Monthly Archives: November 2015

Weekly Photo Challenge:Transition (of a Roller)

I was thinking of what to share for this week’s Weekly Photo Challenge:Transition. I still had the photos open from our trip to Chobe in Botswana used in last week’s challenge and remembered a series of shots of a Lilac -breasted Roller landing on a branch.

This amazing bird is so colourful. It looks like a young child was given a coloring picture of a bird and used the entire box of crayons to colour it in. They live all over Eastern and Southern Africa though we have yet to see them in Mwanza.

The transition from air to land!



A Shortcut To Mushrooms

The rainy season is in full swing here in Mwanza with a downpour at some point every day at the moment. The once parched land is lush and green and plants are in full flower and birds in breeding mode.

On the borders of our garden all of a sudden mushrooms have appeared overnight – I doubt these are edible and certainly I’m not taking the risk.


The Kiswahili for mushroom is uyoga and many mushrooms is uyoga wengi.
Sadly it’s not ‘fungi wengi’ which would have been cool.

An excuse to include a clip from one of my favorite films. Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring

Weekly Photo Challenge: Chobe Trio

A submission to this week’s photo challenge  on the theme of Trio.

Last summer we spent a day in Chobe Game Reserve in Northern Botswana – you can find out more by clicking the link

We spent the morning on a River Cruise and the Afternoon on a Game Drive. Both were fantastic trips with amazing wildlife.

Early on our boat trip we came across these three Impala drinking from the river.Chobe (110)

Here are some other Trios from our day.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Trio of Intelligent Primates

A submission to this week’s photo challenge: Trio

Purchased in the Gambia on my first trip to Africa -way back in 2006 – these Three Wise Monkeys were a gift to my in-laws and were last seen on display in the kitchen.

Three Wise Monkeys

Grey-capped Warbler

This is one of a series of occasional blogs highlighting the wildlife (and often more specifically birdlife) which visits our Mwanza Garden

This recently discovered visitor is  the grey-capped warbler. A striking visitor as so many are – this one is also a noisy one.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Kingfisher Trio

In response to this werk’s photo challenge on the theme of Trio

Recently in the garden here in Mwanza.

A trio of Pied Kingfishers sitting on the electrical wires.

  …. and then one flew away

IMG_8062 (2)-0

…leaving two which flew too.

Cricket Season

I’m It’s the cricket season here in Mwanza and it has absolutely nothing to do with leather on willow…….

In fact the game hardly registers in Tanzania as far as I know – even with the resident Indian communities.

These crickets are the chirping kind of insect. The insects seem to get noisier at night. As the rains have  set in the chirping seems to have got louder, one particular individual was so loud outside our bedroom window that even the normally reliable fan failed to silence it’s chirps. Thankfully it has now moved on.  




Weekly Photo Challenge: Victory (over Terror)

This weekly photo challenge is on the theme of “Victory.”

The events of Friday evening culminating in the cold blooded murder of 129 people and countless injuries were perpetrated by a group of terrorists affiliated to ISIS, they also killed 43 people in Beirut and another 80 in Baghdad.  Many of the killings in Paris were in outdoor restaurants – this is where the events of Friday come home to me most chillingly.

Given the events of recent days in Paris, Beirut and Baghdad and probably other unreported places I thought I’d post these pictures from an earlier time in Paris – a beautiful city, in honour of those who died who called this place they called home and others who died there and elsewhere.

Just over 1o years ago in October 2005, I spent a day in Paris with my parents and my own young family. It was a great day – visiting the Pompidou Centre, Notre Dame, taking a boat along the Seine and climbing the Eiffel Tower. It’s the sort of thing that I am sure many will have done last Friday.

We ended that day sitting outside in the warm Autumn air at an outside restaurant.

I imagine that Parisians are both shocked and scared and that those bars and restaurants will be much emptier this weekend. My sympathies are with all those affected by these atrocities. I don’t blame people for staying indoors and keeping a low profile. Terrorists terrorise  and they have achieved one of their aims.

I wonder how long before people return to the street cafes again?

If they do then they have declared victory over terror.

If they don’t then terror will have won the victory.

