Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Our safari packing list

1. Clothing- For our safari and Zanzibar trip, we each brought 3 light weight long sleeves shirts, 2 pairs of long safari pants,  2 short sleeves tshirts, 2 pairs of pajamas, one light jacket or sweater- useful for early mornings and windy nights, 5 pairs of hi-dri underwears and socks. Hi dri fabric is recommended as they dry overnight after a wash vs regular cotton fabric which after 2 days of line drying still felt damp. This amount of clothing would be enough for most but not for us. None of the camps that we stayed at offered laundry service. So, self laundry it is after 4 days on the road.
2. Insect repellents- We didn't encounter a single mosquito on our safari trip but Zanzibar was another story. The spray on ones were useful to deter the bites. Lots of tse tse flies in Northern Serengeti but insect repellents did not work on them. It hurts when they sting, and itches badly later. Blood splattered when the flies were smacked. A harmless nuisance to put up with for a priceless wildlife experience.
3. Medications- malaria pills a must especially if going to Zanzibar, antidiarheal, antibiotic pills for traveller's diarrhea, acetaminophen for headaches and pain relief, allergy pills, stomach meds for indigestion or heartburn, antibiotic ointment for cuts or insect bites, anti-itch cream like hydrocortisone- useful for tse tse flies and mosquitoes bites, bandaid, chap stick, Pedialyte powder for dehydration.
4. Sun protetion- sunblock, 1 or 2 pairs of sunglasses and a regular hat to keep the dust out of one's hair, safari hat not necessary unless planning to hike.
5. Bandana- works better than disposable masks to keep the dust from getting into one's mouth and nose while sitting in the speeding safari vehicle down dusty dirt roads.
6. Footwear- a pair of sneakers while out on animal sightings and a pair of sandals for walking around the tents.
7. Wipes and a two ounce bottle of hand sanitizer plus one small roll of bathroom tissue- came in handy on the day that we were supposed to see the wildebeests migration- had to do the "bush bathroom" as restroom facilities were nowhere to be found. I must say most of the public restrooms on our trip were clean but soaps were not readily provided.
8. Personal toiletries- travel size hair shampoo, conditioner, body wash and lotion as some camps do not provide these at all.
9. A medium sized flashlight- useful for walking from our tents to the mess hall and dim lighting condition in the tents- all tents utilise weak solar lighting.
10. Photography gears-5 cameras (dslr, bridge and point and shoot), 5 lenses (telephoto and wide angle), batteries, 7 memory cards and two binoculars- gave the good one to our guide as his was of lesser quality.
11. Book-Wildlife of East Africa, a good reference book to help us identify and remember the flora and fauna that we've encountered on our trip
12. Playing cards and dry snacks-  a box of saltine crackers, rice crackers, chips, cookies, granola bars, chewing gums, menthos and dried fruits to keep boredom at bay on days when animal sightings were slow as well as to tide us over until meal times. Glad that we brought the snacks from home as we didn't get a chance to go shopping at the local supermarkets.

Due to the 33 lbs weight allowance per person imposed on our flight from the Serengeti to Zanzibar, we packed lighter than usual. But with the 4 of us together, we had luggage space left over after packing. If I were to do this over again, I would pack 2 extra sets of clothing and underwears just because laundry takes time to dry plus it's my vacation- time to relax not be the laundry lady.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Meals on safari

Staples for breakfast were toasts, eggs cooked to order, bacon or sausage and fruits, supplemented with cereals, pastries, milk, tea, coffee, juices, yogurt, jams, etc.
Dinner at the camps usually consists of a soup (vegetable, pumpkin, chicken broth), tomatoes and cucumber salad or arugula salad, a meat or two (chicken, beef, lamb, or pork chop), cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, green beans, potatoes, pasta, or rice and desserts. Meats were usually overcooked to avoid food poisoning and they can be tough to chew. Most vegetables were served raw or undercooked.
The food in our lunch boxes during our safari trip were plentiful with a mix of good and bad. A couple of days, I had to give away some food to anybody who'll take them as not to be wasteful. Resources are hard to come by in remote places of Africa, so we're thankful that we had lunch boxes for lunch. We were careful with what we ate and nobody got sick on this trip. We try to eat hot foods as much as possible, were careful with cold foods like sandwiches, salads and fruits, as well as avoiding rotten foods. Wipes and hand sanitizers are a must as most bathroom facilities do not have soap.
Samples of our lunch boxes:-
Day 1 -Choice of vegetarian, ham or tuna sandwiches, peanuts, cookies, water
Day 2- Beef salad, pasta salad, sandwich (can't remember which kind), cookies, yogurt, water
Day 3- Fried chicken, cheese sandwich, crackers, chips, apple and juice box
Day 4- Grilled chicken, a slice of pizza, sandwich, one hard boiled egg, tangerine and bottled juice
Day 5- Fried chicken, sandwiches, cookies, hard boiled egg, half of an orange, cake, juice
Day 6- Fried chicken, veggie sandwich (a slice of tomato in between buns), hard boiled egg, banana, candy bar, yogurt, juice
Day 7- Cheese bread, muffin, baked chicken, apple, banana, candy bar, juice
 (Sopa) Chicken, juice box, cheese sandwich, crackers, apple, chips and juice  box

(Kati kati) Hard boiled egg, sandwich, chicken, pizza, tangerine and orange juice.

