Fatma Makame

Fatma Makame

I'm not the typical socialite but I enjoy going to out-door events.
I have a passion for makeup artistry and am always looking out for a new beauty product to try.
My taste buds like adventure but prefer familiarity, I often find myself going the extra mile to find the comfort of a favourite eating spot- Yep, I love great food! Along with the love for food is my liking of great pictures, artworks and exploring new places.
I've only recently begun to take a time-off my busy schedule to near-by destinations.My mid-year resolution is to embark in a weekend get-way with under 100USD budget atleast once a month. Let's see If I can make this resolution work;-)

I have been to Mombasa on several occasions; visiting family, friends or just for fun on a holiday. I have had guided tours through the city, seen some historical sites (Fort Jesus in particular), gone for a swim in the ocean, visited marine park, been on a food hunt, rode a tuk-tuk for the first time, had long walks on the stone paved streets, shoe shopping the list is endless.

This is why I wasn't surprised when I hit Google search for "Mombasa activities" and had about 4,210,000 results. There is simply too many things that you can do in Mombasa but when I recently travelled there, it wasn't so that I could go about Mombasa town doing 'this and that' rather to rest in a beach resort in Nyali, watch time go by and let my worries sway.

Nyali Beach is an attraction in its own right and has won this year's Traveler's Choice Award. A clean beach with clear, powdery, white sands; sapphire blue waters with just the right balance of waves and breeze; perfect for lazing around on those white plastic beds under an umbrella, walking along the shore, wind-surfing or going for a refreshing deep.

This time around, I stayed at the Reef Hotel

The reef is not a luxury place and not a budget place either but is an absolute delight with great customer care and lots of activities to do or watch others do. The hotel has a special event every day after dinner and during the day they have an ‘animation’ team that is responsible of coordinating the games for both children and adults. There are over 180 pictures from travelers who have stayed at the Reef on Trip advisor and over 40 professional photos. I was happy with everything about it, the food buffets, the quiet surrounding, the staff and especially the serenity it commands.

5 things I learnt at the Reef that can make you a smart traveler:

  1.   Even though the ‘All inclusive’ may seem like a bargain; for someone who doesn’t eat as much and doesn’t drink as much between meals leave alone doesn’t drink alcohol, it’s not worth it.
  2.   Everything is negotiable, including the prices for the room; you will not get it unless you ask for it.
  3.   The tours arranged by the hotel may be convenient and assuring but the private tour guides by the beach (beach boys) can offer a good deal and a great tour experience at a lower price if you are the type to take a leap of faith.
  4.   Don’t feed the monkeys -- for your own safety.
  5.   Respect the ‘No Smoking’ signs, your cigarette smoke can be enjoyable to you but is irritating to others. I was thoroughly abhorred by the people who kept smoking in the ‘NO SMOKING’ section.

Read what other travelers thought.

About two weeks ago I went to Bukoba for a funeral, it was my second time in the town and I was as mesmerized as I was the first time; and a week after I was back home, I recommended Bukoba to a fellow traveller who had an extensive itinerary of planned tours around Tanzania which includes going to a water fall in Kigoma. The town is relatively small and less developed than my favourite Arusha town. But it's natural beauty; the preserved nature takes my breath away and brings a calmness to a tired wandering soul; there is something about connecting with nature that has a profound effect on our well being. Here is where you can almost imagine the beginning of creation- okay, may be am throwing in a little embellishments:-)

Bukoba Shore, Tanzania

Bukoba is the capital of Kageara region and is several kilometers from Dar-es-salam, it's practically going across the country; by bus it would take over 18 hrs with a sleep over at Shinyanga. It is a hassle that I would think no one who has come to Tanzania through Dar-es-salam with the goal of visiting the national parks or go to the beaches of Zanzibar would want to take. But, when Petro told me that he would be going to Mwanza and then to a nearby island called Ukerewe; I found myself suggesting Bukoba as a place he should be thinking of visiting; it has the beauty of Mwanza but it is more reserved. It would take him a whole night journey by ferry and over 12 hours by bus but a little over 45 minutes by plane.All these travel options are available daily.I must mention that since most of it's population speaks the native language, it can be a little nerve wrecking when traveling with the 'dala-dala'; even though i'm familiar with the language, I found myself in at most discomfort when I rode a bus in which everyone was speaking Kihaya except for me, from town to the village I was staying in; an elderly woman kept muttering things to me and I could only stare back with what I would imagine to be a blank expression.

