3 Island Escape Getaways in East Africa

Whether you’re looking for giant coconuts or giant tortoises,lush rainforests or cool highlands, wildlife or glowing coral reefs and crossroads cuisine, there is an island in East Africa to suit your taste and budget.

The East coast of Africa is blessed with stunning islands and warm Indian Ocean waters.

Some are sovereign nations, others are unknown secret destinies harboring fantastic natural and cultural treasures.

The palm-lined beaches and luxury resorts are only one aspect of the marvels East Africa island getaways in on the Indian Ocean can offer. There is much more than glossy travel brochures put out. The diverse island explorers and spice merchants have shaped the essence. Africa’s ocean-themed adventures have loads to offer travelers.

The ‘Melting Pot’ of  East Africa Islands

The complicated history of the culturally rich islands of East Africa comes from the strategic bases that they were for over 1000 years.

They served as trade routes between Europe, Arabian Peninsula, and the Indian subcontinent.

Omani traders and Portuguese sailors, merchants and colonials…. , all gravitated to farm sugar cane and spices, trading gold, ivory, and slaves.

This is evident in the 15th century Swahili Lamu ruins, the Shirazi heritage of Zanzibar and historical plantation homes. We see it in Creole cuisine in Mauritius.

The oldest settlement in Kenya is Lamu and shares much with Stonetown in Zanzibar.The muli stories of townhouses with balconies shading the narrow lanes filled with soul-inspired vendors selling delicacies, arts, and crafts in silver and wood.

1. Zanzibar

Tanzania has many adventurous crusades,from beaches, ruins, wildlif,the Mt Kilimanjaro summit and the island of Zanzibar

The age-old living traditions in Zanzibar are a soul rewarding experience.

 

 

Families in Zanzibar gather to snack and promenade in Forodhani Gardens during celebrations and special festive day.

Island Beach bumming and Diving Ventures

Budget-friendly diving on Zanzibar and Pemba offer rewarding dives. Accommodation is suited to budget travelers as well. Good quality in abundance is what you get in Nungwi, Kendwa,  Jambiani, and Paje. Public transport is easy to reach, along streets with delicious, plentiful food.

2. Comoros

Between Madagascar and Mozambique, the Comoros Archipelago has four islands in total. The three main ones that gained independence in 1975 are Grand Canmore, Anjouan, and Mohéli. The fourth one, Mayotte, is still under French rule.

Comoros Islands, a population descended from Malay, African and Arab immigrants.

The culture of Comoros is shaped by Portuguese explorers, Arab traders from Persia and Portugal as well as the French colonizers in the19th century.

An active East Africa volcano is located at the Grande Comore.It erupted in the year 2005 creating a desert landscape offset by turquoise seas and white beaches.

Mohéli island is a major turtle nesting site in East Africa, where you are guaranteed to view turtles.

To escape crowds an experience life at a slow pace plan a getaway to Comoros islands. There are pristine beaches, lush rainforests and beautiful reefs with a fascinating blend of Swahili and Arab culture.

3.Mauritius

The Mauritius archipelago comprises of

  • Mauritius
  • Rodrigues
  • Agaléga
  • St. Brandon.

Two other territories, Tromelin Island and the Chagos Archipelago  are claimed by Mauritius but disputes by Uk and France(1)

Mauritius, a world-class destination combines influences from Africa and Europe. It is famous for beach resorts with amazing coastal shores.

Scuba diving and deep-sea fishing are popular activities. The  forests on the island  provide habitat for the  endemic bird, plant and mammal species

With sophisticated cuisine, nightlife and fishing villages, Mauritius caters for every taste.

4.Seychelles

 

Seychelles is made up of 115 paradise islands it has a small population, is uncrowded.

The idyllic beaches, aquamarine waters offering excellent snorkeling and diving are tourist drawcards.

Rare wildlife range from pelagic seabirds to giant tortoises. The cuisine in Seychelles has a taste from Africa,  a tinge of Asian sensation topped with European settler influences.

The luxury resorts in Seychelles, make it famous for couples on honeymoon.

5. Madagascar

Madagascar located off the Mozambique coast is the fourth largest island in the world.  Boating unique Fauna and flora, 90 % of the wildlife in Madagascar will not be found anywhere else.

 

 

The most famous are Lemurs.

The lush rainforests, giant baobabs, limestone karsts and isolated islets are a calling for visitors. Activities range from scuba diving to deep-sea fishing and hiking to whale-watching.

