A breathtaking view
September, vacation, 3 weeks, where to? A question that would otherwise never arise, because we always knew exactly where we wanted to go before corona. Five years ago Tanzania was at the top of our wish list, so we went. Now there were two destinations that we unfortunately couldn’t go to due to corona. Yet we really wanted to travel again and not postpone another trip.
The wish to swim with manta rays this year would not come true. But thinking about our trip to Tanzania 5 years ago, swimming with whale sharks again might be possible. So we decided to call Marjolijn from Explore Tanzania again, because if we were to go on holiday outside Europe, we wanted to be assured of a travel agency that would get us home if the situation changed. Five years ago, everything was so perfectly arranged. And Marjolijn knows the country so well, that always works out the best.
From that moment on the planning started and suddenly the fun too, because it just looked like we would go on holiday after all and also to a fantastic destination. Unlike 5 years ago, we decided not to go on safari this time. Not because another safari wouldn’t be great, but a volunteer project is already planned for November; working with elephants for a month. So we chose to go on a ‘marine’ safari this time.
After some phone calls back and forth and sifting through the travel books that were still in the cupboard, the trip was arranged. All necessary information about PCR testing, declarations etc. was all provided by Explore Tanzania. They are so well informed and that gives a nice feeling! Even if you think one day before your flight, it’s all right, you can still reach them, which is great!
On September 5, we flew directly to Zanzibar. The fun had started, and oh what a great feeling to step off the plane 8 hours later in a wonderful warmth and with that typical African air.
The first place we stayed was Fumba Beach Lodge. This time we wanted to go to places in Zanzibar where we hadn’t been before, to see different things of the island.
Fumba Beach Lodge turned out to be really beautiful and also a hotspot for the diadem meerkat. What a fantastic experience to wake up in the morning with monkeys around you. Not to mention the delicious food and the incredibly friendly people. The third day we made an excursion to a sandbank for a barbecue and to snorkel. And what a great experience it was; snow-white beaches, swaying palm trees and a blue sea that makes you almost think it’s fake. The lodge where we stayed is not only great because of its fantastic location by the sea, but we also really enjoyed the butterflies and the presence of the proboscis dog.
After our stay at Fumba Beach Lodge we went to our next destination, Bwejuu, the east coast of Zanzibar. Here the beaches are really stretched out and we could walk for miles. The diadem monkey had given way to the red frilled monkey. Herman den Blijker once paid a visit to the lodge where we stayed and he clearly left his knowledge behind. The food is delicious and it’s great to be able to eat locally. Because where many people may not immediately think of, when thinking of Zanzibar, is the wealth of food. Everywhere on the island are mango trees, agave trees, vegetable gardens and banana trees that the driver is happy to show us along the way. We also tasted the fruits of the baobab. And then all the spices that grow all over the island.
Just like 5 years ago, we decided to go to the beautiful Chumbé Island again. Already when we left for Chumbé we saw plenty of mangrove forests. After sailing for 30 minutes we arrived at the island. And it’s still just as great as it was 5 years ago. Sustainability is a top priority, which is also the case throughout the entire journey. But on Chumbé we also see solar panels and children are taught about the corals with the money that tourists pay for the excursion. So a great initiative. After a tour around the island we climb the lighthouse and our breath is taken by the beautiful view. Believe me, you have rarely seen such a beautiful view. From the view of the lighthouse we went to one of the other most beautiful views I have ever seen; of the black tip reef sharks swimming in the surf. They are fry, so recognizable from the time I worked with these species of sharks and set up breeding programs for the conservation of this species. And here they just swim in the wild just over a meter away. Wow!!
And now the snorkeling. If you really like fish, and I mean can distinguish and recognize the different types of fish and corals, Chumbé is a must. It is beautiful, yes very beautiful, but it is especially very special, the diversity of fish and corals. You don’t see that in many other places in the world. And the best part is that this area is protected. After all, only 25 people per day are allowed to go to the island and fishing is not allowed.
After this great day we flew with a small plane to Mafia Island. Here too we went to a different lodge than 5 years ago, but the place is still just as enchanting. A beautiful reef in front of the door, clown fish, moray eels, porcupine fish (30 cm in size), sea snakes, lionfish and again beautiful coral. And all that right at your doorstep. On arrival we also understood that the first whale sharks had already been spotted. Early for the time of year. Normally they swim a lot deeper around this time, making them difficult to see. Two days later we set off. Here too, you can see that sustainability is a top priority at Explore Tanzania. We went on a small boat to spot whale sharks. The guide indicated that in the high season these are 5 boats and therefore no horrific scenes with 150 men chasing whale sharks. The guide also indicated that we should never touch the animals and should always keep a minimum distance of 1 meter.
After half an hour of sailing the guide suddenly said “put on your fins and get ready to go into the water.” We hadn’t seen anything yet and were very surprised. But the guide had seen a shadow. We went into the water and saw a whale shark far below us. About 15 meters. Pretty hard to see. We got back on board and waited. Then we got another signal and we got back into the water. Out of the depths comes an immensely beautiful whale shark, wow wow wow. 18 Meters of pure beauty and tranquility.
What a gift it has been to be able to make this special journey with these special animals. We ended the trip in style with cake and music, because even my birthday did not go unnoticed by the staff at the lodge. So special that they just baked a cake. So sweet.
It was a wonderful trip with very beautiful impressions, but also mixed feelings, because between these fantastic impressions it also turned out that Tanzania has been hit hard by corona. There were hardly any tourists, while this is the source of their income. It is special to see families taking care of each other in these difficult times. We sincerely hope that tourists will soon – and perhaps after reading this story – pack their bags and travel to Tanzania again. And for travelers who may not have whale shark dreams, there are always the special other experiences that always impress us. Like the kids who play football with fishnets tied up because they don’t have a ball and get dance lessons on the beach. A stark contrast to the children in the Netherlands who often have so much and often want even more. And of course the children live in a completely different world, but at the same time that indicates so much.
In short, we are not only terribly grateful for the fantastic nature that we have been able to see, but also the awareness that the population brings about in us.
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