Why do I want to convince you to take this cumbersome journey?

Here are 10 reasons why:

1. Lake Victoria is a wonder   It's the second widest fresh water body in the world. You can have all the water fun you would have at the shores of the Indian ocean in Zanzibar without the salt, the dangerous jelly fish, the crabs (I know they scare the hell out of my sister); the crowd and the pollution of larger cities. And enjoy watching the birds swooping into the lake for a meal or busy on the shore.

Birdwatching in Bukoba, Tanzania

>2. Many inhabited isles/islands   on the lake that you can reach by flight or motorized boat (if you feel a little more adventurous, why not try the man powered boats). Close to Bukoba is the highly recommended Rubondo island which is also a national reserve. The national park has a number of indigenous mammal species - hippo, vervet monkey, genet and mongoose - which share their protected habitat with introduced species such as chimpanzee, black-and-white colobus, elephant and giraffe, all of which benefit from Rubondo’s inaccessibility. Rubondo also protects precious fish breeding grounds. It's natural botanical gardens has wild jasmine, 40 different orchids and a smorgasbord of sweet, indefinable smells emanate from the forest.

Musila close

3. Explore the forests   There a number of natural forests in Kagera region, Burigi,Biharamulo, Ibanda which all have been declared reserves. They are home to elephants, hippos, reedbuck, steinbuck, zebra, sable, roan antelope, sitatunga, topi and colubus monkeys. A number of smaller forests are within Bukoba town and now many man-made forests of tall pines. I was delighted to smell the intoxicating eucalyptus when I hiked back home that I had to stop and savour the air.

Forests at Maruku, Tanzania

4. Conquer the rocks   Bukoba is a rocky highland, as you descend from the sky by flight you can appreciate some of the cliffs. I'm not a rock climber but if you are you could challenge youself to a climb or explore ancient rocks paintings in Nyangoma (which is the name for the first of female twins by the way) close to Nyakijoga. There are hundreds of these paintings in caves overlooking a very attractive valley.

5. Get into the caves, watch the waterfalls and follow the rivers.   Some tour operators offer trips to Kyamunene River Waterfalls and near-by caves and share tales of the use of the cave by warriors in the ancient tribal wars & by more recently by soldiers in the Idd Amin war. I experience a part of Kyamunene river on my trip, the sound of it's water rushing over the rocks made me want to follow it down; it's like a relaxing zen.

Kyamunene Eiver, Tanzania

6. Experience a new culture   The bahaya are the natives of Bukoba, and even though they have embraced change though christian civilizationa and now the global civilization; they still hold their language and culture close at heart. On my trip to Bukoba for a funeral I learnt quite some; funeral rites and traditions and was lucky to witness the swearing of a new Mulangila (chief of the clan). If you are out to experience a new culture, the Bahaya are generous people, welcoming and full of laughter. Guests are welcomed with a traditional banana brew and sun dried coffee beans which also feature in a number of traditional gatherings. If you are in a dance mood, you can enjoy “Ngoma”; traditional dances in a variety of styles including Omutoro, Amayaga, Mulekule, Amakondele, Akasimbo.

child eating banana

7. Embrace a unique culinary experience   In Bukoba, 'Senene' or locusts deep fried or smoked are a popular snack, for some it will be like a real life fear factor; can you dare your senses? The main staple is boiled green banana with beans or groundnuts; my favourite dish in the whole world. My mum would treat us to her traditional meal every now and then; I remember hearing her sing in her vernacular all day long and we knew she was in a good mood that day.

senene

8. Go fishing   How about catching your own meal? Dotted along the shores of Lake Victoria are numerous fishing villages. Most of the fishermen are local and thus they use traditional technology -- wooden boats and nets. The most famous villages near Bukoba Town are Igabiro fishing village in Bugabo, Musila Island, Kifungwi and Nyamukazi. On this occasion I went to Musila village, a small island just off shore a few meters from the airport. It consists mostly of temporary fishermen settlers. You can negotiate a deal with the local fishermen and they would gladly take you on board. Maybe you can even bring home a tilapia or Nile perch.

