Dessert time in Stone Town, Zanzibar Island

Here we are in the hustle bustle part of historic Stone Town, Zanzibar Island, patiently waiting for the local halwa stall to serve us our almond and cashew halwa.

Halwa is a sticky dessert made with fragrant spices all cultivated in the Spice Island, one of the names of Zanzibar Island. They use cardamom, saffron, rose-water mixed in with a variety of nuts from cashew to pistachio. The mixture is held together with corn flour and ghee and lots of sugar.

This lovely treat is served best with black coffee. A sweet indulgence when on your guided walking Spice Island tour.

IMG_5659Want to taste sweet Halwa? We can add Zanzibar Island to your Safari.
Finish your time in Tanzania with the lovely beaches and blue waters of Zanzibar Island. Pure bliss!

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Make memories on your Journey To Africa Safari.

Get in Touch //
Email us – Safari@JourneyToAfrica.com
Toll Free – 1.877.558.6288
Outside of US – 1.713.592.6228
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Meru House – Safari Diary 2014

When I was in Arusha, my friend Tati of Tanzania Women’s Maasai Art told me I must visit Meru House as an option for Journey To Africa clients spending a night or two in Arusha. Tati used to run Oliver’s Camp when it was a really rustic camp with my friend and professional guide Paul Oliver from 1990s to early 2000. She has good taste. The camps she has run [in Tanzania and Botswana] were well run, simple yet elegant and it continues in her work with Maasai bead jewelry.

Tati and I went to have lunch with Sandra Decussrow of Meru House. The minute I entered the gates, it felt so inviting. It is afterall a home converted into a cozy lodge. You have to drive through a coffee plantation to get to the boutique inn and once you enter, you are welcomed by the lovely garden.

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The inviting living room

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The outdoor area

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Cozy bedrooms. This one is the loft room perfect for couples.

 

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Bathroom details

When you enter the house, you can see the inviting living room with a fire-place on the left and the inside dining room that seats about 10 people family style on the right. The large beautiful door in the front leads you to the outdoor dining / coffee + tea area / resting spot in large couches overlooking the gardens and the lap pool.

Each room is well decorated with all the comforts of home. A lovely bathroom and a comfy bed in a pleasing palate. A family would really benefit from having two rooms close by with a connecting bathroom. The kids room still retains Sandra’s sons book collection. The views from the large windows are of the garden, the lap pool or the coffee plantation.

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Delicious Tanzanian Coffee grown in their own plantations

The food! Delicious. I was there for lunch and we had a delicious butternut squash soup to warm us up on a cold day and a lovely garden salad. To finish off, coffee from their own Msumbi farm.

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Me, Sandra and my friend Tati

Meru House is a great cozy place to overnight for a night or two on arrival into Tanzania before you head out on Safari or after a Mt. Kilimanjaro climb.

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Life worth Exploring. ™
Make memories on your Journey To Africa Safari.

Get in Touch //
Email us – Safari@JourneyToAfrica.com
Toll Free – 1.877.558.6288
Outside of US – 1.713.592.6228
Form – Request Information

 

Walking in Serengeti

When you are on Safari, you spend a lot of time in our Safari vehicles.  Driving is great. You get to see the various landscapes, the scenery and wildlife.

Now try walking.

Walking heightens your senses‘, as my guide Richard of our partner company African Environments told me. And he is right.  The minute we got out of the land cruiser and touched Mother Earth in our private walking area in Serengeti, the  hairs on the back of my neck were on alert.  Let the walk begin.

Our first encounter, buffalos. Three of them. “Get behind me and walk sideways‘, instructs Richard who is carrying a loaded gun. Yes sir. I am thinking, will this large 70-300 mm L canon lens work as a weapon. I will swing hard. Luckily, I did not have to try this maneuver.  They run away. Whew.  My heart stops pounding.  What a thrill. And that is only the first 30 minutes.

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Richard on alert after the buffalos.

As we continue our morning Private Serengeti walk up and around the kopjes, we pass through lots of colorful butterflies, birds, klipspringer, hyrax and male impalas. The grass is tall from the long rains but dry. It is hot even in June. I am reminded to drink water.

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Walking through the lovely kopjes.

