World traveler Clown Tom Bolton

Adventure stories & photos

Tom’s travels in Tanzania, Zanzibar


Arrival in Dar el Salaam

I went to Tanzania for a month with my wife starting  the 4th of Feb. 2009. We arrived in the main town of Dar el Salaam. Had to wait quite a while to get a visa before passing customs which for Americans was now 100 US dollars. Unfortunately, our luggage had not made the connection in Nairobi but we waited about 6 hours at the airport. This paid off as our bags did arrive on the next possible flight.

We soon found out that the taxi fare to the center of town had doubled in the last year. Fuel prices had doubled but then retreated to where they had been but transportation costs all over the country basically doubled and stayed there. That Tanzania was not going to be a super cheap third world country was thus apparent from the start. That it could be chaotic as seen by this photo going into one of the bus stations just after a downpour was also clear.

On to Zanzibar Island

We stayed our first night at the YWCA (which also accepted men) which was rather run down but not too expensive. We wandered around a bit and although it is not as dangerous as many third world capitals, one needs to be cautious and I didn’t carry my camera around. We did spend some more time in Dar before we left, seeing a couple of markets and the national museum but mostly it was just a transit point rather than a place of interest.

The next morning after delaying the decision until the last minute, we decided to get the ferry over to the island of Zanzibar. We opted for the cheap cargo ferry which officially costs 15 US dollars for foreigners but we battled at the last minute to get it for 20 dollars each. It became a surprise when one didn’t have to pay more, often much more, for things as a foreigner. It was a bit confusing getting on board and we were the only westerners but the trip was ok. Not so nice was that it was already getting dark as we arrived which is a bit intimidating with all of the touts trying to grab you.

Stonetown, Zanzibar

We were also told we had to pass customs although Zanzibar belongs to Tanzania. We skipped it until the next day. Seems they like to control things and preserve their special status as a not quite a separate country, calling themselves “The Revolutionary Republic of Zanzibar”. Luckily we didn’t have to pay anything and they never took or controlled the departure forms they gave us when we did leave. The first photo is of the ferry we took, which was being loaded with cargo the next day.

All ferries arrive in the main town of Zanzibar, the old part of which is referred to as Stone Town. This photo is of the old fort, one of the local landmarks, built by the Arabs to defend against the Portuguese. The viewpoint is from another landmark called “the house of wonders”, a palace built by a sultan which now holds the Zanzibar Museum of History and Culture. To the right of the photo one sees the beautiful Forodhani gardens which were unfortunately closed for reconstruction while we were there.  Below right, was a nearby former palace that also has a museum inside but we never went inside.

Many old buildings being restored

Stone Town is the old quarter of Zanzibar town characterized by narrow winding streets. Many of its beautiful old buildings have seen better days but luckily people have become aware of their value and have started restoration projects to save them being replaced by modern structures. Most big projects are funded and done in cooperation with foreign organizations and governments.

Characteristic massive wood doors

Typical in Zanzibar are the massive old carved wood doors. Many of them have large metal spikes, a strategy said to have been brought from India and meant to defend against elephants from pushing down the doors.

Balconies offer discrete views

I often associated such architecture as seen in this photo as being typically Arab yet the guide books and museums claim that such intricate archways and façades are an Indian influence. The girl was shy to have her picture taken and disappeared as soon as she noticed my camera.

Yet on the street people were overly friendly, constantly greeting one with “jambo” and “habari” (how are you?). To ignore someone even if you didn’t have time or were sure that they only wanted to sell you something was not an option. This was considered an insult, so one constantly had to claim that one didn’t have time or else give a long explanation WHY you didn’t want to buy something or hire someone as a guide. Yet, given a logical explanation, most people accepted it rather than just mindlessly further insisting – like I experienced in Indonesia for example.

To the question, “how are you” the only acceptable answer is “azuri” (fine) even if you looked like you had just crawled out of a train wreck. Often I answered questions with questions of my own to avoid giving out information, like a kind of verbal judo using their own rules of conversation against them.

