October 2017

October 25, 2017

Tanzania’s Best Kept Secret – Ruaha National Park

With its seemingly endless list of places to explore and experiences to be had, it’s no secret that Tanzania is a top-notch country for travellers to visit.

From the Serengeti plains to Zanzibar’s beaches, to Mount Kilimanjaro, to the Ngorongoro Crater and beyond, Tanzania is home to many bucket list destinations. However, it’s the lesser known, uncrowded attractions that really make Tanzania such a safari gem. Ruaha National Park is just one example of such an attraction.

Situated right in the heart of Tanzania, covering a unique transition area where the Eastern and Southern species of fauna and flora meet against a dramatic topographical background, Ruaha National Park is one of Tanzania’s best-kept secrets. Covering more than 20,000km², Ruaha is the largest park in the country, however, despite this, it remains largely off the radar for tourists and therefore provides a truly unhurried and uncrowded game viewing experience.

Highlights of Ruaha National Park:
• Diverse range of habitats and landscapes
• Huge variety of wildlife and birds, including large prides of lions, an elephant population numbering over 10 000, and approximately 500 bird species
• There are only a handful of camps within the vast area of the park, ensuring a uncrowded safari experience.
• The park is has been described as a ‘predator’s paradise’ as it is home to a healthy population of lions, leopards, cheetahs, African wild dogs and other smaller predators.
• It is also one of the only national parks in Tanzania where both the greater and lesser kudu co-exist.

What to do in Ruaha National Park:
• Go and a game drive and spot the diverse game within the park, including the Big Five.
• Enjoy excellent birdwatching opportunities, especially during the European winter season when the migratory birds are around.
• Sip on a ‘sundowner’ drink while watching the sunset over the horizon.
• Go on a guided walking safari and experience the park up-close and personal. Some camps even offer fly camping for an authentic and wild bush camping experience.

Where to stay in Ruaha National Park:
There are only a few places to stay within the Ruaha National Park. Here are two of our top choices:

Ikuka: https://www.tanzaniaodyssey.com/tanzania/ikuka
Set atop the Mwagusi Escarpment, Ikuka Safari Camp is an intimate, secluded camp with expansive, uninterrupted views across the savannah and sprawling Ruaha valley. With just six thatched, open-sided suites, Ikuka is an intimate and luxurious base for travellers looking to explore Tanzania’s remote and wild Ruaha National Park.

Jongomero: https://www.tanzaniaodyssey.com/tanzania/jongomero
Situated along the flourishing banks of the seasonal Jongomero Sand River, Jongomero Camp is the only camp that is set right at the bottom of the park. With the nearest camp located 70kms away, Jongomero boasts a truly remote setting. Consisting of eight large and well-appointed tented luxury tents on raised wooden decks, Jongomero is one of our firm favourites.

Find more accommodation options here: https://www.tanzaniaodyssey.com/tanzania/ruaha

When to visit Ruaha National Park:
The best game viewing in Ruaha is during the dry season (May to November) when the waterholes and rivers begin to dry up and the wildlife concentrates around remaining water sources. The bush is greener and prettier from January to June, and visiting Ruaha out of season virtually guarantees that you see no other travellers whilst on safari. Birding is best during the December to March (the European winter months).

For more information on Ruaha National Park, or to start planning your safari, get in touch with us!

September 1, 2017

Tanzania Tops the Travel Charts

Although it comes as no surprise to us, Tanzania has once again been voted as the top destination by travellers.

In an in-depth analysis conducted over the past two years, SafariBookings searched for safari tourists and acclaimed experts who have been on African safaris, and invited them to write reviews about their experiences. Over 1000 safari tourists of 53 nationalities, along with 756 experts, including guidebook authors from Lonely Planet, Rough Guides, Frommer’s, Bradt and Footprint, participated in the poll. Together, more than 2300 user reviews were compiled and compared.

The result? With an average rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars, ranking above other popular destinations such as Botswana, Kenya, Zambia and South Africa – Tanzania is the best country for a safari in Africa.

