Monthly Archives: October 2015

Rainy Days on the Beach

The rainy season has definitely begun and although we’ve had some good weather we’ve had our fair share of showers too! 

 Our hired tent is sheltered under a tin roof and fitted with proper beds, we have a covered porch / verandah and the weather has remained warm. The kids’ tents are standard but come with bedding and are dry enough although one has transferred to a second tent under a thatched roof following some heavier rain yesterday. 

We have been to adjacent beach every day and swam most days. Yesterday we had a new experience having gone down to the beach, when a thunderstorm hit with torrential rain. We stayed in throughout watching the water bubble as the droplets bounced on the lake’s surface. It was dramatic enough in the skies above but calm on the sheltered waters of the bay. We watched the many Cichlids darting about amongst the rocks and waited for the storm to pass – we were no wetter in the water as we would have been be on land. 

The weather cleared to give sunny evening and a sunset viewed from one of the terraces here at Jakobsen’s Beach, where we had a BBQ. 

Some mornings have been very lazy as the rain has lingered from the crack of dawn to  mid-morning. Today Friday has been one such day and I write this beneath a small Banda just as the rain has subsided. 

Other mornings I have been up with the lark (as I do when camping) exploring the site and listening to the exotic bird calls eminating from the thickets and trying to grab a photo or two. Down on the beach dragonflies, damselflies and butterflies (in many colours) have danced about on the sand in the sun.  

We have ventured into Kigoma a couple of times to get provisions, but mainly (unusually for us here in Africa) we have stayed in one place and relaxed. Tomorrow we return on the long drive back to Mwanza. Reflecting back on the whole experience has been peaceful calm and very relaxing. I would certainly recommend Jakobsen’s Beach, if you’re ever in the vicinity. 


Election Issues

It seems that the results of the Tanzanian election are in doubt – the EU have declared the results are not credible and there is violence in Zanzibar.Mwanza is peaceful at the moment though there was tear gas earlier in the week.  The opposition leader Lowassa has also rejected the result. At the moment  Kigoma is peaceful – it remains to be seen what will happen in the days. 

 Troubling times in Tanzania

Zebra for Breakfast!

There are not many places you can go in the world where you can encounter wild zebras close up and on foot. Jakobsen’s Beach is one such place. How they arrived here is a mystery – the nearest game parks are a few hundred miles or so to the north and south of Kigoma, but a few years ago a small group of zebras found Jakobsen’s Beach and decided to stay. 

Every morning we wake up to the site of these magnificent creatures feasting on the lawn of the neighboring cottage – there are four in total in this mini-herd three females and a young male. Each zebra pattern is unique like a finger print apparently.

The owner tells us that he is in contact with the Jane Goodhall institute with a view to making Jakobsen’s Beach a sanctuary area. Apparently this would involve fencing off the property to keep them in. At the moment they can wander off and we have seen them close to the edge of the property near to the road.
It seems strange to see zebras in a forest – they would normally be associated with savannah but they survive happily here. They roam the site in search of grass and the accommodation areas have plenty to offer (and give us a good view too!). They slao supplimrnt this with seed pods they eat eithin the forest areas. 

 So every morning we enjoy the sight of zebra for breakfast and although the group is small, since inbreeding is not apparently a problem in zebras their presence here seems assured for time to come. 



Kigoma town is smaller than Mwanza and it’s commercial centre comprises a road leading up from the Railway Station. Kigoma is the end of the line for the train which runs from Dar Es Salaam via Tabora.

Near the station in the trees are hundreds of fruit bats hanging like black fruit from the trees. Easily scared they swarm in great flocks above the town. 

Kigoma has no large supermarket unlike Mwanza but does have small dukas selling a variety of goods. Even so it has a lot less to offer the ex-pat than Mwanza which suddenly seems a lot more westernised.   

The town has a bustling market area with fruit and veg sellers “cheek by jowl” with vitenge (cloth) sellers. 