Below right; many buildings had these great balconies but they didn’t seems to be used. I guess family life was to be kept behind closed doors.

Traditional building materials

This is just a typical small backstreet. Even though many of the houses were not in great shape, they had a lot of character to them. And the traditional building material is stone that is layers of coral sediments that insulates against the heat better than modern concrete.

Modern section of Zanzibar city not so appealing

Crossing from Stone Town into the newer section of Zanzibar Town was immediately apparent. This is one of the better of many similar apartments there. It had some trees to add color but otherwise was a lifeless concrete box which probably looked run down by the time it was build and age will add nothing to its charm or lack there of.

End the day at Stone Town beach

Late in the afternoon, boys meet on the main beach of Stone Town to play football and swim. A few girls also swam which was often done fully clothed anyway. Some of the better cafes to relax and watch the people and the sunset were also located here.

Busara Music Festival in Stone Town

We got to attend part of the Sauti za Busara music festival held for 4 days in the old fort in Stone Town and an additional day on the north side of the island. Musicians from all over Africa and some from Europe and America participate each evening and one got in free if inside before 6 p.m. Only problem with the festival is that all of the affordable good hotels are fully booked well in advance. We had to stay a few nights at the Riverman which is mentioned in the German guide books but it is over-priced, run down and the owner cuts corners to save money at every opportunity. Otherwise we can recommend the clean Flamingo hotel. Rooms were on the small size but the rooftop terrace for breakfast was great and the workers were trustworthy and helpful.

One of the most interesting performers was a Zanzibarian woman Bi Kidudi who smokes and drinks and still performs although she is over 100 years old. She is now a national icon and they showed a long video about her life. Her behavior was considered an affront to Muslim sensitivities but she is so small and old that everyone seems charmed by her. Guess when you get that old you can say and do what you want.

Islam in Zanzibar

Zanzibar is over 95% Muslim. Not only the woman and girls are covered but the men and boys also often wear traditional Muslim dress at least when going to the mosque or madrasah (Muslim school). We were once invited into a madrasah and sat there for around 30 minutes and saw how the boys and girls learned the Koran by singing it in verse. Afterwards we saw that this madrasah was financed by the Saudis which are known for their fundamentalism the teacher went out of his way to show friendship.

Church in Zanzibar Town

There are at least 2 large churches from colonial times in Stone Town. Next to the Anglican Church is an area where a slave market once existed. Usually one has to pay to go by the church but we went on Sunday and refused to pay to go into the church to attend the service. There had been an English service earlier but we found the Swahili version more interesting.

We spoke to the pastor afterwards. He said that the communities live basically in peace but the Government gives preference to the Muslims in Zanzibar and for example had appropriated church land. And like in most Muslim lands, they were happy when someone became Muslim but to convert from Muslim to another religion was big trouble. The person who converted and his family were at great risk. Despite this, we felt personally safer in Zanzibar even at night on the street than in other parts of Tanzania. There seemed to be a sense of national pride that Tanzanians are not thieves and an especially strong social pressure in Zanzibar that such behavior is religiously unacceptable.

Muslim clothing

The scene in this series of photos was both typical of Stone Town with many girls and boys wearing their “Muslim” outfits yet almost unique that I had a good angle to photograph the people as they passed by without them really noticing. I got a dozen or so great shots and couldn’t narrow my choice down further. And below right I had a shot of a Muslim event in Zanzibar where there were many women. Although they covered their hair, not only were their faces free but they wore bright colors rather than black or dark robes like devote Muslims in many countries.

Zanzibar a mixture of many cultures

One could see that many of the Zanzibarians are of mixed blood; Africans mingled with Arabs, Indians and Europeans. The local culture is also a mixture of these traditions but with the religion and the fact that 25 % of Swahili words come from Arabic, the Arabs obviously were the most important foreign influence. Swahili is the predominant language in Tanzania and much of Eastern Africa although it is the second language for many groups on the mainland.