Welcome to the biodiversity hotspot of Madagascar, an eco-tourism destination of note for all discerning explorers of world wonders. Dramatic peaks, primordial forests, stony deserts and extinct volcanoes.

 

 

Coastal forests – Herbal Healing in Tanzania- Africa

Tanzania's  small,  geographically isolated coastal forests support a huge base of endemic plants and animals.

Herbal Power

Africa is filled with exceptional biological richness with scarce linked studies.

The abundance of benefits of plants that surround us is phenomenal. Additional uses are found continuously.

Let’s talk about the magical plants in Tanzania.

Plants are food as well as natural medicine as well as extracting oils for natural cosmetics for a full healthy system.

Coastal ecosystems in Tanzania were identified by Tanzania scientists in 1989 that needed further study due to their importance and biological richness.

The Frontier Tanzania project provided the manpower and means to catalog a listing importance of plants and trees and provide conservation management recommendations.

The three-year study included

  • Mafia Island Coral Reefs
  • Monsoon Coastal forests
  • Rufiji Delta sediments
  • Mikumi nation park vegetation

Medicinal Plants in Tanzania’s Coastal Forests

The threatened forests of coastal Tanzania have been used by traditional medical practitioners.

There is a growing awareness of the contribution of herbal medicines to facilitate health and welfare of local economies and rural communities.

East Africa’s coastal forests are considered as the most threatened types on the continent of  Africa.(1)

3 Magical Trees in Tanzania

Cariissa Spinarum

Carissa Spinarum

Known as ‘Mtandamboo’ in Kiswahili, the plant is an inspiration source for many communities.

A great food source with medicinal benefits as well, the sweet fruit is a delicacy.  The pulp of the fruit can be used to produce red wine as well.

A traditional cure for diseases every part of the tree, the roots, the leaves, barks, and fruit are used to treat a multitude of diseases.

Headaches, rheumatism. chest complaints, gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes, rabies malaria, hernia, toothache, ulcers, cough, worm infestation, and the list goes on!

In the year 2011, thousands of people flocked to Tanzania to Samunge village for treatment by a Catholic priest against infertility diabetes, hypertension, asthma and cancer and even AIDS.

 

Muaruabaini – The tree that cures 40 diseases

The Neem tree, known by the ”Muarubani tree.”Muarubaini translates to 40. The tree is said to cure 40 different diseases. People have used it for curing cancer, malaria, STDs, typhoid and a wide range of other diseases as well as a natural contraceptive.

The oil extracted from the seeds inserted into the vagina on a regular basis prevents pregnancy. This is an effective birth control method. This should not be used if pregnant as it induces abortion.

Muarubaini

 

Mlonge (Moringa): The magical Tree!

Moringa (Mlonge) tree

Imagine if there was a tree in your backyard full of nutrition, to purify water and take care of medicinal needs?

The magical tree does exist.  The   Moringa oleifera  known as the Clarifier tree, horseradish or drumstick tree. The East Africa name ‘Mother’s best friend sums it up!

Every part of the tree can be used. And it is filled with nutrition.

Most widely used, are immature pods containing vitamins, amino acids, and other nutrients. Raw or prepared like green peas, they make tasty dishes. Edible oil is yielded by the pods, the nutritional value resembles that of olive oil.

The leaves are eaten in salads or vegetable dishes for seasoning or pickles. The leaves can be pounded to clean utensils and walls.

The Bark contains fiber and can be used for tanning. Cooked flowers can be mixed in foods or fried in a batter, They are rich in calcium and potassium

The tree has been used for combatting malnutrition in developing countries on the tropical coast.

The fresh leaves can be cooked, eaten fresh, cooked or dried up and kept for the longer term in powder form.

It contains

  • Calcium
  • Protein
  • Magnesim
  • Vitamin A
  • Iron
  • Vitamin C.

A powerhouse of nutrition moringa has seven times more vitamin c than oranges,  four times more calcium than milk protein and three times more potassium than bananas, four times more vitamin A than carrots

Medicinally it works for treatment and prevention.  Traditional medical practitioners recognize it as having high value for the treatment of tumors. Studies have identified compounds for cancer prevention.

The miraculous tree offers hope, medicinally, nutritionally and economically to many. It has been developed as a supplement and powdered tablets as well

Welcome.  #ExploremotherlandAfrica.

 

Miracle plants in the Namib Desert of Africa

 

There are miracle plants of the Namib desert have perfected survival in the harsh conditions of the desert.

Welwitschia mirabilis 

 

This plant is really amazing. It has two leaves, a stem, and a  root base. The leaves grow on opposite sides and continue growing never dropping. They tear from the wind and get browned by the sun, looking like individual leaves.

