Family Safari


The Crime Traveller / Blog, Tanzania, Travel, Wildlife / Family Safari

Several readers of my regular column over at Precedent Magazine have asked me to post my complete 5-part “The Crime Traveller Africa” series in a single place.  I’m going to do you one better dear fans.  Here, in its entirety, is the complete series and, as an added bonus, I have added extended never-before-seen drafts […]

Filed Under: Blog, Tanzania, Travel, Wildlife by The Crime Traveller February 17, 2013, 9:20 pm

Several readers of my regular column over at Precedent Magazine have asked me to post my complete 5-part “The Crime Traveller Africa” series in a single place.  I’m going to do you one better dear fans.  Here, in its entirety, is the complete series and, as an added bonus, I have added extended never-before-seen drafts of the original column that ended up beign edited down to meet Precedent’s word limits.

The 7-disc Collector’s Edition blu ray with Crime Traveller bobblehead should be available in fine retailers everywhere in time for Christmas.  😉



Part 1: Hippos, Lions & Elephants, Oh My!




It’s 4:46am on the Serengeti plains in Tanzania, Africa. I’m lying on my back staring at the roof of my tent. The unusual-for-August torrential lightning storm that swept across the savannah earlier in the evening has almost entirely subsided when I hear the piercing cry of a wounded animal just metres from my tent’s entry flap. I stare through the screened canvass window into utter blackness. The kerosene lanterns of our camp and the small bonfire have both long since burned out.

I feel a sharp pain stinging my left forearm as a human hand extends in a vice grip. Apparently my wife heard it too.

We now stare together, unblinking and unmoving out the window. We can hear a distinct chuffing sound. It reminds me of the tiny sneezes my cat back home in Toronto used to make as he licked at his food bowl. Typical feline sounds. Except these aren’t tiny.

I can make out the cast-iron bell on the small wooden night table beside me in our tent. “Ring if you need anything,” our camp guide had said before we tucked in for the night. What if I need a pride of lions relocated from the stoop of my tent? Do lions react well to ringing bells? I wish I had asked these questions six hours ago.

The chuffing is getting closer. We can make out the sound of grass bending and snapping. Something is purring loudly. I think my arm is bleeding is now. The sounds continue for the longest twelve minutes of my life.

In the morning, we emerge from our tent to a glorious African sunrise. Next door, I poke my head into the tent of my nine and seven year old daughters. The decision to allow them to bunk together in their own neighbouring tents in the middle of the bush for the past week now seems a bit ill-considered. Yet, they’re sound asleep. As I poke and prod them to get ready for today’s game drive, they claim to have heard nothing last night. No buckets of rain. No lions. “Can we have hot chocolate for breakfast?” Suddenly my concern seems misplaced.

I shuffle over to the dining tent, noticing for the first time that these safari camps lack any sort of fencing. I accept a cup of steaming Tanzanian coffee from our guide, Charles, and can hear eggs frying on the propane grill out back. The memory of three hours ago feels cloudy and fuzzy in my mind. Did we really hear what I thought we heard? Must just be a silly tourist dream. Maybe I have malaria, I muse when my reverie is interrupted. “Did you hear the lions hunting that zebra?” Charles is gulping his own coffee with a big grin on his face.  “Pretty amazing. They were so close! Would you like more coffee?”


On a Tanzanian safari, even when you can’t see anything at all, the sights are absolutely awe-inspiring.

And what we saw was absolutely incredible. In the days before my nocturnal brush with nature, we watched in rapt amazement as a lioness zig-zagged madly at high speed in a failed chase with a wildebeest who had strayed a few feet too far from his herd. My girls’ eyes popped out of their heads when we came across a massive male lion sitting regally in front of a fresh buffalo carcass. The buffalo’s face had been eviscerated and its entrails were spilled out over the golden grass as the lion tore strips of flesh from its belly. Further down the road our luck with lions continued as we stopped within three metres of a honeymooning pair. The male mounted his lioness and the two took turns roaring at each other completely ignoring the sounds of human jaws clanging off the metal floor of our safari trucks.