Home to seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the famous Ngorongoro Conservation Area and Serengeti National Park, Tanzania’s has a wealth of wonderful attractions on offer. Tim Bewer, a Lonely Planet guide author and one of the experts polled, wrote: “Tanzania is home to Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Crater. This alone makes a solid case for declaring it Africa’s best safari country.

Here are 9 factors that make Tanzania such a great destination according to SafariBookings:

1. Superb wildlife viewing in top-class parks. Two are Unesco World Heritage Sites.
2. The annual great migration where over 2.5 million wildebeest and zebra migrate from Serengeti National Park in Tanzania to Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya.
3. Authentic African wilderness with unfenced parks, dirt roads and endless plains.
4. A wide range of budget, mid-range and luxury safari options.
5. Beach holiday extensions on Zanzibar Island, including kite-surfing.
6. Best chimp tracking of Africa in Gombe- and Mahale Mountains National Park.
7. Extend your safari holiday by climbing Africa’s highest mountain; Mount Kilimanjaro.
8. Direct flights from abroad make the northern and southern safari circuits easily accessible.
9. Politically stable and generally safe country.

If Tanzania sounds like your kind of safari destination (after all, why wouldn’t it?), get in touch with us and we’ll help you plan your perfect trip, tailored to your needs, budget and dates of travel.

July 25, 2017

Where to stay in Zanzibar

From charming and rustic beach chalets to luxury private islands – accommodation in Zanzibar caters for every travellers’ whims and fancies.

Whether you’re looking for romance and relaxation, or adventure and activity, you can find it in Zanzibar. No matter what your budget may be, or where your interests may lie, you’re guaranteed to spend your holiday in Zanzibar somewhere that is perfect for you.

However, if you’re feeling overwhelmed by all of the options, take a look at a few of our favourite places to stay at whilst in Zanzibar:

Pongwe Beach Hotel

Accommodation: 3 room types – Sea View Suites, Beach Front Rooms, Garden View Rooms
Distance from Airport: 1-hour drive from the airport.
Price: From $164 per person

Located on one of Zanzibar’s most beautiful beaches, Pongwe is a small, simple hotel, ideal for relaxing while soaking up the scenery. In terms of value for money for accommodation in Zanzibar, it’s hard to beat Pongwe.

Mchanga Beach Lodge

Accommodation: 6 Double rooms, 2 Family rooms and 2 Twin bedded rooms
Distance from Airport: 45-mins to 1-hour drive from the airport and Stone Town.
Price: From $169 per person

Machanga Beach Lodge is set on a great little beach, situated away from the large hotel resorts both up and down the coast. Built right on the sand and surrounded by nature, this small and intimate lodge is comfortable, welcoming and excellent value for money.

Zawadi

Accommodation: 9 villas
Distance from Airport: 60-minute drive from the airport.
Price: From $384 per person

Perched atop a cliff, with spectacular views of the vast Indian Ocean, Zawadi is one of the most exclusive properties in Zanzibar. At the centre of the property, the cliff recedes, creating a beautiful cove of pristine white sandy beach from which guests can snorkel in the warm waters. Intimate and luxurious, Zawadi is ideal for a Tanzania honeymoon.

Mnemba Island Lodge

Accommodation: 10 thatched beach bandas
Distance from Airport: 90-minute road trip followed by 10 – 15 minute boat ride to the island.
Price: From $1,672 per person

Situated just off the north-east coast of Zanzibar, Mnemba Island is the ultimate destination for a private, barefoot luxury experience. The island’s beach is one of the top beaches in the world and Mnemba is one of the few places where you can snorkel straight off the beach and onto pristine reef. Owned and run by &Beyond, the location, staff and impeccable cuisine make this the perfect beach location for travellers whose budget allow for such luxury.

If none of the above sound like your ideal accommodation options, find more of our options here.

