Tag Archives: Africa


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


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.

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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.

Butterflies and Bougainvillea

Since our return to Mwanza there seem to be a lot more Butterflies around of various types flitting about amongst the rejuvenated Bougainvillea plants. These thorny bushes not only deter unwelcome visitors but they look attractive with their brightly coloured leaves surrounding the true flowers of this vine.

Our African Journey

Wehave just returned from our epic journey across Africa – if you did not catch it you van read about it by clicking on any links below.

This is an update to the original as our plans changed throughout the course of our journey.


An epic journey – on public transport throughout – we survived and you can read about it here.


Day 1 – Mwanza to Dar Es Salaam

Day 2 – Dar Es Salaam to Songea

Day 3 – Songea to Mbamba Bay

Day 4 – Mbamba Bay

Day 5 – Mbamba Bay  and Night Crossing  to Likoma Island


Day 6 – Likoma Island

Day 7 – Likoma Island

Day 8 – Likoma Island to Nkhotakota (Ilala Ferry)

Day 9 – Nkhotakota to Monkey Bay (Ilala Ferry)

Day 10 – Monkey Bay

Day 11 – Monkey Bay to Zomba

Day 12 – Zomba (Chilimba Village)

Day 13 – Zomba (Plateau)

Day 14 – Zomba to Liwonde to Dedza

Day 15 – Dedza to Lilongwe

Day 16 – Lilongwe to Lusaka


Day 17 – Lusaka to Livingstone

Day 18 – Livingstone (Victoria Falls)

Day 19 – Livingstone to Chobe National Park (Botswana)

Day 20 – Livingstone

Day 21 – Livingstone to Lusaka

Day 22 – Lusaka to Kapiri Mposhi

Day 23 – Kapiri Mposhi to Mbeya (Tazara Train)


Day 24 – Mbeya to Dar Es Salaam (Tazara Train)

Day 25 – Dar Es Salaam (Kipopea Beach Resort)

Day 26 – Dar Es Salaam (Kipopea Beach Resort) to Moshi

Day 27 – Moshi

Day 28 – Moshi (Coffee Plantation)

Day 29 – Moshi to Mwanza

A Day of Packing

Tomorrow we head to Dar on the first leg out our holiday (vacation) to South Central Africa. A journey that will hopefully take us to Malawi, Zambia and Botswana. We’re going to be traveling by Boat, Train, Coach and Plane and if you are interested you can follow our journey on a dedicated blog Victoria to Victoria.

Today has been a day of packing and as we are planning to save costs by camping, we need to squeeze in our recently purchased tent along with the clothes.

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It’s probably a good thing as it limits the clothes we will take (I am never good at choosing what to take!). Once in Dar we’ll re-jig  for our onward journey, but planes have rules and needs must.

Almost a year ago we were packing in a much bigger way as we were approaching moving day and leaving England for Tanzania – time has flown fast.

Victoria to Victoria

We’re soon going to be going on our travels as the Summer Holidays begin. Our plan is to travel from Mwanza to Livingstone in Zambia (Victoria Falls)  and back taking in Malawi (and Kenya!) on route. The Kenya bit of our journey is a late addition as we need to be in Nairobi in early August to drop my son off for some work experience, resulting in an extra loop.

Our journey will be entirely on public transport – following the success of our trip to Uganda at Easter, plane, coach, train all the way there and back again!

This blog will continue and will summarise our journey once back and some of the more mundane living before, during and after, but we wanted more of a daily travelog as we travelled along on our journey.

You can find all about our trip on a separate blog Victoria to Victoria which will be our travelog – feel free to subscribe.

Playing Cat and Mousebirds.

Pepper (our cat) likes to chase birds and likes to climb trees. The mousebirds are understandably perturbed by this but it’s a fruitless hunt for the cat who gives up on her prey.

A Little Luxury!

You can get most things in Mwanza if you look hard enough – but some things come at a price.U-Turn is the overpriced supermarket here in Mwanza – the place all ex-pats have to use (to keep sane) but love to hate due to their somewhat high prices.

Porridge is our staple breakfast here – it’s relatively inexpensive at 5000 TzS (£1.50) a tin., which lasts us about a week. We have had porridge most days since we’ve been here – but porridge can get a little boring after a  while.

Every so often U-Turn do a BOGOF  (Buy One Get One Free) deal.

Take for example Rice Krispies.


Don’t be fooled by the price label. The price in the Supermarket would be equivalent to nearer £4 normally. So only when there is a BOGOF does it become affordable, though you do have to check the sell by date!

I never would have thought of the humble Rice Krispie as a bit or luxury, but here it is in a bowl. Time for breakfast!


