheetahs on this holiday but there were other plans for us, we found two more cheetah brothers sitting in the shade of a tree. We found them because of Livingston’s radio and there was about 12 cars gathered around them. When the cheetahs started to move towards the nearby herd of wilderbeest all the cars started to move with them. Livingston tried to agree with them via the radio that if we all hung back away from them then we might see them making a kill as the last thing we want to happen is the car to be between the cheetahs and their prey. The cheetahs started to run towards the herd, the zebras had already seen them and were making a fuss, very soon after the wilderbeests started to wise up. There was a lot of dust and a bit of chasing however the cheetahs has been interrupted by all the on looking cars and didn’t make a kill, they were targeting one of the newly born babies, however the mother stayed furthest away with the majority of the herd between her and the cheetahs. No such luck for us!

We saw another couple of lioness’ and a male lying beside a waterhole, their bellies were so full, they had clearly just had lunch! One our way back to the campsite Livingston made the spotting of the trip, a leopard asleep in a tree with a baby wilderbeest higher in the branches ready for her dinner. Within a few minutes there were about 15 other cars at the tree waiting to catch a glimpse of her and her kill. Her coat was so beautiful, you can see why they were hunted so fiercely and why they are one of the ‘big five’ animals. She was clearly so tired, her body was limp on the branch that she was lying on with all four legs including her tail dangling down from her body; if there was even a hint of a breeze her legs would have sway she was that relaxed. We had another lovely dinner at the campsite, with another fantastic fire!

Day 22 – 10/2/13

We started the day early in order to make it to Sopo Lodge on the edge of the Ngorongoro Crater so that we could have an afternoon at leisure. We took a relatively short game drive in Ndutu before we left and still managed to see the Leopard from the day earlier eating her kill up the tree. We also saw a Black backed jackal carrying a baby wilderbeest’s leg in her mouth, probably taking it home for her family. A large group of hyenas were spotted by Hayley who were not that far from our campsite, although they looked like they had just had a big feed as their stomachs were huge and there was still blood around their mouths. As we left Ndutu and drove along the Serengeti border more Eland were spotted in the distance along with a number of hyendas and millions of zebras, wilderbeasts and Thomson and grants gazelle. We also saw our first camellion, camouflaged green on this occasion, just on the side of the road.

We have noticed that all the drivers (and there are a lot of them with tourists) are all in good spirits all the time and are always friendly to other drivers and tourists. It’s a very plentiful land and without sounding too cheesy, it’s a wonderful ecosystem that appears to work superbly together to ensure that all have enough to eat. The water is very quickly drying up so the animals will very quickly leave this area and head further north into the Serengeti and into Kenya.

We arrived at Sopa Lodge on the edge of the Ngorongoro Crater in time for a late lunch and time to relax in the afternoon. The view of the crater below is incredible and Ray was particularly excited as this would be his second visit, after his first one back in 1978, he had great hopes to see some of the animals he saw last time including rhinos, black maned lions and serval cats. The accommodation is pretty good, although very touristy and the food is ok. The huge bonus of this accommodation is that the entry road to and from the crater is practically on the doorstep, whereas other accommodation means that you would need to drive at least 40 – 60 mins to enter the crater. Off to bed to dream of rhinos and the potential of seeing all the ‘big five’ animals in one day!

Ngorongoro Sopo Lodge S 030 09’ 16.1’’ E 0350 40’ 34.0’’

