Magical Mahale

I had been looking into going to Mahale already but I thought it best to wait until the children could come along, the age to actually go see the chimps is 12. But when the opportunity came up to go when the children were on holiday, it was an offer I could not refuse. And it only made me more determined to go back with the kids later.

Of course the main reason and attraction for visiting Mahale are the chimps. Tanzania has chimps in Mahale National Park, Gombe Stream Park and Rubondo Island. Gombe Stream Park seems to struggle with an unstable environment and population; and the chimps at Rubondo Island are introduced (bred in Germany) so it is said that the most authentic experience would be in Mahale.

Mahale mountains borders Lake Tanganyika. Lake Tanganyika is the longest lake in the world and the deepest lake in Tanzania. Mahale is the green and jungle-like part of Tanzania (it is not all Savannah). I did my homework and read what I could find on my destination but nothing prepared me for the beauty..

I stayed at Nomad’s camp Greystoke and even though everyone knows the excellent reputation of Nomad and I was not surprised they did deliver – and more, it was impressive to receive such exquisite service in such a remote place. The staff had such love and passion for their own home, the food was excellent, the beach resort truly felt like the garden of Eden and Greystoke is clearly a guardian of paradise.

And a special mention should go to ‘Big Bird’, probably the most documented pelican on the internet (read it here). The story goes he got lost during a storm and ended up at the Mahale beach. They taught him how to fly (which was successful, see here) and now they are teaching him how to fish. Not surprisingly, he thought it much more convenient to grab our catch of the day when we went fishing. Big Bird is the puppy of the camp, and I am sure my kids would love him too.

- A plane from Arusha to the bush airstrip of Mahale and a boat into the National Park -

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- The beautiful beach and camp -

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Activities.. walking, beach, swimming, wildllife, fishing.. Big Bird!

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- And of course… the chimps.. -

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Zanzibar

Since I was there for work, I do not have much to say. I will let the images speak for themselves.

We stayed the night in what used to be one of the Sultan’s houses.

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We even went souvenir shopping..

 

 

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And my favourite place to wander (read: get lost) when taking pictures: Stone Town

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I loved this image: trying to curb the roots

 

 

 

 

 

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Elephants and baobabs

It was the last weekend that I still had my girls at home (before they go on holiday) so I was thinking about doing something fun. And Tarangire is always fun. And when you say Tarangire, you say elephants and baobabs.

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The plan was to drive myself – and take friends. We used to do self-drive safaris in Tarangire a lot but now is the short rain season and my car does not have 4×4. I had also never driven to Swala Camp myself before.. So of course, we got lost. Getting lost in a national park is not clever. There is no network coverage for your phone, you are not allowed to step out of the vehicle and you are not allowed to drive after dark. Needless to say our adventure was getting a bit.. well, too adventurous.

So after unanimous panic, we decided to drive back the exact same way and an hour later it turned out we simply missed a turn off that did not have the correct sign. But we got there before dark without flat tyres. Phew.

Swala is one of my favorite camps, the camp itself is gorgeous and the waterhole is always teeming with wildlife. Today was no different.

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After a clearly traumatizing experience where Axelle got shouted at by a monkey, we had dinner under the stars, surrounded by impala’s. And while hearing the lion roar in the bushes, we went to bed.

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You would think that after all that wild adventure, we were heading for a calm day. No such luck. After almost getting stuck in a deep puddle, and being surrounded by a herd of aggressive buffaloes and almost being attacked by an elephant that did not appreciate us disturbing him while bathing.. I was almost relieved we got out of the park alive.. Silly Sofie Safaris.DSCF8579 DSCF8571 DSCF8549 So after the ride home in a hot car, we went for a swim to cool down.. and that was the weekend.. And Monday morning I had a flat tyre.

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Black and White – ANIMALS

What I like most about the African landscapes are the colors: the reds, blues and greens laying next to each other in different shades and strengths like the pencils in a pencil box. I can however imagine that an elephant or a zebra make for a gorgeous black and white picture.

Allow me to tackle this challenge with pictures that are not mine. I know, it is a bit of a cop out but these pictures are so good I have to share. All credit goes to Julien Polet, my fellow Belgian that lost his heart to the African bush.

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Axelle’s disco

Little girls do grow up so when I asked my little chipmunk what she wanted for her 11th birthday, she said : “a disco party!”

The good thing about that is, that you can do it somewhere else (go to ‘El Patio’, and have clean house to return to!), let someone else do the food and drinks (clean kitchen!) and have fun yourself.. I asked some parents to stay after dropping off their minors and with a party scheduled to last only until 10pm, most of them did.

The preparations:

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The party:

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The chocolate fountain (huge success!)

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The cake (Dahlila worked wonders!)

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Black and white challenge – PEOPLE

I think pictures of people are always the nicest. In Africa, however it is not always easy to take a picture of a person, they are very suspicious about tourists asking them to pose. And if you don’t ask, they definitely get annoyed. After I once made a woman with a heavy load on her head jump into a muddy ditch to avoid my clicking camera, I became more careful, or is it caring?

I like taking pictures of children most. They still have that unprejudiced, open-minded smile. Well.. some do. Sometimes I come across an old man who has just as many lines in his face as he will have in his life story but then I usually don’t dare ask. Respect your elders is maxim number 1 in this country so I say “shikamo” and leave them be.

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This boy I met in an orphanage. He smiled shyly and looked away because he had just asked me whether I came to take him to my house so he could live there. Good thing he looked away because he would have seen through my eyes the crack he made in my heart with saying that – and especially with me having to say no.

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When my girls and I went for a walk with the dog on a Sunday, we came across these kids. (They only relaxed when we locked the dog in the car)

I love it when kids make their own toys. They probably cherish them for years. A sharp contrast to my girls and their request to upgrade their Ipod.

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These Maasai boys are being prepared for their rite of passage into adulthood. The main event will be the circumcision but there is a lot more involved.

For years, I have seen new groups of this age in the bush, or driven past them and promised myself that one day I will stop and make a picture. (And they did make me pay) Unfortunately, my girls were not with me, that would have made an interesting shot I would think :-) An actual black and white challenge.