Uncategorized

Making tracks in Malawi

Nestled between East African giants, Malawi might be small on the map but don’t be fooled into thinking it’s one to miss. Situated on the one of the largest lakes in the World, Lake Malawi this place is big on heart and this place has plenty of things to keep you busy.

Malawi
Capital: Lilongwe
Population: 15 million
Currency: Malawian Kwacha. AUD$1- 130K
Economy: GDP (PPP)- $11 394 (137th); GDP (PPP) Per Capita- $885 (172nd)
Human Development Index: .493 (160th)
Sporting Trivia: We arrived in Malawi to the sound of football on the radio. It was an international match down the road in Lilongwe as part of the country’s Independence Day celebrations. The Malawian side kept the home fans happy with a 2-1 win over Lesotho on this occasion celebrated with the sounds of vuvuzelas filling the sky across the capital.

>>> Traveller Info
Malawi was a welcome break after the transport tribulations of Mozambique and you need to look no further than a spot by the Lake if you’re after a place where you can recapture the vibe after a tough week of overland travel on the road.

Visa Requirements: One of the easiest African Visas to get your hands on – Victory. Most western nations don’t require a visa to enter Malawi and getting into the country is a pain free process, you’ll be done within about 5 minutes and on your way.

Learn the Lingo: 75% English speaking – Malawi is pretty easy to get by in with English alone, however, you’ll learn a few of the basics in some of the local languages, which is something that is certainly appreciated by Malawians.

@ Lilongwe
Lilongwe beats in the heart of Malawi, a mix of all the good things that come with a big city and unfortunately the all too familiar downsides as well. If you head to Old Lilongwe, you’ll find the nicer areas in town, but across the town is where you’ll find all the action and the hustle and bustle of city living in East Africa.

How did we get there: From Tete in northern Mozambique we took a shared taxi to the small border crossing. If you want to head east first, there are far more taxis heading to the border crossing at Bilantyre, however you will need another van to the border from there. After clearing immigration, we boarded what we would consider an illegitimate wagon which took off in a cloud of smoke to escape the border post patrols. Immediate departure and an hour long trip to the capital set us back 400K ($3).

Where did we stay: Mufasa’s Backpackers Lodge. You can’t go past this place simply on the basis of its name. The place was actually full when we rocked up as it doubles as home to US Peacecorp volunteers in town. The hostel and the volunteers were good enough to let us throw down a few mattresses in one of the dorms for 1300K (AUD$10) a night. It’s a pretty nice place in Old Lilongwe which has a few bars around and a cool atmosphere and plenty of the basic facilities such as the Net café next door.

Getting a feed: Cheap meals proved difficult to find in Old Lilongwe amongst the expat scene, and for any local street food or produce you’ll need to get in early before the sun sets. Our advice is if you are over in the main side of town satisfy your hunger while you can and you’ll save a fortune. If like us you arrive late, you’ll find some value amongst local Indian flavours – naan and chapati which were by far the cheapest snacks we could find on any menu – 200K ($1.70).

Out on the town: A little place called Diplomat Bar is the main hangout in the area. Midweek you’ll find a crowd at the hostel which has a pretty chilled little bar with fair priced drinks at 160K ($1.40) for Carlsberg.

Traveller scene: We were smack bang in the middle of the expat part of the town, which continues to grow. Lilongwe is one of the fastest growing cities in Africa in terms of population and it is beginning to show with many new businesses opening and the local infrastructure coming under pressure to cope with increasing demands.

Learn from us: You need to be on your toes at the Lilongwe transport centre – we were picpocketed trying to salvage our bags amongst the confusion but thankfully recovered the sum. The area around the bus stop right in the heart of town is pretty hectic and can be fairly dodgy so rather than wander aimlessly just try grab a taxi to get wherever you need to go.

@ Nkhata Bay
One of the better known spots along the banks of Lake Malawi, Nkhata Bay is a great little stopover as you head north. If you want to get a feel for life in small village, go for a paddle in the lake and just relax, then this place is a must.