The material here is more varied than in Mwanza incorporating Burundian and Congolese styles as well as Tanzanian. 

 There are Bijaji everywhere here and no piki piki that we have seen – Mwanza seems out of step with other towns as Bijaji are common in places like Moshi too.  

There are some nice hotels here such as the Hilltop Hotel where we ate last night (a little pricey but some good food). The hotel has an amazing view of the lake,  a fabulous pool (we didn’t swim) and its  very own herd of zebra. 


“Dr Livingstone I Presume”

This is the famous phrase uttered by Henry Stanley when he met David Livingstone back in 1871.

Until today I knew the phrase exchanged between the two explorers but not the location or even the reason why it was uttered. 

The place they met is now a museum in Ujiji a small town south of Kigoma. Though  overshadowed by Kigoma now, Ujiji was the major town at the time and on the shores of Lake Tangyanika, though now the waters have receded 500m due in part to population growth and in part due to seismic disturbance.

David Livingstone was on his third trip to Africa and the famous explorer /abolishionist had been living in Tanzania for 5 years. In Britain he was thought dead and Stanley was sent to find out if this was true. After months of travel he finally found Livinsone under a Mano Tree in Ujiji, wher he proclaimed the famous phrase 

“Doctor Livingstone I Presume”.

The mango tree is long gone and even two of four replacements have died but there is a monument and two remaining trees. 

 There is also a museum dedicated to the region and the explorers – it’s small but worth a visit.

We spent the afternoon here before returning for  a cooling dip in the lake.

Jakobsen Beach

Sunday 25th October

Jakobsen Beach and Guesthouse is located on the outskirts of Kigoma on the shores of Lake Tangyanika. Owned by a Norwegean couple this place is remote even with it’s proximity to the town.  

 Twenty years ago the land was bare, they have planted some trees, but most has self seeded to form a jungle. Bird life abounds and though much is unseen there are some  amazing sounds emanating from the branches. We have seen a palm nut vulture, giant kingfisher, tropical boubou among others today. 

 We are staying in a bedded tent set in a jungle clearing. The kids have a standard tent each with mattress provided. 


 There are other options including self-catering chalets, a  guesthouse and you can even bring your own tent and camp. Here we are very much  at one with nature – other than birdsong there is the sound of cicadas and crickets. There are monkeys in the trees and this morning we woke to the snorts of a small herd of zebra feeding nearby.  





 This group of four are descended from some who wandered here a few years back and made themselves at home here. The monkeys are cute to watch as they jump from branches and onto the roof. They were really keen on grabbing our food and almost got to a jar of biscuits today when we weren’t looking.  

 Today is Election Day in Tanzania and so we have stayed onsite rather than venturing out into town. We have instead relaxed on the covered porch outside the tent and by the lake. There are two small beaches here with bandas dotted along the shore. The water is pleasantly warm and crystal clear – we took the opportunity to take a dip. The weather today was pleasantly sunny in the afternoon after a morning which promised rain and delivered thunder but nothing else. 





There were some amazing butterflies on the beach in a variety of colours.


In the evening after we had cooked dinner we wandered up the hill to grab a soda and play cards. It’s quiet here and the lack of phone signal means we spend much less time on digital devices which is refreshing. However, it does delay these blog posts, which will await a trip to Kigoma tomorrow.


The Road To Kigoma

Saturday 23rd October

We’re ‘upping sticks’ and heading out of Mwanza- for the week that is. It’s half term (mid-term) break and co-inciding with the election as it does makes it an excellent time to escape Mwanza (an opposition (Chedema) stronghold where some folk may not take kindly to losing). It was a good day to get up and leave town early as in the last day of the campaign the President, an ex-President and the man who would be president were coming to town to campaign for the governing party (CCM).

We were out at 4:30am packed for a week in Kigoma on the shores of Lake Tangyanika.  It’s a long journey estimated at 10 hours but in reality more like 16 with stops and this time unlike our journey from Lake Victoria to Victoria Falls we’re taking the car.

