Friday, May 25, 2012

May 24, 2012 8:30 AM

This past Sunday I finally returned to my site after being away for about 3 and a half weeks.  After my Mid-Service Conference (MSC), my parents arrived.  They got here on the morning of May 4th

After spending a day in Kampala for them to recuperate from any jet-lag, we drove up to Murchison Falls.  We stayed at the Paraa Lodge for about 3 days.  In that time we did two game drives, took a boat ride to the falls and hiked up the falls.  We also took advantage of the pool and the sunshine while we we’re there.  We got to see a lot of animals including many kob, water buffalo, elephants, wart hogs, baboons, other monkeys, crocodiles, hippos and, my favorite, giraffes.  We also managed to find one lion!  I would say overall, our time in Murchison Falls was a great success.

My Favorite!

Baby Elephant

Me in front of Murchison Falls

Mom and Dad with the Falls between them

Murchison Falls

Freedom Falls on the left and Murchison Falls on the right

View from the top of the falls

The sun setting over the Nile

View from our hotel room early in the morning

Murchison Falls was the only place we visited in Uganda.  My dad didn’t get the opportunity to see my site or anywhere else in Uganda, but I think he really liked it nonetheless.

So, after spending a few days in Uganda, we flew to Dar esSalaam in Tanzania.  We spent one night in Dar before taking the ferry across the channel to Zanzibar.  We spent only about 2 days in Zanzibar and we stayed at the Seyyida Hotel.  Our hotel even had a roof top restaurant where you could see straight out to the water.  Zanzibar is a really fascinating place!  Most of the population is Muslim, so, more often than not, you see the women with their heads covered.  Some even covered everything but their eyes.  While we were there, we spent most of our time in Stone Town (or Zanzibar Town).  We took a tour of Stone Town where we saw things like the site of the old slave market (and the church that was built on the site), the fish market and Freddie Mercury’s house.  Yes, Freddie Mercury lived in Zanzibar until he was 7 years old.  We even ate at a restaurant called Mercury’s.  We also took a spice tour where we got to smell many of the different spices grown in Zanzibar and we even got to taste some of them and some of the local fruits.  On our last day there, we took a very rocky boat out to a small island in the channel called Prison Island.  This island used to have a prison on it, but now it is a hotel.  There is also a turtle sanctuary there with some of the biggest turtles I’ve ever seen.  The island gave us a very nice view of Stone Town, but the boat we had to take to get there was so unstable, we constantly thought we were going to capsize.  However, as my dad pointed out, the boat looked like it had quite a bit of experience, so I we would have had to have quite a storm to flip it over.

The roof-top restaurant at our hotel

The Anglican Chruch that was built on the site of the old slave market

"Doctor Livingstone, I Presume"

Local school children in The House of Wonders (a national museum)

The view from the third floor of The House of Wonders

The Ferry

Freddie Mercury's House

"He's a Killer Queeeeen"

Dad with his spice tie

Dinner at Mercury's Restaurant

The view of the sunset from Mercury's Restaurant

The boat that took us to Prison Island


Upon leaving Zanzibar we spent one night near the Dar airport and then we flew out very early in the morning for Madagascar.  After a few hours delay in our flight we finally made it and then we drove out to Andasibe Mantadia National Park.  Just the drive was really interesting.  Madagascar is like a place I’ve never seen before.  The culture there is this interesting mix of African and Asian cultures and all the people speak French (Go Figure!).  We spent two days near the national park staying at the Eulophiella Hotel.  While we were there we got to see A LOT of lemurs.  We went for a short hike to see them in their natural habitat.  We got to see many different species, including the Indri Indri, which are the largest species.  We were taken to a small island where you can pet the lemurs.  No sooner did I step off the boat and I had one jumping on me.  It was amazing how close we could get to them.  They are such friendly animals.

The Indri Indri making noise to let other know that their there



After that we drove further out east until we got almost to the coast.  We then took a boat through the Pangalanes Channel to a small island in the channel.  Here we stayed one night at the Palmarium Hotel.  This island not only had quite a few species of Lemur, but it also had a wide variety of plants and other wild life.

View from our room




Next we took a boat all the way up the channel.  By doing this we got to see a lot of the local tribe that lives there.  They seem to transport a lot by water in these canoes that look like they are carved out of a tree.  In fact, the canoes are so small our boat would have to slow down every time we past them so as to not tip them over.  We took the canal all the way up to Toamasina (also called Tamatave).  This is the largest port in Madagascar.  From there we continued to drive for about 2 hours to Mahambo Village where we stayed at the La Pirogue Hotel.  We didn’t arrive until after dark and we had to leave early in the morning, but this was my favorite place we stayed at in Madagascar.  It was right on the beach!

The next morning, we had to leave very early, so that we could get to the boat to take us to Saint Marie Island.  The ferry to get there was only about an hour long.  Upon arrival we had about a half hour drive and then a short canoe ride to get to our hotel (talk about isolated!).  We stayed at the Baboo Village and we were there for two nights.  It was nice to relax and not do anything after all the adventures we had had.  After our time there was up, we flew back to Antananarivo where we spent one night before flying home.

The sun rising over the dock

Overall, I thought this trip was amazing, but I wish I had had more time in both Zanzibar and Madagascar.  I would say you need at least a week in Zanzibar and at least two weeks in Madagascar (whereas we spent about 2-3 days in Zanzibar and about 1 week in Madagascar).  There is just too much to see and do.

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