Getting there: Despite the recommendations (AXA or National Express) we opted for Restoration Express service from Lilongwe for 100K cheaper than the others. The 1200K ($9.20) trip took a while to get going and it’s a longer trip than anticipated – longer than you’ll get told. For spiritual folk you also have the joy of a bit of a biblical sing alongs and then the awkwardness when the hat gets passed around. This bus takes you as far as Mzuzu and from there amongst the darkness, despite what some overly eager taxi drivers might say, shared taxi’s do still run (the last around 7pm) and you can grab one to Nkhata Bay for 400K ($3) for an hour trip.

Where did we stay: Big Blue Star Backpackers. This is a pretty special place, the location itself is something else. Add to this professional staff who will do anything for you along with cable tv, free wireless and the extras of free canoeing and snorkelling and you’re set for a great stay. There is camping, privates and dorms available – dorms set you back 700K ($5.40).

Getting a feed: it’s not like going gong to a desert camp morocco but All accommodation offers some food options. Some of them expensive, others have reasonable value. One of the best things about Nkhata Bay is how close the town is so you can wander in and eat with the locals. Right across Malawi, you can’t look past the street food of choice – Chips/French fries with salad. A plate will set you back 100K (80cents) and we won’t lie – it‘s a real treat. It can be slightly hard to find a great deal of variety so if you want to knock up your own sandwiches you can buy massive avocados and fresh produce for almost nothing at the markets in town.

On the town: Follow the locals to the bars, although perhaps don’t follow them too closely as many of them are more than merry by 9pm. It still remains a bit of mystery as to how this happens as you don’t actually see much alcohol consumption. Part of the answer though lies in the ‘shake shake’, an alcoholic mix you’ll find packaged in a milk carton style box. It was described to us as warm lumpy milk which tastes like vomit – but something you have to try. Naturally we shaked and baked and we can safely say the vomit description is pretty apt. Nkhata Bay has a handful of good local spots, the biggest expat bars are those in the local hostels depending on the night. All the hostels have small bars and reasonably priced beers if you just want to chill.

Learn from us: Our canoeing skills were terrible, either take the proper wooden canoes or make sure the canoe is fully blown up. We were spinning around in more circles on the lake than a washing machine cycle.

>>> The Amateur Low Down
Highlight: The tranquillity of Lake Malawi gave us a chance to relax before the final stretch in Africa. It provides a perfect backdrop if you just want to relax on its shores or alternatively get out there on the water for a spot of fishing with locals or dive under for some snorkelling. The varieties of tropical fish found in freshwater are truly incredible and something not to be missed.

Biggest surprise: Malawi is a great place for a few beers and even better you’ll be joined by locals. Be prepared though the locals will have gotten a head start and will be pretty jolly by 9pm. A mixture of beer and shake shake seems to do the trick quite nicely. It’s a great atmosphere here, so head out for a few beers, you’ll be surprised and have a great chance to talk with the locals.

One thing you can do to break down a barrier: Malawi faces many significant issues and it’s people are on the whole desperately poor. It is a country though that you get the feeling that things are heading in the right direction in terms of development and social projects.

One issue that continues to be ignored is on the front of human rights. Homosexuality remains illegal in Malawi, and many are still jailed for their sexual orientation. Recently as a result of a large public campaign for their freedom, the Malawian President pardoned two people from life imprisonment due to their sexual orientation. However, the spectre of harassment remains for this couple and many other Malawians are still forced to hide their personal lives for fear of imprisonment.

East Africa’s Heartland – Kenya.

It stands out as one of the symbols of Africa, it’s Kenya and it’s not only the economic engine room of East Africa but it’s lined with some incredible beaches, delightful foods, incredible people and inspiring wildlife. Kenya is a must for any African adventure.

