Tuesday
Jun142016

The 5 Best Species To See In Tanzania

Home to the famous Serengeti National park, Tanzania is normally the go-to country for spotting the Big Five and it also attracts a vast amount of attention due to its annual migration of over one million wildebeest and 250,000 zebra. But what other species are best to see in this country?

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Monday
Apr252016

Part IV: Little Island, Lots To See

Our Assistant Research Officer gives us an indepth account of the beauty that Mafia Island beholds... read on and imagine..

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Monday
Apr112016

Fish Are Friends Not Food

When you see fish do you think food? Here we delve into fish farming techniques and discover which ones are best to avoid if we want to protect our oceans and fish stocks

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Monday
Apr042016

'Mambo, Jambo' - Learning the Language in Tanzania 

With many overseas adventures, learning the language of the country you are visiting can be frustrating and often you may find, like I've done on many occasions, that instead of persisting with feeble attempts at a new language, you rely on miming actions or words as a means to communicate.

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Thursday
Mar312016

The Locals Of Tanzania 

Morfiyeh. Derived from the Arabic language, 'morfiyeh' translates to 'group' or 'archipelago'. In the local language, Mafia was apparently the amalgamation of the Kiswahili "Mahali pa afya", meaning a 'healthy dwelling place'.

Given the white sand beaches with turquoise, tropical waters full of diverse fish life, not to mention the swaying palms laden with juicy coconuts, I'd like to believe that the latter is indeed true. Five stunning islands make up the idyllic archipelago - Mafia, Jibondo, Juani, Chole and Bwejuu. Relatively untouched, unlike the well known tourist hot spot of Zanzibar, Mafia Island, from my observations, has retained a quiet and traditional charm from it's early days as a prominent trading hub between East Asia and East Africa.

For example, many arabian dhows, the generic term for the numerous trading or fishing vessels still used today, often visited a prominent settlement on the small Island of Chole Mjini, that controlled numerous trade from the silver mines of Eastern Zimbabwe. Not all visitors, however, have come with peace and prosperity in mind. Records show that in the mid 1820's, the town of Kua on Juani Island (a few kilometres a south east off Mafia Island) was set upon by Sakalava cannibals in a fleet of 80 canoes from Madagascar. The gruesome events ended with many of the locals of Juani being eaten, and the remaining taken into slavery.

At present, there is still a constant stream of locals from Mafia Island that travel to Chole Island and vice versa selling fresh produce, handicrafts or freshly caught fish of the day. Visitors will see the ferry, full of locals, with men and women sometimes segregated. The men with serious faces, and the women, very shy, peek out beneath the head scarves that adorn their braided hair. I wish I could take a photograph of the colourful scene, but due to the superstitions of many here, it is believed if a photograph is taken of you, a piece of your soul is also taken and lost.

Although shy when it comes to photographs, the local community of Mafia Island are ever enthusiastic to stop and say hello to any mzunguu's (foreigner) and are more than happy to exchange pleasantries and get to know you. Although the language bridge is still yet to fully be crossed, one thing I know is certain, is that a friendly smile swapped between mzunguu and mafian locals can go a long way in meeting new friends here on this incredible Island, Morfiyeh.

By Von Sebastian - Assistant Research Officer

Find out more about Frontier's volunteering projects in Tanzania.

Check out what volunteers in Tanzania are up to right now!

Monday
Mar142016

Life on Mafia Island - First Impressions

Part 1: First impressions, feeling blue...

I had already been in transit about 24 hours, from Amsterdam to Dar es Salaam. Although I love travelling, flying and seeing new places, after two stopovers, broken sleep whilst waiting for connecting flights and mediocre plane food, by this time, I was tired, hungry, and completely over the monotonous process of “check in luggage, empty pockets, walk through scanner, find boarding gate, wait, wait more and then wait even more...”So as I arrived in Julius Nyerere International Airport, Dar es Salaam, standing outside the airport in the sticky, humid air I thought to myself “just one more, one more flight to go” before I could rest my weary body and catch up on 40, no wait 80, actually make that 120 winks of sleep. I felt completely drained.

Trying hard not to nod off (but failing miserably!) in the Domestic terminal, my flight was finally called and I made my way along the hot tarmac, to a surprisingly small plane. Only 7 passengers, hmm, VERY small plane. Oh well, it was only 45 minutes, so I made myself comfortable. The engines started “put, put, put, put, splutter...” then died. Oh dear, let's try again shall we? “put, put, put, splutter, put, put VROOM!” OK! We were good to go!


I love the feeling of take off when flying, detaching yourself from the solid ground to float defyingly in the air (how Physics is a wonderful thing!). Now, I watched the sprawling city of Dar es Salaam fall away, the blue and white squares of the sprawling suburbs, getting smaller and smaller – 'fare thee well to the mainland' I whispered to myself.


As the plane entered the cloudsphere, up in the air I felt my fatigue begin to wane and as the thick cumulus clouds parted to reveal a deep blue expanse of ocean before me, smooth as glass, my tired bones were now tingling with excitement. Long stretches of sandy beach, tiny islands framed by aqua seas and caressed by hypnotic waves cresting then breaking on the surrounding rocky reefs...Wow.

The clouds once again obscured our view of idyllic islands, but soon I was to get my first glimpse of my new island home. The plane, very slowly began its descent and there it was – Mafia Island. When I say that my first impressions of the island made me feel blue, what I mean is that I just can't describe enough, the amazement I felt upon seeing the shimmering waters around Mafia Island. Bright Sky blue, rich Kingfisher blue, deep Prussian blue – my mind was taken back to my prized tin of Derwent coloured pencils I had in primary school – so many shades of blue!


Dotting the picturesque sea scene, were white triangular sails, moving gracefully in the water, my first look at one of the many variations of the African fishing or trading vessels. These, I was later told were called Dhows, a generic term derived from the Arabic language. Dhows come in many forms and with many names, depending on what goods they are carrying or how far they are travelling. Seeing them gliding through Chole Bay, it was like being transported back to the early historic trading days, as of these were the very same vessels of merchant traders (or pirates!) from generations ago, selling spices and cloth and forging a new life in a new place, on a new island.


My reverie was broken as the plane completed the landing (with only a few bumps along the tarmac). Here I was, from the cold and cobbled streets of Amsterdam, now to the coconut lined streets of Mafia Island, my new home.

By Von Sebastian - Assistant Research Officer

Find out more about Frontier's volunteering projects in Tanzania.

Check out what volunteers in Tanzania are up to right now!