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Fishing In Tanzania

The deep waters of Lake Tanganyika are rich in big-game fish. The waters of this deep lake are only just beginning to gain the world-wide fame which means these waters are less populated with boats and fishing conditions are absolutely perfect. Lake Tanganyika is the longest lake in the world, and at 1,433 meters is the second deepest in the world. Amazingly the lakes lowest point is 642m below sea level; and it holds a volume of water seven times that of Lake Victoria. For divers as well as anglers, this is paradise, with over 350 species of fish, offers some of the finest lake game fishing in Africa. Some of the game fish to be found here include the goliath, tigerfish and Nile Perch.

After a big storm I have seen people body surfing with waves sometimes reaching up to six meters. This is for the enthusiast only - I think - as I have tried to body surf but buoyancy was a problem for me in the fresh water.

Many fishermen come to African lakes looking to land a tigerfish; many claims are made by operators in Southern Africa that this fish is found only in Southern Africa countries – this is untrue as these game fish are also found here in Tanzania. The tigerfish is well-known for its powerful tail and savage teeth; and is claimed by some to be the world's most exciting freshwater sport-fish. I think this is mainly because of the drama of the whole experience the jarring strikes, lightning runs and spectacular leaps; a typical tigerfish weighs 3-8 pounds, with 10-20 pounds being landed from time to time.

In contrast the shallow waters of Lake Victoria are home to legendary Nile Perch growing up to 300lbs, and even the novice fisherman can be encouraged by casting off a jetty to catch abundant tilapia. Nile Perch of over 80 kg have been caught; the main method of fishing in the lake is trolling with lures. Apart from the Nile perch, local tilapia of up to 5kg have been caught on bait. I have seen catfish of over 50kg caught often.

The Guinness Book of World Records lists an incredible 232kg Nile perch caught by local fishermen on Lake Victoria. Another way to fish is from the shore – there are few un-spoilt places, I am sure, in the world where in fresh or salt water it is possible to land fish in the 20 - 100lb plus category.

Sea fishing in one of the most exciting areas of Tanzania is in an area called Kilwa in southern Tanzania – close to the Mozambique border - this is a blue water fishing paradise. For those who wish to experience the unbelievable thrill of saltwater fly fishing this is the place to head. Many different species can be teased up to a fly and the rush of playing a big fish on light gear is an unforgettable experience.

Fishing is best in the months of August, September and October. Silver service fly-camps are set up on an evening along the coastline and trips include all fishing, full-board accommodation, beer, table wine, soft drinks, and transfers to and from Dar-es-Salaam to Kilwa.



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The Selous, the Buffalo and the Gnu

One of the best places to see animals in Tanzania is in the Selous Game Reserve. This huge reserve has high concentration of animals and a low concentration of tourists. Animals such as lion and leopard and elephant are present in huge concentrations. This is also true of the hoofed animal; the buffalo population stands in excess of 110,000. Waking in a morning, in your tented camp, to witness hundreds of buffalo and gnu coming to drink water from the Rufiji River is one reason among many to make Tanzania you safari destination.

The female Buffalo carry horns as well as the males and often the female horns are wider than the males, although they are usually slimmer then the male buffalo. The digestive system of the buffalo is the most efficient of all the herbivores allowing the buffalos to survive on plants other grazes cannot digest. The lion is the main enemy of the buffalo; the lion is very fond of buffalo meat.

The buffalo have a reputation to be bad tempered and dangerous to humans. This ferocious reputation is a little unfair as like most animals they tend to avoid humans, unless harassed or wounded.

The Selous wildebeest or also known as the Nyassaland gnu has a grayish-yellowish body colour with a black beard and tail. As its name suggest it was first found in Nyassaland [now called Malawi] Because of disease that swept through the whole of Africa in the early 1900’s this animal was almost wiped out and now the Selous is its last stronghold. This subspecies of the wildebeest is clearly different from its cousins in the rest of Africa. An interesting fact is that south of the Rufiji River this subspecies has a white inverted chevron across its nose. North of the river, in the tourist areas only a very small percentage carry this marking, but they are all the same sub-species.