Good walking shoes are definitely recommended. Leg gaiters would have helped from getting the sticky seeds from poking. Tsetse flies are a bother. Keep calm and swat them away.  Wear loose clothing so they can not bite you through your shirt. Light colored clothing would have been a better choice. Lesson learned the itchy way.

After about 3 hours of walking [you decide what is comfortable for you], we stopped for a delicious barbeque lunch by the dried up river.  Chicken, beef, variety of vegetables, fruit, salad, coffee and wine – the whole works here for lunch.  Relax and enjoyed the view after a yummy feast. Hard working crew – Asante.

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Chef grilling the delicious lunch

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Under the tree for a good shade and lovely breeze.

After a good strong cup of coffee, Richard and I continue our afternoon walk. We encountered more animals in our afternoon walk. Elands, hartebeest, kudu, harem of female impalas and about 4 male bachelors, topis, and more.

The one male impala with his harem gave us a good show. When they first saw us, half of the females ran left and the other half followed the male to the right side. You could see the male trying hard to get back to his group on the left to bring them back to the rest of his females on the right. I was rooting for the left group females to run away and leave the ‘demanding’ male behind.  It did not happen. Alas, they rejoined and the group was together once again.

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Two topis towering atop the terrace.

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Eland family

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Tall grass during the walk. With Deo, the TANAPA ranger.

Richard and I were enjoying the walking when we came across a barbed snare. According to Richard, this area, east of Central Serengeti was closed off to the public for a long time by TANAPA. There were no protective eyes here. Poaching was easy until the five + hand-selected companies known for their ethical practices, one of them being our partners came into the area. This has helped with poaching.  The numbers have gone down but not completely unfortunately.

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Our ranger Deo collecting the snare. He will take it back to HQ for disposal.

And one thing you will notice when walking in Private Serengeti, the animals here are afraid of humans.  They run when they see you. When you are on a game drive in a vehicle in the main areas of Serengeti, they do not budge.

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Stunning rock formations.

Around 5:30 pm or so, we are getting close to camp, walking on a dry river bed when we hear some noise behind the bushes on top. Now Deo has been a calm ranger all this time but when I hear him cock his gun, I can hear my breathing quicken. Richard is on alert. My arm hair is stand up again. Fear is healthy. My heart is pounding. I am instructed to climb up the bank. I run. False alarm. Buffaloes lazily grazing up top the river bank.

I ask Richard, what happens if it is a lion and it is going to spring on us. He said they would shoot to kill. Luckily in the 5+ years he and his guides have not had to do that. 

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Richard with his gun, ready to fire if necessary.

We make it to our Wilderness Camp.

This is comfortable basic camping with a cot but still good food in a closed dining tent. The dome shaped tent has a comfortable cot with sheets, blankets and pillows. Toilet and bathroom are outside and the make shift walk-way is lit with solar lamps hoisted on a tree stump.

The toilet is a pit latrine – toilet paper included. You cover with dirt after you are done doing your business. An eco-friendly way to leave the land when the camp is packed up. Basic.  The shower is a bucket shower which was comfortable and the 5 gallons was enough water. Soap and shampoo in pump bottles was included.

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Dome tent with toilet tent [blue] and the shower tent.

I ended up taking a shower at 9:00 pm – adventurous!

Why you ask?
When we got there, it was around 6:00 pm. The crew at the camp had started a beautiful roaring fire and the sun was about the set. I was not about to miss this lovely setting. So I opted to wait to wash away my day.

And I am so glad I did. I was rewarded by some of the most glorious stunning sunset sitting by the cozy fire over a cold Kilimanjaro beer. Oh the colors! Brilliant.

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Magnificent colors of the sunset.

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Richard enjoying the sunset by the roaring fire.

Between enjoying the magical sunset around 6:30 pm to shower time around 9:00 pm, I enjoyed a lovely dinner in the dining tent while it rained outside. The crew again – asante for your hard work.

The rain continued to drizzle but that did not deter Richard and I from heading back out to the fire, hurdled under one large umbrella, sharing stories about the walk, our children, Safari life and more.

At around 9:00 pm, I did take the bucket shower under the dark skies and slight drizzle.

I can honestly say this was one fantastic experience I can not wait to experience again and share with you all. Happiness is being on Safari. I sure made lots of memories on my Private Serengeti Safari.