The stem thickens and grows and may reach six feet in height and twenty-four feet in width. Corn like flowers appears at when the plant reaches 20 years. 100 flowers are produced by the female plant, the male produces pollen abundance and the lifespan of the plant can reach an estimated 2000 years.

The plant was named after the medical doctor who discovered it. Friedrich Welwitschia in the year 1860. He intended to give it an Angolan native name ‘Tumboa’, but the plant was named in honor of him.  Mirabilis means wonderful or marvelous in Latin

Described as ‘the platypus of the plant kingdom by Charles Darwin the plant is considered as a living fossil. It masters life in the hot and dry desert where other plants will not survive

The plant is endemic to the Namib desert in Namibia as well as Southern Angola. It is Namibia’s national plant. The rugby team in Namibia carried its name as well.  Mirabilis means marvelous in Latin It is a “living fossil.”

Initially, sightings of the plant are not impressive, especially when they are small. The leaves are a pale green and the plant seems to be dead.

A 1500-year-old giant welwitschia is a popular tourist attraction. There is one  50 kilometers east in  Swakopmund on the coast of the Atlantic ocean.  It is about 1500 years old and almost as tall as a human being. It is fenced to keep away trampling feet from the sensitive root system.

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Researchers in the Namib Desert have concluded that the moisture capturing is because of fog. Fog keeps the fine root of the Welwitschia’s fine roots. The Namib desert is characterized by fog.

The formation of the fog is when the humid masses if air meets the cold current of the Benguela and the fog  is blown inland

Welwitschia has two leaves that continue growing at 0.37 mm each day of its life. The patient Plant sits and waits for better conditions. A lesson for us humans indeed,

Welwitschia mirabilis, male plant (on the left) and female plant (on the right)
Male Welwitschia – Left Female Welwitschia – Right

Welwitschia also adjusts the color of leaves. When very hot, there are more red pigments,  that protect the plant from the radiation of the sun. When water is readily available and temperatures drop the leaves chlorophyll, a green pigment that conducts photosynthesis.

The Nara plant

Nara Plant

The  Nara plant (Acanthosicyos horridus). grows exclusively in the Namib desert, The leaves prevent water loss and photosynthesis is conducted through the spines and green stems Moisture is absorbed from surrounding fog,

The plant also absorbs moisture from fog directly through its stems. These plants grow on sand dunes and middle desert.Interestingly, these plants created the dunes.

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The Nara plants growing on the ground, accumulate sand that the wind blows in. The lower end of the plant covered in sand dies an provides nutrients to other parts of the plant. The new plant grows above the previous one. The height of the Nara plant accumulates an addition of sand, forming the dune

 This is how it works: Nara plants growing on the ground accumulate sand around them, blown in by the wind. The lower part of the plant, which is covered in sand, eventually dies, providing nutrients for other parts of the plant. New plant parts then grow on top of the old one. The Nara plant gains height as a result, accumulating more sand and forming dunes. The plants reach heights of 3meters

The Nara plant produces tasty desert fruit. Melons that grow as large as ostrich eggs.

The water-rich food is a great food source for animals and people. The native ethnic group, the TopNaar people harvest the melons on a seasonal basis. They eat the fruit and sell the seeds for producing cosmetics for their rich omega oil composition.

The exclusive Namib desert plants like the Nara and Welwitschia sustain their long life by adjusting to the environment.

Welcome #Exploremotherland Africa

The other side of Table Mountain – Cape Town


Planning to travel in Africa?  The magnificent Table Mountain is a drawing card and the starting point is the infamous Cape Town for most… today we look over and behind Table Mountain.
Table Mountain

The perks of traveling to Africa are endless. Instead of scanning the game parks for rhino or setting off for a day sampling Cape chardonnays, take a  look at the other side.

The townships of Cape Town….. You inhale the roots of freedom, exhaling air of human rights, justice, and reconciliation. A flow from shebeens to sangomas, the emotional sensory vibe sets you sparkling off with a vivid social culture. Nothing is amiss as every township bubbles with its own unique story about its struggles and how it evolved and revolved to its current state.

A treasure in the center of Cape Town – Bo-Kaap

Bo-Kaap

Beyond the hustles and bustles, just beyond the city of Cape Town, you find Bo-Kaap.