The medium sized impala is probably the most graceful of all the antelopes. They occur in small bachelor herds or in breeding herds consisting of male and female with young. In the Mgeta River area just before the rains start bachelor herds can be seen up to 1,000 animals strong; a most remarkable sight. Impalas are easily spotted in the day and are tremendous jumpers especially if they are startled. When disturbed the males emit a short series of snorts and then takes off in a wonderful spectacle of leaps and bounds.

Mixed herds of impala, wildebeest, zebra and hartebeest are a common sight; as there is safety in numbers. Other animals to be seen are the large Kudu with their distinctive spiraled horns. They are well disguised and will need a keen eye to spot them. The Selous has huge herds of sable antelope and estimated 10,000 of them although they are rare in the tourist parts of this huge reserve.

The largest of antelopes is the Eland which can grow to a staggering 700kg and is able to jump up to two meters from a standing position. They are gregarious creatures, moving through the Selous in herds of up to 100 animals. The Selous Eland bulls are known for their massive horns longer than all the other East African Eland.

The Rufiji river is the southern most limit of the giraffe in East Africa; and as the national symbol and therefore the giraffe cannot be hunted anywhere in Tanzania.

Wart hogs are common in the Selous and are often seen running in lines with their tales up or kneeling on their front legs feeding on short grass, roots or fruit. They need water daily so tend stay close to water. Old males can grow enormous tusks with are used as weapons against predators.

A Selous safari is the ideal place to experience Africa and to see animals in huge numbers. The Northern areas contain the few tourist lodges of the reserve and to choose a camp close to the Rufiji River will be a safari experience unsurpassed anywhere in Africa.

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Crossing the Namanga Border Post

When crossing from Kenya to Tanzania or from Tanzania to Kenya the usual route is through the Namanga Border post. Namanga is a small border town that sprawls across both sides of the border.

To get from Nairobi to Arusha for your safari or to Moshi for your Kilimanjaro climb can be quite daunting. That is if you have never done this before. However it is quite easy and nothing to worry about if you take care.

By far the easiest way is by the shuttle bus. These shuttle buses leave from outside the Parkside Hotel in Nairobi or Mount Meru in Tanzania. The shuttle busses leave at 8 am in the morning and 2 pm in the afternoon.

The busses take about five hours to travel between the two cities. The shuttles can pick up and drop off at Nairobi International airport en-route. The main companies are Riverside shuttle, Devanu, Bobbies Shuttle and the Impala Shuttle. It should cost about US$25 between Nairobi and Arusha, however depending on the season fairs can be negotiable.

At the Namanga Border the shuttle bus driver will guide you through both sides of the border. It is possible to get visas on arrival at the airports and at the border posts.

Try not to exchange money at Namanga or with the shuttle drivers. This is best done at the bureaus in town. However, if you must try to change just a little money and do it at one of the shops. I have known many tourists and locals alike that have been ripped off and even robbed at the border posts.

A cheaper way to get from Nairobi and into Arusha is by Peugeot 505 taxi. This is not recommended as they are usually overcrowded and many are not road worthy. I have done this several times the advantage is not just the cheapness of the fair but you are able to depart from town at any time that suits you. A Peugeot is taken from Nairobi to Namanga. Then you must walk across the border post from Kenya and into Tanzania. Then another Peugeot is taken from Namanga into Arusha.

Tanzania information and Tanzania safaris and travel – for more information on the culture and travel in Tanzania see these interactive pages are for communal use. Free advice and information available from this site.


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Udzungwa Mountains in Southern Tanzania

General Information: This park is a National Park without roads. After arrival the visitors must get out of the safari vehicles and walk. This is a National Park with a difference and is best visited in the dry season; as the paths and trails in the mountains become quite slippery in the wet season and crossing the swollen mountain rivers can become dangerous. It is required to take a guide and or an armed ranger on the hikes. A guide come ranger will cost US$ 10 per group per day.