March 31, 2017

What to See when in Arusha

Situated in the northeastern tip on Tanzania, at the foot of Mount Meru, Arusha is the biggest city in northern Tanzania and home to more than 1 million people. Often only regarded as a good starting point for safaris, the city has a lot to offer and it’s worth spending a few days there.

If you’ve got time to spare before starting your trek or safari, here are a few attractions worth exploring in and around Arusha:

1.    Maji Moto Hot Spring
Maji Moto (Swahili for ‘hot water’) is an oasis in the dry Maasai land, just 2 hours from Arusha. Surrounded by palms and fig trees, Maji Moto is a natural outlet for an underground spring. The sapphire water is the perfect temperature for swimming and is crystal clear to the bottom. It is a little piece of hidden paradise!

Image removed on request.

2.    Kilimanjaro Day Trip
A day trip to Kilimanjaro is a good option for those not wanting to climb the mountain but still wanting to experience a taste of its magic. Mandara Hut is at 2700m and can be reached after a 3-4 hour hike through the lush rainforest. Hikers can then enjoy lunch at the huts with a great view of the Moshi district.

3.    Canoe Trip through Arusha National Park
Arusha National Park is just outside of the city. While most people experience a safari in an open-roofed truck, a scenic canoe safari is a great way to experience the beauty of Tanzania. Momella Lake, in the heart of Arusha, offers the perfect opportunities for a canoe safari and to witness animals in their natural environment without disturbing them. It is an activity that should not be overlooked when in Arusha.

4.    Grab a bite to eat in the Themi Living Gardens
The Themi Living Garden is hidden in the heart of Arusha and offers a wonderful setting for a lunch spot. The Themi Living Garden is a women-lead community centre and part of a project implemented by Italian NGO Istituto Oikos. The project promotes sustainable gardening in Arusha as a way to improve nutrition, employment and income for people with disabilities or care takers of disabled people. The food is fresh, organic, vegetarian and served with love by the ladies. It is the first eco-restaurant in Tanzania.

These are just a few of the many activities on offer in and around Arusha. Other notable attractions include the Olpopongi Maasai Cultural Village & Museum, The Natural History Museum and a walking coffee tour through Nkoaranga Village.

Get in touch with us for help planning your perfect holiday to Tanzania today.

July 17, 2015

Katavi National Park

Thirty-one years after his first visit, Andrew Sharp returns to Katavi National Park, in the remote far west of Tanzania, to see if it still has the same magic

HR-Sharp-VehicleIt was June 1983. My wife and I were young, venturesome and travelling from Zimbabwe to Uganda in a Land Rover that was scarred from the Rhodesian war years and weighted with mine-proof steel plates bolted to the footwells. The road north through remote western Tanzania was deeply rutted, dusty and deserted, and for six hours we ground our lonely way past miles of miombo woodland whose dry leaves seemed primed to catch fire in the heat.

Inside the vehicle we sweltered, with the windows shut to prevent an invasion by the tsetse flies swarming furiously around the spare wheel on the bonnet. There was no air con in those days. As evening approached, exhausted and drained, we looked for a place to camp and turned off the road onto a faint, narrow track.

We ascended a low hill, but there was no let up in the thorn scrub. It seemed most unpromising. Little did we know that we were about to stumble upon one of the most alluring places in Africa.

We crested a sandy ridge and came to a standstill, stunned by the sight that opened up before us: a vast open expanse stretching to the horizon, verdantly green and threaded with silver waterways, streaked in black by huge herds of buffalo and liberally humped with hippos and elephants, all under a soft, pinking sky. We had arrived at Katavi, one of three floodplains that form Katavi National Park, the third largest in Tanzania.

Later, watered and cool, and breathing in the honeysuckle scent of nearby mahogany blossom, we lay in our little tent listening to the stealthy army of hippos grazing all around us. Out on the dark plain, under the bright constellations, lions rocked the night with their roars and hyenas yodelled. It was probable that we were at least a hundred miles from any other human being. This, surely, was the wild whose call the nineteenth-century explorers and hunters would have felt. We vowed that one day we would be back.