It is claimed that slavery always existed in some form in Africa but it was the Arab traders that made it into a commercial business. Not to excuse the evil done by slavery in America but it was not like whites were running through the jungles of Africa capturing black slaves. Blacks did this to each other and sold the slaves to the Arabs. Whites later bought from the established slave markets. I read almost exclusively about white guilt concerning the slave trade yet it was primarily facilitated by blacks and Arabs. And it was the influence of white Christians under the colonial powers that finally stopped the trade.

How does Islam condone slavery?

This raises a question I have never heard discussed, “how could a supposedly peaceful religion like Islam condone slavery?” Can being fixated on a religious text blind one to humanity? As was pointed out to me by a Muslim from Zanzibar, the whites brought Christianity here but when they built a church somewhere they also built a school and a hospital. Overzealous Christians annoy me but this attitude of helping people rather than just preaching to them has my full respect.


Zanzibar Town’s main outdoor market

The main market of Stone Town marked the border to the newer part of Zanzibar town and was the main place for food, clothes and catching transportation. Interestingly enough, the majority of the Zanzibar market vendors were men while in other parts of Tanzania they were women.

Main transportation is by dalla-dalla

By the market was the bus depot – although there was no station per se.  The main form of public transport, these vans or trucks with benches inside were known as dalla-dallas. Typically one had 30 or 40 people crammed into the space for a dozen or so.

Trip to Jozani Forest

Another place we visited on Zanzibar east from Stone Town was the Jozani Forest which was about a 45 minute ride in a dalla-dalla. Most tourists visit this place in connection with a tour to see spice plantations but we did it independently. It’s the last remaining large forest on the island and is known for its population of monkeys although most of the monkeys the guide showed us were in the trees across from the entrance to the park itself.

The entrance fee was about 10 dollars each and the guide slowly walked us along a circular path surrounded by big old trees yet we probably didn’t cover more than 600 meters and it was finished in 30 minutes. The expert commentary went along the lines of “here is the forest, it’s full of trees and plants where the animals live – under the sky which is sometimes blue and you can see the sun during the day”. Sounded like it came out of an encyclopedia for 3 graders. We walked back alone into the forest under the observation of the guide, so we got a bit more time yet only someone who had never seen a tropical forest would be satisfied with how limited this experience was.

Kwenda Beach and Nungwi

After Stone Town we went to the north side of the Island to Kwenda. There are a dozen or so bungalow operations there. We stayed at the smallest place on the beach, Les Toits du Palme, which had a few ratty old thatched roofed basic bungalows (locally called bandas) without electricity or any security but for just a bit more ($ 30 US/night) we got the nice place shown in the photo. We could sit on our porch and look right down on the beach, surrounded by a terraced garden. With it’s fine white sand and gentle water which was swimmable except at the lowest of tides, this was a fantastic beach, the ideal of a dream beach on Africa’s Swahili coast.

Maasai on Zanzibar

One often saw Maasai men strolling along the beach. Although they stick to their traditional dress, they have gone big time into selling souvenirs to tourists. And once they over flooded their local market for such things, they had the great idea to come to Zanzibar. A few local sellers mentioned that they found it rather strange that these cow herders from the north of Tanzania come to an island to sell.

There were long strings of simple huts on the beach where the Maasai sold their wares and lived in the back. One of them gave in that it was lonely to be away from home and that with so many sellers for the number of tourists, they barely got by rather than got rich as they had hoped. We bought some nice jewelry but I was horrified at their piles of paintings. They all had the same poorly done simple motif and were rumored to come from Kenya.

Fishermen at work

Not surprisingly, there were many fishermen along that part of the coast. The bigger local wooden sailing ships known as dhows were built and repaired a couple of kilometers away in the village of Nungwi. The canoe was pushed along by a pole rather than a paddle. Common scenes were seeing fishermen going out with their boats or cleaning fish right on the beach.

Waters optimal for swimming

We had dry weather but there were often clouds which in combination with the corals reefs, often created a sea mosaic of changing shades of green and blues. Surprisingly the waters very clean and gentle and ideally warm for swimming.

