A Toast at the Coast

Trip Start Mar 01, 2009
Trip End Jun 25, 2009

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Flag of Tanzania  ,
Tuesday, June 16, 2009

After around six hours on a cramped daladala, we were relieved to arrive at the bus stop in the sleepy costal town of Pangani. For the first time on our trip in Tanzania, we weren't greeted by a hoard of tour guides and taxi drivers. This came as a welcome change at first but as the bus pulled away, we were left stranded with our heavy bags knowing the hostel we had in mind was too far to walk…. An ambitious young local did come over and begin to undo the string on the rack of his rickety looking pedal bike but we refused his kind, albeit slightly crazy offer to give us both, and our bags, a lift! Fortunately we noticed that the tourist office was just over the road and after wondering around the office for a few moments we found one of the guides who was able to find us the only 'taxi’ in town and took us to our hostel.

We met another tourist from England and a couple of guys, one English and one South African, who were working on building a new ferry, on our first evening. We chatted to them for a while and they invited us to join them for a couple of trips on their boat so we jumped at the chance. The first trip was up the river in search of crocodiles, which sadly remained elusive, but took us through some stunning scenery. The river is lined with hundreds of palm trees and was incredibly serene in the dwindling light of the day. We also stopped at a local fishing community and brought a crab to cook up for dinner!

The second trip, which was billed as a day of sunbathing, snorkelling and fishing for tuna, sounded amazing…. We struck out for a tiny sand bank island at low tide as it gets completely submerged at high tide. One of the lads is a big surfer and spotted some breakers on the other side of the island, so he dropped us off and headed with the local boat driver to see if the surf was any good. After about an hour we received a phone call that the local driver had let salt water into the engine and they were now stranded! Fortunately there was another group of tourists on the island and they were able to rescue them and give us a lift back – and that was that, no snorkelling and no fishing!

The nearest big town to Pangani is Tanga and, as we needed to get some supplies we decided to head there for the day and check out some local caves while we were there. Amboni caves are very beautiful, formed from limestone and have a number of local tales and superstitions linked to them!

About 80km south of Pangani is Sadaani National Park, the only park in Tanzania to incorporate the coast line. We decided to visit the park and stay in the reserve for one night. The park itself is beautiful and the guest house, although basic is situated metres from the Indian Ocean. We went on some game drives and although Sadaani’s not as packed full of animals as Ngorongoro we did see giraffe, eland, waterbuck, reedbuck, baboons, buffalo and hippos. Our guide also suggested a trip up the river to see hippos, crocodiles and birds. When we arrived at the pier to see the boat captain, we were told that he’d lent his outboard motor to someone who’d gone to Zanzibar! Our guide then left on a quest to find another engine but returned empty handed. The captain, eager to please, suggested that we could do a shorter trip just paddling the boat up the river so we all loaded onto his boat and set off. Less than 400 metres up the river it’s pretty clear that the wind and current weren’t playing ball and the mission was aborted! Still we did get to see hippos scarily close up!

We’d been told of a reasonably priced beach resort close to Pangani and decided to check it out for a couple of nights before heading back inland to the mountains. Peponi beach resort is lovely (Peponi means paradise in Swahili!) and we rented a tent pitched under a bamboo shelter. The resort has its own dhow and run daily snorkelling trips which we took one day and although we got rained on as the boat left the resort, the weather soon cleared up and we had a great day snorkelling around the reefs and then relaxing on another sand-island. That night we shared an enormous sea-food platter and a cheeky glass of vino or two as we realised it was exactly one year till we tie the knot!

So what’s next? Lushoto is in our sights, a mountain town surrounded by thick rainforest, a real change from the parts of Tanzania we’ve seen so far!
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