Monthly Archives: February 2015

Rubondo Retrospective: Game Drive/Long Drive

Another early start for our third and last day on Rubondo as we embarked on a morning game drive. A chance first to catch the sunrise.

We had arranged for two vehicles to drive us around the island. We were in search of the exotic (Chimps, Elephant, Giraffe) all resident on the island.

Our first encounters were fleeting glimpses of waterbuck, roadside monkeys, the odd bird and loads of butterflies (elusive to photo as ever!). Then we came across a hippo grazing on land, not the first hippo we had seen but the closes we had been to one on dry land. Here it was, surrounded by swooping swallows, quite unperturbed by our presence.


Leaving the hippo we headed along overgrown roads in search of elephants, we got close and could hear them trumpeting close by, but never saw them, sadly.


We stopped by the coast and photographed the bird life before heading off in search of giraffe, all we saw was more bushbuck. At a small settlement we stopped once more and observed some tame bushbuck and marabou storks. The giraffes were up in the hills and were not going to be coming down.

As we approached the end of our drive we had seen hippos, monkeys, waterbuck, butterflies and birds but little else not even a Sitatunga. So a final diversion via the airport to glimpse the elusive antelope then home.

On arrival it was time to pack up and head out. We had had an enjoyable time on the island.

The boat trip was only an hour coming back and then we were on the road, passing pineapple plantations and bikes loaded with the fruits. On route we learned that the Busisi Ferry was now running, allowing us to drive tarmac from Geita to Mwanza. This shortened our journey time considerably. At the ferry port we passengers disembarked and our drivers waited with the cars. The way things work is that buses and lorries take priority over cars, such that our driver ( a colleague) had to wait back and catch the next ferry. Luckily the wait was not too long and we were soon back on the road to Mwanza, the end of a great three days away.

Rubondo Retrospective: Day 2 – Walking The Island

Day two of our trip to Rubondo started early as I woke in search of a good sunrise. The weather was a little cloudy with a distant storm across the lake and the sound of hippos in the bay.

One disappointment was the lack of birdlife – having been told Rubondo was a haven for birds we had seen few.

The day ahead was to consist of a morning walking safari followed by an afternoon boat safari. As Anita was a little under the weather she stayed behind, two of our part had gone fishing leaving 10 to head out into the jungle. In truth we saw little in the first hour or two, though the scenery was pleasant an there were plenty of butterflies and beetles. After a a couple of hours we reached a lookout with some great views over the lake and a nearby lagoon We stopped for rest and then proceeded down to the we travelled we were near deafened by the sound of cicadas chirping in the trees. We them emerged at the shoreline. Here was another lookout tower which gave a much closer look at the self-same lagoon we had seen earlier. Here open billed storks, egrets, ibis and other water birds gathered. Then in the lake we spotted them – crocodiles. Moving cautiously to get a closer look at the still distant reptiles we came to marshy ground. We watched for several minutes as one of the crocs hauled itself onto land and gaped. It was an  enormous beast even from a distance.

As we turned to leave, we saw another creature feeding behind us in the long grass, a hippo. The round beast fed forces while and then spotted us between it and the water. We moved a little to one side and took some snaps , one amazing  picture of the hippo looking straight ahead with a running bushbuck behind. The hippo turned back into the trees!

Our journey back to camp took us past an area of burned out boats (poacher boats which had been confiscated and then purposely damaged, their occupants presumably arrested and sent to court).

Returning to out base we discovered to put disappointment that the boat safari was cancelled due to rough water. A change of plan meant a relaxed afternoon and a decision to do a Game Drive in our last day.

After the hippos of the night before tonight we spotted the reflecting eyes of crocs in the bay. West by the fire and watched as one approached and from a distance came shore enticed by a fish head.

The crocodile at close quarters was awesome. It was still enough to get some good low exposure pics, but stealhily every 10 miins or so as torch light moved elsewhere it approached. Eventually fearing it was getting too close the reptile was warded off by fire and slunk back into the water.

Another early night for all as the Game Drive wass to be at the start of our last day

Rubondo 19 Feb (323)


Weekly Photo Challenge: Reward (A Leopard)

A submission to this week’s photo challenge Reward. Taken on the last day of our Safari in the Serengeti, after hours of looking a site of a leopard.


Four Seasons, One Tree

The tree outside my classroom is currently exhibiting all four seasons. Autumn, Winter, Spring and Summer.  Branches bare, in bud, in leaf and losing leaf. Such are the trees of the tropics

Rubondo Retrospective : Day 1 Journey There

We were up early for our journey to Rubondo. There were 13 of us going. The families of two other colleagues, a couple of friends of one colleague (over from Scotland) and ourselves, squeezed into two cars along with luggage

Our journey to Rubondo would take several hours and require two crossings of Lake Victoria. This lake on our doorstep is enormous (at 68,800 km² – the second largest fresh water lake on the planet). Our first journey was a short one into town to Mwanza docks to get the Kamanga ferry. This ferry was not our first choice, as the road beyond was somewhat rough and unsurfaced. However, the other ferry ( to Kikongo) was out of action due to a mechanical failure, and it’s tarmac road therefore unavailable.

We arrived at the docks in the dark, just as one ferry had departed, which meant an hour and a half wait as dawn rose. Even so it was a great opportunity to grab some pictures of dawn on the lake.

The ferry arrived and we boarded, foot passengers first, then if there was room drivers with cars, luckily our drivers were able to get on board to. Then we crossed the straights enjoying the early morning sunshine and the sites of Lake Victoria accompanied by Hot Chai and Mandazi (donuts).