It took us more than thirty years to fulfil that dream. This time there was no gruelling journey to make. We could now afford to fly in with a safari company, and would be ‘glamping’ rather than crawling into a two-person tent. Despite our comparatively luxurious transport we still caught a sense of Katavi’s remoteness as the Cessna made its way west from Dar es Salaam. En route we landed on dirt airstrips to drop off fellow tourists in Selous Game Reserve (described in guidebooks as ‘remote and wild’) and then in Ruaha National Park (‘even remoter and wilder’), and then flew for another two hours with barely a scar of human habitation below. Still we wondered if our memories of Katavi were rose-tinted or whether our Eden was gone. Three decades is a long time in the modern world.

After the steep Mlele Escarpment on the park’s eastern boundary came into view we descended in a gentle arc, down to the tiny airstrip, our eyes drawn compulsively to the great floodplains spreading north and south. Our safari camp was on the edge of one of the park’s three main mbugas (or ‘marshy plains’) of the 4471 sq km Katisunga, which is, incidentally, larger than Rutland. From our canvas-and-thatch room we gazed out over the plain to distant lines of zebra and giraffe that resembled flotillas of sloops on a wide sea.

In 1983 we had been the only people camping in the park, and even now there are just four permanent tented camps. The network of game-viewing roads is confined mainly to the centre of the park. The south is largely trackless, and passing another safari vehicle is uncommon enough to prompt mutual interest. We explored our wilderness, armed against the flies with Dettol spray, fly whisks, Maasai blankets and smouldering elephant dung in a pot on the back of the four-wheel drive. Katavi isn’t famed just for its insects but also for the huge pods of hippos that crowd the Katuma River. Nothing prepared us for the gloriously thick muck and muddle of such tight presses of the beasts. Stubble-headed marabou storks stood, hunched as always, wobbling their fleshy gular sacs and relieving themselves shamelessly on their hosts. Forced into ever-smaller stretches of dark-brown, glutinous water as the dry season progressed, the hippos grunted and jostled, sharing their pools uneasily with five-metre-long crocodiles.

At night, sitting around the fire at Foxes’ Katavi Wildlife Camp, Nick Greaves (camp manager, writer, photographer and all-round bush expert) traced for us the constellation of Scorpio that arched over the plains like an ancient and wise protector. Katavi abounds with big beasts such as lion, roan antelope, buffalo, elephant and more. But when our guide showed us the clever architecture of a weaver’s nest, we had an overwhelming sense that every single blade of grass in the wide expanses of the park, living and dead, and indeed every invisible bacterium in the dung-enriched earth, every ant, tsetse fly, scorpion, mongoose, sandgrouse, wild sesame, acacia and palm, is vital for the health of the whole ecosystem and its astonishing biodiversity. While tracts of our world such as this remain, there seems hope for the survival of our planet.

Our six days in the park were not long enough to explore its far reaches, but we could not leave without attempting to find our campsite from thirty years before. It’s a two-hour drive from Katisunga to the Katavi plain, travelling first south and then west around the huge floodplain, before finally heading north. There is no convenient shortcut. With our guide, Whiteman, we started early, to avoid the tsetses, and journeyed through beautiful forests of umbrella acacia, ashy-barked marula and then Cape chestnut, their pale branches stretching gracefully upwards into the blue sky. Even the stinging flies could not dampen our mood as we drew closer to our destination.

We finally joined the old main road that we had taken three decades before. It was still dusty and bumpy: that much at least had not changed. The side track was instantly recognisable, though now it was signposted ‘Lake Katavi’, raising our excitement to new levels. Slowly we crested a sandy ridge and — yes! — the same stunning sight, just as we had remembered it, crossed with strands of water, despite it being so late in the dry season. We found the precise spot where we had camped in 1983, recognising the lie of the land and remembering the crackle of the leaves under our groundsheet and the sweet aroma of mahogany blossom.