Day 23 – 11/2/13

The day started with much anticipation as we hoped that today would be the day to complete our sightings of the ‘big five’, rhinos being the missing animal! As you enter the crater from the north east side (the entrance near Sopa Lodge) you immediately notice how green and lush the vegetation is, it’s thick grass approx. waist height. There is water in the crater all year round which means that the animals never have to leave to migrate north to find water  so they are quite relaxed around cars as they would see around 50 – 100 each day. The usual suspects are in the crater except for giraffe and impala as there is not enough of their kinds of food. The noticeable difference initially is the presence of buffalo, there are a number of herds at 50 strong, and the usual situation of the older bulls shoved out of the herd into one pack, this could be a big scary if you weren’t in a car! There are also many more hyendas and warthogs, with matching families too, than we have seen in Ndutu and other areas. For a relatively small space of land the vegetation is very different on the southern side, it is much dryer with more large rocks and trees (as we looked for rhinos we often confused them with rocks). The flamingos in the lake are amazing, giving the edges a nice shade of pink colour. We had lunch in the crater but were told to stay in the car as the kites would steel our lunch out of our hands if we ate outside. We stopped by a hippo pool which was beautiful, very clean with lots of vegetation close by for them to graze on at night. Obviously we weren’t keen to leave the crater until we had seen a rhino, as we had only seen one sitting down very far in the distance earlier in the day, although we couldn’t be sure if it was a rhino or a rock. We needed proof! There was a lot of rain in the afternoon and we think this brought the rhinos out because we saw four all in the course of half an hour, amazing! The closest they got to the road was about 100 metres, however if you have binoculars, which we do, you could see them very clearly munching away on the freshly rained on grass. One of the highlights of our Tanzania trip! We also saw two prides of lions and just as we were on the way out of the crater Ray spotted something in the distance, no one could work out what it was initially, after much speculation we could clearly see that it was two male black maned lions and one female, probably away from the rest of the herd for mating. On the final ascent out of the crater Livingston spotted a serval cat crossing the road, incredible timing! We watched it stalk through the long grass only about 5 metres from the car and pounce on a grass hopper or something similar. He had a beautiful coat and was very playful, a very rare sighting, Ray was very happy!

Day 24 – 12/2/13

Today started with an early drive from Sopa Lodge to Tarangire National Park to the Sopa Lodge there, approx. 3.5 hours. One of the warnings on entry to the park is about the Tsetse flies, so we lathered ourselves in insect repellent and away we went. On entry to the park and making our way to Sopa Lodge for lunch we spotted a group of baboons crossing the road very slowly, it had at least 200 members, of all different ages. It was fantastic to see the younger ones playing with each other and pulling each other’s tails in order to fall off tree branches, all a lot of fun. We also saw a pride of lions drinking at a water hole and a cheetah resting under a tree with two youngsters, probably 3 years old. We saw two families of warthogs running across the road, their nickname in Tanzania is not Pumba from the Lion King movie but Radio Tanzania, as their tails are like ariels when they run along – very amusing! The main animal in Tarangire is elephants, you are expected to see around 500 each day; we managed to see quite a few on the way to the lodge.

We checked in at the hotel and on the way to our rooms saw Hyrex who live very close to our rooms, apparently they are descendants of the elephant family, however they are approximately the size of a large rabbit, with no tail. The can jump from roof to roof without much effort and have very cute faces. We had a swim and then left for our afternoon drive.

On our afternoon drive we saw a group of mongoose who had appeared to have taken up residence in a large termite round. They were very cute and their little heads kept popping out from different hole. The other highlight of the afternoon drive was coming across a large herd of elephants blocking the road. Some came a little too close for comfort, but it is still quite amazing to see them up so close.

We had a lovely dinner in the dining room, a very tasty buffet selection, early to bed for our full day of game viewing the next day.

Tarangire Sopa Lodge; S 030 54’ 26.4’’ E 0360 05’ 42.7’’

Day 25 – 13/2/13

We had a reasonably early breakfast as Tarangire is noticeably hotter than other places we have been in Tanzania, as we had planned to spend the hottest part of the day relaxing by the pool. On our game drive we saw many elephants all in different groups, the group of baboons again and many more interesting birds, such as the Buffalo bird which is one of the small five animals and a leopard tortoise, also one of the small five. We saw many different stalks and cranes, but today was the first day during our whole safari that we didn’t see lions/cheetah/leopard, incredible! We saw many elephants bathing, drinking and generally playing and on the way home we saw a baby elephants that Livingston predicted was around 1 week old. It was walking under its mother’s belly with a couple of protectors either side of it, a lion would have very little chance of attaching it from there! Once the mother and baby had passed we move the car to another spot which we knew would see another herd of elephants pass, Livingston said to be quite and don’t move much and they should pass right by the car, which they did, all 50 of them, quite confronting!