The journey  takes us from Mwanza to Shinyanga and on to Nzega and Tabora where we turn right and head across country to Kigoma.

Our early start allows us to make a good pace out of Mwanza, though the road is not good to begin with. Once into open country we cross the plain towards  Shinyanga and the road improves, though the frequent villages mean we need to keep switching from 80kph to 50kph at regular intervals. None of this seems to deter the coaches one of which regularly passes us at 100 kph only to be overtaken by us when it stops, as it does regularly, on the route. 

 We stop for Chai and Chapatti at a local stall just south of Shinyanga – so far no police have stopped us (a regular pastime seems to be stopping car drivers and demanding money for a spurious infringement whether it can be justified or not). 

 Beyond Shinyanga we are surprised to find they are building a new Tarmac road – this is the first road building program we have seen in Tanzania -at first the road is slow as the surface is newly gritted but soon we are zooming along.  It is the first time we have taken our car (ANA Gari) on a long trip, but newly serviced ‘she’ is behaving herself. The road takes us all the way into Tabora and on out towards Kigoma. This is so much better than we had expected and we make excellent pace, fewer villages and 100kph limits really help eat the miles. 

 We get about a quarter of the way from Tabora to Kigoma before the road stops and we are on a mud road. This has been graded and although the rippled ridges give it the feel of driving on a washboard  we are able to travel well, though oncoming lorries  and coaches tend to hog the road and we share it with bicycles and pedestrians many of whom tend to meander the roadway as they seek the best route. 

We cross the railway line many times on our route and on one occasion this passes nearby a market where we are able to source some provisions (we are self-catering this week). We also grab some late lunch at a local cafe (beans and rice and meat followed by banana). 

 The road is dusty and the aforementioned lorries kick up plumes which gets everywhere and coats everything. We travel like this for an hour then suddenly the road diverts and we see the next phase of construction of the new road alongside for many miles. 

 Finally we are allowed on and we have the luxury of Tarmac. This road lasts a long while but suddenly reverts to mud. The road keeps swapping from mud to Tarmac to mud over the remainder of our journey in 20-30km stretches. One such piece of Tarmac is possibly the best road we’ve been in here an excellent stretch which ends quite suddenly after Kikwete Bridge (named after the current President). We imagine this was built for him so the bridge could be opened before he returned by helicopter. This excellent road both starts and finishes in the middle of nowhere.

Talking politics we encounter numerous rallies along our route representing Chedema, CCM and a third party ACT which seems stronger in this region than elsewhere. 

 The land either side of the road is jungle forest but there is evidence of mild deforestation – the people here ‘harvest’ the wood and burn it to make charcoal- there are bags of it along the roadside and these enormous sacks are loaded onto bikes and pedaled off.  

 Late afternoon dust turns to mud on the muddier road as the aftermath of rain take its toll – we have had little rain ourselves but there’s been a lot. Then it’s back to Tarmac and the last leg of our journey into Kigoma.

This takes much longer than it seems on the map – that last stretch of a journey always does. In the pitch black we arrive in Kigoma and sought out Jakobsen’s Beach – not the easiest place to locate in a the dark. After a couple of lost turns and a little more luck than judgement we finally stumble on the road to our accommodation. This road quickly becomes a dirt track which almost disappears into a ditch at one point – we persevere and finally find our place. We’re here for a week in a bedded tent, self-catering. Untypical of recent holidays we’re not going far but after a 16 hour journey to get here- not that I’m complaining.

Election Fever

It’s almost upon us – in three days time the country will decide and so will end months of rallies and political speeches.

The country will vote in local elections, for MPs and for a new President. There are a number of parties (including ACT) but in reality there are two main parties CCM and Chedema. 

 The ruling party CCM have never lost an election and have governed Tanzania since independence in 1962 – Nyerere’s party is probably likely to win again but….