We stopped at a fetid pool overflowing with gargantuan hippopotami stacked on top of each other like a giant fleshy Jenga tower. The hippos slapped the water loudly with their powerful stubby tails giving off regular guffaws sounding eerily like Jabba the Hutt laughing to the entertaining contortions of slave Leia. Every so often an errant hoof accidentally pressed into the face of some hippo lower down on the tower and all hell broke loose as the pool erupted into a seething cauldron of hippo madness. Giant mouths flexed open as if on hinges to reveal stained yellow teeth the size of steak knives.

One day the kids committed to counting the number of elephants we could spot. They gave up at 176. We hadn’t yet stopped for lunch.


Want a bigger taste of the incredible sights of a classic African safari? Peruse my complete photo set on Flickr here:

Part 2: Ayalabe Primary School


We’re driving along a reasonably well-maintained two-lane highway outside of Karatu, Tanzania. The smooth rush of asphalt beneath the thick tires of our Land Rover feels like a soothing balm to my jarred fillings and aching back after four days of bouncing around the bush trails of Arusha and Tarangire. Our driver turns off the highway onto a rust-red dirt road and begins picking a path through the stones and discarded bricks. A large dog, clearly a recent victim of the highway – its skull split open like a cracked melon – oozes fresh blood into a ditch beside the road. I’m trying to block the wretched sight from my nine and seven year old daughters when they are distracted by the piercing cry of Wazungu! Wazungu!  A small band of children, led by a pantless child in a dusty blue sweater who looks no more than three, are running beside our truck crying out in Swahili “White people! White people!”

We are on our way to Ayalabe primary school – a visit that has been in the works for nearly nine months.  With the assistance of our superb tour operator, Thomson Safaris, we were connected through their charitable arm to two students at the school close in age to my daughters. My girls entered into a pen pal relationship. They would craft a short note in English which we would e-mail to Thomson’s Boston office that was then forwarded to their office in Tanzania. In milliseconds, the message travelled the 12,000km between Boston and Arusha. The timeline expanded there considerably as the e-mails had to be translated into Swahili, printed out, and delivered by staff on their next trip to Karatu. Then the student would write her own reply which would eventually be picked up again by Thomson, brought back to their Arusha office for translation and e-mailed to us. At times it felt akin to speaking through tin cans attached by an epically long string.

In all my months planning this trip, the focus was firmly set on maximizing unique wildlife encounters. The fact that Thomson would arrange a school visit registered as an interesting sideshow to my primary travel objectives. But now, nine months later, we were only a few hundred metres away from the school and my mind was filled with mixed emotions and apprehension. What does a thirty-something English-speaking lawyer with a big screen TV in the basement, an Xbox, and a few too many pounds courtesy of three (or more) square meals a day say to a nine year old Swahili girl who just spent two hours walking over ten kilometers on an empty stomach through grassy plains and along dusty roads just to get to school in the morning? What would my sweet over-privileged white girls have in common with their pen pals?

Our trucks pull into the school’s driveway and the scene is pandemonium. A sea of uniformed children clad in purple and blue come rushing out to greet us. They crash over the vehicles like waves breaking on the surf, jostling to get a view of the visitors through the dust-caked windows. The entire school, four hundred and seventy five students, has been given time off in anticipation of our arrival. I crack open the door of the truck, pushing it slowly to avoid shoving any of the children aside. This must be what Justin Bieber feels like. The school’s principal, a distinguished looking man who stands out from the mass of children in his lime green button down shirt, clamps a powerful grip on my hand and introduces himself.

The principal leads us on a tour of the grounds beaming with pride as he shows off the newest classrooms built with the assistance of our tour company’s charitable arm. With corrugated tin roofs, stone floors, and bursting with thin wooden pews for the forty-five students crammed into the class, they are simple but functional. I immediately think of my daughters’ classrooms back home in Toronto, each equipped with state-of-the-art internet-enabled digital SmartBoards. The class I am standing in now doesn’t even have electricity. The box of simple school supplies we carried with us (pencils, highlighters, crayons, sharpeners, erasers) seems particularly meager at this moment but is accepted as if I had handed over gold bullion.


The principal is addressing the class in Swahili. I am assuming he is introducing us as he points to each member of our small group in turn and I recognize the word “America”. When he gets to my family I hear “Canada” and then a long pause followed by blank stares from the assembled students. He says something in Swahili, the word “America” again, and then cups one hand on top of the other as he repeats “Canada”. I’m guessing the True North may not be on the Tanzanian primary school geography curriculum.

