Friday we took off for a one night safari at Mikumi Game Park. Although it is supposedly the dry season, we had a bit of rain both days. The nice side of this was that it was nice and cool. As you can see in these photos, we saw some pretty fantastic animals!
A few pictures from the Mafia Island trip. We took a small plane to the island; on the way back I got to sit in the co-pilots seat. The hotel had multi-course meals… so easy to gain weight while on vacation.
The dive boat was a dhow, a traditional sailing / fishing boat. We motored out to dive sites and then sailed back. Our diving was done at the Mafia Island Marine Park, and it was absolutely fantastic. Turtles (my first ever to see while diving), sharks, moray eels, sting rays, soft coral, and thousands and thousands of fish of all sizes.
Swimming with the whale sharks was on the last day, an it was outstanding. I first read about whale sharks in National Geographic years ago, and have since wanted to see them. Of course this means being in the right place at the right time. I’ve included two pictures of me swimming with the whale sharks. In the first one you can see the spots on the whale shark. In the second you can see its first dorsal fin.
The smallest of the whale sharks were 2-3 meters in length, and, as our guide said, “Are like human children: fast and impossible to keep up with.” The largest whale sharks were around 10 meters in length, and I could swim next to them for a bit of time. I was swimming right next to the head of a particularly large one and it’s eye kept moving with me. Kind of wild to be watched so closely by such a large creature that is within an arm’s reach. Another time I was watching the full length of a large one slide by and did not quite make it out of the way of its tail…though not sharp, it was hard and I have a bruise on my shin… a bruise that I am not all that disappointed about. If you ever get a chance, do not pass up the opportunity to see these magnificent creatures!
Mafia Island was fantastic. Great diving. Good food. Unbelievable whale sharks. The only two down-sides were that I caught mom’s cold the day we flew to the island and that the reason for the island’s name remains a mystery. More to come later, but for now, a picture of me swimming with a whale shark.
â€œa hierarchically structured secret organization allegedly engaged in smuggling, racketeering, trafficking in narcotics, and other criminal activities in the U.S., Italy, and elsewhere.â€
For the last year I have heard about this placeâ€”Mafia Island. Of course, the first thoughts that come to mind at every mention of this place are the many movies in which the Italian mafia is featured. My mind begins to imagine an island which is run, not so discretely, by a large Italian family. At which point I wonder if travel to the island requires a gift to the patriarch of the ruling family.
This weekend I shall be traveling to Mafia Island. This trip will include two days of diving and, if everything works out, swimming with whale sharks, a marvelous creature which I have yet to set my eyes on. And, maybe, I will figure out reason for the islandâ€™s name.
It is the little things in life, the things that could go unnoticed or fade into the background, that are often the sweetest things in life. They are the spices that make the ordinary into the exotic.
Yesterday morning as I was lounging in my parentâ€™s bedroom shortly after waking, a monkey was spotted out the window. There was a thud and a scampering as he ran across the roof and jumped to the next tree. Then he was on his way as he walked the power lines away from he house.
Swimming the ocean later in the morning I decided to swim parallel to the shore as there were rumors of portuguese man-off-wars being sited further out. So, instead, I ended up seeing three small jellyfish, all below the surface and seemingly without tentacles. Given their lack of tentacles, I was able to enjoy the grace of their movement in the water.
In the past I have sometimes swum in a pool that was divided between lap lanes and free swim areas. On more than one occasion I have run into a pool toy (think swimming noodle or beach ball) that had drifted into my lane. Yesterday I nearly ran into a coconut innocently bobbing in the water.
Last night I rode home from the embassy with dad. This meant I was on the back of his scooter as we drove along the beach and the sun began to set. A glorious few moments. Later in the evening we went out again and stars were visible in the night sky as we zipped through the cool night air.
It is the little things in life.
The tide changes approximately every six hours. I say approximately, because if it was exactly six hours, high tide and low tide would be at the same time every day. But they are not. The changing tide is impacted by the position of the sun, the moon, the earthâ€™s rotation, and the shape of the sea floor. You can read more about this on Wikipediaâ€™s tide article if you want.
Here in Dar es Salaam, the timing of the tide changes by 45 min (Â± 15 min) daily, and height of a high tide can differ by a meter. Thankfully modern science enables the production of tide charts (specific to location); I reference them daily here as at low tide I can walk through the tide pools exactly where I swim during high tide as the sea floor does not drop off at any great rate. Last night this meant that I swam as the sun was low in the sky and I watched the final bit of the sunset as I dried off on the beach. I also saw a jellyfish an armâ€™s length away, but that is a story for another day.
â€œWould Pam like to crew for me in the race this afternoon?â€ That was the text (SMS) my mom received from a good friend of her and dadâ€™s yesterday around lunch time. I laughed. You see, when I was 10 and 11 years old, I learned to sail a little tiny boat called an Optimistâ€¦think of a bathtub with a sail used to teach children how to sail; I believe all skills have long been forgotten. David races a Hobie Cat, a catamaran (two hulls) that is sailed by two people. I had been on a Hobie Cat twice before: once two years ago, and once the previous weekend; no skills yet learned.
I called David back to say sure, I would crew for him, but he had to know that I was a complete beginner. No problem. It is then that I found out from my mom that David, who I knew to be gentle and soft spoken, is incredibly competitive. He enters to win, and is good. I then assure myself that I am just crewing for the weekly race at the Yacht club.
Upon arrival I get a rundown of what I am to be doing, get suited up (harness, life jacket, and gloves), and off we go for a few minutes of practice before the race. Then we are off. The wind was strong. One of the fun things about Hobie Cats is that that you have a harness, and hook yourself in so that you can stand on the edge of the hull hanging over the water in order to balance the boat when you are flying along in strong winds. Add some waves and I discover that sunglasses are not for the sun, but to protect the eyes from the splashing waves. It was a high energy blast, and I am so thankful that all I really had to do was follow Davidâ€™s instructions.
The race requires each boat to travel around buoys in a certain order. We were coming in a fairly close second as neared the last buoy. The boat in first did not go around the last buoy the correct way (went starboard rather than port, or right rather than left). This meant that they were disqualified. As David explained this to me, his smile was ear to ear for we had won. I think my smile was probably just as big.
On Friday I realized that it had been two years since I had been in the ocean. That is the longest time for me to be without ocean play since I entered the first grade. I say ocean play because I love it all. I love being at the beach and smelling the ocean in the air. I love the sound of waves crashing on the beach. I love the feel of salty water on my skin. I love to snorkel and to scuba dive. I love sail boats and boats with motors. I love to jump off cliffs that arenâ€™t too high. I love to bob in the rolling waves and body surf onto the beach in the crashing waves. I love ocean sunsets. I will take whatever I can get.
The only thing I donâ€™t love is the reality of how quickly this o-gne-bo burns in the equatorial sun amplified by the reflective ocean. But I will happily accept this problem for ocean play any day of the week.
Since I arrived a week ago, I have swum in the ocean, sailed (only a small war-wound received), scuba dived, and sat on the beach. The beach is all of five minutes from where I live, and it is glorious. I am working hard to make up for two years of no ocean play.
Henna ‘tattoos’ are made by placing the henna paste on skin, which dyes the skin a light orange / brown as the paste dries. You leave the dried paste on for as long as one desires (several hours if possible) and the wash it off leaving behind the ‘tattoo’ which can last up to 2 weeks.
I am warm. I have been hot. The sky is blue and the sun shining. I have consumed fresh mangoes, papayas, and pineapples. The ocean is warm and salty. I have drunk wine. I unpacked things.
My time in Dar has begun well.