Kwenda Resort

On the northern end of Kwenda Beach towards Numgwi was an especially large Italian owned resort. They had a bridge out to a clusters of shops built above the water. It is said that all of the profits from such operations end up in the pockets of foreigners but at least they seemed to employ a lot of people to do their construction work.

Collecting sea grass

Multiple groups of women and girls went out on the reefs at extreme low tide to collected sea grass which is used in the cosmetic industry. This is probably a welcome addition to make money from the sea as fish stocks everywhere are on the decline.

Dhows repaired at Nungwi

The Dhows, the local style of wood boat, in these photos were basically there for repair by the village of Nungwi. There was at least a dozen being worked on as it is a commercial specialty of the village. I was only there one afternoon as it is only reachable along the beach at low tide. Otherwise, it is known for its nightlife amongst the tourists although the locals there are very conservative. Aside from the tourist resorts, I hardly saw any other commerce in this large village other than a few small shops. In building them, the cracks between the wooded planks are sealed by jamming in cotton like plant fiber which is soaked in oil. Not high tech but it is a time tested method to keep the water out

Clash of local modesty and western dress

Although most all of the locals in Kwenda were involved in tourism, the majority of the people in Nungwi were not really happy with seeing tourists scantily dressed on the beach. And one should certainly not wander around the town without having covered up appropriately.

Colorful local attire

As one sees, the local dress was very colorful rather than austere. I relaxed in the restaurant by our bungalows and would take photos of the people walking down the beach.

Zanzibar direction Moshi & Kilimanjaro

We took the fast ferry back to the mainland via Dar el Salaam. Was double the price of the cargo ferry but in this direction it would have gone overnight which was a bit too long. I found it comfortable but my wife found it confining with no chance for fresh air. Back in Dar we stayed just one night, this time at the Safari Inn which was popular amongst travelers and better than the YWCA but not quite as nice as the nearby Econolodge and caught a bus north to Moshi.

Had to deal with the fact that most long range buses leave from a station well out of the city and one has to pay almost half of the fare again to get to the bus station by taxi. Taking local buses would be quite a stress with full baggage. The long range buses like the ones in the photo needed to be booked in advance and often had a lot of cargo on top or below yet they were much roomier than a dalla-dalla.

Views of the countryside

I took these photos from a bus window. Nothing spectacular but they shows examples of the typical houses outside the main cities; traditionally sticks covered with mud with thatch roofs, which are giving way to the more modern version of bricks with sheet metal roofs. All school kids, like the 2 in the photo, seemed to have a uniform and feel proud to be learning. The building standard doesn’t look like much of an improvement but the protection against the elements and infestation of possibly disease carrying insects and rodents is probably noticeable.

People lined up at wells

Another thing one often saw while driving through small villages were the people crowded around the wells. Most were operated by a hand pump and were probably bored by machine to a good depth which is a great improvement over shallow dug, open wells. Problem was that they were small and people still spent hours waiting to fill their jerry cans, most of which were used cooking oil containers. I think this photo was actually from a market where the guy was selling water but it gives the idea and a typical scene would be a dozen people with hundreds of containers.

Vendors swarm at bus windows

Even the express buses seemed to make a lot of stops, which were typified by a swarm of vendors shouting at the windows with their offerings of fruits, nuts and drinks.

Health hazard: malaria & HIV

I heard estimations of the HIV infection rate in Tanzania being between 5 and 10 %. Not nearly as high as some African countries but enough to really burden such a poor land. To their credit, there were signs on the streets and also publications at the library giving warnings about AIDS.

We met a young Dutch doctor who was in a project trying to trace HIV infected people. They wanted to have some idea about survival rates amongst infected people which is impossible if you can’t find them. Problem was that street names and addresses for the most part don’t exist. Even big companies only have post office box numbers, so tracking someone down is difficult especially since one can’t say why one is looking for them. The stigmatism of Aids is a big problem yet it has become a cliché there that stigmatism is THE problem.