I hope that that will never happen.

Paris 102


We have two hibiscus plants in our garden, one red the other pink. They produce large flowers with ornate stamen. 

The flowers can be dried and turned into Hibiscus Tea (we don’t do this!).

This is possibly our drink of choice when not drinking coffee. You can buy it in all the supermarkets (which we do!). Rich and fruity tasting – very thirst quenching.



Weekly Photo Challenge : Ornate Cambodia

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

Nowhere does ornate as well as the Far East. I was lucky enough to spend time in Cambodia back in the summer of 2013.  The images below come from Phnom Penh where I wandered one wet rainy afternoon.

Earlier in the same trip we went to the awesome Angkor Wat temples in Siem Reap. These ancient temples are intricately ornate – even the tree roots covering the jungle temples are ornate!


When many people think of Tanzania, they probably think of the Serengeti with it’s arid plains teaming with Wildebeest and Zebra.

… or possibly Kilimanjaro’s snow capped peak.

… or maybe Zanzibar and it’s white sands and azure waters.IMG_9951

All these are amazing places and we’ve been to all three  (though we’ve yet to see Kilimanjaro’s peak personally), but Tanzania is as much defined by it’s lakes as anything else – more so in that much of it’s Western Border is Lake and a portion of it’s Northern Border too.

There are three Great Lakes here : Victoria, Tanganyika and Nyassa (more commonly known as Lake Malawi in the outside world – but not in Tanzania or Mozambeque which share it).

We have been lucky enough to visit all three in the past 15 months – in fact we live next to the largest (Lake Victoria) so we visit that one all the time.

Lake Victoria

Shared Between: Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya

Area:68,800 square kilometers (26,600 sq miles)

Lake Victoria is the world’s second largest freshwater lake by surface area; only Lake Superior in North America is larger.

Victoria is Africa’s largest lake by area, and is also the largest tropical lake in the world.

The lake is an average of 40m deep and its deepest point is 83m deep. It is therefore quite a shallow lake.

Named after Queen Victoria by it’s European discoverer John Speke it is known as Lake Nyaza in Bantu languages.

Sadly the lake’s ecosystem has been decimated by the introduction of Nile Perch and eutrophication. Thus hundreds of native cichlids have been driven to extinction in the past 50 years. The perch have no natural predator and have destroyed the natural food chains which existed. Increased algae have further choked the lake and the drop in fish population has severely damaged the fishing industry here.

The lake looks lovely but you wouldn’t swim in it’s toxic waters. Raw sewage is dumped into the lake by factories and settlements and increases the eutrophication further.

Bilharzia snails are present in high quantities and as a carrier of Shistosomiasis a potentially fatal disease if left untreated. Sadly locals do swim and wash in it, having no choice but to do so.

It’s sad that this massive body of water on our doorstep is so polluted.

Lake Tanganyika

Shared Between: Tanzania, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia

Area:32,900 square kilometers (12,700 sq miles)

We visited this beautiful lake over half term, staying near Kigoma at Jacobsen’s Beach.

It is estimated to be the second largest freshwater lake in the world by volume, and the second deepest.  It is 570m deep on average and at it’s deepest it is 1470m deep. Only Lake Baikal in Siberia is deeper and has greater volume.

It is also the world’s longest freshwater lake.

The name “Tanganyika” means “Great Lake spreading out like a plain”

Located in the Rift Valley the lake is relatively unpolluted. Over 250 species of cichlids live in the lake and 75 other species too.

Fishing is a major industry here and has impacted upon the fish.

No lake in Africa is free of Shistosomiasis but it seems to be low level/ risk  in Tanganyika unlike Victoria. We will take praziquantel to be certain but you have to wait a couple of months.

Lake Nyassa (Lake Malawi)

Shared Between: Tanzania, Malawi and Mozambique

Area:29,600 square kilometers (11,400 sq miles)

We visited this lake in the summer travelling from Mbamba Bay in Tanzania to Likoma Islands on to Monkey Bay in Malawi.

It is the ninth largest lake in the world and the third largest and second deepest lake in Africa.

It has a depth of 292m on average with a maximum of 706m.

