Friday, December 26, 2014

From Safaris to the Beach

The original plan for this trip was a warm weather destination where we could go to the beach.  When planning it, we kept finding ourselves having to go further and further south in order to find somewhere that had beach weather.  We added on the safaris after planning the beach portion of our trip as kind of an aside...but the beach, that's where we wanted to go!

After our final safari with Tent with a View, we made the 2 hour trek on dirt, pothole filled roads (without dirt it was probably less than an hour) to The Tides Lodge ( in the Pangani / Tanga region.  It was a bumpy ride for sure, but with an open sided jeep, at least we didn't have to worry if anyone felt ill (thankfully we managed to make this a puke free trip up until the almost the end).  It made you appreciate our nicely paved roads in Europe and the US and the fact that to get anywhere in this area takes time, significant time.  Trying to look at it with a glass half full though, it also gave us an opportunity to view some of the life outside of the wildlife reserve.

Ready to head to the Tides

This was some odd road block area - when I asked the driver what it was, I didn't really understand the answer but literally could have driven right under or even through it and no one could have stopped us as the guard didn't have any vehicle.


While we saw local villages when we were in Saadani, it was still hard to see them as we drove by. The people smiled and waved and seemed friendly but to see people live in these conditions, even if by choice, is hard to see.  Aidan was constantly trying to get me to put away the camera but once again I assured him that I was looking to photograph only the area, the homes and things like that and I would not take pictures of the locals unless it was from the distance (like above) or indirectly when aiming at something else.  It really upset him to see people living like this - he's never seen anything like this (I don't even think he's seen it on tv) and it was so upsetting to him and one of the reasons he was ambivalent about this trip.  I can't say that I blame him but at the same time, I think it was an important educational experience for him (and Liam) to see that not everyone is as fortunate as they are in this life.

The drive was longer than we anticipated.  We originally thought it was only going to be an hour but was double that time.  I thought we would never get there.  But then I think the excitement about the next part in this journey was what also made the trip feel like it was taking forever!

As we drove, we came upon fields of these weird looking small cactus / palm tree like things.  It turns out they were sisal plantations.  Sisal is used to make thread and rope sold all over the world.  And as you can expect of a plantation, there was a big house and then lots of little houses around.  The little ones were slightly better than what we had seen up til now, but still not by much.  It looked like perhaps they had electricity at least so it was a definitely improvement on quality of life compared to villagers not far away.  Unfortunately I didn't get any pictures of the homes near the big houses based on the angle and speed we were driving.

Sisal fields

We kept driving and it turns out we weren't all that far from the Tides at this point.  We kept getting glimpses of the ocean (we had to drive a little inland even though we were going from a coastal area to a coastal area, there were no other roads that would connect us there) and while these people have very little, they have the most spectacular, unspoiled views right in their backyards.

Getting closer, we came upon some cattle.  What we noticed is that a lot of younger children, maybe around Aidan's age, were in charge of many of these cattle we've seen over the last few days.  They would be the ones sitting under the tree with the cattle roaming about.  They were also the ones that were herding the cattle to different locations.  When I think of how mature and responsible they have to be at such a young age, it makes me realize even more how coddled our first world children are these days.  On the flip side, these kids are also getting a substandard education, if any education at all and so to learn these life skills at an early age is also teaching them about survival.

The cattle was coming right down the road towards us - we had no choice but to sit and wait for them to pass and go around us.

If you look close you can see the crude branding on the cows.

These pretty red trees are actually called Christmas trees because they bloom at Christmas time.

We're so close!

We finally arrived at the Tides!  While there was not much around us, there was more than we had at Tent with a View.  Down the road from the lodge was a small local village.  There was also another lodge a little further down the way.  Regardless, compared to anything else we've seen on any trip we've ever taken, this was still incredibly isolated and quiet.  Like Tent with a View there were only about a dozen or so bungalows and at this time of year there were very few other people there (though we weren't the only guests this time).  The managers were very welcoming and incredibly helpful in organizing trips for us and arranging transportation, etc.  Once again, absolutely first class all the way - just first class with a rustic twist (like electrical outages every day, ants in our bungalow, etc) which was to be expected given our locale.

We've made it!

We were welcomed with fresh coconut milk.

Liam is not 100% sold on the coconut milk but he's giving it a go

Unlike the Tent with a View, this lodge is not built up on stilts... but it does have amazing views and is only steps from the ocean.

As we arrived just after mid day we were hungry for lunch so we headed to our bungalow to fix ourselves up (they delivered the luggage right to our bungalow for us just like at Tent with a View) before heading to the lodge for lunch.  Similar to Tent with a View, we would not have much choice when it came to our meals, though slightly more than we did over there.  Lunch we would have 3 or 4 choices, often times it would be something with fish.  I'm not a fish eater.  I ate a lot of fish on this trip. My stomach rebelled in the only way it could... and it wasn't pretty.  And it lasted through Christmas day :(  Dinner was basically whatever was shown on the board that day - one choice and one choice only.  We could sub chicken or fish for the kids if we thought they wouldn't like what was on the board which was a relief as even though they are great eaters, I still didn't think they would do the curry and coconut milk fish with rice!

Anyways, we made our way to our bungalow before heading back to the lodge for lunch.  And we were just in awe the entire time that we were in such a spectacularly beautiful place.  Truly paradise like we never could have imagined.  We'd read online that this beach was one of the top best secret beaches in the world and I can see why!

Walking to our bungalow

The back of our bungalow

View in front of our bungalow

Our veranda

Walk way from our veranda which leads to more beach chairs and umbrellas that are just for our bungalow

Josh and I agreed, we could never ever be bored of these views.  However, living here would be something entirely different.  You'd need a lot of patience and you would really need to change your frame of mind on how to deal with it taking longer to get things done - driving hours to get to a decent sized town (Tanga is about 2 hours drive away) where you can purchase products not sourced through villages (which was basically fish and some very meager basics), having electricity outages that often last the better part of the day - fine when you are on vacation, but if you were a business owner, that would be very difficult to deal with when you want to get things done and just can't.

The front of our bungalow

Happy in the pool

Liam has been looking forward to this the entire trip

Giving his brother a shoulder ride

Our little beach umbrellas.  The loungers actually looked like they were bed frames which they probably were at one point.

Very tall ceiling in our bungalow

Our main room

Which included a huge window type seat

Our bedroom

Kids' room

The beach - hugely packed as you can see ;)

Local man trying to sell his goods which were handmade baskets

Liam on the beach

Aidan took to writing in the sand a lot

Totally relaxed

After the last few days of very early mornings and long days of safari, we decided to keep our first 2 days very low key with just the beach, the pool and total relaxation, but we were there to do some exploring too, so we planned a few outings - a trip to visit two local villages, reef fishing for the boys and snorkeling (Josh unfortunately couldn't do any diving with his knee still in recovery mode).  We still left plenty of time to just relax and enjoy this gorgeous place.  Don't worry, the safaris might be over but more adventure awaits!


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