  Locally Chedema is popular and won the election  5 years ago. Mwanza is firmly in opposition territory and along with Moshi, Mbeya and Arusha are likely to vote the same way again. 

Indeed a former leader of CCM has defected to Chedema and has made this election much closer to call than anticipated.  


 It is difficult to know what might happen after the results are announced  next Wednesday. Last time there were some problems in town and many ex-pats are leaving for the week – traveling overseas or to quiet parts of the country. We too are heading out of town (but in country) of which more in a later post.

As I write here a noisy rally is taking place nearby- in fact the two Presidential candidates have spent a lot of time here in the last fortnight. Each day trucks loaded up with speakers troll the roads blasting out messages from as early as 7am.  



 The crowds at both Chedema and CCM rallies have been joyous and good natured from what we have seen so far but will that change when inevitably one of these parties lose the election. Some doommongers predict dire consequences in the post- election fallout others are more relaxed feeling nothing will happen. In reality it will probably be somewhere in between.


Recently I traveled inland away from the lake to Shinyanga – this town  is a few hundred kilometers from Lake Victoria and the differences were stark.

The landscape was arid and dry and the trees were almost autumnal in look – dried and parched leaves decorated the branches but more noticeable were the vast array of seedpods dangling in the breeze.

The beobab trees by contrast were coming into leaf and even had some fruits hanging.

Across the dusty landscape cattle roamed in herds seeking out water. Many river banks were completely dry but others had pools of water dwindling in the sun ahead of the incumbent rainy season.

A Place to Lay Your Head

Accommodation is provided by the school, rent free. We are lucky to live in a great house on the compound and we really like it. Having said all that the sofa has always been a little uncomfortable, wooden arms and thin foam seats make your arms ache and your bum numb fairly quickly.

In the UK we had an L-shaped corner sofa which allowed us to lay out and relax of an evening. It’s one of the things we miss.IMG_5570

At Easter whilst traveling through Uganda we came across this great coffee place in Mbale, for seating they used pallets stacked and topped with foam cushions – the seating was great.

06 Mbale (31)

So we had an idea- find some pallets and get a ‘Fundi’ to make some cushions – hey presto a new (and cheap) sofa.

The first thing we needed was to source the pallets. A chance conversation with the husband of a colleague gave us a solution. His company regularly receive goods on pallets and they were just thrown away. So we arranged that next time pallets were delivered we would get some.

I arrived home last Friday to find a stack of pallets in the garden – so game on!

The first job was to arrange the pallets into a frame upon which to make the sofa.


Saturday, we headed to town to find material to make the cushions – there is a place to buy foam nearby and we started there.

Sadly the foam was completely inappropriate and we moved on – as we did so we exchanged greeting with a guy who turned out to be a businessman who in cconversation it turned out knew a man who knew a man who knew a man who could make our furniture. Through a series of meetings over the next hour we arranged to have the furniture made at a very reasonable cost.

Our guy knew where to get the best foam and good sofa covering – so over the next two hours we went around town procuring the materials.

Our fundi (a word meaning worker) was able to construct the sofa over two days and so it began. He brought across his manual sewing machine and over the two days he modified the pallets, cut the foam and made the covers.


We have many interesting and striking birds visit our garden, but perhaps the most striking of them all is a recent arrival on our compound. This bird – the Black-Headed Gonolek is about the size of a UK blackbird but with the most vivid red breast. There are a pair of birds here and other than their striking plumage they are extremely vocal with an array of calls.


Praying at the Breakfast Table

Eating breakfast at the bench on our verandah this morning noticed a tiny insect – I was about to swat it away as you do when I realized what it was – a Praying Mantis. Thankfully it hung around long … Continue reading


Weekly Photo Challenge: Boundary Lizards

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Boundaries.”

We saw these lizards whilst  waiting to go into a swimming pool at a Diamond Mine in Shinyanga .They were clinging to the walls in the hot sun.

P.S.  It’s a long story – but sad to say  after a long wait we were’nt allowed in!