Category Archives: Africa

Zanzibar: Alone and Alive

For the most part of my trip to Zanzibar, I was alone when we hit the beaches of Nungwi. It is situated at the northernmost point, the tip of Zanzibar and we hopped on a large taxi to get there. It takes about an hour from the beaches of Nungwi back to the airport.

Whilst my fellow mates wanted to laze around and did not have spare cash to afford a more comfortable stay, I opted for a better option to stay in by walking around the stretches of resorts. I bumped into a local and made friends with him for the better part of my next few days. He was so friendly and nice to me, although his intentions were more than that. Nevertheless I am absolutely grateful to have met him that day, for it gave me courage to go about and have a short vacation on my own.

IMG_0305The sunsets everyday were amazing, the beaches were dotted with many fishing boats which have been out since the break of dawn. I took a stroll every evening, just taking in the seaside air and enjoyed the feeling of soft sand crumpling between my toes.

This was the view from my accommodation. I step out onto my front porch of my room and there it is.

This was the view from my accommodation. I step out onto my front porch of my room and there it is.

I picked one of the days to go on a snorkelling tour, whereby I joined a whole other group of people and we headed to an island in the middle of nowhere. An island which is not inhabited at all, the waters so crystal clear I could not believe it.

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Ive never seen a cleaner shoreline than this and we had lunch made of fresh caught fish from the sea.

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Our snorkelling took place in equally crystal clear waters.

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On the way back as the boat dropped off people to their respective resorts, I couldnt help but notice the more luxurious and expensive bungalow resorts along the coast.

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It was unreal plainly because no one gets the real picture of what is behind these resorts. About 400m behind all of these beautiful resorts, the local people live in stone houses with no roads and no electricity. The locals live in darkness and with so little food, every morning most of them walk the little paths to the shore and work as waiters and cooks, serving burgers and fish and chips to tourists. Its unthinkable to imagine that this portrayal of paradise for tourism and poverty lives adjacent to one another. I was stunned when my local friend took me back to his home area, and the children were thin without clothes, the women trying to cook over charcoal. I don’t think this is particularly uncommon in Africa, but the reality of this stark contrast in environments really hit me and has remained with me ever since.

We can look at Africa as tourism do, a large continent with so much to explore, wild animals to capture on safaris, lodges and wildlife enticing us urban people. We can look at the continent as a place to help people, to volunteer on our monthly projects and what not. But do people actually bring home this message that the people are still suffering clearly, and it is not as always exotic and pretty as it seems? The region is so vast and huge I can barely think of what it would take to turn it around. All I can say is that though they may be poverty stricken, many of the children are smart and they rejoice in simple things such as pumping water from the ground and making faces into your camera. They welcome you with open arms, they sing to you their national anthem. So much potential in these people, its such a shame for them to be living in these conditions.

Zanzibar wrapped up my one month stay in Africa and it sealed my love for this continent. I have every intention to go back, to go to other parts.

Paradise of Tanzania: Zanzibar

The sun rays hit the side of the bus windows as we rolled into endless plains and flatlands, littered with the occasional shady tree. The grass sparse, trampled on by wild zebras and giraffes. I opened my eyes and took all of this in at once, cramped in the backseat, coming to terms that I have arrived in Tanzania. The first resemblance which popped into my mind was that of the opening scenes of the Lion King.

We crossed the plains of this vast region toward Dar Es Salaam, where we caught the ferry into Zanzibar. You can also take a 45 minute plane ride. The archipelago wraps around the east coast of Tanzania, a region commonly known as the Land of the Serengeti. One day I would wish to return for a safari.

Stone Town in Zanzibar is located on the western side of the island and its usually the first stop for travellers. It is the main urban area to walk the narrow streets and winding alleys , soaking in the culture and smell of the sea before you head out into the vast beaches dotting the coast.

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The corridors of the Stone Town are winding roads with balconies and terraces. The accommodations usually hostels and lodges.

One of the cleaner corridors! Palm trees and sunny skies enhances the white terraces

One of the cleaner corridors! Palm trees and sunny skies enhances the white terraces

This island seems very far away from home, no one back in Singapore has really heard or talk much about this area.  I only learnt about it whilst researching for my trip to Uganda.