It’s over 1000 species of cichlids makes it very bio diverse. It has in fact the most variety of species of any lake.

The lake is subject to a border dispute with slaw I claiming the entire lake up to the shore of Tanzania whilst Tanzania claims the border is in the middle of the lake.

It is probable that the lake contains Shistosomiasis and slthough we were assured otherwise and although we did swim in it’s clear waters at both Likoma and Monkey Bay we have taken medication to be safe.

Three Great Lakes – all different in their own way and all part of Tanzania.


Weekly Photo Challenge: Ornate Feathered Friends

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

My first offering from the many birds encountered here in Eastern and Southern Africa.

Pictures from Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi, Zambia and Botswana

Two Days at Kipepeo

It’s gone far too quickly but we’ve had a couple of days here on Kipepeo Beach Village just South of Dar Es Salaam.  

  A night here staying B&B in a chalet for paying guests is $85 (£56) which makes it a little more than a Travel Inn back in the UK, but a little pricey for us. However, we won the stay here in a silent auction earlier this year so it has been a little luxury for a fraction of the price, our bid was 30000TZS (£9.31). Cheap flights bought well in advanced added little more to our costs overall.

We have stayed in a two storey beach chalet. Locally made these stilted chalets have an upstairs bedroom with a balcony overlooking a forested area and ground floor shower/toilet. 

From the balcony it has been possible to see all manner of bird life including bee-eaters, tinker birds, bou bous, batises as well as the ubiquitous bul buls, mousebirds and sparrow. 

 The houses are sited at the rear of the complex through a tree-lined “tunnel” which is illuminated at night.


 The main beach complex consists of a bar/restaurant and a beach front lines with mwanvuli (thatched umbrellas).  







 South Beach is the best beach to be at not least because the current runs South to North here so that none of pollution of Dar comes this way. 
  The sand is white, the sea azure blue, small islands on the horizon and in truth an ugly red tanker off-shore, a reminder of our proximity to the natural deep water harbour of Dar Es Salaam. 
Even so the tanker does not detract too much and the waters are lovely and warm, there are dhows aplenty sailing over the waters and corals washed up on the beaches along with some unfortunate starfish. 

 The whole stay has been relaxing and peaceful. We have enjoyed our weekend. 


Weekly Photo Challenge: Beach Treat 

A response to this weeek’s photo challenge: Treat.

Earlier this year we were lucky enough to win a blind auction at The Rock City Charity Ball. This was for two people in a Beach Chalet at Kipepeo Beach Resort just South of Dar Es Salaam.

We actually visited there in the summer on our trip back from Lake Victoria to Victoria Falls. As a family we camped there and it was a treat after many days on the road and rail through Tanzania, Malawi and Zambia.
Now we’re returning, just the two of us. What better time to make use of this treat than this weekend just after Anita’s birthday. 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Garden Treat

A response to this weeek’s photo challenge: Treat.
Any who have followed this blog for a while will realise that since moving to Tanzania I have taken a keen interest in the nature here and in particular the bird life. It has become a real treat to sit on the verandah and gaze out at the remarkable variety of colour and song these creatures produce. We have a great garden and this allows a whole host of birds to call it home.

Today is an impromptu Public Holiday called at short notice yesterday to celebrate the election of the new president – an opportunity to sit and watch the garden 🙂

The photos below come from the past year!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Birthday Treat

A response to this weeek’s photo challenge: Treat.
This week is a busy week for birthdays for Tanzalongs – with my daughter yesterday snd my wife today – yesterday we all went for a meal out at s local rearaurant, but today my wife and I went for a coffee at a local hotel – it’s not Costa or Starbucks but it is the next best thing in Mwanza. We had  Cake and Irish Coffees – I must say they were delicious, if a little potent 🙂 


After The Rain

The rains are officially here – there is no doubt. This morning we had the most torrential downpour in Mwanza – beginning about 6am it continued unabated for many hours finally easing off at about 11am. In that time the drains quickly became blocked and the roads became rivers – it made for an interesting journey to work this morning as we bypassed abandoned vehicles and ploughed through rivers on our usual route.