   (Kati-kati) Chicken, cookies, juice, sandwiches, hard boiled egg, cake, half of an orange
(Angata) Cheese bread, muffin, banana, chicken, candy bar and juice box. Less items because we were given the choice to omit any that we do not want from the lunch boxes. Great way of not wasting food.

Made me cringe looking at this- piles of used lunch boxes at one of the trash bins at Arusha Airport. Wish there is a better way to handle these wastes.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Self drive in Zanzibar

We always rented a car whenever we could on our trips for the freedom. This time was no different. However, driving in Zanzibar was unlike anywhere we've driven before. Main roads are paved but lack street signs and lights. Forget about GPS. We've to go by buildings and landmarks to find our way around the island. It's chaotic in some places as traffic lights are non-existent. Try maneuvering the huge speed bumps while watching out for pedestrians, motorbikes, stray dogs, goats and cattles sharing the same road. Worst of all, the aggressive dala dalas, stopping and going whenever they please without any regards to the safety of other road users.
On our last night, it was after sunset when we're trying to get back to the hotel on the east coast from Stone Town. It was dark and so dangerous to drive at night- no street lights, cyclists on their bikes without head lights, pedestrians walking in droves on the road side, dala dalas weaving in and out of traffic and cattles still roaming the streets at night. Stores that were closed during the day are now open for business. Everyone was out and about on the streets that night. I was straining my eyes and head, watching out for traffic while my husband drove. Had to be the most stressful driving, ever. But, we wouldn't do it any other way. Without a car, we couldn't have changed hotel when we needed to. With a car, we could leave and go whenever we felt like it. Hiring a driver would mean a set schedule which is not for us.
 Before coming to Zanzibar, I had read articles online about road blocks and how local cops wanted "gifts from abroad".  Well, we were stopped 6 times in the first 2 days. The cops checked our temporary permit and waved us thru except for one. He took our Zanzibar issued temporary foreigner driving permit and compared it with our US issued driver's license and told us the class "c" license (for passenger vehicles) in the US is not compatible with the class "b"  temporary permit. He flat out said he wanted a "gift" for it is his holiday (Eid ul Fitr). My husband gave him 1000 Tanzania shilling, about US$0.60. He accepted and had the nerves to ask us for gifts for his five other companions sitting nearby. My husband declined. Sixty cents is not much but, that sense of entitlement is not welcoming for visitors to the island.   
The temporary foreigner driving permit for Zanzibar. We paid US$20 to the car rental company and it was ready when we picked up the car. We rented from Kibabu Cars- renters beware. It's the first time that we had to deal with 3 cars in 3 days. Paid for a Toyota Rav4 with air-conditioner and auto transmission. On arrival at the airport, we were delivered a Rav 4 with manual transmission and a window that didn't work. Kibabu blamed his "secretary" for not informing him that our booking was for an auto tansmission. We took the car as he said it'll be 3 hours before he could deliver us one with auto transmission. On the second day, the brakes stopped working. My husband floored it a couple of times and the car was still moving. We couldn't continue on the road without working brakes. A phone call to Kibabu and he had someone else deliver another car to our hotel 2 hours later.


This was the replacement- a 1990's Suzuki Escudo, cheaper in rental price than the Rav4 even though we were not reimbursed for the price difference.  The exterior looked fine but the interior left a lot to be desired. The only thing new was the radio player which had an English station playing Mandarin songs and gave Mandarin lessons as well. The next day while on the way to Stone Town, its gears malfunctioned. The gears worked but we didn't know how to use it per Kibabu when we called him again. Maybe so, but we were never told how the gears were supposed to work.
The 3rd car was still an Escudo without a working air-conditioner, delivered by yet another chap. Made me think the cars did not belong to the car rental company but to individuals who were willing to lend the cars to the company in exchange for a small fee. Just my observation, I could be wrong.
All three cars were delivered to us on empty tanks each time. We had to fuel up before we can drive anywhere.  The first two times, we returned both cars with 1/4 tank of gas in them. With the third car, we only fueled the amount that we figured we needed for the last day. What a way to make money for them and for us to waste our vacation time. We ended up not visiting as much of the island as we'd liked. It took three times the effort to get things done almost right around here. Patience tested!