The class rises, hands on their hearts, to give a stirring rendition of the national anthem followed by a song in English exhorting the listener not to pollute the earth. Our girls are finally paired up with their pen pals. They stare at each other blankly for an awkward moment before the principal motions for them to shake hands for pictures. They look like tiny diplomats fresh from a treaty signing, clasping each other’s hands in a formal pose. The entire school then spills out onto the soccer pitch. A ball is tossed on the red earth and the principal produces a whistle. Suddenly, four hundred and seventy five pairs of legs are hunting for that single ball. I am at a loss to distinguish between the teams – if there even are any. It’s pandemonium of the best possible kind.


As the morning progresses, groups of kids break off. I spy my wife, the speech pathologist, surrounded by a throng of children who are teaching her how to count in Swahili. My daughters are leading long lines of school kids as they shuffle along the periphery of the soccer field. They’re each holding hands again with their pen pals but this time the stiff formality of the photo op has been replaced by a genuineness and warmth. My heart melts. I bring my camera up to my eye – as much to conceal the tears welling up there as it is to document the moment with a photograph – when I feel a hard tug at the back of my shirt. “Pitcha? Pitcha!” The boy mimes the act of taking a picture and I turn towards him and snap away. I rotate the digital screen to face him and he smiles at his own image. In seconds I am mobbed. Dozens of children are shouting “Pitcha! Pitcha!” They paw at the camera until I finally relent and let one take a photo of me with his friends. Then my newly minted photographer goes into full paparazzi mode holding down the shutter and snapping dozens of photos of anyone he can find. It occurs to me that – accounting for my camera, lens and external flash – I’ve just placed a piece of technology whose value might exceed the gross domestic product of the entire school into the hands of a ten year old.

Too soon our guides are calling and we are ushered back to the waiting trucks. We roar off in a cloud of red dust and to the waves of hundreds of hands. As if to highlight the gulf that separates Western privilege from the difficult but rewarding life eked out in rural Tanzania, we drive only a few short kilometers up the very same road as the school before arriving at our opulent lodging for the night – the truly decadent and amazing Gibbs Farm. Sitting on our giant four-poster bed, the gauzy mosquito netting pulled aside and a roaring fire crackling in our bedroom, I reflect with my kids on their visit to Ayalabe. My seven year old is humming a Swahili tune she had learned while my nine year old updates her wildlife checklist in her safari journal. In three hours at a school half way around the world, my girls had gained knowledge they could never have obtained in a lifetime back home.


Part 3: Meeting the Maasai

He’s wearing an Obama toque.


The cracked weathered face and hesitant gap-toothed smile don’t take me by surprise.  I succeed in keeping my eyes from fixating on the dangling fleshy earlobes that hang like ropes of silly-putty from his elongated ears. But I can’t get past the swirl of black knit cotton emblazoned with the American President’s name that sits atop his shaved head like an inverted soft-serve ice cream cone.

I’ve travelled over 12,000 km from America’s shores but party politics knows no bounds. Or maybe he just wants to keep his head warm during the cold African nights.


Taking a break from the game drives that have become routine on our safari, our truck jostles and bumps across the barely passable dirt track until we arrive at a dense thicket of thorn bushes arranged in a circle. We are joined by a guest guide who loftily introduces himself to me as “Johnston, your Maasai ambassador.” Johnston is a living breathing example of the incredible contradictions apparent in the lives of this semi-nomadic pastoralist tribe. He is rail thin and clad in the distinctive red cloth and beaded adornments of the Maasai.  Around his waist, a belt loop grips a wicked looking machete while on his other hip is strapped an Android-powered smart phone. Leaning on his wooden staff, he switches easily between English, Swahili and Maasai. University educated in nearby Nairobi, Kenya, Johnston tells me he hopes to develop a career combining his ambassadorial skills with environmental and wildlife protection.