Once across it was onto the dirt road via Kamanga to Geita, the last part being tarmacked. From Geita we took the dirt road to Nkome. This was the same village Anita had visited in January, but also our mainland destination. As we travelled we passed numerous Pineapple plantations, obviously the region is a major source of these fruits. In Nkome we made our way to the National Park offices where we were to pick up the boat which would transport us to Rubondo Island. The journey from Mwanza to Nkome took about three hours, adding in our earlier ferry crossing and wait it was about 6 hours from departure to Nkome.

We unpacked the cars and our luggage and 13 passengers were loaded onto the boat for our 90 minute cruise to Rubondo. Considering we had only travelled across the Southern  coastal part of the lake, it had given us a real feel of it’s enormity. This part of the lake is dotted with Islands of various sizes, which we passed by on our journey to Rubondo. Many of the islands are inhabited with small fishing communities and farmers. Rubondo itself is the largest island at about 237 km², it is 26km long and between 3km and 10km wide. Our base was the Bandas about 2/3 way up the Island.

The Bandas are set in a wide bay with great views of the Lake and it’s wildlife. There are a number of partially submerged trees  ( a sign of the lake’s rising waters), home to some black weaver birds (Viellot’s Black Weaver) and several Cormorants. We spent the afternoon exploring and  relaxing. The accommodation was comfortable and reasonable. There was no electricity in the daytime, but this was not a problem. As we sat in the loungers on the beach front we could here the sound of hippos in the lake and spotted a few groups enjoying the afternoon. As afternoon turned to evening we prepared our evening meal having gone to onsite shop in search of a few provisions. In truth, the cooking facilities were a little basic (like a youth hostel) and not terribly clean, although adequate for simple meals. The shop was very basic and although we had bought a few essentials with us ,we were counting on having a little more.

After dinner of vegetable dal (lentils cooked with onion, garlic and tomato) we went outside to see the hippos which had come ashore to graze. Even in the pale moonlight these were impressive creatures. After a long day and a lot of travelling we retired to bed at about 9:30. Just before bed we got a chance to admire the stars above us – with no light pollution an amazing site to behold.


Living by Candlelight

A day without power today. We woke up to a power cut this morning which lasted about 40min. Power stabilised for a couple of hours until mid-morning. Then after an intense storm the power went off again and there it has remained off. I imagine this is due to fallen trees and broken power lines, but it’s possibly our longest cut yet.

So here we sit in candlelight – taking me back too the UK of my childhood in the 1970’s. This post is via 3G (millennial technology!) so this may take some time.

Six Months in Tanzania

Six months have come and in our new Tanzanian home. We landed in Mwanza on 22nd August and so our first full day here was the 23rd. Half a year on I share some of the pictures which have been part of our time here. For those on Facebook I have shared something similar but some different pics here.


Getting our bearings and making new friends.

September – Start of term, Nature, Malaika Beach

October – Travelling beyond Mwanza (Camping and Serengeti)

November – Birthdays, Fairs, Wag Hill and The Rains

December – Zanzibar and Christmas

January – More birthdays

February- Rubondo

Rubondo: Bird Island

In addition to the Hippos and Crocodiles there is a wealth of birdlife on Rubondo.  Here are some of the ones we saw and were able to photograph.

We had hoped to do a boat safari which sadly was cancelled due to the swell, otherwise we might have seen more.

Rubondo: Crocodile Island

Having just returned from Rubondo Island in Lake Victoria the second of a couple of short posts. A longer written account will follow in the coming days.

The waters of Rubondo are home to crocodiles as well as hippos. On our second day we saw some enormous crocs on our Walking Safari.Rubondo 20 Feb (179) Rubondo 20 Feb (194)-1

Then in the evening after our meal we spotted a croc in the lake it’s two eyes reflecting back the torch light. It drew closer as we watched and by means of a fish head left over from a meal we encouraged it ashore. We managed to get some great shots of the enormous reptile which just sat there for over half an hour.Rubondo 20 Feb (336)-38

Rubondo 20 Feb (348)-45

Rubondo: Hippo Island

Having just returned from Rubondo Island in Lake Victoria the first of a couple of short posts. A longer written account will follow in the coming days.

Our location on Rubondo was the Lakeside Bandas from which we could here and see Hippos out in the waters. As dusk approached they ventured nearer and nearer the shoreline and after dark came on land to graze.

Rubondo 19 Feb (315)-10 We were lucky enough to see them with the aid of torchlight.
Rubondo 19 Feb (331)-1

Our second day’s walking safari gave us a second glimpse of this amazing beast and a nearby waterbuck.

Rubondo 20 Feb (205)

Today’s game drive allowed us one last viewing of the beast.

Rubondo 21 Feb (76)Rubondo really is a Hippo Island.


Hippo and Crocs on Rubondo

No real signal here so text only. Fabulous to see Hippos just off shore at Rubondo and to see them come to shore after dark to feed on the grass just outside our Bandas and then last night an enormous Croc on the beach.

Beautiful But Elusive

Recently in our garden we have started to see a lot of butterflies but capturing them on film is really hard. In particular we have started to see Swallow Tail Butterflies.

Yesterday I was finally able to capture it ………………….. on Film!

Zanzibar Retrospective: Safari at Sea

Another retrospective from our Zanzibar holiday with added pictures from our camera. On one day we took a trip out to sea on an Ocean Safari. The original post is here.

The day consisted of snorkeling, a trip to a coral lagoon, a sand bank and an island where we ate lunch. However. the highlight of the day was seeing dolphins in the wild.