Archive for March 8, 2023

Zanzibar, Tanzania (Day 1) 2022

     We anchored across from the ferry terminal in Zanzibar early in the morning of November 12 for an overnight stay.  Zanzibar City sits on the island of Unguja some 22 miles across the water from Bagamoyo and maybe 50 miles from Dar es Salaam.  Originally occupied by Bantu speaking people about 2,000 years ago it was controlled by the Portuguese for 200 years starting in the 15th century.  They were expelled in the 17th century and the Sultan of Oman was invited to take power to protect Zanzibar from them.  In the 1890’s the British established a protectorate that lasted until 1964 when a revolution that cost some 20,000 lives ousted the British and established a socialist government, which then merged with Tanganyika to form Tanzania.

     We tendered ashore to join our expedition at the port.  From there we had a fairly long ride in a large van to the Jozani National Park, a rainforest that is the only national park on Zanzibar. 

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     The Zanzibar Red Colobus Monkey is a species endemic to the Zanzibar archipelago.  While there are other species of Red Colobus elsewhere in Africa the one living only in Zanzibar is considered the most endangered primate species in Africa.  We have seen estimates of its total population between 1,000 and 3,000, but the first number seems closer.  They live in trees and eat young leaves, flowers and unripe fruit.  About half of them live in the Jozani forest.  Apparently this species separated from others about 10,000 to 15,000 years ago when a rise in sea levels isolated them on these islands.  Their name derives from the reddish brown color that covers most of their backs and the back of their heads.

     We drove in the vans to an area of the forest where the guides said the monkeys would be for lunchtime.  We had to hike into the woods over very uneven paths but not too far before they pointed out the first monkeys.

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     You can see below the monkeys’ stylish reddish brown backs.  In case you are wondering why they are often looking away, think about how you would feel if a horde of camera wielding tourists crowded around you.  I think I would face the other way too.  Most of the ones who didn’t face completely away were obscured behind leaves and branches.  We visited during mating season, so there were babies with their mothers.

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     Yes, we were part of that crowd of visitors; what else could we do?  Fortunately the monkeys didn’t really seem to mind, since they are undoubtedly used to these visits.  We did manage to get some pictures of monkeys looking our way.  You will notice that from the front there is no indication they have any reddish fur.  Instead, they are black and white with pretty wild punk like hair shooting out of their heads.

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     Jozani also features a mangrove forest.  It’s kind of swampy and dark but the root patterns are interesting, particularly when there are so many of them.  Mangroves are valuable along the water’s edge where they help keep the banks from eroding and provide habitat for fish and small animals.  I saw a red crab on a forked log in the water when I stepped onto a small wooden bridge but by the time I got the camera raised into position (maybe a second) it had scurried into the fork.  Still visible, but less so, and it was so fast.

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     Our next destination was a spice farm, but it was a long drive enabling us to see something of the countryside as we passed.  Among other things, there was a small neighborhood mosque (we think), several produce markets and a cow in somebody’s front yard.  There was plenty of poverty to be seen but what looked like nice places as well.

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     Zanzibar has long been known as a source of spices, especially cloves.  At the Maganga Spice Farm we were given a tour of a number of different kinds of spice trees and also a lunch.  We sat out in the open on long benches while the food was piled on tables, then brought to us by the farm’s personnel.  We filled our plates with several kinds of local food, then discovered after eating all of it that there was much more to come, distributed in waves.  The food was very good, particularly the ripe local fruit like mangoes and pineapple.  In the yard where we were eating some chickens were looking for scraps (they undoubtedly have a lot of experience with groups like ours).

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     After lunch we were treated to a demonstration of cocoanut harvesting.  A fellow tied his feet together and shimmied up a palm trunk, singing all the way.  He was very good & very fast . . . I’m pretty certain we couldn’t do that.

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     After the demonstration we were all given hats woven from palm leaves with red flowers in them, different styles for men and women.  Men were also given woven palm ties and women combination rings and bracelets.  Very silly looking but fun anyway.

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     After all this we headed back to town.  The excursion agenda included a guided walking tour of Stone Town, the old town of Zanzibar City.  The guides in each bus encouraged us to agree to skip this as everyone (including them) was tired.  We were told that most of the buses settled for a drive by (the streets of Stone Town are too narrow for a bus).  But most of the folks on our bus were up for a walking tour and our guide, Aziza, agreed to do it.  We dropped a few people off at the ferry dock then we all left the bus for our tour.  Although she was as tired as the others and probably would have preferred to skip it, Aziza led us through Stone Town for an hour and a half, skillfully explaining what we were seeing.  She was a trouper who deserved (and received) a very good tip.

     Since we spent the entire second day in Zanzibar exploring Stone Town I will save most of that discussion for the next episode.    We walked through the Old Fort, originally built by the Portuguese and the oldest building in town.  We saw a number of elaborately carved doors, somewhat similar to what we had seen in Bagamoyo, which can be seen throughout Stone Town.  And we stopped into an Anglican church built on the spot where the slave market had been in order to commemorate the abolition of slavery.  In its basement we visited the cells where new slaves were crowded into an area too cramped to permit standing up.

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     We tendered back to the ship after a rewarding day, looking forward to returning to Stone Town in the morning to explore it in more depth.