We bend our heads and follow Johnston under the low-hanging thorn branches that mark the entrance to the Maasi boma (village) we have come to visit.  It’s immediately apparent that these Maasai do not lead an easy life. Their homes (known as manyata) are built of thatched wood held together by a mixture of mud and cow dung that dries into a kind concrete after baking in the hot sun. Slabs of corrugated steel sit as makeshift repairs to an occasional leaky roof. We are invited into one of the manyatas. The blackness inside takes on a palpable physicality as we choke on the remnants of the hundreds of cooking fires that have been lit here over the years. Young children wander about the village caked in dust, barely clothed, and swarmed by flies. And yet, to say that the Maasai are “poor” is an over-simplification.


As I talk at greater length with our guides, I learn that some tribes have amassed substantial wealth. This is particularly true for those tribes on whose land the gemstone Tanzanite has been discovered. Wealth itself cannot be measured by Western standards when speaking of the Maasai. Although some talked of trying to save enough money to purchase a motorcycle or a phone, the true measure of prosperity in their community is the size of one’s cattle herd. Several days earlier, as we drove between the lush environment of the Ngorongoro Crater towards the vast flat plains of the Serengeti we were stopped on the dirt road for many minutes as a group of Maasai shepherded a line of humped Brahmin cattle that snaked into the distance as far as the eye could see. One of our guides, a Maasai himself, whistled softly from the front seat of the truck and tipped his head in respectful acknowledgement as they filed past us. “That is a very rich man,” he said.

But standing here in the middle of this isolated village with no running water, electricity or medicine, it is apparent that the Maasai we are visiting today face tremendous challenges. Despite efforts by the Tanzanian government to push the Maasai into embracing modern assimilation, most members of the tribe are fiercely protective of their cultural traditions. While the government has succeeding in discouraging the hunting of lions that long formed a coming-of-age right for the Maasai, polygamy is the norm and ritual circumcision is still practiced around the age of thirteen.  An awkwardly painful procedure for men, it is widely accepted as genital mutilation and torture when practiced on women as the Maasai still do. I ask one of the men about the hardships of Maasai life expecting complaints about food, schooling or healthcare. Instead he replies through my translator, “The biggest problem we have now are the leopards. They come each night and try to eat our cattle.” Um, right. Leopards.


Whereas Johnston seems casually at ease with us, the Maasai villagers keep a safe distance from our group at first, staring at us with bemused expressions that I can only imagine mimic closely the bewilderment our own faces reflect back at them. I train my camera on a group of young children. No one mugs for the camera, or even smiles. Johnston explains that while he leads groups like ours several times a month, each batch of tourists is taken to a different boma. This ensures that the fees paid by the groups are shared equally across the many different villages but also has the side-effect of creating a dramatic cultural experience for both sides. I ask Johnston when the last time a group like ours visited this boma. “Probably never,” he answers.


My daughter snaps a pic on her iTouch, stretching out her arm to show the children her shot. They step back reflexively. But then, slowly, necks crane forward to stare. Whispers and giggles begin to break out. The adults inch forward a bit leaning over their children to see what all the fuss is about. Ten minutes later I may as well be at a bar-mitzvah. The entire tribe is laughing and shouting loudly as they take turns posing for pictures. The adults start lining up kids in different combinations motioning for us to take more shots. I comment on the beauty of a man’s beaded earring and next thing I know, he’s clipped a pair to my lobes.



The following day, a group of the Maasai come to our tented camp and allow us to join them in traditional Maasai singing and dancing. One of the tribe’s elders is surrounded by the children in our group as she relates an ancient folk tale to the kids in her native tongue. Although Johnston is translating line-by-line most of the meaning is relayed through her incredible intonation and wildly exaggerated body language.

In the afternoon we visit a nearby women’s cooperative where the females of the tribe work with wire and beads to craft souvenirs. Shopping in the middle of the Serengeti was not what I expected when I departed for Tanzania, yet we happily leave behind some much-needed greenbacks and return to our camp laden with necklaces, bowls and decorations.


In the end, it is the many contradictions of the Maasai that make them most fascinating to me. A young warrior juggling his wooden spear in one hand and his cell phone in the other; an elder, her broad shoulders hunched under the weight of dozens of beaded necklaces, relating ancient Maasai myths to my daughters while sipping a bottle of Sprite to quench her thirst; and of course, my Presidential Maasai leaning on a crooked wooden cane in front of his manyata wearing an Obama hat atop his head.