Kenya
Capital: Nairobi
Population: 40 million
Currency: Kenyan Shilling – $1 – 60Ks
Economy: GDP (PPP) – 60 410 (81st); GDP Per Capita $1570 (145th)
Human Development Index: .541 (147th)
Sporting Trivia: For Kenya, it’s all about the running events. We were there when Nairobi was gearing up to host the African athletics championships. In this place, athletics news and track and field stars replace the football champions on the billboards and in the local newspapers which is something refreshing.

>>> Traveller Info
Entry Requirements: The visa cost has been reduced since the political turbulance of 2007. The visa will cost US $25 and is available at the land border with Tanzania. You can also travel to other countries that are part of the East African Community without needing a multiple entry visa. Keep a close eye on developments here as the East African Union is working towards developing a one Visa fits all program, which will be sensational for travellers.

Learn the lingo: 85% – Kenyans speak great English and in big centres like Nairobi you’ll hear it spoken alongside the local tongues like Swahili.

@ Nairobi
Getting there: We stumbled across the shuttle service we ended up taking when we were inquiring about the price of safaris. We got a shuttle from Arusha, Tanzania and the 6 hour trip set us back 22500 Tanzanian shillings ($20). Even the public buses were costly and the road to reach the border doesn’t have a great deal going for it aside from the excessive dust. It is however a pretty cool trip though as you do get to see a lot of Masai herding their cattle across the plains and of course Mt Kilimanjaro as a side setting.

Where did we stay: Nairobi International Youth Hostel. It’s just outside of town up the hill past the park. This place is pretty busy, it comes with the normal ‘generic’ hostel feel which is a bit of a downer, but they have everything you might want – internet (albeit overpriced), food and even a hairdresser if you are in need of a trim. A room in a dorm will set you back 600Ks. It is a pretty good place but the walk up the hill breathing in the toxic fumes of traffic congestion will give your lungs a work out, that is of course is you don’t pass out.

Getting a feed: Central Nairobi delivers on the food front. There is an abundance of restaurants serving chicken, burgers and chips. You can get a pretty massive feed for around 100-120 Ks ($2). The only downer to these places is that they have watered down the sauces to the extent that they are barely sauces anymore and are more like flavoured water. Nairobi also has some stylish places near Westlands if you want to live it up. You will also find a lot of Tusker supermarkets around to stock up on anything you might need.

On the town: It’s pretty great to be honest. Nairobi boasts perhaps the most developed and enjoyable nightlife scene we came across outside of South Africa. Head to the Westlands and you’ll be impressed by it’s lounge bars like Havana where locals rub shoulder to shoulder with expats. After warming up there the only option is to duck around the corner to Black Diamond which is one of the best nightclubs we have come across in Africa. This is also a favourite place for prostitutes, but from our experience, they’ll be all drinking Heineken so it doesn’t take much to work out who they are (we’re pretty sure they are supplied free by the bar). Either way they are nice enough and naturally are up for a chat. This place is a must when in Nairobi as you can dance and down quality Kenyan beers until your hearts content.

Traveller scene: There were plenty of people coming through Nairobi whilst we were in town. You can easily tee up any sort of organised African Safari you’d like. There were also a number of conferences on whilst we were there, including the scouts, and also a number of Africans from other parts of the continent in town looking for work in this economic hub. If you happen to meet any expats, make sure you ask for some local knowledge, the guys we met pointed us in the right direction and a few free beers never goes astray when you’re on the road.

Highlight: Have we mentioned we had fun in Nairobi? It was less about the sightseeing here for us and more about getting amongst the nightlife after a long couple of weeks on the road and in more remote places – Black Diamond for it’s total diversity is something that we’d say is a must.

@ Kisumu/Kodiaga
Getting there: It was an early morning bus from Nairobi for us to Kisumu. This was about a 6 hour journey and cost 1000Ks ($14). A pretty smooth ride through the Ruhr Valley and then up through the tea field lined hills.

Where did we stay: We stayed in an incredibly cheap hotel on the back end of town. It was so cheap we’re not even sure if it had a name to tell you about. You can get a double room for under 1000Ks here and it’s in the quieter part of town, walking distance to the shared taxi rank.