Malaria is also a major problem in Tanzania but as it was the dry season we opted to only take anti-malarials along for emergency treatment rather than for prophylaxis especially since enough of the recommended drug of choice, Malarone, would have cost us about 500 Euros each in Germany. Lariam is readily available and cheap but many people have strong side-effects to it.

Most hotels provided mosquito nets but they were often full of holes (I often repaired them with dental floss). We took a net with us which is recommendable although we never really used ours. If you can’t get a net already treated with insect repellent, there is a spray available from pharmacies – normally used against fleas that have infested your furniture. Thus the mosquitoes that land on your net quickly die rather than just wait until you have to get up.

Moshi & Kilimanjaro

Upon arrival in Moshi we ended up walking to the Backpackers hostel. Was quite a feat not to get followed by the local touts. Later we changed to the nearby Kindoroko hotel which was run by the same owners. We paid a bit more here but most of the rooms were double the price as they had their own bathroom. The advantage was a balcony to the street where one could see Kilimanjaro. The next 2 photos are from the rooftop of our hotel. We eventually moved to the Buffalo hotel which was quieter and a little cheaper and had the most popular restaurant right across from it serving pretty good Italian food which was a change of pace. Most of the hotels in town were named after animals and we joked that the Zebra hotel, where we ate a couple of times, should have been called the giraffe hotel since its ceilings were so incredibly high.

Kilimanjaro, Africa highest mountain is not technically hard to climb but because of its altitude the acclimatization is a problem and more than one person told us – it’s COLD on top. To climb it one has to go through an agency which will organize the required guide and porter(s) and one has to pay 50 US dollars per day park fees for a minimum 5 day trip. A couple told us that they took the cheapest, simplest version and still ended up with a guide and 9 porters for the 2 of them.

Rather than establishing proper places along the routes, they carry the tents and stove etc. up and down and up again for each trip. There are complaints that some porters are ill equipped for the extreme terrain and tourists complain that the porters can endlessly pressure you for tips and sabotage your trip if they don’t get what they want. I had just had a hernia operation and a nose operation within a couple of months before going on this trip, so I was not in condition to try for the top even if we had thought it worth the money and hassle. In the end I was content to see Kilimanjaro from a distance and from the lower slopes.

A bit more disappointing was missing the other big icon of Zanzibar tourism, visiting the Serengeti. Seems one can get a bus through the park for cheap without stopping or getting off of the main road, this sounded lame. Or there are tours that are pricey and often lead to a large groups of vehicles at the smae place trying to chase down a decent view of animals. Staying overnight in the park is also only done on a luxury budget.

We spent a lot of time gazing at Kilimanjaro as one always hoped for an even better view through the haze and clouds. Towards the end of our stay, we were treated to a fresh snowfall, which covered most of the upper peak. This contrast to the average view makes it painfully obvious that there is not much left of its glaciers. Although the height of Kilimanjaro will always catch the clouds, the ever-growing population in the area is facing some drastic shortages of water in the near future.

Marangu, slopes of Kilimanjaro

Next photo was on the outskirts of Marangu, a village northwest of Moshi on the lower slopes of Kilimanjaro which we made a day trip to. Wasn’t much in the village itself although one could buy some delicious looking fly covered fish drying on racks.

Fertile mountain terrain

As one would expect, the area is hilly and very green. Naturally such a fertile environment is an attractive place to live. There are many projects in the area to support farming or other strategies to provide a livelihood without robbing the mountain forests of their trees and animals. Perversely, this attracts even more people to the area which multiplies the difficulties. The woman here is carrying grass and the next bananas but often very heavy loads of wood etc. were often carried on the head.

Machame Village, hunting lodge

Northeast of Moshi is another nice village called Machame which is the gateway to one of the most popular routes up Kilimanjaro. We went there for 2 days staying in one of the few affordable (although overpriced) hotels which had no water. None of the hotels in town had a sign out front which I was openly told to be a strategy to avoid paying taxes. There are a couple of waterfalls within walking distance of the village. Along the way to the biggest of the falls, one can visit local caves which are entered through holes in the ground covered with thatched roofs.