Part 4: Around the Serengeti in Eighty Minutes

It’s 4:30am when I hear a persistent voice at the flap of my tent.

Jambo Edward!” It’s my guide sing-songing the traditional Swahili greeting. He’s wrapped tightly in a fleece sweater to ward off the cold, while clutching a kerosene lantern in his gloved hand to stave off the darkness and the dangers that lie beyond the thorn bushes of our tented camp. I’m here to experience an adventure within an adventure. My family and I have been thrilling to the incredible sights and sounds of our Tanzanian safari for over a week but today we have planned the ultimate capstone to our trip – a sunrise balloon ride over the Serengeti. I grab an extra cup of coffee and push steaming mugs of cocoa into my daughters’ hands before crawling into the back of our Land Rover.


We bounce through the inky darkness at bone jarring speed, pausing only when our driver slams on the brakes to avoid a baby hippopotamus that lumbers in front of our path with surprising speed. We inch our way cautiously past the massive mother following closely behind her calf and continue to our launch site.

After a short pre-flight briefing I’m lying on my side stretched out awkwardly in a compartment of a giant wicker basket that has been tilted to lie horizontally. My nine-year-old daughter is snuggling up beside me giddy with a combination of excitement and lack of sleep. I can’t see them but somewhere underneath me, in a separate compartment, are my wife and seven-year-old. Tongues of super-heated gas belch massive noisy flames less than two metres from my head. The intense heat is a shocking contrast to the crisp cold of the Tanzanian pre-dawn. The blackness of the Serengeti plains is quickly giving way to dappled muted smears of purple and streaks of orange as we race against the rapidly approaching sunrise.


I clench my teeth and grip the side runners tightly anticipating a lurch as we tilt vertically to begin our ascent. Instead, I experience a gradual weightless feeling as we float into position and begin drifting upwards. The powerful heaters fire intermittently up into the belly of the balloon but I am struck by the intense silence that exists between the flaming blasts. Our pilot, Captain Frank Bellantoni of Serengeti Balloon Safaris, cracks a joke under his breath about Serengeti air traffic beating the daily grind along Highway 401. I stare at him slack-jawed and he chuckles.  “I’m from Guelph. I could tell from your accents that you guys live close to home.” Two international flights, a bush plane, and countless kilometers along an off-road dirt path in a Land Rover and my balloon pilot turns out to hail from a town thirty minutes down the highway from my house. Small world indeed.


My reverie at this amazing coincidence is broken as I am suddenly blinded by the bright fiery ball of the sun that has finally cracked its way above the horizon. The difference is dramatic as I begin unzipping layers of fleece, my face already perspiring in the African sun. We glide over a pool, soundlessly floating just twenty feet over the water. The grey blobs I initially thought were boulders crack open giant maws revealing enormous stained teeth. Hippos. Captain Frank hits the jets and we begin to gain altitude. We skim past a tall acacia tree and stare down at a vulture’s nest. The mother bird glares at us with fixed black eyeballs. She ruffles her feathers but stays fixed to her perch. We are close enough to count the eggs huddled protectively under her belly. As we clear the tree and continue our ascent, the criss-cross of thousands of thin trails begins to unfold. We have arrived at this zone in the Serengeti just a week  late for the grand spectacle of the Great Migration – 1.5 million Wildebeest and hundreds of thousands of zebras have pounded the ground into a zig-zag pattern. A pair of bat-eared foxes dart out of a burrow while a group of five dik-diks appear to defy gravity as they bounce over a thin stream.  A lioness suddenly senses our proximity and I can see the muscled fur of her shoulders tense, her ears twitch and flatten, as she turns her head skyward to watch our strange contraption whisper by overhead. We climb higher and higher until we can clearly see the ribbon of emerald green marking the path of the Seronera River slashing its way through the brown and tan coloured plains.

Too soon Captain Frank announces that we are approaching our landing sight. The giant balloon is speeding so close to the ground that I can hear the dry grass scratching the bottom of the wicker basket. Then a dull thud. We bounce eight feet into the air losing a modicum of speed before the basket thuds again against the ground. This time the basket grips and we are pulled along the dirt by our momentum as the giant green and white balloon begins to deflate. The basket tips smoothly over and, somehow, we end up gently lying on our backs again staring up at the blue morning sky.