Getting a feed: Is this part of the world, can you go past 5Ks samousas? Fried crisp thin pastry loaded with anything ranging from beans to beef – So good.

On the town: Kisumu has a few good places to have a bit of fun and get on the beers. There is a great rooftop bar run by a couple of Dutchies where you can relax for a few and watch the sun come down over Lake Victoria. It’s slightly overpriced but that’s because it’s where you’ll find any tourists in town.

Traveller scene: Pretty quiet. Kisumu acts more as a gateway between Kenya & Uganda than anything else. There are a few people around in transit but most foreigners you’ll come across have been working around here and are involved in volunteer projects, which means if you want to get involved – here’s a great place to start asking questions.

@ Mombasa
The jewel in Kenya’s crown, fastly becoming one of the most sought after tourist destinations on the East African circut.

Getting there: It was all aboard what is known as one of Africa’s best train rides. We splashed the cash and went for a 2 person sleeper ($51) to make this overnight journey. The real draw of the train was the fact that it goes through a National Park where you can hope to catch some wildlife as the sun comes up. We didn’t but we did see the smiles of locals along the way. If you take this train – please don’t do what some others did on the trip and just throw lollies at the children. It is one of the more disappointing things you come across, as it is unsustainable for local communities and dis-empowers these communities by undermining social structures.

Where did we stay: We spent one night beachside just north of Mombasa where you can go fishing amongst the picturesque mangroves of the area. The Beach (Mtwapa Beach) is a nice relaxed place but is a bit far from everything. Although the guys will get you on a moto to the main road for 50Ks (80cents). Our second night we moved into Mombasa itself and came across Mombasa Backpackers. Now this is a cool backpackers in a massive building and run by a great bunch of guys (It’s not a pub joke – a Swede, a South African and a Peruvian). We paid 600Ks a night here ($9) and its definitely worth it, these guys will go the extra mile for you and it really fosters a great relaxed atmosphere amongst the guests.

Getting a feed: Cheap Samoosa came up trumps for us again here in Mombasa. At The Beach Lodge we also tried some traditional masala chips and challenged the locals to spice them up – they failed. We’d mention Palm wine here as well, yes we know it’s a liquid, but sheer volume of bugs and body parts constitutes at least for us, a mention in the food category.

On the town: We were hanging with some Dutch girls who had managed to woo a local, who was obviously a big spender and enjoyed a bit of a party. It may have been midweek but a few of the places we came across here were absolutely massive and you could tell draw a crowd every time the weekend rolled in. Mombasa Backpackers also sold beers so you wouldn’t go without.

Traveller scene: It’s Kenya’s busiest tourist city. Mombasa’s city life and its accessibility to nearby beach are the big draw cards here. There were a lot of people around, again many who had been doing volunteer work in the vicinity and were putting their feet up for a while and would could blame them – the water is crystal clear and the weather is amazing.

>>> The Amateur Low Down
Highlight: For a genuine experience it has to be our time spent out with one of our good friends in western Kenya in a small village. Spending just a few days in this small village was a great chance to get an insight into life in a small African community and also see first hand some of the work that NGOs do in conjunction with locals. Out here we saw the start of a school building happen, watched a local soccer tournament, found a pub with no beer, ate seven thousand samoosas and hung out with our African brothers enjoying every moment on the local taxis down the local laneways.

Biggest Surprise: Kenya has a reputation for being one of the most popular tourist destinations in Africa, and for good reason. The majority of these though still come through on organized tours. So Kenya, despite it’s place as one of the most visited destinations is still a surprisingly big challenge for independent travelers wanting to travel on a budget. So be prepared, it won’t be easier than other places in Africa as you might expect, but that of course for us is part of it’s charm and we invite you to do the same and take up the real challenge.