Shilling on the Slide

Let me begin by saying I never came here for the money. Let me say also I know we are more privileged than the vast majority of Tanzanians who surround us. We are paid a modest wage by International School standards, we are paid in Tanzanian Shillings (TzS). Since August, when we arrived the value of the Shilling has dropped significantly against the pound. Even more worryingly it has dropped much of its value since March! IMG_1497

We live within Tanzania and so why should there have been a problem you might be asking. Food prices have risen only slightly and the cost of living is low here. On a day to day basis there isn’t an issue. The difficulty is this. We did not come for the money, but one reason we did come was for the opportunities. Opportunities to work in a different place, meet new people, experience a new culture, see new places and travel the world. It is in this last category we have begun to be stifled. Tourist places want dollars, they charge a fixed price in dollars. This includes entry to Safari Parks, Travel Visas and even Accommodation like Wag Hill are priced in Dollars. IMG_1505 In August when we arrived  £1 was worth 2766 TzS. By October we went to the Serengeti and £1 was worth 2731 TzS. Our $50 entrance cost us 85500 TzS IMG_1500 When we travelled to Zanzibar at Christmas £1 was worth just over 2700 TzS it dropped below this value while we were there. This was a positive thing for us. When my daughter went to Kenya in January, £1 was worth 2745 TzS. Her $50 visa cost us 88500 TzS When we travelled to Rubondo in February £1 was worth just over 2800TzS a rise in value which was less good. At Easter when we travelled abroad as a family for the first time since arrival here. On our trip to Uganda £1 was worth 2744 Tzs and our $50  visas cost us 92000 TzS  IMG_1504 Last week on our trip to Wag Hill, £1 was worth 3179 TzS. Our accommodation was priced in $ – for comparison $50 was now 104000 TzS.

Soon my daughter travels to Rwanda on  a school trip, so today we took out another $50 for a visa  today costing us just under 108000 TzS  today.  Today £1 = 3307 TzS

So in real terms our entry to Rubondo was more expensive than Serengeti. Wag Hill was $ for $ more expensive than Uganda or Kenya. Rwanda has been more expensive still. We have thus far been able to enjoy this country and some of its neighbours, we have been lucky and blessed, but that time is either coming to an end or else will need some very careful budgeting. IMG_1498 There are theories that this is all due to the upcoming elections this Autumn, others because of the debts the country. Either way the shilling is on the slide and it has put in doubt future travel plans. Mwanza is a nice enough place to I live but it is not a place to spend a holiday. Is this the end of our African dream? No, but it will need a rethink.

Wag Hill Wildlife

Wag Hill Lodge is just a few miles outside of Mwanza, the rough roads make it about half an hour by car, but in reality it’s a few miles.  So close and yet so far – this applies to the environment too. The area is forested and landscaped with a number of lodges surrounding central buildings and a pool. We stayed there last weekend for two nights and had a great time. One of the great attractions of the place is the wildlife and in particular the bird life. Here are some of the wildlife we encountered

Wailing Ibis

What you can hear is the sound of a pair of Hadada Ibis in the tree behind our house (along with some cockerels). They make a lot of noise. In fact they are noisier when in flight when the calls you hear  are continuous, it’s much more tricky to capture that sound as they appear from nowhere.

I have come to associate life in Mwanza with the sound of these glossy green black birds – they are everywhere here, though thankfully they don’t always make this noise.

It’s In The Trees!

We have Bats in our Mango tree – I say our, it’s just outside our garden but on the compound where  we live. I was taking photos for my previous post (Broken Branches) when I noticed them. I was able to snap some clear photos of them roosting and some fuzzier ones of them in flight. They are very fast and silent flyers so I will need to be patient and get some more focused ones in the future.

Incidentally, the phrase “It’s in the trees” comes from a Kate Bush song “Hounds of Love”.  It’s a bit of a catch-phrase in the family – it’s usually followed incorrectly by “When I was child”, The origin is over twenty years old from a time in Milton Keynes when a group of us (twenty somethings) gathered for a weekly Friday video night – it was probably coined by a guy called Richard, who knows why? Over time it was used by my brother (an occasional visitor to the video night) and I and later my kids. No rhyme or reason! I have wanted to use it in a blog post – so here it is. “It’s In The Trees!”

Mwanza Shoreline

Mwanza is situated on Lake Victoria, but not on the “main lake”. It is actually sits on the Mwanza Channel, a narrow branch of the lake which stretches miles south from the main body of water. Our journey to and from Ukerewe gave us the opportunity to see Mwanza from a different perspective.


Weekly Photo Challenge: Intricate Nests

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

Bird’s Nests are often an intricate patchwork of materials, whether it’s the nest of mud made by  a swallow….image

….. or the nest of grass made by a weaver bird.


Both birds photographed in Bukoba, Tanzania

Uganda Retrospective: Sipi Falls

The original post contained some great pictures from the phone but the camera photos add so much more – so here they are. The three main falls were part of a 3 hour guided walk through the coffee fields, banana groves and villages of Sipi. We even encountered the alien looking wild banana plant – the inedible ancestor of all modern bananas.

The Places You Go and The People You Meet!

One of the best things about traveling is meeting different people. So our recent Ugandan trip was fabulous not just for the places we visited (Kampala, Jinja, Murchison Falls, Mbale, Sipi Falls, Entebbe) but also those we encountered on the way. Our encounters were brief, a few hours at most, but it was interesting to here about other places.