9. Experience all star hotels to fit your budget   Bukoba isn't as developed as the big cities in Tanzania but it hosts luxurious hotels with international cuisines. You can cool off and relax as you watch the sun go by. I was fortunate to see quite a few such as the Walkgard, Walkgard annex, Bukoba Kolping... The best thing is that google maps and places works! You can easily find your way around the town to hotels of your liking, I found New Coffee Tree Hotel where I had my favorite Green bananas in a modern taste with Tilapia for lunch. They have a full buffet at less than 15,000 ;-)
  Check out what travelers on TripAdvisor say about some of the accommodations.

new coffee tree hotel

Walkgard annnex

10. When you plan for it, you can get there in comfort   All you have to do is makeup your mind and go off for the experience. There are flights from Nairobi to Bukoba via Mwanza if you are traveling from Europe. Daily flights from Mwanza-Bukoba by Auric Air at a prize of 135,000 Tshs one way; round trip from Kilimanjaro-Bukoba or Dar-es-salam-Bukoba with Precision Air. Or if you are already in Tanzania, a tourist or a resident/citizen on a long holiday why not take a bus ride and enjoy the pleasures of travelling on the road; the dust, the bumps and all.

auric

Even though the costs of accommodation and food are almost comparable to the budget places I have been to, due to the costs of traveling there, Bukoba falls off my favorite category of budget travels. So why would I suggest Bukoba and Kagera at large as a destination worth exploring? Because in Bukoba you can satisfy your thirst for wildlife, lazying on the beach, exploring a new culture and whatever else your imagination holds.

My trip to Pangani was 2 years overdue, coincidentally I got a number of a tour guide at a convenient moment. Pangani is about 45-50 kilometers south of Tanga town and is home to Digo, Shirazi, Bondei. Walking around town there are plenty of buildings that even though are reduced to ruins profess to the arab and German influence.

Panganidhow

It is about 4 hours to Zanzibar by boat and therefore there is good movement between the two cities.The main economic activities in Pangani are fishing and coconut farming.The beach of Pangani has nice shade of torquise, has a number of marine attractions, beautiful shells by the shore and clean soft white sand. Besides the beach, Pangani is blessed with a river of the same name, it is a major river of northeastern Tanzania. It has two main sources: the Ruvu, which rises as Lumi at Kilimanjaro, passes through Lake Jipe, and empties into the Nyumba ya Mungu reservoir and Kikuletwa that also enters into the Nyumba ya Mungu Reservoir. Just after leaving the Reservoir the stream becomes the Pangani that empties into the Indian ocean at the town. For much of its length the river flows along the regional borders of Kilimanjaro region and Manyara region, before flowing into Tanga region, which contains the 68MW Pangani Power Station and the Pangani falls dam. There are several inhabited islands within the river. The river is full of crocodiles; hippopotami are scarcer in its lower parts.

I wanted to go for a fishing trip and after checking out the itinerary from Tanzania Cultural Tourism Programme, I headed to Pangani from Arusha with a $50 USD budget -- which would be equivalent to about 78,000 Tshs.

Getting there:

It cost me 13,500 Tsh from Arusha to Tanga and a further 2000 from Tanga to Pangani. There is no straight bus from Arusha or Dar es Salaam, you have to pass by Tanga and make a connection. It's a little over an hour from Tanga to Pangani on a dala-dala. I left Arusha at 7am and arrived in Pangani about 6pm, having spent the whole day on the road.

The road to Pangani was dusty but I enjoyed the view and the conversation among the travelers in the mini-bus with me. Most of all, I love the accent, I regard the Tangan accent as the best Swahili accent in the country (don't hate me).

