tiistai 12. huhtikuuta 2016

Exploring Usambara Mountains - A 3-day hike through Tanzania’s green hills


We depart from Dar Es Salaam with a so-called luxury bus because it’s a long 8-hour ride up to Lushoto. The AC is great – especially in the first 1.5 hours when it was actually working. So the adventure begins…

Lushoto is a beautiful town nestled in the hills of the Usambara mountains and rather cool, compared to other parts of Tanzania. We meet our guide, Christina from the local NGO and spend the evening with good company at her friend’s house. The next morning we rise bright and early – off we go! The first hiking day is 9 hours long. We walk up the hill and down the hill, through maize fields, little villages and pristine forests. Our guide spots shy monkeys and chameleons, which we would have never noticed.


The first night along the hike is a homestay managed by three brothers. It lies on a very steep hill and we decide to allow ourselves a piki pike ride (on the back of a motorcycle). We were promised very simple accommodation, more adventurous than comfortable. The beautifully arranged flowers, towels and sheets on the bed speak a different language. After a 5-course Swahili meal we happily fall asleep.



In the morning we could feel our legs, feet, back, well actually everything was pretty sore. But there is not much time to think about that as it is time to go. Today’s hike is not as long as the first one, around 6 hours plus a longer break around noon when it was getting just too hot.

Tonight’s accommodation is a round little mud hut with neither electricity
nor running water. The owner just recently added a small half open bathroom with a hole in the middle and buckets next to it because she heard that guests appreciate this comfort. Her hospitality amazes us – this woman, around 60 years old, spent hours preparing hot water in the fire pit for our warm shower and plenty of delicious food. This little town makes us feel like time travelers, going back 300 years in the past, when there was no electricity, people naturally used nature for medicine and the man had to work hard on the field to support his big family. This night really made us think about how easy our lives actually are.



Day number 3 and in the morning we get to meet the village’s friendly pastor and his family, shaped by missionaries long time ago. He is delighted that we are German and his very first question is what we know from the bible. The talk gets quite interesting, but unfortunately we cannot stay very long as we need to reach our final destination today.

Along the way we meet surprised school kids that are not used to see mzungu (white man) and observe us carefully.



Then we visit a women’s workshop where locals make and sell pottery. We purchase a small chameleon as our luggage is restricted but the financial gesture is much appreciated.
Finally we reach our destination – Mambo View. The view is incredibly amazing! On a clear day you can see Kilimanjaro in the distance. Now it’s time to rest and relax.




Our hike was only 3 days long but we experienced a completely different world. Usambara has beautiful nature, but we were most amazed by the hospitality of our local hosts. Such kindness to strangers that do not speak the same language and seem to have much more than them was just positively surprising. It was an adventurous but fantastic insight into their world. And there is no need to feel sorry for the lack of modern gadgets – the simple joy of the people warms your heart.



This blog post is written by Kristin, who was hiking at Usambara with her boyfriend in April 2015.

maanantai 23. marraskuuta 2015

Zanzibari art exhibition

Zanzibar is an island of arts, culture and traditions. Sometimes traditions are stronger than the creation of new forms of expression. That's why this art exhibition is spceial - it's all about experimenting new things. It doesn't repeat the styles of the numerous artists on the streets of Stone Town.
October 21st was the opening of the art exhibition by Hamza M. Ausiy, Ndambe and Dullah Wise. The artists took their time to show visitors around and explained their paintings. Several fine arts students from Zanzibar as well as many other guests from around the world joined the opening.

Ausiy (here in front of his painting “The purple view”) was born in Zanzibar and has been a full time artist for about 15 years. He has participated in various art exhibitions in and outside of Zanzibar.

Mohammed Jaffary Abdalla signs his artwork as Ndambe, a name that comes from a Bantu tribe. He likes to use different materials for his paintings to get an unique art style. His painting “Mjane” (see below) is the face of this exhibition.

Abdulla Khamis Omar uses the artist’s name Dullah Wise. He has been drawing ever since he can remember. He says, on day when he was at the beach drawing a Zanzibar dhow, a tourist walked by and convinced him to sell his painting for 30$. That was when he realized he could make a living out of it.

One of his paintings at the exhibition called “Kuvuna Mwani” (see below).


Until December 2015 the artists’ work will be on display open for public at Emerson on Hurumzi hotel.

Co-author and photos: Kristin Brueckner

tiistai 2. kesäkuuta 2015

Travelling with kids in Zanzibar




Africa might not be on the top of the list of travel destinations for many families with children, but that is not very well deserved. Children are usually very well treated in Tanzania, so families can count on getting help and friendly service. I would like to share some thoughts of what to do on a family holiday in Zanzibar.