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Life worth Exploring! ™
Make memories on your Journey To Africa Safari.

Get in touch //
Email – Safari@JourneyToAfrica.com
Toll Free within US – 1.877.558.6288
Outside of US – 1.713.592.6228
Form – Request Information

 

Safari Diary – Olakira Mara Camp [Lodge Review]

I know why we continue to send clients to Olakira Camp, one of our favorite camps in Serengeti.  It is because they have maintained their excellent standards but also continue to improve.  From finding lovely locations, great guiding to camp details, Olakira Camp is luxury tented lodging at its finest.

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Sunrise over Olakira Camp.

Olakira Camp, a Asilia Africa camp, moves every year between Northern and Southern Serengeti to be close to the every moving, never predictable but oh so awesome Wildebeest and Zebra Migration. When in Northern Serengeti, they find the best spot and for the past few years, they have made their home for 6 months near Mara River. Its meandering river gives you a glinting reflection.

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Teatime at the lounge area.

The warm staff with Kenneth as their current manager have made Olakira Camp extra special.

This story really sticks out in my memory. My Olakira Camp resident guide Reuben and I were on my evening game drive and had plans on enjoying a sundowner [watching the sunset while enjoying a drink of choice] when we spotted  the 20+ lion pride. I did not want to move. The little ones were too captivating.  The Olakira Camp kitchen crew came to where we were parked and handed us delicious, freshly roasted, warm cashews and peanuts. They were ready to pass over the wine as well. Now that is service. The nuts, oh so yummy! Watching lions never felt better.

And Reuben managed to get me the sunset shot … I was still enjoying my cashews and peanuts.

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Sunset before heading to Olakira Camp for dinner.

Each of the well spaced 10 luxury tented rooms are spacious with three sections. There is also a family room here as children over 6 years of age are warmly welcomed. We like having children on Safari. The twin bed room has a door to the main bedroom.

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Spacious, comfortable with lots of attention to details. Just splendid!

There is a lounge area in the front where you can enjoy a good book, have your tea in the morning and watch the sunrise before you head out for your early morning game drive and bush breakfast.

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View from the bed when enjoying a bit of rest before my evening game drive.

The bedroom area has a desk for your diary or letter writing. Here they have some good information on the ethics behind Olakira Camp and other Asilia Africa camps. Lots of conservation effort by Asilia Africa, one of the main reason we support their camps. Luckily, they are excellent as well.

“Look deep into nature and then you will understand everything better”.

The comfy bed. The staff adding some personality to the bed.  The side tables with comforting gadgets like a whistle, blow horn [hopefully you will not need to use it] and torch.  Drinking water is also provided.

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With the open canvas, you can hear the wildebeest grunting in the distance and the many birds that sing for you through out the day.

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Look which animal is on my bed to give me company.

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Cozy room at night after dinner.

The private bathroom has flush toilets and bucket-shower nook.  About 5 gallons [about 20 liters] are provided which was very comfortable with my long hair. When you know what will not have endless water, you do tend to shower quite quickly. Makes you realize you don’t need too much water for a good shower.

Tips on how to take a shower are //  turn on the shower, get wet, turn off, soap and shampoo, scrub, turn on, wash it off, enjoy the last bit of hot water. If you need more, yell loudly, the staff will bring more.  No worries! It has happened to all of us.

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Flush toilet – check! Running water – yup.

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The bucket shower. You realize you can shower quite quickly when you have limited water.

Good food, wine and drinks with good company.

At the end of the day, you start off with some snacks by the camp fire where you start getting to know other people if you are interested in chatting.

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Dining area where you eat family style. Some good stories to be enjoyed here.

Then head to the dining area. Being on Safari makes you hungry and good food is part of the experience.

On my Safari, I met with a couple from Switzerland who have been to Africa 10 times [South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia to name a few – lucky them] and this was their first Tanzanian Safari. They loved being in Tanzania and were very complimentary of Olakira Camp. That says a lot coming some a couple who have been to quite a few luxury lodges in Africa.

“A day in Africa is a lifetime of memories”

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Make memories on your Journey To Africa Safari
when staying at Olakira Camp.