The “Bo Kaap” is one of the most interesting parts of Cape Town culturally and historically. Colorful houses, steep cobbled streets, the muezzin’s calls to prayer, and children traditionally dressed for Madrassa add to this unique Cape experience. It is a multicultural area, tucked into the fold of signal hill. Use the cobblestoned streets as your guide and you will be lead into a lively suburb filled with brightly colored houses from the nineteenth and seventeenth century, shrines of Muslim saints, an abundance of beautiful Mosques, and the very first mosque that existed in South Africa.

Use the cobblestoned streets as you are lead into a lively suburb filled with brightly colored houses from the nineteenth and seventeenth century, shrines of Muslim saints, an abundance of beautiful Mosques, and the very first mosque that existed in South Africa.

The residents of Bo-Kaap are mostly descended from slaves who were imported to the Cape by the Dutch during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. They came from Africa, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, and Java Malaysia. Some of them were political exiles and convicts. They were known as “Cape Malays”, which is incorrect as most of Bo-Kaap’s residents are not entirely of Malaysian descent. Their many Indonesian traces of vocabulary in the dialect of Cape, for example, “trim-

They were known as “Cape Malays”, which is incorrect as most of BoKaap’s residents are not entirely of Malaysian descent. Their many Indonesian traces of vocabulary in the dialect of Cape, for example, “trim-makaasi” thank-you, as well as  “kanalah” please! There are also many words, which have also been substituted with Afrikaans.

Funnily enough, Afrikaans evolved as a language of its own through a simplification of Dutch so that the slaves could communicate with the Dutch and each other since they all came from different countries and cultures. Muslims were the first to write texts in Afrikaans.
Cape Carnival

Each year on the 2nd of January, the Bo-Kaap celebrates a big street party, the “Coon Carnival” in the center of town. It was originally introduced by the Muslim slaves who celebrated their only day off work in the whole year. Nowadays men, woman, and children march from the Grand Parade to the Green Point stadium, singing, and dancing.

 

Kramat

Kramats or Muslim Shrines are burial sites of Saints of Islam. Cape Town residents have for a number of generations paid their respects these Shrines. There are three Karamats in Bo Kaap, and Signal Hill behind BoKaap has two.

 

 

Bo-Kaap Museum

One of the oldest buildings in Wale Street 71 houses the “Bo-Kaap Museum”. It is necessary to see since it feels like your stepping back in time. Built in by Jan de Waal in 1768, the museum was originally the home of Abu Bakr Effendi, a well-known Turkish scholar and prominent leader in the Muslim community. He was brought here in the mid-19th century to help quell feuding between Muslim factions and is believed to have written one of the first books in Afrikaans. The house has been furnished to re-create the lifestyle of a typical Malay family in the 19th century within a national socio-political and cultural context. Look for works by artist Gregoire Boonzaire, who’s famous for capturing the chaos and charm of neighborhoods such as the Bo-Kaap and District Six.

The Dutch brought slaves that were skilled artisans, political exiles, artisans, religious leader’s famous scholars, and convicts too. Islam, who roots started in Saudi Arabia some 1400 years ago, was brought to the Cape in the 1700’s. Skills and talents passed down from generation to generation accompanied these slaves. Not only skilled artisan but also superb cooks and cuisines blossomed. The Cape Malay Cuisine is not only delicious but also unique and has played a huge role in South African dishes.

A township tour can be one of the most illuminating and life-affirming experiences you will ever have.

 

More about expeditions in Madagascar

Fast Fascinating Facts about Madagascar

  • Rainforests and the incredible animals.

Parc National de L’Isalo is one of the country’s most spectacular regions, perfect for overnight hikes, rock-hopping along cool canyons and spotting lemurs.  It’s best to visit during the cooler months (April to October) when the bizarre patchy podiums and periwinkles are in flower on the rock faces and walking is more comfortable.

“Parc national de l’Isalo”
  • Tribute to Ancestors

The Sakalava people used to bury their dead in caves high up on cliff faces. Spread across 152,000 hectares, the Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve has amazing forests, lakes and mangrove swamps, home to a variety of rare and endangered birds and lemurs. With gorges, rivers, and Ancient cemeteries Tsingyis a must visit.

 

Madagascar People
But Madagascar isn't all just animals and conservation.  
  • Madagascar Soul History

There’s a lot of history going on down as well. Ambohimanga is one of the summer palaces of the old Malagasy royal family. Antananarivo, or Tana, has a distinctively French flavor: The city is built on three levels.

 

Dominating the city is the Queen’s Palace and associated Royal Village or Rova. Now a national monument, it was once the residence of the Merina Dynasty which, in the 19th century, united all Madagascar for the first time.