1. Forodhani Park in Stone Town


This is where I spend lots of time with my son. Many cafes and outdoor kitchens offer great food (just pay attention to where you buy it from)! Great place to stop for a smoothie or an ice cream. There are also occasional concerts.

In the afternoon around 5 pm the Forodhani playground opens. The entrance fee is 1000 Tanzanian shillings per child, which is around 50 euro cents. This is just a usual playground with some slides, trampolin, swings etc. All with an amazing sea view!




2. Kariakoo amusement park

Just a little bit out from Stone Town is the Kariakoo amusement park, which has just opened after renovations and it's run by the Zanzibar fire department, so I would dare to say it's a safe place. They have plenty of rides for different aged kids, from Farrel's wheel and Merry-go-round to more speedy options. I was personally very surprised by the great variety of rides!

There is also a water park inside the amusement park. It was not opened on my last visit but truly looked like a proper water park with big slides and pools.



You can check out this Swahili blog for lots of pictures.

3. Prison Island

It sounds grim, but Prison Island is not what the name makes you think about. I think this is an interesting destination if your children are a bit older. You can see the giant tortoise, walk amongst them and scracth their shields (they seem to enjoy that). Easy to combine with snorkeling in the rather calm and shallow coral reefs aorund, where you will mostly see small fosh and colorful corals.


4. Zanzibar Zoo

I have not persnoally visited this facility, so I cannot say much. It is a small zoo with animals like camels in it, and includes a water park. Popular destination for local families, much like the Kariakoo amusement park. The zoo is located some 15 minutes ride from Stone Town towards east.

5. Jamhuri gardens playground

Another playground in Stone Town, similar to the Forodhani playground. For a small entrance fee your kids can enjoy the well kept playground. Jamhuri gardens are located near to Vuga area and football grounds just outside Stone Town.



There are also plenty of hotels in Zanzibar that cater toys and babysitting services for families, please contact us at info (at) sansibar.fi and I would be happy to recommend places to stay based on your family's needs!

Oh, and we can also include a baby/toddler seat on our transfers.

lauantai 7. helmikuuta 2015

Should I swim with dolphins in Zanzibar?


Dolphin tour in Zanzibar is a tricky thing. At its best it can be you swimming with 20 dolphins all alone for an hour. At its worst, it can be you with 15 other boats trying to find dolphins, and once you find them, the dolphins are scared by all the boat motors and swim away, very quickly. And even if they stay it would be too dangerous to jump into the water with all the 15 boats around.

We at Colors of Zanzibar have been trying to figure out how to make this a better experience for our clients as well as the dolphins. I just recently took 2 dolphin tours within 24 hours – one in the afternoon and one early in the morning. The experiences were completely different from each other.

Afternoon dolphin safari begins

On the afternoon tour, or safari could be a better word for it, we didn't find the dolphins. They are much harder to find in the afternoons. But if we would have found them we would have been at the scene all by ourselves, with no other boats in sight. Even without seeing the dolphins the trip was enjoyable – the beautiful coast line and the strong Indian Ocean, all for us only. Afterwards we went snorkeling on the lively Kizimkazi coral reef.

Kids playing at the Kizimkazi beach

The next morning we got up at 5:30 am, and were ready on the shore at 6 am sharp. We took the same route as yesterday, seeing only 2 other boats + lots of fishermen. For an hour the dolphins did not show up – when we finally found them, it was us and 11 other boats. We saw 3 dolphins and 30 tourists, some of them in the water, unknowinlgy risking their lives as the boats were in a small space with not much room to go around the people in the water.

Sunrise at Menai Bay conservation area

Our captain told us not to jump. He was also the only one who followed the official instructions and stopped the engine. We stayed at the scene for approximately 10 minutes, and then asked him to go back to the shore. Dolphins were probably already far far somewhere, awayf rom the 11 motors, and we didn't feel too comfortable trying to find them again.

Other boats arrive

This has led us to 3 conclusions.
  1. Think about what time you want to do the tour. Either extremely early, or later, let's say after 11 o'clock. If you go very early you have the best chance to see the dolphins. But if you don't find them quickly, you will end up sharing the experience with others. How many others is just about luck – some days there might be just few tourists, and sometimes way too many. On the other hand, if you go after the tourist crowds you will end up with a more enjoyable experience, but with much lower chance to see the dolphins. 