Get in touch //
Email – Safari@JourneyToAfrica.com
Call us – 1.877.558.6288 / 713.592.6228

Safari Diary – Lamai Serengeti [Lodge Review]

When you are game driving close to Lamai Serengeti, you have to squint a bit to see the rooms peaking up from the Kogakuria Kopje. Each of the rooms and the main areas are carefully set not to be too obtrusive when you are game driving on the ground. As you climb up the kopje towards the main area, you are welcomed in the circle by a fresh cold drink.

You are in bush chic Lamai Serengeti.
Nick and Janna, the current managers of Lamai Serengeti were gracious hosts and showed my around this earthy + serene property.

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Part of the lovely lounge at Lamai Serengeti overlooking the Serengeti. Cozy comfortable seating.

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Cozy comfy lounge. Enjoy a warm fire during cooler months.

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Life on Safari is delicious! And the views.

The main area of Lamai Serengeti is spacious, serene with neutral toned furniture and splashes of color from pillows. You want to sit and just stare at the expansive view with your cold drink in hand. Need to check your email after your game drive, wi-fi is available at the library near the lounge. Take a drink from the well stocked bar.Food at Lamai Serengeti is excellent.

After all,  Life on Safari is delicious. 

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That’s a nice boulder  – Shrek. The entrance to your spacious room. Notice the window near the door. That is where your morning coffee / tea and snack will be placed.

The 8 rooms are all well spaced out.
Each of the main rooms have king beds or can be converted to two twins. A day bed can become a triple if necessary. If you are a family with 2-3 younger kids, they have a very comfortable family room. The kids room has two twin beds bordering the master room. If you need two separate rooms, they will put you in two rooms close together. Kids over 6-year-old are warmly welcomed.

Need your own space in Serengeti? Hamna shida [no problem]. Lamai Serengeti has 4 rooms that can cater up to 8-10 people. You will have your own pool, personal chef and butler and separate entrance. Honeymooner on Safari? Your room will be high up on the kopje where you will have the ultimate privacy – just be sure you are ready the conquer the kopjes.

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The large rooms made with local material. Neutral with color accents keeps the rooms soothing.

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Mosquito nets surround the whole room.

With all the room at Lamai Serengeti, you can close in the whole room with mosquito netting and keep the bugs at bay. Especially great at night when you can have visible views of the outside without bugs bothering you.  Use the day-bed for to enjoy a good book read or pen a letter home with postcards available on the desk. We will mail the card for you as well.

A must do is enjoy the outside deck.  Sit, admire, ponder, relax and pinch yourself – you are in Serengeti.

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The amazing views from the rooms. All the rooms face towards the Serengeti. With a binoculars in hand, you can game view from the comfort of your own room.

You will not bump into each other in this large bathroom. Using concrete, wood and local materials, this chic bathroom is sure to impress. Flush toilet, hot and cold showers, running sink water and all with amazing views of Serengeti.  Brushing never felt this pleasing.

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There is a door for privacy to this large spacious bathroom.

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Enjoy your views while brushing your teeth.

Be ready to enjoy walking Safari with our guides in the surrounding kopjes all the way to the bottom. This always get your heart racing and gives you a different perspective on Safari.

Oh and they have a pool with a view of Serengeti. Now how is that for possible siesta afternoon.

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Take a siesta by the pool on warmer days.

Happiness is being on Safari!  And enjoying great service, amazing surrounding and all the creature comforts from a great lodge only enhances your experience.

Make memories on your Safari when staying at Lamai Serengeti.

Get in touch //
Email – Safari@JourneyToAfrica.com
Call – 1.877.558.6288

Safari Diary 2014 – Rhotia Valley Tented Lodge [Lodge Review]

As you turn from the main tarmac road connecting Tarangire National Park and Ngorongoro Crater, past the beautiful sunflower field and the corn/ maize farms, towards Ngorongoro Highland on the slightly bumpy road toward Rhotia Valley, you are welcomed with refreshments by managers Evelyn and Arjan and their dog.

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Karibu Rhotia Valley Tented Lodge on a Journey To Africa Safari.

Rhotia Valley Tented Lodge.

Rhotia Valley Tented Lodge.

Rhotia Valley Tented Lodge has a wonderful soul. A portion of the proceeds fund the Children’s Home that is about a 10 minutes walk from the lodge. The Children’s Home takes care of about 40 kids, orphaned or some whose parents can’t afford to take care of them. They have made the home stand on its own by setting up a bakery. They produce enough bread to feed themselves and sell the surplus in Karatu. A win-win situation.  The children who played with us [my two kids were with me] greeted us as they were coming from school and spoke great English which they have picked up from volunteers as well as school.