Soon coffee was served, and we sat and watched waterbuck and baboons sipping from the water channels while a 25-strong herd of male elephants lumbered past.

On the far horizon zebras shimmered in the sunlight. A pair of noisy blacksmith lapwings harassed an African marsh harrier that was hunting for eggs, just as they have done in Katavi for tens of thousands of years. It seemed then that three decades was not such a long time to have left it to come back.

Andrew Sharp and his wife travelled with Africa Odyssey https://www.africaodyssey.com/

Ode to Katavi
The scenery here is spectacular, both in scope and drama. The Katuma River flows into Chada Lake, an amphitheatre framed by the Mlele Escarpment. Wedge-shaped Kipapa Hill stands sentinel over herds of animals that roam the region in a never-ending quest for grazing. And faraway horizons, bruised purple at dusk, remind you that you’re tucked under the western arm of the Great Rift Valley.

Katavi shouldn’t be beautiful — its remoteness and wildness should give it teeth — but with its tamarind trees blushing at the prospect of rain, the marula, terminalia and pod mahogany trees shivering with similar anticipation, the rattle of the parchment fronds of borassus palms and the long pod cassia festooned with sunshine-yellow blooms, it is. Very.

But it’s scorched. Its low elevation means it’s simmering. You can hear it in the pressure-cooker hiss of a thousand invisible cicadas. You can see it when mirages dance an agitated, shimmering distortion at the edge of the earth. You can feel it when your hair sticks to the back of your neck. The sky seems to be pulled taut, with a few faint, teasing wisps of cloud that are nudged along by the reluctant exhalations of an enervated breeze. The savannah is the colour of cracked poppadums. The star-chestnut trunks are bleached bone white.

Elephants lumber down the Katuma’s bank to drink and slap mud onto their sunbaked skin. Crocodiles snap shut jaundiced, malevolent smiles and then slither into the water as you approach. Lions snooze in the shade of sausage trees, observing rare visitors with slit-eyed interest. Everything pants, willing the rain to hurry up.

Anthea Rowan

Safari Planner
• Getting there The writer travelled with Africa Odyssey, who can arrange all your transport and accommodation. By road, the journey from Dar es Salaam to Katavi takes three days. Safari Air Link flies twice a week from Dar es Salaam to Ruaha, Katavi and Mahale on Lake Tanganyika, and many travellers visit all three parks on one trip.
• Where to stay The two longest-established camps are Foxes’ Katavi Wildlife Camp, on the edge of the Katisunga plains, and Chada Katavi, run by Nomad Tanzania. Alternatives are Flycatcher Katavi Camp, Palahala Luxury Tented Camp and Katuma Katavi Tented Camp. All include game drives and most offer fly-camping adventures.
• When to go In the dry season (May-October), when the floodwaters retreat and animals congregate around the rivers.
• Health Check with your doctor or a travel clinic at least two months before you go to be certain which vaccinations are currently required. Antimalarials are essential and tsetse flies can be a nuisance, so be sure to pack effective insect repellent.

July 1, 2015

Tanzania voted best safari country in Africa

Tanzania voted best safari country in Africa
A new poll crowns the East African country the king of safaris

Tanzania is the best place for a safari, according to a new poll.
First problem when considering a safari — where to go.

Zimbabwe has the majestic Victoria Falls, South Africa great boutique reserves.

Kenya offers chances to see big cats and Botswana is a leader in eco-friendly tours.

But you’d be best off selecting Tanzania, according to a recent poll on safaribookings.com.

The Netherlands-based website polled 1,000 safari tourists and 756 experts, including guidebook authors from Lonely Planet, Rough Guides, Frommer’s, Bradt and Footprint, over two years.

The result: Tanzania is a clear favorite for novice and veteran safari-goers alike.

“Tanzania is home to Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Crater,” wrote Tim Bewer, a Lonely Planet guides author and one of the experts polled. “This alone makes a solid case for declaring it Africa’s best safari country.”