Supposedly, the local Chagga people hid in these caves during raids by Maasai tribes a couple of hundred years ago. There is also a big old lodge which personifies the great white hunter mentality of the colonial era. US President Jimmy Carter stayed here once which is prominently advertised out front. Amongst the hunting trophies displayed there were 2 elephant foot waste-baskets, one of which can be seen in the lower right side of the next photo. It looked like a Hollywood film set but no, such crass things do exist!

Local market in Moshi

People did not care to have their photo taken here so I could only get shots hidden and from a distance. This was a place for fruits, vegetables and household goods rather than souvenirs, so the locals were somewhat surprised and happy to get to sell us anything. We especially enjoyed the avocados and mangos and supplemented our restaurant food with extra peppers, onions and carrots. We were surprised to get these for a third of the price we paid in Zanzibar.

Overall the food was pretty good in Tanzania. Although a polenta type dish, made either from ground corn or cassava root, called Ugali is supposed to be the national dish; we found most people preferred rice – often accompanied by vegetables and a few versions of curry. People were very understanding that one didn’t eat meat. I still eat fish which was widely available as well as squid and octopus near the coast but strangely one saw few shrimps and we never saw other seafood like crabs or mussels.

Moshi mosque

This was a big mosque near the Moshi bus station. Outside of Zanzibar, Tanzania is supposed to be around 40% Muslim. But with their distinctive cloths, many mosques and the 5 daily calls to prayer over LOUD speakers, one never failed to notice their presence. In addition to the plentiful churches, the Scientologists had also made their presence known here by infiltrating the local library which had numerous books by that con-artist Hubbard on prominent display.

Tunahaki circus school project

From adverts at the hotels in Moshi I saw at least 4 orphanages that claimed to have saved kids from the street. Seemed to be a booming business concept to get foreigners to volunteer or donate. One project I had already found in the internet, Tunahaki development center, also said that they teach the kids circus skills like acrobatics and stilt walking. There is a group of people in California that support this project which also sent a group of kids to the USA to train with the Cirque du Monde. I stopped by and met the director and some of the kids which all seemed cute but rather small to be doing any serious acrobatics. I was told that the older kids were at school although it was Sat. and that I could come Monday after school to give them a juggling workshop.

I arrived to do the workshop but only one older child of 14 was present, so I instructed him, hoping he could pass on anything he learned to the others. I was told that the other kids that do acrobatics are off at boarding school which would be good for their development but I don’t understand when they would be getting their acrobatic instruction. Made me wonder if this is a viable program or just another way of getting donations; also strange because I know very committed groups in Peru and Nicaragua that have been declined help from Cirque du Monde.

The kids were nice though and one has to give them the benefit of the doubt, so sent them juggling balls, clubs and instructional books and hope they might take advantage of them. They also had a bunch of music instruments and showed my wife Traudel how to play the local drums.

Lushoto, Usambara Mountains

After Moshi we headed back south into the Usambara mountains and the town of Lushoto. Here’s a shot from the bus of this long chain of mountains in the background.

The next photo from the same stretch of road is not spectacular but very representative of the country. Before I went, I struggled to visualize how most of the landscape would look. Well, one sees some mountain ranges but most of it is flat with just an occasional tree and some small shrubs. And although large game like elephants and giraffes are still around, they aren’t roaming such plains like they once must have but are confined to the semi-protected areas and parks. Ants are still prevalent and one saw many of their massive hills.

Sisal farming left by Germans

When the Germans colonized the area around 1890 to 1905, they choose the cool climate of Lushoto for their capital. On the one hand, Germans are not liked for having had a colonial presence at all, on the other hand, they are respected for having started the mass cultivation of sisal and building a railroad system as opposed to the British who left nothing of value. Next to the Scandinavians, the Germans also seemed to be the foreigners most involved in development projects.