One thing you can do to break down a barrier: Our visit out to Kisumu and beyond was all about seeing the great work an old mate was doing with the local community near the Ugandan border. We’re in the process of putting together a video to show what a difference you can make to the lives of some of the most impoverished communities filled with the most amazing people. There’s no greater reward you can ask for then the smiles that accompany you on a daily basis wherever you go. We also met the crew from World Youth International who had organised a football day to bring communities together whilst also beginning a discussion about the risks of HIV/AIDs.

Tanzanian Trekking

One of East Africa’s most established tourist destinations, Tanzania is the country that brings you the postcard pictures of Africa that you’ve always imagined. Whether it’s getting up close and person with the animal kingdom on a safari, the charm of the Masai, the allure of Zanzibar or Mount Kilimajaro it becomes apparent pretty quickly Tanzania more than lives up to it’s reputation.

Tanzania
Capital: Dodoma
Population: 44 million
Economy: GDP (PPP) – $53 716 (84th); Per Capita $1416 (156th)
Human Development Index: .531 (151st)
Exchange Rate: USD$1 = 1500 Tanzanian Shillings
Sporting Trivia: Tanzania’s only two silver coloured Olympic medals were won in the 1980 Moscow Olympic games on the track. Their football side hosted Brazil in the lead up to the 2010 World Cup, going down 5-1 in a friendly.

>>> Traveller Information: You’ll find an abundance of travellers in Arusha, all ready to head off into the Lion King style Africa that we all imagine. Tanzania is pretty tourist friendly, cheap prices, low value currency and incredibly friendly local people. Another great thing is that there are plenty of opportunities to socialise (drink) with locals and other travellers, which is a great opportunity to find out more about Tanzania and get some inside secrets. Zanzibar has all sorts of tourists and all of the ferries are packed daily as Zanzibar is incredible and is set up to cater for the regular influx of tourists with beautiful resorts and also small lodges in the heart of old town.

Visa Requirements: We didn’t want to travel thousands of kilometres to Tanzania without a Visa so we headed to their embassy in Maputo, Mozambique. The original visa we required cost $50 but after issues changing money, as the embassy didn’t like old US notes, we short changed it for a much cheaper transit visa. We rolled the dice on the Tanzanian visa in the end but we managed to enter the country twice on this visa and didn’t have to pay anything on top of the $30 visa we got, despite a thorough inspection on the second entrance. Win.

Learn the Lingo: English is the european language that is spoken here. One of the greatest things about Tanzania is that locals challenge you to speak their largest local language, Swahili. Spoken by 50 million people and it’s probably our favourite language we came across. It’s the language of ‘The Lion King’ and you’ll become accustomed to phrases like “Mumbo Jumbo” and talking to your friends ‘Rafiki’. Our advice here is to get out there and greet as many people as you can and you’ll share many a smile with Tanzanians.

@ Mbeya
The transport hub of Southern Tanzania, Mbeya is packed with two things – trucks and bars. We arrived pretty late, watched some football and took off first thing in the morning so we didn’t really get much of an insight into this city.

How did we get there: A long day coming up from Nkhata Bay changing mini buses a couple of times. We had some major dramas at this border crossing with money changers ripping you off. We got across the border hot and frustrated with the bus up to Mbeya taking about 2 hours – standing room only. We arrived pretty late to a hectic bus station where you’ll find plenty of touts who will help you find accommodation and we reckon it’s probably best just to choose one dude and get a hand, especially if like us you are wrecked after a long day of travel. Afterall, bus stations and transit points are not the nicest places to be loitering around in after dark.

Where did we stay: We followed the lead of a rasta tout to a place directly across the road from the bus station as we were taking off super early the next morning for Arusha. The three of us grabbed a two bed room for incredibly cheap, about $10 total a night.

Getting a feed: For not much more than $1 we were able to grab some local rice and meat off the main strip.

On the town: This was our location for the World Cup Final. We found a good local bar and for some reason the owner loved us and shouted us copious amounts of beers.