There was the minister at the Ugandan border, British born – living in Kigoma off for a weeks break. Stories of travels to the DRC and Burundi.

The NGO’s in Jinja living a life in a provincial Ugandan town. Another NGO on holiday from South Sudan who shared our Nile Cruise and White Water rafting. Her tales of life in Juba and working in South Sudan were enlightening.31d Nile Cruise (67)

Then our fellow rafters. Two couples, one Norwegean, the other British. In both cases one partner was working on a short term placement in Uganda (Norwegean Teacher, British doctor), the other partner visiting. It was interesting to share about life overseas and to talk education with one of the partners, a British Design Tech teacher about the state of education back home, and to the other about life in Norway.

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In Murchison there was a family of expats working in the diplomatic service and now living in Kampala. In Mbale two doctor NGOs working in pediatrics, and the NGO volunteers working with JENGA and Olivia from SMB,  inspiring young people working to improve the lives of poor people.

 At Sipi Falls the couple,  he South African but UK based a former NGO in South Sudan, she a Swiss NGO working in the DRC, both meeting up in Uganda for holiday. This seemed to be a common theme throughout our time in Uganda. More information about South Sudan, the DRC and the life of an NGO.

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It is unlikely that we will ever meet these folk again but it was good to talk and share experiences.


After six months here we have settled into church and attend NCLC which meets just up the road at Isamilo Lodge Hotel. The church is a plant of Newcastle  Christian Life Centre. This church is part of Hillsong family of churches worldwide,and the Assemblies of God locally, here in Tanzania.

The other church plants are based in the North East of England (Teeside, Newcastle and Newcastle North), so Mwanza is a a little off the beaten track!

The Pastor and his family are from the UK, and founded the plant back in 2011. This followed more informal links between NCLC and Mwanza for a number of year.

It was the first church we visited back in September and having tried another church for a few months we started going to NCLC regularly in November. We have felt very welcome there and enjoy the services week by week. Anita has joined the women’s group which meets fortnightly and my daughter has just started helping out with Kids Church. We are open to see in what ways be can be of service in the months and years ahead.

It is good to be part of a fellowship again, having left St Mary’s in the UK, our spiritual home for 0ver 20 years ( in my case 26 years to be precise).

The church consists of about 40 people with many children, there are a good mix of expatriates from UK, US, Canada, Kenya and Ethiopia as well as local Tanzanians.

The worship is lively and the sermons are always thought provoking and challenging ( in a good way). For those who know, is is similar to

Initially there was just one weekly service, jointly in English and Kiswahili, but recently the church has split it’s morning services so that one service is in English (at 9:45am) and the other in Kiswahili (at 11:15am).  For us, although it was good to worship in both languages, it is certainly easier to follow a sermon in English solely without the obvious pause for the translation.

Between the services there is Chai (Tea) and a chance to meet the other congregation. In addition once a month there is a joint Baptismal service in which the swimming pool is utilised as a Baptismal pool. Each month there has always been someone who has wanted to be baptised.

We are very happy to be part of this church and look forward to being so for our time in Mwanza.

Guest Post – Life Comparisons: UK and TZ

This is a  guest post  by Bex

I am a student in a school in Mwanza and have been a student in various UK schools. This new school is a lot smaller than my previous school and the amount of people in my year group in the UK are the amount of people in the of Secondary. Despite it being smaller and the lessons being shorter, School runs from 7:55 until 3:15 whereas in the UK it was 8:30 until 3:15. This means we have more lessons, 5 a day is now 7 a day. Lessons are signaled to a close by a large bell which is rung by various year 8’s although it is often early. Lockers are bigger here although you have to bring in a padlock and key to keep it secure, but in the UK we had designated lockers and were given a key. We are also allowed to take bags around with us but in the UK we were only allowed to take books needed for the lessons you had before break or lunch.


My New School Grounds


Monkey on the Compound

Because of the school being that much smaller it allows time for being social. I have made friends with people in various year groups – not just my own – younger and older. I mix a lot with the other children on the compound and we play games like my version of Cricket, and climbing trees and many other things.

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My Birthday

My life in the UK was boring, hardly seeing friends and forever relying on technology. Although I do use technology I prefer to do things outside and talk with people. I am older than most of the other children who live on the compound so I normally see it as my job to look after the younger ones.

Our House

Our House

I love living here it’s so different to my old life – I feel much better and much more relaxed and all the holidays that I have been on are so much more than I ever had in the UK.


Weekend Away at Wag Hill

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Elephants in the Serengeti


Star Fish on the Beach in Zanzibar


Prison Island Zanzibar



I hated the idea of coming here, I cried and did not want to leave at all, but I came and I am so glad I did. I like it here more than I ever anticipated. I obviously miss my friends and family terribly but this is an experience that can never be repeated.


Goodbye to Family

Old Friends

Old Friends