It’s December, for most a time to plan for that Xmas get-away to white sandy beaches, melting sunsets and swaying palms, thus escaping the grips of winter. For us in the safari profession we have been planning over the course of the year to ensure that all goes to plan for your arrivals and departures to the currently pristine lush bush and bounties that Tanzania hold, including those swaying palm destinations. So with a large part of our work being logistical planning, we had formatted well ahead to escape in line with the school holidays prior to the xmas rush. The aim being to gather up some much needed energy, soak in a few rays and let one’s mind do what it used to do before Bush2Beach grew to where it has reached today keeping us super busy for pretty much the year in and out.
Some of you may remember part of the title “The Hidden Trail”; when we designed a safari for a photo journalist Scott Bennet back in April 2009 to which his article and “The Hidden Trail” was published in Travel Africa Mag. Scott is as happy underwater painting with colours as he is with both feet firmly planted in the soils of Serengeti or with his head popping out of a roof hatch when shooting action of the big cats. Many seasons have past, with the soils of change and rains covering our tire tracks time and time again since Scott explored a few areas of Tanzania. Three years later these still remain largely untouched by the madding crowds that simply head to Ngorongoro, Serengeti, Kilimanjaro or one of the other icons of Tanzania treasure chest.
This update is to blow away a few cobwebs and to rouse the inquisitive mind of the intrepid traveller who may like to see and experience the slower pace of “Safari”which I have mentioned before in other up-dates is Ki-Swahili for “travel”.
With a full tank of fuel we set off in record time from the Bush2Beach offices in Arusha at 07.50!! Alas, within 20 k.m as Ingrid and I discussed matters with racing minds, we begun to discover what each of us had forgotten. Majorly important items such as the Coffee plunger, ground coffee, spare car inverter for the work we were not going to do on lap tops!! Flash light, carpentry tools for the work that I was not going to do on our 4 year beach house project!!
As the distance grew between us and Arusha we got lost in our own thoughts and marched on devouring the k.m and tarmac that stretched out before us – 476km to be precise. The landscape however on the whole is rewarding with the Pare Mountains and eastern arc mountains (Usamabara’s) keeping us company right through to Tanga region and our final small roadside town known as Muheza with a standing joke amongst the expat community of being the Chipsi Mayai capital of the world! ( 2 x eggs fried on top of oil soaked soggy chips / French fries). Although your dietician or personal trainer would be giving you an ear bashing for succumbing to such culinary delights, Chipsi Mayai can be found anywhere, anytime, anyplace and fills the hole as one would put it.
Pangani, the wild Swahili coast, Saadani National Park and the ruins of Bagamoyo would be the ticks you would want to put on your hit list of destinations following the coast in a Southern direction. Tanga town itself, in our eyes, is a non–interesting town with very little to offer, even beaches are few and far between. The sleepy village of Pangani itself, both North and South of the dividing river, is where the empty white sand beaches can be found, with a good range of choice in accommodation. From the budget traveller to those who would like to be away from it all and lavish in the comforts of more up market lodges such as The Tides Lodge, voted by the Sunday Times Travel Magazine as one of the Top 6 secret beach destinations in the world.
There are a few local guides to be found in Pangani town itself who can offer a historical Pangani-town trip and arrange boat safaris up the river or out to Maziwa Sand Island which gets completely exposed on low tides. Otherwise activities consist of pure beach relaxation, losing yourselves on endless walks on deserted, windswept beaches and watching the coming and going of the local fishing boats as they bob about on glistening horizons.
If you’ve not had enough yet of the game viewing in the Northern or Southern parks there is always Saadani National Park that offers boat safaris, walking safaris with the more traditional 4 x 4 vehicle based game viewing. Also, if timing your travels right and you are a keen fisherman, there are a handful of deep sea game boats out there to which we can assist in organising full day or half day excursions to see if you can hook into something large that patrol this coast line. I did finally hook into a very nice fish known locally as a Kole Kole which we spared no time, landing it on the BBQ for our dinner that same night. When on the beach we never get tired of sea food and finally Ingrid mastered the art of cooking Octopus without having to flog the thing 100 times as the village’s state.
So with our 8 days up in Pangani with plenty of relaxing time a little work in both departments (safaris and carpentry) we headed for the cooler climate of Amani Nature reserve.
Amani Nature Reserve
This is what is best described as the slower pace of safari – time schedules are almost non-existent although if you are a birder then 06.30 is the time to be heading out with the dawn chorus. We spent our two nights at Emau hill Forest Camp, an eco-friendly lodge nestled on the edge of the forest reserve with a selection of budget tents to mid-size permanent tents and the new addition of the eco-chalet which Steve and Pia were kind enough to reserve for our stay in the lush forest surroundings.
There are rest-houses run by the reserve themselves but they lack the cosiness of Emau hill and are quite basic including the meals that are available. The star attraction, other then the dog whose name is nguvu (meaning strong in Ki-Swahili), was Martin Joho, Steve and Pia’s relief person, who keeps an eye on things when they are not around.
Martin has an interesting tale to tell and being born in Amani has a wealth of local fascinating history about the reserve. He works, when not free-lance birding, for the Wildlife Conservation Society of Tanzania and has been conducting bio-diversity studies and research for the last 12 years in and around Armani. He was 12 years old when he first took a liking to the feathered variety of birds and later married and had children who live down in the chipsi mayai capital of the world. We enjoyed Martins Company for the morning whilst he reeled off 25 bird species – see at the bottom of this post- it would have taken me half a day to identify 3 of them!! Martin has a particular interest in the Long Billed Tailor bird – Artisornis ( Orthotomus ) Moreaui which he has been tracking and researching since 2002!