  2. Only deal with professional people, not with just anyone who has a boat. All dolphin tour arrangers in Kizimkazi are supposed to have gotten education on how to approach the animals, but it seems to be long forgotten. There are very few who actually care about the environment. Choose them – we definately do. Also, most of the true professionals have much better facilities.

  3. It is very important to get all the information about dolphins beforehand. This way you understand what is good for them and why you need to be respectful. If the dolphins choose not to be around, then it's their decision. You can still enjoy the beautiful fishing village, the turqoise Indian Ocean, snorkeling at the coral reefs and just being in Zanzibar, relaxing.

maanantai 24. helmikuuta 2014

5 reasons to use a local travel agent

I value independent travellers, all-inclusive package travellers and everybody in between. But I want to share some thoughts of why it's wise, economical and most sustainable to use a local travel agent or an international agent that uses local companies.

1. You really get to know your destination
For local knowledge and a true cultural experience it makes sense to turn to the locals! You will have better access to places and you will get info of local customs. This is also the best way to get off the beaten track, as your local agent is the one who can arrange you to visit almost anywhere if you just ask them. The ready-made tours and packages are more like suggestions, but many other things can also be arranged.

2. It's economical
Cut the middle man! Big agencies might have even three different organisations that handle your travels – and also need to be paid. If you buy a whole package from a local agency, you might save money compared to doing it all on your own. Prices are fixed and if you by the whole package, there will usually be a discount in service prices.

3. Profit goes to local communities
A local company that is committed to sustainable development is always the best option. They will make sure you get a local hotel, local guides and also local knowledge. Making educated choices independently takes a lot of effort, and booking through big agencies you are most likely to end up in foreign owned big chain hotels.



4. Get the best value for your money
A local agent knows exactly who they are dealing with and can recommend the best hotels and services for your needs. They also know which ones are the best value and use them.

5. Emergencies
If something unexpected happens, you will have someone to call. Someone local, who knows how to handle situations in that environment and who speaks the same language with you.

maanantai 22. heinäkuuta 2013

Swahili fashion gets more recognition in Zanzibar

I just received some great news today - the starting of Fashion Week Zanzibar. It will take place 25th to 26th of October in Zanzibar City.

I am a lover of swahili fashion. The traditional fabrics, khanga and kitenge, have so much potential for high fashion use. So do all the beautiful jewellery and other handicrafts made in the swahili speaking world.

Last February we had a small taste of how the coming swahili fashion week might look like, when there was a swahili fashion awards and show in Mbweni Ruins hotel.

Here are some (not so technically advanced) pictures from the happening.

swahili fashion dress and bag


swahili fashion dress and bag

swahili fashion coat dress


I will get back to you about this subject! Unofrtunately, I will not be able to attend fashion Week Zanzibar, but I will instead present you some beautiful designs by one of the founders, Farouque Abdela.

If you wish to get the best out of your visit to Fashion Week Zanzibar, contact travel agency Colors of Zanzibar for all the practical arrangements.

maanantai 6. toukokuuta 2013

Zedio starts with a women's project and welcomes volunteers!


For over a month now NGO called Zedio (Zanzibar Educational Improvement Organisation) has been regsitered and more or less running.

Don't let the title fool you – education is seen as a rather wide thing here. Our pilot project has tarted in Matemwe village, where we gave a chance for artisan women to take part in it. We start with a group of talented and inspired women.


Women from Matemwe at a field trip in Stone Town. With designer Farouque Abdela (left in the background) and Khamis Rashid from Colors of Zanzibar the women got familiar with different workshops and products made in Stone Town.

The aim of the pilot project is to help the women to develop their products and to sell them to local hotels, hotel shops and tourists. Designer Farouque Abdela is in charge of helping the group, and there couldn't be a better person for the job. He is one of the most well-known East African designers. Also founding members of this NGO are Colors of Zanzibar and Panga Chumvi Hotel.

If this pilot project goes well, we are looking forward to expand this program to other villages. We would also like to create more products. Right now the main products are bags made out of dried palm leaf carpet (mkeka). They are beautiful, but so much more could be done!

Bags made out of mkeka. Other ones are traditional, the one in the front in the middle is a Farouque Abdela design bag. See how many possibilities this material has!

At the moment Zedio is working only with donations from theq founder members. We wish to get some outside funding in the future (any suggestions are welcome :)

Also, we would more than appreciate any volunteers with expetise in handicrafts, design, project management, brand and product marketing... anything that could contribute! We know we could learn a lot from each other. And we will of course provide help with all the practical issues.

So if volunteering in Zanzibar is on your wish list, please contact us!

Email: info (at) zedio.org
Also by emailing me or Colors of Zanzibar your message will be received by the right people.