At dinner we were treated to a song and dance by the local people, all the staff at the hotel were involved and it created a fantastic atmosphere, they are such good singers! We had an early night as we have a 6am departure the next day to fly to Zanzibar.

Day 26 – 14/2/13

We flew to Zanzibar and arrived just in time for lunch, we checked into our hotel, Dhow Palace Hotel in Stone town and went for lunch at a local restaurant. The hotel is like an old house, with 4 stories and a courtyard in the middle with a swimming pool. In the afternoon after lunch we rested as the weather is very hot and very humid, as we wanted to walk around Stone town later in the cool of the afternoon. Avril studied the books on Zanzibar as one of her friends lived here as a child, so she played tour guide in the afternoon and took us to the sites that her friend would have spent time. The town/buildings look like a combination of Barcelona/Italy/Marrakech with the small winding streets and not many street signs. There is still evidence that the British used to be here with the large government building with very high ceilings in order to let the cooler air in. The town is very run-down with most of the buildings needing a lot of TLC to bring them back to their former glory.

For dinner we booked a table at the Serena Lodge on the water to celebrate Peter and a Hayley’s engagement, a 5 course seafood dinner complete with special wine to celebrate the occasion. A lovely evening was enjoyed by all!

Dhow Palace ; S 060 09’ 51.2’’ E 0390 11’ 15.4’’

Day 27 – 15/2/13

We decided that today we would visit the beach for the early part of the day before it got too hot, so we went to the northern part of the island, about an hour drive from stone town, Kendwa Beach. We sat on banana lounges in the shade for most of the day and had a lovely lunch at the beach resort we were visiting. In the afternoon we rested and then went down to the street food market to check it out before we had dinner at the restaurant Archipelago. The street markets sold meat skewers, mini pizzas and freshly juiced sugar cane. There were also a number of groups of young guys having a great time egging each other on and jumping into the ocean, each one doing a different jump trick each time they went, a great competition to watch, they were having a great time. A lot of the guide books said that the touts were very bad in Zanzibar and to look out at all times, however we didn’t have any problems at all. Everyone seemed very friendly, there was also a music festival on at the time in the old fort building, so there was a great atmosphere.  

Day 28 – 16/2/13

Today we flew from Zanzibar to Mafia Island via Dar Es Salaam, two very small planes, Gabrielle didn’t feel so well on both flights. We arrived at our hotel at lunch time, it’s by the beach and have lovely individual huts as accommodation. We spent the afternoon relaxing, sleeping, playing pool and catching up on emails and reading. The hotel is called Butiama Beach lodge, it’s wonderful  and also has a swimming pool.

Butiama Beach lodge; S 070 55’ 13.2’’ E 0390 38’ 52.8’’

Day 29 – 17/2/13

Mafia Island is known for its whale sharks, so we organised to leave at 8am to have a morning dive with them. The boat ride took about 45 minutes before we came across one, there were a couple of other boats around at the same time however that didn’t matter. The water wasn’t very deep, probably about 6 – 10 metres, the sharks were already having breakfast, plankton! We quickly got our snorkelling stuff on and were given the thumbs up to jump in. Due to the visibility being quite poor, it took some time to get your bearings. This lead to a scary moment when Avril jumped in and ended up face to face with one friendly whale shark! Basically the next hour or so consisted of jumping in, trying to swim alongside a whale shark for as long as possible and then getting back on the boat once it had swum away. And then repeat. Tiring work but great fun. The whale sharks themselves seemed fairly unconcerned about our presence. They swim around accompanied by an entourage of many small fish who swim very close and receive the protection of being in close proximity to such a large creature. With the exception of their wide mouths, they are very much like a normal shark and swim with a similar motion. They have spotted skin and big tail fin for propulsion. It was wonderful to be able to get up close and personal with them.