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Rhotia Valley Children’s Home.

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Fun playing with the kids at Rhotia Valley Children’s home. From swings, football to talking about becoming pilots. Dream Big!!

About the lodge //

Rhotia Valley Tented Lodge is a rustic yet comfortable lodge. Each of the 15 rooms are comfortably sized with double beds or two double beds for our family of four. Hot water bottles were tucked in at night to keep you warm in the cold June nights.

In the bathroom,  they will explain why there is bucket near the shower – it is to collect the initial cold water before the hot water comes through. Keep the cold water bucket – they will use it to water their organic farm where they
grow a lot of their vegetables and herbs. Water heating and lights in the room are controlled by both solar power [9 -7 pm] and generators during the peak shower hours of [7-9 pm]. Drinking water that is provided will be plastic bottles or water purified via biofilter.

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Comfortable inside of the room. You can see the hot water bottles on top of the bed that will be filled up when you come back to your room after dinner.

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The organic farm where they grow most of their vegetables and herbs.

The food at night was delicious as well as the packed lunch. From the dining room, you can see the hustle bustle of the open kitchen and the charcoal fire that is preparing good food.

The views // Two sides //
From the fire-light front lounge deck and some of the rooms, you get the greenery from the farmlands of fertile Karatu Region. Corn or maize as Tanzanians call it, beans, sunflower … the list goes on. From the side facing the Ngorongoro Highlands, you have the greenery from the thick forest. Either way, you are in for some great views and amazing sounds of the birds in the morning.

Rhotia Valley is a wonderful place to spend a few days on Safari.

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You can see the children’s home in the distance. Rhotia Valley does a wonderful job supporting the kids of the Children’s Home.

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Room view from the south side of the lodge.

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Room view looking at Ngorongoro Highlands.

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The beautiful lounge area where you can enjoy your drink before dinner and enjoy the fire place. The dining area is right behind the lounge. At night, they close the canvas in the back to keep the cold wind out.

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The lovely deck. Lunch is sometimes taken from here.

Safari Diary 2014 – Mto-wa-Mbu [Cultural Stop]

When on Safari, sometimes it is nice to get out of the Safari vehicle and meet people and local tribes like the Hadza and the colorful Maasai. There are many areas you can enjoy this interaction – some a bit touristy and some away from the beaten path.

Mto-wa-Mbu is a little village between Tarangire National Park and Ngorongoro Crater and frankly, slightly on the beaten route. But even so, it was a good place to get a quick glimpse of how this fertile region is home to many people who depend on tourism.

This area is known for growing rice [a walk in the rice fields is possible], coffee, different vegetables, delicious papayas and much more for the lodges and camps hence tourism is important for the residents. Within Tanzania, it is famous for its banana plantation. There are about 25-30 different species. Growing up in Arusha, if someone was going to Karatu, the neighbouring village and farming hub, or Mto-wa-Mbu, we would ask for the red bananas which would make a delicious desserts.

A walk here also takes you to a local home where your guide will give you a glimpse of how local Tanzanians live in a farm. {Note. Our guides have an understanding with the families that they will bring visitors as part of cultural tourism and you are not expected to give any tips or payment to the families}.

We offer a guided tour of this area. If you do a morning tour, you can eat lunch at a local restaurant and sample some local dishes like Ugali, cooked dough made with corn flour with meat stew and of course, banana. Chris with Wayo Africa lead this tour for me.

A good 3-4 hour stop in-between your Safari.

Banana bunch on the tree. 5000 bunchs cultivated everyday.

Banana bunch on the tree. 5000 bunchs cultivated everyday.

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Lots of vegetable gardens. These are for personal use I believe though this area has many farms that grow vegetables for lodges and camps.

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Hodi [knock, knock]. We are about to enter a home. They are not waiting and it is up to you to decide how much you want to explore.

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A good activity for kids. Short walking.

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Sweet papaya. For breakfast, you will almost always have papayas and a lot of them will come from this region.

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Cooking red banana.

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Our friendly guide Chris showing us custard apple fruit on the trees.