Irente Viewpoint

About 5 kilometers walk from Lushoto was the Irente Viewpoint pictured below. There are truly breath taking views from the jagged mountain peaks out over the plains to the west. There is a fancy resort there but also this simple place to get a cold drink or sleep in a very simple wooden hut with one heck of a view.

Nice place for a coke after a long walk. Along the way from Lushoto, we stopped for lunch at the Irente Biodiversity Center where they make their own cheese. This farm was grounded by German Lutherans as was our hotel in Lushoto. They not only market their farm products like honey, jams and herbal teas but are attempting to conserve local threatened plant species.

Basic house but with satellite dishes

This photo is from the outskirts of Lushoto. Was just a typical scene, rather basic houses but they all had their satellite dishes. Even more surprising for me was the prevalence of cell phones which were not limited to just the rich or middle classes. The technology one would hope to see here would be solar panels but they are still too expensive and we never saw any, even on the fancy, expensive, foreign owned places.

Market day in Lushoto

With its cooler, wetter climate, quite an abundance of veggies and fruits were grown locally here. Lots of cheap plastic and aluminum buckets, bowls, pots and pans were sold here as well. Also, used cloths and shoes which probably got bought by the ton in Europe. Yet looking at these market photos makes me think of the prosperity of Tanzania. No local civil strife or famines, the people seemed poor but mostly happy. Most had cloths, food and at least a simple place to live. Development projects have provided wells and some basic health advice to many.

The question is where they go from here. While most kids go to primary school, few make it to secondary school and beyond due to costs and that the instruction is suddenly in English rather than Swahili. And if one succeeds in getting an education, where should the good jobs come from? Through TV and videos, the people are growing up knowing about a bigger world than their farm or village and yearn to have some of the riches they see elsewhere. I personally doubt the developments can keep up with the increase in desires that the rest of the world offer.

Tourist guide services

There were two organizations in Lushoto which train and offer local youths as guides. The conflict is that my wife and I, like many tourists, prefer to have a walk to ourselves if we are just following a road and a guide isn’t really necessary. And there really aren’t enough tourists to support such services as a career. Many of these youths were also making and/or selling handicrafts but then so were thousands of others throughout Tanzania. Some practically demanded that I should finance their studies because they need the opportunity. Their need is apparent but I was lucky to even afford to go to Tanzania none-the-less finance every poor person.

We tried to give a fair amount for things we bought and to buy from the street sellers or small shops rather than the big, fancy places which are not only more expensive but possibly foreign owned. But tourism seems too limited to reliably transform the country. You can’t send tens of thousands of people up Kilimanjaro or into to a nature reserve like it was Disneyland, without destroying the very essence of such fragile environments. So the risks presented by increasing the tourism in most of Tanzania could very well outweigh the advantages.

Sun sets on trip to Africa

For my first trip to Africa (other than Morocco) this was a great experience and if I would have the money, I would love to see more of Tanzania and other countries in the region. Although I personally don’t have the time, there seems to be many worthwhile development projects where one can volunteer. To do this properly one needs a residency permit which I heard can take months to get. But with residency one could stay on longer to see some parks and take advantage of the much lower local prices for entrance fees which sounds like a fair trade-off to me.

Besides volunteering, I just hope more people become aware of the problems in Africa and the most of the third world. To realize that most of the money given to poor countries has ended up in the pockets of corrupt officials and although charitable causes should be supported – they can perpetuate a circle of poverty and cannot substitute for fair trade. Teach a man to fish rather than give him a fish sounds nice – but how about stop depleting his fishing grounds and allow him access to markets to sell his fish. Along these lines, I encourage people to learn more about the Fairtrade movement and to support political movements that want to open trade not just so we can export more cars and electronics but to allow importation of third world products.

So, those were just a few tales from my many travels over the last thirty and something years. I hope you've enjoyed another side of a traveling clown! If you want, write me an email or better yet, book my show or set a link to this website or just state me as the beneficiary of your will!

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