At school the rain had caused a small landslide which had brought down a wall in the corner of the playing field – there was a lot of rain coming down.

Photos courtesy of a colleague.

Thankfully the afternoon brightened up to a sunny end to the day – returning home was a lot easier. The garden was alive with birdlife enjoying the evening rays.

As is often the case here -even the wettest days has a lot of sunshine too!

Sizing Things Up

Maps of the world give a distorted view of things. The countries nearer the poles are enlarged relative to those nearer the equator and so if you look at a map of the earth Tanzania looks much smaller than it is in reality and the UK and USA look much larger than they really are.

UK SizeThere is an interesting website that attempts to rectify this error and I have used it in this blog to show how big Africa and in particular Tanzania are. The website called

superimposes a scale sized map of one country onto another.

The maps below were created using this site.

Here is a map of the UK  for reference

UK (Mwanza Kigoma)Having spent 14 hours on the road yesterday traveling from Kigoma to Mwanza it is worth looking at how far it would mean in Britain – the map has been rotated to fit the journey.

On this scale a journey from Mwanza to Kigoma is like traveling from Lincoln to St Austell (in Cornwall) via Brighton.

UK (Mwanza Dar)A trip from Mwanza to Dar Es Salam is equivalent to a journey from from John O’ Groats in the North of Scotland to Thanet in Kent.

Luckily we can fly to Dar  at a reasonable cost.

US (Mwanza Mbale)

Our travels from Mwanza to Mbale and Jinja via Bukoba and Kampala at Easter (including  Murchison Falls in the North) were all taken by bus.

This would be the equivalent of a journey from London to Middlesborough via Bristol, Liverpoool and Manchester with a hop across to Northern Ireland.

Notice that Lake Victoria fills most of Southern and Central England.

UK (Mwanza Moshi)A trip to Moshi where we will meet the Mums at Christmas is like a journey from Edinburgh to Southend via Ayr and Blackpool.

We will fly this December but we went the opposite way by bus in the summer.

For our epic journey of Eastern and Southern Africa – a map of Britain won’t do so instead a map of the USA


We traveled from Mwanza to Zomba then to Livingstone (Victoria Falls) and back again.US East Africa

This was the equivalent of a journey from the North of Ohio via Washingston DC to Southern Alabama and on into Texas.

This shows how vast Africa really is and perhaps how much smaller the USA and UK are really.US Africa

If you want to see how big your country is compared to any other part of the world check out the site for yourself


Mwanza is actually quite connected. There is a relable if slower connection to the outside world here. 

Yes it takes a few hours to download an episode of Dr Who and a movie might need to be downloaded overnight but it can be done. It’s even possible at times to stream live TV here with a little buffering and we can make FaceTime calls with little disruption (Skype has been a little more problematic but not impossibly so!). 

Here in Mwanza we tend to communicate on our 3G connection rather than a fixed line rental which is much more expensive – our phone signal is more reliable and faster than the other options. 

Catching up on news or sport  (formally via News /Sports apps) or friends /family ( informally via Social Media / What’s App /Text) is a doddle most of the time. Writing and posting the blog has been straight forward.  

All of the above is true until you leave Mwanza. As we have traveled  in recent months we have realised that outside of the big towns connectivity drops fast. Our recent trip to Kigoma is an example. Once out into rural Tanzania ythere is no connectivity for hundreds of kilometers – once in town the connection is good but over a very limited area. 

This was certainly true of Kigoma last week. Our base at Jakobsen’s Beach was internet free throughout. My blog posts and general connectivity were limited to the trips to town and actually it was quite refreshing. 

I tmrealise how much time I spend connecting (formally and informally) – out here in the ‘wilds of Africa’ it has been good to remain connected to the UK to keep a small part of the UK here in Tanzania, but for a week we were disconnected for much of the time and able to enjoy unencumbered the beauty of our surroundings, the wildlife, the tranquility. We played card games, talked more and relaxed on the beach. Digital devices were strictly stand alone.


Reading a book (ibook)


As a connected person I found it strange not to know what was going on elsewhere at first but actually quite liberating too.

Perhaps we all need to be more disconnected for a time.