Where to sleep:

Down Pangani road there are quite a number of sign posts advertising different lodges. The accommodation options in Pangani are countless, from budget tents for rent at about $2 USD/day on a camping ground that cost $5 USD/night to average simple accommodation between 10-20,000 Tshs and luxury lodges at over $100 USD a night. I chose to sleep at YMCA at 20,000 Tshs/night because it’s familiar (there is a YMCA hostel in Moshi) and being a faith based organization I felt it was a safe option for a single female traveler late in the evening. I was not disappointed.

The hostel is in a quiet place just a few meters from 'Idara ya maji' stop and has a view of the beach- you can actually go down the slope to meet the sand and waves. It currently offers only five rooms that can accommodate two people at a time and the rest of the compound is under renovation. The rooms are simple, clean, spacious and well lit. They offer clean linen including blankets. It was well worth my money.

YMCA

If you prefer the great outdoors most of the hotels and hostels have camping grounds. I particularly liked the one owned by the nuns of Pangani. They have their game right, their facility is fenced has showers and toilets, outside showers where you can wash off after a swim, hammocks, thatched huts that keep off the heat but not the breeze and a restaurant.

Things you can do in Pangani:

With a good tour guide, the list of activities is overwhelming. From walks and bike rides on dry land to swimming, snorkeling, paddy diving, fishing and a boat ride on the Pangani river and Indian ocean.

You can even have camp by the beach, light a campfire and enjoy a fish grill from the catch of the day. I love tour guides because they have not failed me to date even with a short available time they always find an activity that leaves my heart content and their social skills have helped me talk to people I would have otherwise had no courage to, I have learnt quite a number of things such as it costs about 10 million Tshs to make the traditional dhow. Even though I intended to go for a fishing trip I opted for a bike tour around Pangani town with Rasta Ally because I was running short of time and the fishing tour is best done with a large group to lower the cost of hiring the boat which is at $75 USD flat rate. I learnt a little history, met interesting people, was disappointed that the council was letting the historical buildings fall to ruin and got tips on how to travel on budget from a fellow traveler who had quit his job to travel. My tour guide, Ally even saw me off at the bus station when I started my trip back home.

tourbikes

After all the travelling hassle and having just 3 hours to enjoy a guided tour my trip was well worth it. I saw some monkeys and a rainbow after a long time. Even though most tourists pass by Pangani town to Zanzibar and Saadani national park, this is a destination that is worth exploring and well worth your while.

I spent 81,000 Tshs which was about 3,500Ths above my planned budget and learnt the following travelling tips from a Portuguese traveler named Petro:

  1. Always talk to the locals they know all the best deals.
  2. Eat where majority of the locals eat, you'll save some money.
  3. Just because someone suggests something you don’t have to buy it or pay for it, it's your money so you don't have to pay for anything that you feel is above your budget.

Next time you are planning a trip, think of Pangani.

coconut harvesting

  Featured photo by Christiane Birr via Flickr.

I had no solid plan when I set-off to meet my sisters for my birthday (I don't usually celebrate), after my old school mate and cousin offered to take us to Hyatt-Regency Kilimanjaro hotel (HRK) formerly known as Kempiski-Kilimanjaro for desserts and come what may, it triggered the mission for the next day, cheese cake hunt ;-)

At HRK, I was indifferent on what to have so I decided to go with her choice, she picked strawberry cheese cake. I had some reservations about the choice because we don't have the best tasting cheese but we were at the acclaimed HRK so it wouldn't come as a surprise that they import all of their ingredients. After about 10 minutes wait at the wonderfully lit backyard garden the waiter brought in our orders. A piece of white cheese cake with whipped cream and strawberry garnish. Apart from the crust, it seemed to have two layers, the lower resembled a mouse and the top was more solid. The taste was amazing, light, creamy and fluffy with just the right amount of salt and sugar, the strawberries were a perfect compliment adding a tangy feeling to what would have otherwise been a blunt piece, although the crust was a little soggy it settled well with my taste buds [I could almost see Remy's (Ratatouille) fireworks]. Priced at 13,500 Tshs; it was worth every bit.