Adventure calls

Tanzania has seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including safari favorites the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and Serengeti National Park, home to millions of wildebeest that form one of the world’s most spectacular sights as they migrate the area year-round.

The country is also home to Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa.

Tanzania’s only drawback, according to Safari Bookings, is that there are “too many highlights to fit in one safari.”

The news comes as welcome affirmation of the country as a tourist destination, after a recent bombing at a rally that killed two in Arusha. That event sparked anxiety among visitors.

Ratings out of 5 of Africa’s top safari countries

As voted by tourists and safari experts

Tanzania – 4.84
Botswana – 4.75
Kenya – 4.66
Zambia – 4.58
South Africa – 4.55
Namibia – 4.54
Uganda – 4.16
Zimbabwe – 4.14

Clearly, we love Tanzania! We also love nothing more than sharing our passion with budding Tanzania travellers, so if you are considering visiting the best safari country in Africa then contact us or give us a call on +44 (0) 20 8704 1216 in the UK, or via our toll free US number +1 866 356 4691. We can give you the low down on where to stay, general prices and what kind of experiences are possible around the country and which ones you will love.

March 8, 2013

The Indian Ocean Coast – Mikindani

It is an extraordinary experience to arrive at Mikindani at the end of a long, bumpy and extremely dusty drive from Kilwa or Dar es Salaam. After mile upon mile of rural distances with often no sign of human habitation, (with exception to the rows of shops and restaurants in the efficient but rather characterless town of Lindi), the final bend in the road that reveals Mikindani town can seem to be a fairytale encounter. Nestling between mountains and sea on a large circular natural lagoon, this tiny town has the historic atmosphere of quiet quaint that attracts visitors to tiny villages in the English Cotwolds or Italian hilltops in Umbria. The winding streets are flanked with a hotchpotch combination of thatch and mud, or stone work with balconies and carved wooden doors from the Arabic and colonial days. It is not as ancient as Kilwa Kisiwani, and was never as important as Bagamoyo, and it has experienced a similar sudden downfall of fortune that changed it from a thriving port town to a quiet backwater almost overnight. But over the years Mikindani has received small doses of much-needed nurture that have kept the profile and character of the town distinct.

History

As with most of the port towns along the coast Mikindani suffered a succession of rising and falling fortunes with the turning tides of trade. Its perfectly protected bay provided naturally sheltered anchorage and it was the closest seaport for trade caravans coming from Lake Nyasa, and from Zimbabwe, Zambia and present day Congo. Arab trade and settlement at Mikindani is thought to extend from the 9th century through to mid-19th, evidenced by some remains of ruined mosques and graves, although there was previously a settlement of Makonde from Mozambique at Mvita, to the north west aspect of the lagoon where some interesting tombs with carved plaster decorations with porcelain bowls inset can still be seen. By the late 15th century trade from Mikindani was traced through Zambia and Malawi as far as Zaire and Angola. Ivory, tortoiseshell, animal skins and copper were exported and manufactured goods such as clothes and weaponry were brought in. Demand for the export goods lapsed in the early 16th century with the disruptive activities of the Portuguese all along the coast, but picked up again in the middle of that century when the whole coastal region came under the jurisdiction of the sultan of Zanzibar, and slave trading became better business. But trade continued to fluctuate until the next boost in business occurred around the 1850s, when Arab trading peaked once more and this little southern town became a major trading centre. If you were to arrive in Mikindani at this time, two centuries ago, you would have encountered a busy port town settlement over a spectacular ocean lagoon. Most of Mikindani town as it stands today dates from the mid-19th and early 20th centuries after it regained prominence as a trading centre for Arab dhows purchasing ivory and slaves. Many of the ruins seen in the old town were homes or trading posts of these first foreign traders distinguished by their carved doorways and flat roofs, while wealthier merchants built themselves two storey houses with intricate balconies above their shop front below. Mikindani then came to the attention of the Europeans towards the end of the 19th century when Dr David Livingstone recorded his stay here early in 1866 before embarking on his final expedition inland, and just a couple of decades later the town became subject to German Colonial rule. Livingstone’s double storey house with superbly carved wooden doorways was renovated by the ministry of antiquities in 1981, when a commemorative plaque was added and an unprepossessing corrugated iron roof. The Germans made Mikindani the District HQ, and constructed a number of impressive two storey coral rag houses with fretwork balconies on the upper level, and some of their more elaborate constructions have recently been subject to extensive restoration work. The old German Boma sits high on the hillside overlooking the town and bay with 1895, the date of its completion, inscribed over the door. It was designed as fortress, (‘boma’ is the swahili for fort), but included an administration office and an officers’ residence and mess that included the luxury of a tennis court on the Eastern side. It later became a police station, but was abandoned during the 1960s and fell into disrepair. The Boma has recently undergone extensive and stunning restoration at the hands of an interesting new charity called Trade Aid, who are working to develop the local potential for eco-tourism in Mikindani. The German colonial government also renovated and rebuilt the old 19th century slave market with heavy classically styled coral columns and looping open arches to convert it into a public market close to the waterfront to commemorate the slaves who were shipped from here. This has recently undergone a colourful restoration, also masterminded by Trade Aid, who have filled in the open arches and painted the exterior. Nearby, the Old Prison on the waterfront (near the main bus stop) is in a very poor state of ruin after being bombarded in World War I and could do with some similar attention.

