Monday, 1 June 2009

Eelementary, my dear Watson

Sunday night in Bunda, near Lake Victoria. I've covered a bit of ground since I last wrote, so I'm going to do this in two posts. In this entry: an island trip, wildlife spotting, and a flight to cotton country. I've only been able to upload a few photos this time but will add more when I get back to Dar.

On Saturday, I went with my housemates (Katie and Chris, now) to Bongoyo Island, a little place just off the coast from the peninsula. The boat to get there leaves four times a day from the Slipway, perhaps the most touristy place I've come across in Dar. I think you'll agree:

I liked the boat ride out. There's somehow about sitting on the deck of a boat with the wind blowing in your hair that I love. The dhow arrived at Bongoyo after about half an hour, and we took a smaller boat over to the beach. The island itself was a postcard-quality scene: beautiful sand, crystal-clear water, beach huts, palm trees. I went swimming a couple of times and hung out on a woven mat under a palm-thatch umbrella. Here, the island:

In the afternoon, I took a walk around the island. I followed the signs to the Shark Lagoon, which I discovered was shark-free. The tide was out and the water was only up to my calves, so I walked into the lagoon to find shark-related things. I hung around for an hour taking pictures and found some cool tidal-pool creatues. Groups of crabs (each about the size of an apple) were scuttling around on the rocks. I tried to get some close-up shots, but they were scared and hid under a rock. This is the lagoon:

The lagoon's tidal pools were filled with sea urchins (golf ball size and dark purple). I didn't even notice how many there were until I waded out to the far end of the by the deep water. At that point, I realized that I had to tread carefully on the way back to avoid getting a spine in my heel.

The weirdest lagoon dwellers were definitely the gross-looking, black spongy-worms. At first, I thought this one was a poo, but then I saw it moving very slowly. I poked at it with a rock, and it was very soft, like a sponge, but it could still wriggle around like a worm. I left this one alone after I saw it trying to get away from me. Does anyone have a clue what this is?

I have some good videos of the crabs running and the worm-sponge moving around, but I can't upload them from here. In a couple of weeks, though, I'll put them on my youtube account:

On the way back, I saw a small tidal pool filled with big eels. I'm not sure how they got there or how they get out.

That was Bongoyo. I flew to Mwanza on Sunday morning. We traveled above the clouds for most of the trip. At 20,000 feet, the only thing I could see was Mount Kilimanjaro rising above the clouds in the distance -- spectacular. When we broke through the cloud cover on the way down, I saw Lake Victoria (Africa's largest lake) and a lot of little villages near Mwanza.

Ones (the Program Manager for the cotton work I'm doing) and I took a bus from Mwanza to Bunda, where we have a cotton office. The road connecting the two towns passes right next to the western edge of Serengeti National Park, probably the most famous reserve for wildlife in Tanzania. Even on the edge of the park, I saw a hundred wildebeast and probably fifty or more zebras, although they were pretty far away. When we slowed down for a bridge, I saw a few groups of chimps standing at the side of the road with the locals as if it was really an everyday thing.

More on Bunda and cotton stuff next time.

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