Every night there is a pretty big seafood market in the open square next to the sea, where the locals grill and barbeque fresh seafood. Its amazing, the smells are so captivating! Garlic and butter, mixed with the saltiness of the air, seafood and large arrays of sugarcane and desserts.

Kebabs

Kebabs

Every shop is filled to the brim with stacks and stacks of food on skewers or fresh seafood laid out on their table. You just pick what you want and its on the grill for you. IMG_0199

People just come for their dinners, cheap and made hot on the spot. They sit along the coast, chomping on their food and have a real good time.IMG_0200

Hello, would you like some Octopus??

Hello, would you like some Octopus??

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Another highlight of Zanzibar are the spices!! The next day we headed to the other market which is also densely visited in the day. The Spice Market.

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IMG_0210Shop after shop after shop, filled with tons and tons of spices! All individually wrapped into plastic, labelled, their colours resemble that of art tools for kids.

It's easy to picture merchants and fishermen shipping their spices off to the markets.

It’s easy to picture merchants and fishermen shipping their spices off to the markets.

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Most Memorable: Uganda

Here’s a really memorable experience forever etched in my mind:

I did a month long trip to Uganda and Tanzania, during my summer break at Uni. Together with the Leeds RAG society, a student-run fundraising organisation, I raised funds for my trip and got into the rural areas to help build schools manually for the children.

My most memorable experience came one night when our mud house was infested with ants. There were black ants crawling all over our bodies, the hut itself, our gear, in our sleeping bags, in the cooking area, just everywhere! The locals poured kerosene over the walls, in the hopes of deterring the ants with the smell. However, as I was sleeping in the corner right at the back, the night was plagued with the crumpling of plastic as ants kept crawling all over my stuff still. Getting extremely paranoid and frightened of being bitten to death, I slipped out into the night with all of my gear and my sleeping bag.

I ventured into the black wilderness outside, got out my head lamp, and began to set up my tent all by myself. This was during strong chilly winds overhead, signalling a storm might be coming. I slept in my tent, all alone that night but at utter peace.

Recalling that incident, it was a decision which made me really appreciate the safety of a tent. Pitched well, and made well, it was like a sanctuary I could crawl into if I ever needed to escape the wilderness. I gained some new bravery for myself that night and it made me feel that hey, maybe I COULD actually survive in the wilderness. (seeing as I am a complete urban city person all my life)..

Cruising down the Nile: Walking alongside Murchison Falls

We sat and stood on a boat, cruising along the River Nile, cameras ready and eyes peeled for wildlife in the surrounding riverine forest, savannah and woodland. I stood with my close friends, excited to see some crocs and elephants.

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Murchison approached and little did we know about the beautiful big falls behind this narrow gorge! We had to get off the boat and start hiking on the trails, to get to this beautiful falls, highlighted with a rainbow.

The Murchison National park is suited in the northern part of Albertine Rift Valley. The park is one of Uganda’s well protected areas, and it was one of the most memorable areas for me in Uganda.

Hiking towards the falls in my horrible color coded outfit.

Hiking towards the falls in my horrible color coded outfit.

A little lookout which had us climbing carefully over rocks... giving us a preview of what was yet to come.

A little lookout which had us climbing carefully over rocks… giving us a preview of what was yet to come.

I remember walking in my awful seasoned non-hiking cotton green cheap shoes and trying not to fall to my death over the slipper rocks!.. And it was well worth the effort for it entitled me this awesome picture!

The picture i worked really hard for. Like my green shoes? I chucked them in a mud house on my way out of Africa.

The picture i worked really hard for. Like my green shoes?
I chucked them in a mud house on my way out of Africa.

Hello Murchison! We have almost reached the source of this placid river.

Hello Murchison! We have almost reached the source of this placid river.

I am ashamed to admit that my photography skills were at an all time low at this point of time. These photos do not capture the beauty of this falls.

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The only other non-Brit on this trip, besides me.

The only other non-Brit on this trip, besides me.

Uganda is definitely a great introduction to the continent of Africa! Particularly to the East and West, in my opinion. The North comprising of Morocco and South consisting of Cape Town are superbly different. A landlocked country, its a tough fight with Kenya.

Africa is a place far from our lists I expect, especially for Asians. Its a continent so unbelievably vast, I could not comprehend how big it actually was until I was travelling for hours on the road. Even if I had mixed feelings about my month long trip, casting away the negativity, deep in my heart I knew I would be back. Africa has my heart.