From there on wards I decided that I would spend the next day tasting every cheese cake that came before my eyes and that took me to two more cafe-cum-bakeries, Africafe and Kahawa cafe. Africafe's cheese cake was up first, a bigger piece, two layered and off-white. The cheesy taste was more pronounced in this piece than the one from Hyatt-Regency however I didn't like the butter-milk icing they used to decorate, it just didn't work with the overall taste. Their crust was crunchy, a little sugary, again it wasn't very complimenting. Never the less at a price of 7,500 Tshs; I was satisfied with the purchase but I still yearned for something better.

Cheesecake at Africafe in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Kahawa cafe's Philadelphia cheese cake attracted me at first glance. I'm not a fan of fruit in anything baked or cooked but mixed berries and a slice of green apple was quite an attention grabber. This piece of cheese cake unlike the other two had a single layer; it was garnished with strawberries, grape, apple slice and cream which really worked to improve the overall flavor making it more than simply sugary-salty-creamy texture. The crust was a little too sugary and I could taste the granules which hurt my teeth with every bit, I had to eliminate the crust in the end. Again priced at 7,500 Tshs it was not a regrettable purchase. In comparison to the Africafe piece, this was way better in taste (if they were to adapt the Hyatt-Regency crust their piece will be heavenly).

Cheesecake at Kahawa Cafe in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Each piece had a miss but in the end of the day when I have a craving for cheese, I would definitely go back to Hyatt-Regency Kilimanjaro for their piece of delightful strawberry cheese cake because the satisfaction I got from having a bite of their creation out-weighed the slightly higher-cost (unfortunately I didn't take a picture of it).

Are you traveling to Tanzania any time soon?
Here are 5 ways you could accidentally give your phone away for free, know them and out-smart them!

1.   Gold doesn't come easy...don't lose your phone out of greed.

Recently a friend of mine came to me distressed, saying that he lost everything for a watcher of rocks. What happened to him is, he met a stranger who told him that he had gold to sell and a buyer is waiting for him in town. He would give him 10% if he lends him his phone because he had lost his that very morning. Sensing his resistance the con man suggested that they take a taxing seeing that they were both going to town, my friend hold on to the sachet of gold and give him the phone so he may talk to the buyer.

So it was done, when they reached town the con told him to wait in a certain area while he went to meet the buyer. My friend waited for hours with the gold which was actually gold colored gravels in his pockets thus he lost his phone. They play with your inner greed so check your greedometer and keep your wits about you.

2.   Goods in hand are broken or stolen...don't trade your phone for a hand deal.

While sitting in the bus a fellow passenger engaged in a bargain with a vendor through the window. The vendor was selling a Nokia smart phone almost 50% lower than the buying price and offered to take the price 25% lower if my fellow traveller thrown in his old phone into the deal. He obviously did. Concerned about the functionality of the phone he asked to check out the phone first.

It seemed to power up so he sealed the deal only to find out later that the phone had been exchanged for a similar dead phone when boxing! He had no time to recheck the phone when it was boxed because the bus was leaving.

Yeah, dishonest vendors can do quick swaps. Check, recheck and recheck before you make a purchase from a street vendor better yet stay off deals where you are in some kind of pressure, time, crowd, etc.

3.   People are poor and troubled...save your cellphone.

A few years ago, I gave away my phone to a con. A young boy who seemed troubled approached me and asked me if I was going to the hospital. Sure enough I was that's why I was queued on that side of the road. So any ways he tells me that his mum is seriously sick and needs surgery. He had got part of the money but has to go see his uncle for the other part. The surgeon has agreed to commence with the OP if he pays the first half but he must pay the second half before noon so he needs someone to deliver the money to his brother who is with his mum at the hospital while he goes to his aunt.

He hands me an envelope with the supposed money. Because its too crowded and in fear of attracting attention I just take a quick gThat's how they do it, creatively play with your emotions so be careful when helping strangers. If you feel charitable then find legit organization to offer your help.