The first colonial government implemented large scale farming schemes for crops such as sisal, rubber, coconut and oilseed, but as business boomed and the trade ships grew larger it became necessary to build new deepwater port. Or to opt for a cheaper alternative, and move the port 10km south to Mtwara, where there was already a naturally deep channel to support the trade. This fell into the hands of the British colonial government, when they envisaged even greater farming schemes, such as the infamous Groundnut Scheme (see below), and moved the district headquarters from Mikindani to Mtwara after the First World War, so sealing the economic fate of Mikindani.

Nowadays the families of Mikindani rely mainly on fishing and traditional dug out boats and dhows are used to bring home a subsistence catch. But this tiny town still harbours a few surprises, and a walk around its historic centre reveals a smart and well-maintained Hindu temple at the heart of this otherwise Muslim population, and a number of interestingly carved wooden doors and doorframes similar to the ‘Zanzibari’ style. For a more modern addition to the town, find the ‘Hot Mik Bar’ a lively landscaped bar facing the bay beyond the mainroad, a good spot for all refreshments and a resoundingly popular satellite tv.

The story of Babu Banda and the German Treasure

The hillside behind the town is pleasantly wooded, and a not-too-steep track from behind the Old Boma leads up through sunlit glades to a superb viewpoint and the site of a rather unusual industrious task. This is the domain of Babu Banda, a stringently built local witch doctor who has been subjected to a number of instructive dreams by ancestral and Arab spirits. The essence of these has been to tell him of German treasures buried at this summit behind the Boma, and for the past 8 months he has dogmatically undertaken the task of unearthing them. As he works his figure casts long shadows against the carefully dug wall of a crater-like hole about six metres deep, with just a thin bridge of solid earth running around the circumference before dropping off into a second previously abandoned crater beyond. He tells how seven treasure seekers had been here previously, but were plagued with dreams of an Arab instructing them to leave and finally frightened off or killed by a huge snake. Babu Banda also has dreams of the Arab, but is instead informed to dig seven paces from the biggest baobab tree, and he employs magic to keep the snake away. His treasure so far includes an immaculate bronze ½ kilogram weight, and he claims to have discovered a cache of guns, but has decided not to dig deeper around that site in case of disturbing unexploded arms. His dedication to unearthing the wealth of his dreams is impressively revealed when his simple spade is set to rest beside the cavernous depths he has carved into this red earth hillside. Meanwhile his family perch against the skyline, cooking ugali and sheltering under the snaking branches of the precariously rooted trees with the family rooster happily ensconced on Babu Banda’s wife’s head. They have promised that when they find the treasure the rooster come to know the cooking pot.

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