This species of forest warbler lives only between 900 and 1100metres of altitude and there has never been a recorded nest sighting which is somewhat alarming, with numbers hovering between 150 and 200 individuals identified in the last 9 years. There has been some recent research being conducted in the far Eastern Pare Mountains but due to the difficult accessibility of this remote area there have been no real major discoveries to date. Martin and his team will continue to conduct their research trying to learn more about this indigenous species, habitat and whereabouts.
His knowledge of his birth place is not limited to birds, chameleons and frogs. The towering forest that surrounds the upper reaches of the reserve is amazing and truly empowering to wander in silence through these giants that are once again gaining a foothold in the soils of Amani. We learnt that German researches who back in the 50’s, after heavy logging during the colonial period, began a research centre focusing their efforts on exotic trees and plants.
There was/is a particular tree “Cephalosphaela” which had been heavily wiped out during that period due to the timber yield that one specimen could produce. “Cephalosphaela “shrive once that get to saplings stage where upon the race for the sun filtering through the canopy far above. However they are a fragile tree that needs the cover of other foliage in order to get through the nurturing stages and reach adult hood. In the 50’s due to much clear felling the skies where leafless and “Cephalosphaela “ suffered during this period to recover.
This is when the researchers introduced “Maesophis Eminiithat “ a fast growing introduced specimen that did exactly that for “Cephalosphaela” this all looked good for 20 to 30 years but due to “Maesophis Eminiithat “ being a fruit-bearing tree that the resident Silver cheeked and Trumpeter hornbill are partial to, the seeds were and are being spread out over a large area of Armani, both in and out of the reserve causing a bloom of this very distinctive tree. There was talk to remove the alien species but as for now, due to the fruit or rather the seed and edible oils it produces being discovered, it is harvested on a commercial basis, the “Maesophis Eminiithat “ still stands tall and proud amongst the other towering giants.
Nicely relaxed and with my bird list now accurately documented we bid farewell to the staff of Amani, and continued toward once again another hidden attraction along the Usamabara mountain ranges. In the past we have based all our walking safaris around Lushoto, but with the establishment of Mambo view point Eco-lodge we set our compass to be hosted and well fed by Herman and Marian, the Dutch founders and owners of this spectacular location.
Marian and Herman have achieved great things over the last 3 years. We met them in the early stages after their arrival to Tanzania where upon they contacted us due to our own sustainable cultural program and foundation The African Roots Foundation. Their tourism ideas and ethnics fell in line with what we at Bush2Beach have been promoting from the beginning of our existence and after two failed attempts to make the journey up to the dizzy heights of Mambo view point, we finally made it. A scenic 2 hour mountain drive with more corners and switchbacks than I can ever remember driving upon; one would certainly give this location a high ranking of being away from the crowds!!
It is 4 x 4 country or local buses/taxi’s that frequent the scattered hill side villages, these communities survive by tilling the land in terrace and valley farming practise. The drive revealing one of the biggest garden of Eden that we ever did see, simple but ingenious at the same time. Without going into to too many details Mambo view point, they work closely with the villages and have been doing wonderful things over the last few years with their community based projects -for more information on their current projects and future ones please click to www.mamboviewpoint.org.
This is truly a walkers paradise, or simply a place to chill and soak in the enormity of it all. If you would like Bush2beach to design a variation of the Hidden Trail then we highly recommend that you allow 2-3 nights here. We know too well what it is like to be on safari and although the rewards of seeing amazing wildlife and the stunning scenery that Tanzania National Parks have to offer, the key to a successful rewarding safari is allowing time to simple stop.
Wildlife Safaris, for those who have not ventured out to the Tanzania bush, start early. This is the best time for game viewing and although you are for the majority confined to a safari vehicle you will find at the end of the day you are comfortably weary. Places such as Mambo view point the Usamabara mountains, Amani nature reserve and of course the Pangani Coast line, allow you to pull the pin on forward motion to the next destination ensuring that your holiday is just that and you are refreshed and regenerated from your time amongst the cool mountain air or ocean breezes. We assure you the views are stunning and what better place to catch up on your favourite novel for a lazy afternoon.
Well food for thought and a little different train from the latest wildebeest migration that is always flooding Tanzania’s latest news story. For more information to our custom made safaris tailored and crafted to your personal interest please drop us a mail to learn what is possible in a giving time.
For an idea of a customised “Hidden Trail”, have a look at this itinerary…
And finally, the Amani Nature-Reserve bird-list from our time spent with Martin Joho:
- Uluguru Violet backed Sunbird
- Purple banded Sunbird
- Olive Sunbird
- Coloured Sunbird
- Paradise flycatcher
- Green headed Oriole
- White Eared Barbet
- Grey backed Bleating Warbler ( Camaroptera)
- Black Backed puff back
- African Citril
- Yellow bellied wax bill
- Common Wax Bill
- Yellow white eye
- Silver cheeked Hornbill
- Trumpeter Hornbill
- African Harrier Hawk
- Mountain Buzzard
- Shelley’s Greenbul
- Cabanis Bunting
- Pin tailed Whydah
- Mottled Spinetail
- Fishers Turaco
- Red backed Mannikin