There are many trails to suit different abilities, from several half day trails to longer more demanding hikes taking several days. There are no lodges in this park and camping is the only option. The sites are basic and it is essential to bring your own camping equipment; or alternatively hire it or use a tour operator that will provide the equipment.

Park Regulations: Leave only footprints and take only photographs. There is no hunting allowed in this park and plant samples are not allowed to be removed. In Tanzania vehicles must keep to the roads in the parks, and similarly hikers in this park must keep to the trails. This is strictly enforced so don’t be tempted to leave the paths. Camp fires are also not allowed. As with the other National Parks in Tanzania visitors must leave by 7 pm; campers must be in the campsites by this time or make arrangements with the Park Warden. The park encourages, wherever possible, for visitors to support the local community.

Access to the Park: Driving south west from Dar es Salaam takes about six hours to reach the park gate. Turn south off the main Dar / Iringa Road at Mikumi town and follow the signs to Ifakara and U.M.N.P. Crossing the Ruaha River the tar road becomes a gravel road, continue for 24 km and at Mang’ula the Headquarters of Udzungwa are signposted on the right. The park is also accessible by private charter flights from Dar es Salaam, train and a regular bus service.

Bio-diversity: The park protects 2500 plant species and 160 of these are used locally as medical plants. There are over 300 animal’s species including 18 vertebrates only found in the Eastern Arc range of mountains. If you are lucky you will be able to spot the recently discovered Sanje Mangabey and the Iringa Red Colobus high in the tropical rainforest.

The park has a rich social and cultural history which is possible for visitors to explore; including the abandoned Mbatwa Village and the Mwanaluvele Salt Caves. These sites demonstrate the shifting patterns of human settlement in the North West area of the park.

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Health Issues on a Tanzanian Safari

When on a walking safari, mountain climbing or walking round the camp, it is advisable to be aware of the following guidelines on health and safety in the African Bush.

Altitude related Illness: These illnesses can kill you and every year tourists die from altitude related illnesses. Higher altitudes are colder even in Africa; there is less oxygen and to walk slowly is essential especially for hikes or climbs above 1,500 to 3,000 meters above sea level. You should be breathing easily with no panting and no extreme physical excursion. Drink water regularly and eat a light diet with lots of carbohydrates. It is essential to keep warm.

Hypothermia or exposure: this is life threatening condition with a lowering of body temperature and can occur with a temperature as high as 10 c [50 f]. Usually caused by cold wet clothing or simply poorly clothed for the conditions. The signs/symptoms include clumsiness, stumbling, apathy, lethargy, confusion, disorientation, and eventually unconsciousness. Treatment for this is to immediate warm the patient in a warm dry environment - a sleeping bag is ideal with one or even two people inside the sleeping bag with the patient. Warm energy rich drinks help as does rest with a return to camp as quickly as possible.

Acute Mountain sickness: This affects many people above 2,050 meters [or 10,000 ft] signs/symptoms include headache nausea fatigue, malaise, loss of appetite, restless or no sleep. The treatment is to slow down, remain in camp, drink water, and rest your body. It is important to adjust to altitude slowly. In case of severe headaches, loss of coordination, breathing difficulties evacuate immediately for medical attention. This condition kills tourists every year in Tanzania!

Hiking in hot or sunny weather often causes heat exhaustion the signs/symptoms are weakness/fatigue, headache, vertigo, thirst nausea/vomiting faintness high body temperature. The treatment is to lay flat in shade, remove clothing to cool the patient, soak the body with cold water, re-hydrate patient and monitor body temperature

Heat stroke is more serious with the signs/symptoms being delirium, coma, rapid pulse, rapid breathing; skin hot and dry, body temperature above 40c [104 f]. Treat as for heat exhaustion but this condition can be fatal so seek medical assistance quickly – evacuate if possible.

