I think one of my parents favourite part of visiting us (and something leaving here will be missed) is the fresh fruit breakfast and ability to eat outside most of the year. We took advantage of this every morning (plus a blender bequeathed to us from someone who left) to have fresh fruit (papaya & lime, pineapple, mango, oranges, banana & passion fruit), fresh smoothies, freshly made bread, chapatis and sunshine! We also tried mandazi (local doughnut) one day but they didn’t quite live up to the standard of everything else.
In the second week of my parents visit we took a mini-break to Bukoba, a town near the Ugandan border on the west coast of Lake Victoria. It is very different to Mwanza, being much more hilly, greener with lots of trees and as we found out a very friendly place! To get there we took the MV Victoria, an overnight passenger and freight boat direct to Bukoba which looked a bit like something from Murder on the Nile (pic below). We splashed out on 1st class cabins (71,000TSH/£28 pp return) which are private cabins with beds for 2 people, although we got an adjoining one with my parents. In fact it had a magical doorway which gave me a glimpse into what I might look like in the future…. They were surprisingly nice with comfy beds and we had a decent nights sleep.
In Bukoba we stayed at the beautiful Balamaga B&B, a small homely establishment with only 4 spacious rooms. The main attraction being it’s gardens whose variety of plants welcomed you each morning and evening with an array of smells and also attracted plenty of birds. We also took advantage of the gardens to buy some cuttings of Frangipani (Plumeria) and Gardenia (actually part of the coffee family Rubiaceae) which we hope to grow back in Mwanza and make our garden smell equally nice! Balamaga is also located on the clifftop in Bukoba which meant we avoided the millions of lake fly that adorn the lakeside in Bukoba town, indeed when we ate at a lakeside cafe it was a case of covering your drink to avoid lake fly dying/flying into your beverage!
While in Bukoba we took a little wander round the town centre, walked to the port to buy our return ticket (you can only buy 1 way tickets so could end up in 3rd class on your return if you’re not quick!). In the town we came across a local establishment the Rose Café, an excellent place for a breakfast of fruit juice, chapati and mandazi. The friendly manager there also ended up being our taxi driver for the entirety of our stay! Our second day I had organised a big day trip to Minziro forest which is one of the unique rift valley forests remaining in Tanzania. The forest is home to over 200 bird species including many rare and threatened species only found in the forest, pied colobus and red-tailed monkeys, many amphibians & snakes such as the Rhinocerous Viper. Unfortunately, in our ‘day’ in the forest we saw absolutely no birds, the tail of a monkey scampering away, a small frog and a millipede.
This has to be one of the worst trips I’ve been on while here, in a nutshell it involved a lot of waiting around (the whole morning from 7:30am) for a guide who was on their way “in 15 minutes” and not a lot of organisation! We ended up going into the forest with the local director of tourism and then on our return the car overheated due to a lack of coolant leading to a 1h3o stop by the side of a dusty road waiting for the engine to cool and while people fetched water for coolant. At least on our way back we stopped for a little birding and managed to see a few bee-eaters, long-crested eagle, and some nice views. I will update the bird section soon! One thing we did take away from the forest was many, many mosquito bites; my mum racking up 106 and Naomi’s back looking like she had a bout of chicken pox!
Our final day in Bukoba we enjoyed some relaxation in the garden and a little wander to find a local waterfall which we never did due to it being much further away than expected! The return trip on the boat was pretty fun as it is used to carry lots and lots of bananas back to the Mwanza region for sale and it certainly smelt a lot better than the dagaa (small fish) carried on the way out! It is quite amazing to see so many bananas and the boat certainly merits its name as ‘The banana boat’!
And so, after a few more wanders and exploration of walks around Mwanza including an excellent curry at our normal curry club hotel the end of my parents visit came far too quickly and I had to drop them off at Mwanza International Airport for their trip back via the delights of Nairobi airport and baggage issues as it seems far too many people know. So now we return to just the two of us here in Mwanza, ready to welcome our next visitors…..