Learn from us: When crossing the border into Tanzania from Malawi do not swap any currency on or around the bridge. It’s no man’s land and there is an elaborate system of hawkers working together to systematically offer tourists varying rates of exchange before eventually stealing your hard earned cash never to be seen again. Yep, we got stung and we’d like to think of ourselves as some pretty hardcore hagglers.

@ Arusha
Arusha, is the gateway to the safari sights of Tanzania. Situated close to Serengeti, it’s home to many Masai and as a transit point for tourists, Arusha is a great place to find your feet in this incredible part of the world. You’ll be greeted with open arms by people all over town in Swahili, so make sure you brush up on the basics.

How did we get there: A lazy 20 hour bus trip from Mbeya on a big coach was the option we went for. This bus did cost a bit more than a few other options but was reliable and considering the distance of the journey it is probably worth the 45000 Shillings ($30) as it’s the most direct and fast option.

Where did we stay: A late night arrival left us at the mercy of the touts at 11pm. We jumped in a taxi who took us to the hostel but it was a bit too pricey. We then got dropped off at Michel’s Place which got us a 3 bed room for 15000 ($10) a night. This was a pretty basic place amongst the back streets but did the trick for the three of us. We had a bit of a heated disagreement over prices with the taxi driver but it was all sorted in the end – always keep your cool.

Getting a feed: There are plenty of samosa stands throughout town and most of the bars around town will also sell good meat and pap dishes to suit your taste buds for not more than $3.

Out on the town: There is a distinguishably up market area of town where you’ll find most of the tourist offices and a few nice hotels. This isn’t where we went out, instead, we chose to hang out with locals in bars along the bumpy backroads. Picnic Bar might look seedy but at least it doesn’t disappoint in delivering on its seedy charm and a night out here wouldn’t be complete without a few beers in Shivers just across the street which is a mix of live music, beats and all sorts of dancers.

Difficulties: Getting rid of old US notes was hard here. It seems to be the case across East Africa, any US notes before 2000 are pretty hard to get changed into local currency. So have a good look at any notes you exchange to make sure you don’t get stuck with anything prior to the year 2000.

@ Dar Es Salaam
Dar, as it’s often known is the largest city in Tanzania and despite no longer being it’s capital is home to much of the nation’s administrative infrastructure. It’s the place to fly into from most international destinations and is your gateway to Zanzibar.

How did we get there: A 9 hour bus ride from Mombasa got us here. We then jumped across town and onto a ferry to get us to the place we were staying 5 minutes across the bay.

Where did we stay: We took the ferry from Dar which costs about 30 cents to get across the bay to the strip of beach resorts and tranquil camping places. The Mikadi Beach campsite we ended up at came highly recommended with BYO tent and other accommodation options . It was also a place that numerous safari vans stop at with their groups. The driveway is rather long and dark so be aware of your own security and just jump on a moto or taxi right at the gate just to be on the safe side.

Getting a feed: As soon as we got off our bus from Mombasa we were on the hunt for food and we stumbled across some cheap chicken and chips for 4000 Shillings ($3.30). We’re not going to lie, the street food here is pretty special to be honest combined with the charm of the outdoor setting friendly faces running the stalls.

Unfortunately, we tried to recapture the magic on our final night but most stalls was closed for some reason on a Tuesday. There are plenty of street side restaurants that will give you the normal Tanzanian specials at an unbelievable price.

Out on the town: Our night here was spent at the beach backpackers across the bay and then our final night in Africa back on the mainland was spent getting a haircut, grabbing a feed, a few final Kili’s (the nickname for Kilimanjaro – a local Tanzanian Beer and yes it’s good) and then a night stay at the airport.

@ Stone Town (Zanzibar)
This is definitely one of the gems of Africa. Zanzibar is a much heralded idyllic island and it’s reputation as an island getaway is much deserved. This is an island paradise you must get to, the mix of African and Arabic cultures is something to behold. The tranquillity of Arabic cobbled streets and the groove of African culture meet here to give you an amazing experience.