The afternoon was another lazy one spent by the pool reading our books and indulging in a cocktail or two!! Dinner was 3 courses and absolutely beautiful – a great taste of local seafood from the region.

Day 30 – 18/2/13

We organised that we would have a picnic on an island close by and also do some snorkelling. After a night of quite strong winds the sea was still a bit rough, so the trip to the island was a bit choppy. We arrived after about 20 minutes after having seen a whale shark on the way. We all snorkelled except Hayley, as she is scared of deep water. There were lots of beautifully coloured fish, most notably those with particular Australian Football League colours (Richmond, Sydney, Collingwood etc). We also saw a manta ray, some clams and larger fish like parrot fish. After about an hour we got back onto the boat where the captain had prepared our lunch, fish, that would be cooked on a fire on the island once we arrived. We took the 5 minute trip to the island and unpacked the boat, it was still a bit windy. We set up a shade area with poles and cloth the guys from the lodge had brought along and put some mats down. The captain of the boat whisked the fish away and cooked them on a fire in the protection of a sand dune. Lunch was served with salad and fruit to finish, we also had drinks and met a lovely young couple (one English and the other South African) who were also on our boat. After lunch we went for a swim and came across another whale shark that was swimming around in the shallow water. When we got back onto the boat we tried to find it, the captain signalled for us to prepare our snorkelling gear, but we couldn’t find him. On the way home we saw a couple of dolphins, although very briefly, riding a wave. The sea was still quite rough on the way back and luckily for Ray, he sat in the seat that seemed to bear the brunt of most of the waves, he was absolutely drenched when we got back to shore, although it was very funny!

We had a swim in the pool when we got back and all had cocktails and popcorn to end the day. This was followed by a fantastic three course dinner with grilled tuna as the main, it was absolutely delicious!!

Day 31 – 19/2/13

Todaywas the last day of holidays for some of us (Peter and Hayley), so we decided to have a quiet day at the lodge. We had a long breakfast, visited the pool, read our books and chatted, it was a lovely day!

Day 32 – 20/2/13

After a final swim we left the fabulous Butiama Beach lodge to fly to Dar. We sat at the Dar airport lounge for a few hours and then Peter & Hayley booked through for their flights back to Oz. Avril, Gabrielle and Ray went to Funmi & Lodewijk place, theoretically for one night.
After doing some shopping and packing the vehicle, we logged onto the internet to find an urgent message from Expedia.
Avrils flight to Lilongwe had been cancelled. After a lot of investigation we discovered that there was an indefinite strike in Malawi and all the airports were closed.The worst situation possible, stuck in Dar with no idea of when things may improve. To make matters more difficult, it seems that Malawi is a very difficult country to get into. 


  1. Hi Ray & Avril
    Glad to see you are nearing "home" entering neighbouring states. Seem to have had a good time with the family. Hope to see you in RSA.
    Koos & Marlene

  2. Hi from Singapore. I have so enjoyed this latest part of your trip. Memories that are too amazing. Hope to catch up in singers.

  3. Hi Ray & Avril
    I see you are in Botswana already. I learned from Mias that you meet up in Springbok on 28 March 2013 and then travel down RSA Westcoast together. We would love to meet up with you when you are in Southern Cape (Cape Augulhas vicinity) Mias seemed keen to come down to SouthCape with you. I will organize with Christo & Salome to get together. Please let us know when you will be here and whether we can get together. We can put you all up on the farm and it will be a privelige having you. Looking forward to hear from you soon. Regards Koos & Marlene