Wildlife; try to avoid interaction; normally the wildlife will try to avoid you. Buffalo or elephant may attack if surprised or provoked. When hike in forest or dense bush clap often or call out if met by an aggressive animal; at all times follow the instructions of your armed guide. Never feed wild animals with baboons and monkeys being highly dangerous and they can steel by force as they have learnt to get food from the tourists.

Weather in Tanzania has a rainy season November through to May with sometimes a dryer season January to March dividing the season into short and long rains. It never rains all the time. The dry season June to October, the coldest month being July with high altitudes reaching temperatures bellow freezing.

If you get lost remain where you are; your guide will look for you and find you quicker if are on the trail – this sometimes happens in fog or dense forest. A day pack should include instant body shelter, warm clothing and a water proof jacket, matches or lighter, a mirror or whistle for signaling, food and drink [esp. water] basic first aid, torch and a compass.

Some areas have stinging nettles, no shorts in these areas with stings causing temporary but painful irritations. Safari ants are small shiny brown ants move rapid in columns across trails – they are common and carnivorous, they crawl up your trouser legs and start to chew. Tuck trouser into socks and watch where you step and especially where you stand.

Acacia thorns “cat claws” of the wait-a-bit thorn tree rip skin and clothing – the thorn is long and straight and can pierce soft soled shoes and even car tires so take care and try not to wear sandals. Ticks may be found long grass, to remove a tick grasp head and jerk out of skin.

Snakes will usually avoid humans; one exception is the puff adder. This snake is sluggish and slow to move. When moving around in the dark use a torch to avoid a most unwelcome encounter with the puff adder. Scorpions lurk in the dry country under rocks, behind bark and sometimes climb into boots, clothing or equipment left out at night. The sting from a scorpion can cause severe pain for several hours.

In conclusion to protect yourself – dress right and drink right. Climbing in mountains or highland prepare for extremes. Watch your self day time temperatures can reach 35 c with little shade and may well be freezing at night at higher altitudes. Fine weather can turn into fog or rain quickly. Always carry a waterproof and dry clothing in a plastic bag to keep warm wool and synthetics are better than cotton or down – to keep cool cotton is the better option. Protect yourself from the sun with a hat, sunglasses, skin protection also drink plenty of water and eat a diet high in carbohydrates for energy. Avoid alcohol at high altitudes.

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In search of the Chimpanzee

The Mahale Mountains Park and Gombe Stream are a mixture of grass, woodlands and forest, although it is mostly forest with the majority of its mammals being primates. These forests are lush and green rising up to 15,000 meters above the waters of Lake Tanganyika.

With over twenty years of research, the chimpanzees have become habituated to humans. However, this does not make it easy to find them. Trekking through the forest, which can be quite dense, with steep and often slippery sloping terrain, can be strenuous, dirty work. It is well worth it though to get to see the chimpanzee in their natural habitat. You must expect to walk for three or four hours per day in search of the these primates.

Lake Tanganyika is in the remote west of Tanzania. Getting there is not easy and flying is by far the best option. There is a rail link but it can sometimes take days and is not reliable at all and not really recommended for tourists. From Kigoma there are no roads into Gombe and to hire a boat is the only way to get to Gombe.

The camps in this area tend to be small and are often [charmingly] rustic and eco-friendly. The lake, unusually for Africa, has no crocodiles and many traveler swim in the clear waters. Sunset cruisers and tourists go hand in hand and this destination is no exception. A sunset cruise here is especially enjoyable as the sunsets over the Lake and Eastern Zaire spectacular.

As this park is remote and as the Government is anxious to keep tourism to a minimum, [so park fees are high] getting here and into the forests to spend time with the chimpanzees is expensive but you are in the wilds of Africa.

[primates in this small park which was created especially for the thousands of chimpanzee are : chimpanzees, yellow baboon, Sykes monkeys, red tailed, savannah, colobus monkeys and 2 species of galago] The bird life is also spectacular as are the fish with over 90 species in the lake making snorkeling a safari in itself.

The Tanzanian Tourist Board recommend visiting here between May and October.

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