How did we get there: There are reasonably cheap flights but the best way to get a feel for Zanzibar is to cross the beautiful waters by ferry from the mainland. There are about 4 each way daily, the trip will set you back USD$35-40 for the 2 and half hr trip. There’s not really any point trying to negotiate the prices, you’ll see they are unfair but we got nowhere after numerous attempts and countless hours.

Where did we stay: We rocked up without accommodation. Don’t panic, although year round accommodation is close to fully booked here, the touts will find you with a room. We followed one though the charming alleys of Stone Town to a pretty good place for the 3 of us where we scored a 3 bed room for about USD$12.50 each after a bit of negotiation. Zanzibar is known for high priced rooms so we were happy with this and came with breakfast.

Getting a feed: Where do we start? This place was an island paradise for our taste buds. The daily staple has to be the ‘Zanzibar mix’ which is a spicy soup with some vegetables, spices and meat thrown in. As night falls comes the real challenge at the seafood markets, which are designed for the tourist market. It has a great energy and is a lot of fun with all sorts of seafood available and sales techniques on display. The prices vary a lot and is a whole lot more than what you’d pay at most other local spots. Sample a few treats and take some great photos, but if you are up for a bit more movement on prices head back late at night to try pick off a few bargains as they close up. Across town is a great local market, with sting rays getting cut up on the ground, spices and whatever clothes you might need or just get for the sake of it.

Out on the town: Zanzibar’s drinking spots come in all shapes in sizes from luxurious bars stocked with patrons sipping champagne watching the sunset over the water, to the to local bars stocked with Kili beer, bottles of spirits and patrons still watching the sunset over the crystal clear water. You’ll find some interesting characters around town, but it is definitely a good night out here and the island lifestyle gives life to a pretty relaxed atmosphere to drinking at least at these establishments.

Difficulties: No, you can’t negotiate the ferry price. Despite a thorough search it is pretty hard to do. The tickets are divided into local and foreign classes.

>>> The Amateur Low Down
Highlight: We can’t go past Zanzibar and everything that goes with it. What a way to finish our African experience. We begun in the Arab north in Agadir so it was fitting to finish up in the Arabic influenced Zanzibar. Zanzibar comes with breathtaking beaches, a unique culture and charming cobbled stone streets. Zanzibar posses a culture that is quite different to many on mainland Africa, it’s a place where Arab traders never left, and it was pretty hard for us to take off as well.

Around every corner is a postcard worthy photograph and if you’re like us and love the challenge of getting a bargain price, you’ll find plenty of chances to hone your bargaining skills here.

Biggest Surprise: How much safaris cost. Well it wasn’t a total shock, but it’s the sort of thing you hope you can get for much cheaper when you get there and get locally sourced in the formation. To Tanzania’s credit they have an organised tourism board that ensures environmental and social standards are kept up and give a decent living to locals.

The cost to go on ‘safari’ at Ngoro Ngoro, Serengeti, Masai or any other parts will generally start at USD $160, the disappointing thing is that the daily cost doesn’t seem to drop on longer tours. We didn’t make it out on safari in this part of the world, we had seen the wildlife in other parts of Africa, and along the road, our dodgy cameras didn’t justify another trip out there. If it’s the thing you want to do there are plenty of reputable places to get on a safari when you arrive, just do a bit of shopping around and ask some questions.

One thing you can do to break down a barrier: Ok, so we couldn’t go through this whole time without mentioning one of the biggest shocks in Africa. Albinos in Africa. It was something we never expected and you’re probably reading this thinking we are having a joke. Albinos face discrimination on a number of fronts, some traditional beliefs still mean that Albinos are killed for their body parts. This practice is now outlawed but it remains a major issue for the hundreds of thousands of Albinos in this part of the world. There are an estimated 200,000 Albinos in Tanzania who still suffer from discrimination, although promisingly we also during our time in Africa saw a few on TV as members of Parliament.