There are the museums d’Andafiavaratra and the archaeology museum. On the lowest level is the market said to bee the second-largest in the world. The birthplace of the Malagasy state. Ambohimanga is known as ‘the blue city’, ‘the holy city’ and ‘the forbidden city’. The citadel was an important Merina stronghold and its main gate is an enormous stone disc; 40 men were needed to roll it into position.

Madagascar Museums

Or else you can check out the old pirate colony island of Ile St Marie. Its dense vegetation and the difficulty of navigating the lagoons which surround it made it an ideal base for pirates and, later, a colony for convicts.

There are many clove plantations and several historic sites, including Madagascar’s oldest Catholic church. It’s the perfect destination for those who just want to relax.  You can snorkel, sunbathe and overindulge on coconut rum punches.

  • Feel and Taste Madagascar

Buy cinnamon, vanilla and coconut oil from the local children, sip fiery ti-punch and sample the most delicious freshly-caught seafood or sit under a palm tree on a white sandy beach. There’s whale-watching in July and August, and the amazing spiny forest along the road just north of Mangilly is well worth a look.With coral reefs just offshore, sea breezes whispering in the casuarina trees and a relaxed tropical ambiance, who wants to go home?

Malagasy soothing tunes (myspace.com/tambatra) by our  conttributor glamorous soul sister from Madagascar  (myspace.com/tambatra myspace.com/tambatra1)

Getting around Madagascar

Check this out. Air Madagascar, serves numerous destinations throughout the country, which is a good thing considering that many roads have huge potholes and are impassable in the rainy season. Flights are still relatively inexpensive and they offer a 50% discount on domestic flights to passengers using the airline to travel to Madagascar.

The taxi-be, which is quick and comfortable, and the bush taxi, which is cheaper, slower, makes more stops and generally operates on cross-country routes. Fares should be agreed in advance. It is a flat fee. Alternatively, you can go via bus bonus a flat rate is charged irrespective of the distance traveled. Alternatively, take the House-pousse – the rickshaw.

If you are feeling adventurous, you can grab a stagecoach. A few covered wagons continue to take passengers. Otherwise, you can hire a car or motorbike. You will need a national driving license, and remember they drive on the right-hand side.

Or you can catch a train! Only if you have a lot of time. The Malagasy railway network dates from the colonial period, so breakdowns are frequent, a line may be closed for several weeks.

However, there is nothing to beat messing around in boats. Madagascar has a strong maritime tradition. Ferries sail between the islands. You can travel between coastal villages in dugout canoes known as Pirogues or Lakana. You can also hire Dhows and larger cargo boats.

And if you want to bareboat, a “guide” is usually included in the price of the yacht charter. He will cook, guide you, and protect the boat. A yacht charter to Madagascar is a bit of a “Robinson Crusoe” adventure. Once you embark, you cannot provision again and must live off the fish and seafood you will catch for yourself (or with your guide). So get a good one.

Madagascar is a great place to tour by bike and staying in small towns and villages along the way gives a real sense of what the country is all about. A mountain bike or heavy-duty tourer at least is required as the roads can be in poor to terrible condition.

Generally, there is little to no traffic, which makes cruising a great escapade. The people are amazingly friendly and you will be greeted with crowds of children shouting ‘Vazaha’. There are little or no facilities for cyclists, so be prepared to camp rough (ask if it is somebody’s land and never too near a family grave) or sleep in very basic guesthouses. Though you will generally be invited to stay in people’s houses. Bring a spare tire, puncture kit, chain, brake/gear cable, derailleur, and all the tools you need.

Remember that the law is that the ‘tour’ operators have to have a contract with you with all the details on it including the route. The police do check on this and it protects the tourists.

All visitors must have visas, except for citizens of some African countries. Proof of return ticket is required otherwise a deposit must be paid before arriving in Madagascar, which is equivalent to the cost of a flight to the country of origin. And if you come from Africa, you must have a yellow fever vaccination certificate.

  • Fast Facts 

  • Currency -Malagasy Ariary (MGA) Us dollars needs to be declared on arrival. There are currency restrictions
  • Electrical Power is 127V/220V, RUNNING AT 50Hz.
  • Languages Spoken : Malagasy, French, English
  • Time Zones – GMT/UTC +3:
  • Country Dialing Code +261:
  • Hot and subtropical climate, colder in the mountains.
  • Rainy season: November to March.
  • Dry season: April to October.
  • Monsoon season is December to March.
.. And when you've had 16 tracks of Malagasy hospitality, the last thing you'll be feeling is lonely - except perhaps when you arrive back home.