Back From Our Third Tanzanian Safari - July 2011

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Jan 5th, 2012, 01:23 PM
  #41
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We departed from Emayani for one last ferry ride to the north shore, and then we were off to the most northern seaport city of Tanga, Tanzania's fourth largest city. I’m not a fan of large cities, but I have to say, Tanga is quite beautiful; it is a thoughtfully laid out city with lots of green space, traffic is organized (by Tanzanian standards), the history and culture are rich, and the city has a quiet, laid back feel to it.

Once again, we sought the help of the local tourist board for a city guide. We ended up with their sole office worker who just locked up the office and came with us to explore the city. I don’t know what happened to anyone else coming to the office that day. Oh well. Our little guide appeared to be about 12 years old, but did well in making sure we saw some interesting sights. For a 12 year old, he good knowledge of the history of the area

In the older sections of Tanga we saw influences of explorers like Vasco da Gama, Arab and Indian cultures, the slave trade, and German and British Colonists. What a fascinating place! Unlike Pangani, Tanga is working at restoring their period architectural structures, many of which are being used as government buildings, colleges and schools, hotels and stores. I was keen to see the Urithi Museum, but it was inexplicably closed the day we were there. We had to settle for taking in it’s remarkable, imposing structure from the outside.

The daily fish market on the beach was about the busiest place we saw in Tanga. Fishermen were displaying their catches of the day and locals were there with their baskets to purchase the fresh fish. Squid seemed to be a hot ticket item when we were there.

One of the highlights for us in Tanga was a visit to the Amboni Caves. The caves form the most extensive cave system in East Africa, and cover a remarkable area of 234km². One of the 10 caves is open for guided tours. I was a little skeptical about going into the cave; I get a bit clostrophic in tight situations. Well, no need to worry – these caves are huge and I only had to crouch and crawl in a few places. The caves are very dark, very hot, and full of bats which were an added bonus for us, although I know some people would cringe. Their exit from the caves every night at sunset must be quite a sight. There is a fair amount of climbing up and down rock ledges and tight spots which, despite my age and lack of athleticism, I found quite manageable. There are ceremonial caverns and shrines in the caves, with offerings such as pottery and obsidian.

The Amboni Caves have been subject of local legends and a number of mythical and awe-inspiring stories. To the local people, the caves are seen as supernatural formations where supernatural powers are believed to reside. Some believe that there is a powerful god which can alleviate sickness and suffering, and increase fertility.

Millions of years ago these caves were flooded by water. Erosion has since created the beautiful limestone landscape that exists today, with fascinating stone prominences, eerie caverns and structures in the shapes of: a sofa, a ship, a crocodile, an elephant, a map of Africa, the Statue of Liberty and the head of a male lion. The 12 year old seemed to be particularly keen to point out the male and female genital shapes. There is a myth that a dog and his master got lost in the caves and that, although the master didn’t make it out and was never found, the dog came out of the caves near the base of Kilimanjaro!

We spent a very pleasant night in Tanga at the Tanga Beach Resort – a very welcome place after a hot, sticky day exploring the region. Built in 2009, the resort is a lovely, bright full-service hotel and conference centre right on the Indian Ocean, and includes 2 restaurants, 2 bars and a swimming pool. The flame trees were in bloom = gorgeous! Our room was huge, with 2 gigantic Swahili coast designed beds and a gorgeous bathroom with very modern décor. The food was excellent and the staff very helpful; the ancient little doorman was keen and even able to carry our bags, although I was a little concerned for his wellbeing.

The following morning, it was back to Arusha by way of the gorgeous Pare and Usumbara Mountains, the sisal and coconut farms, the dusty little villages and the tiny green farms. The drive was memorable for the gorgeous countryside that revealed itself to us at every turn, but also for the great company we had in Jackson and Clamian. What a wonderful pair of fellows – so accommodating and willing to see to our every need, want and whim. And such fun, too. We had chosen to stay at the Snow Crest Hotel for our last night in Tanzania. I’m glad we did, because we had enjoyed it so much upon our arrival in the country.

The day of our departure we spent doing some shopping before heading to the airport. First stop was the shuka and bead shop where we bought Maasai romboi (sp?) Although not for the faint of heart, the Maasai Market is a great place to shop. We were lucky enough to meet some of the local artisans at the market when we went behind the scenes to see some ebony carving and painting. It’s always so much nicer to visit with the artisans and make purchases directly from them. We came away with paintings, ebony bowls, jewellery, banana leaf pictures, scarves, etc, etc. I am now surrounded by these treasured items in my home and am reminded of our wonderful trip. And so…the countdown to trip #4 is on. I have no date, no itinerary and no money, but I do know that I’ll go back.
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Jan 5th, 2012, 04:17 PM
  #42
 
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Thank you Calo for such an extensive and beautifully written report...now if we could only have a photo or 2 to envision your journey even more!
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Jan 6th, 2012, 04:18 AM
  #43
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Thanks for reading, KathBC! I'll work on making some photos available.
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