4.   When in the club...don't give your cellphone to a stranger.

A friend of a friend came to visit him in the city and they hit a club. After they had a few drinks a chic looking female spots them and joins the meriment over. In a couple of hours she suggests they move to another spot where she guarantees is happening but asks for his phone to call her roommate because her phone is out of credit. Because the music is loud she asks if she can be excused to talk outside, he reluctantly agrees. She disappered into the dark and so did his phone. Appearances are deceiving, your mum's advice of not talking to strangers is a valuable lesson to hang on to.

5.   If it's your phone...you couldn't possibly have picked it up from the gutter!

A few weeks ago, a woman called and claimed that the phone I was using is hers and I must have picked up where her daughter had dropped it. She begged me to meet her and talk about it and that she would pay me 100,000 Tshs for it. The story was sbdurx because I bought the phone from abroad and I have proof so I told her so. When she couldn't get me to fall for it (I'm wiser now) she got her partner to call me posing as a customer care personnel from my service provider and asking me to return the phone to it's owner. I asked him when was lost/stolen claims addressed by customer care services and suggested that if the claimnant has proof of purchase then she should go to the police and let them do their job and that's how years of experince helped me save my cellphone! Don't accept suggestions for a meetup when the situation is obviously absurd.

Have you or anyone you know fall for these or similar tricks? Share the experience with us so that others may travel smart :-)

Even though I live in a country that is known for diverse culture and natural resources including wildlife, my greatest challenge to go out on advetures is having enough time and money to travel. My mid-year resolution is therefore to organize weekend getaways to nearby destinations. Last weekend I set off for Karatu, Tanzania. I have never been to the region, had no idea where to sleep or what I will find there. The only thing I knew was that it is the land of the Iraqi people who are close to the Maasai, both being nilots. Armed with the internet on my laptop and mobile phone, I further found out the location, the time it would take to go there and names of a few hotels that were slightly above my budget. Asking around from collegues, I found out the price it would cost and how to get there.

Small hut on the countryside of Karatu, Tanzania
Small hut on the Karatu countryside

With a budget of $80USD (128,000 Tanzanian shillings), my nine year old nephew for company and without a host, I set for Karatu. The road trip was a great idea, I enjoyed watching the landscape taking different forms from plains to hills and valleys; it was a wonderful feeling to see streams and rivers flowing in places that were dry a few months ago. With a stop-over at Arusha, it took about 4hrs or so to reach Karatu town. I spent less than 100,000 Tshs for the entire trip to Karatu and back home; the cost includes meals and snacks, a tour, transport and accomodation.

If you are planning to go to Karatu it is a good idea to get in touch with a freelance tour guide and let them know your budget. The only difference in costs for foreigners will be the amount paid to the tour guides which ranges between 10-30 USD depending on the tour type. Transport, food and accomodation costs are the same for both local and foreign tourists. There are direct buses from Moshi to Karatu which leave at around 6:00 am, alternatively you can take a bus to Arusha then Karatu, the price is the same at 7,500Tshs. The benefit of stopping-over is that you can enjoy a meal in Arusha, take a stretch and get on with the journey. Several buses leave Karatu to Arusha up to evening hours (around 5 pm) so you can actually get back on the same day if you wish to, direct buses to Moshi are from 6:00 am up to around 7:30 am.

Locals gathering wood in Karatu, Tanzania
Locals gathering wood in Karatu

The weather in Karatu reminded me of Dodoma, dry heat or dry cold. It is a small town that is slowly embracing the wave of development. The municipality has 3 banks with ATM services, a bureua de change, mobile money services, a hospital and a range of accomodation and food joints that would fit any budget.

Even though it is an important connection to Ngorongoro and Serengeti national parks, it is a destination of it's own. It offers an oppotunity to enjoy a work-out through treking or biking safari and learning a new culture through the hospitality of the local people who are generous enough to invite travellers to their homes through culture tourism programmes.

Swamp in Karatu, Tanzania

I whole heartedly and witout any conflict of interest recommend, Richard, a freelance tour guide who made our experience in Karatu memorable at short notice, keeping in mind our lack of time and traveling with a budget.

Have you been to Karatu? What was your experience?

  You can reach Richard at the following contacts~ web: http://www.gnakoculturaltourism.webs.com mobile: +255767612980 or Facebook: Richardnjuga

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