Our safety latches are quickly unhitched and champagne flutes are pressed into our hands (fresh orange juice for the girls). We toast our successful flight before being driven just a few hundred feet where, in the shade of a giant acacia tree, a most remarkable scene is unfolding.


Staff in white turbans and green robes stand at attention in front of a series of tables. Immaculate cloths drape the tables punctuated by settings of English bone china. We wash our hands in copper bowls of steaming hot water and then settle in for breakfast. Toast. Fruits. Eggs to order. All while a group of disinterested wildebeest, zebras and gazelles chew their own morning repast within sight of our tables.


Despite being in the midst of one of the world’s most savage and remote national parks, every detail has been considered and arranged. When my bowels beckon, a staff member points me to a small privacy screen a hundred feet beyond our tables. A painted wooden sign on the canvas sheet reads “Loo with a view – vacant”. I flip the sign over to “occupied”. I settle onto the self-contained chemical ‘throne’ and stare across the uninterrupted grasslands. A herd of elephants is clomping along. One stops briefly and glances in my direction, its enormous leathery ears beating the dust off the back of its neck. Tanzanian bathroom breaks. Makes you want to put down the newspaper and just enjoy the view.


Part 5: Into Zanzibar

No. I’m not taking my two young daughters and wife to Yonge Street’s famous strip club.

I am however making my way from an unknown grassy plain in the middle of the Serengeti to the exotic island paradise off the East coast of Tanzania. My driver rows through the gears of our manual transmission Land Rover, stomping on the gas whenever the ‘road’ (I use the term very loosely) straightens out long enough to give us a brief respite from its jagged unpredictable angles.

“I don’t want you to be late for the plane!” he shouts over the howling dust and dirt.  Late? Is it possible to be “late” for a charter flight when I and my companions fill the entire passenger manifest?

With no advance warning, we pull off the dirt track into the shin-high dry grass of the savannah and stop.  “We’re here.”

We’re where?

“Here. The airport. The plane will meet you here.”

Airport?? I squint my eyes into the harsh African sun. There’s no runway. There isn’t even a dirt strip. As I scan the flat horizon I finally notice a lone faded windsock listing limply in the light breeze. The red and white stripes of the tattered cloth are caked in the orange clay that covers everything in the Serengeti. It is set atop a rusted piece of spiralling rebar that is jammed into the earth so haphazardly that, on first glance, I think it is some sort of dilapidated scarecrow.

A distant buzzing sound fills the air and my seven year old daughter channels her best imitation of a television show she’s never even heard of as she hoots “The plane! The plane!” Sure enough, a single prop Cessna Caravan is winging its way towards our safari truck. The plane glides past our position, turning in a slow looping approach, before settling softly into the dry Serengeti grass…er, runway. The pilot clambers out looking like a cross between Brad Pitt in Moneyball and Chris Hemsworth as Thor. He snaps off a pair of obligatory aviator sunglasses and I think I can hear my wife swooning as he motions me to help him load the rear of the plane with our baggage. “Next you’ll want me to fly the plane” I quip trying to ignore the death stare my wife is giving me. Despite her affinity for Brad Pitt and Norse thunder gods, her distinct hatred for tiny planes appears to be taking precedence. “Actually,” Pitt says, with a faint German accent, “the plane is full so you’re going to ride shotgun as my co-pilot. Don’t touch anything.”



Two hours later I’m in a cab weaving through the congested streets of Zanzibar’s historic Stone Town until we arrive at the island’s northern tip and enter the flowered gates of the Ras Nungwi Beach Hotel. After ten days jostling through the Tanzanian bush with chemical toilets and tented camps for accommodations, my wife had demanded we close out the trip with a touch of luxury. Ras Nungwi does not disappoint.


Occupying one of the resort’s beach front cottages, I stare across the lushly manicured lawn towards the azure sparkle of the Indian Ocean. My eldest daughter is dragging an increasingly heavy bag of sea shells across the sugary sand. The iconic triangular sail of a small fishing dhow leaves a trail of sparkles in its wake as it cruises lazily across the horizon. Out of the corner of my eye I spot my younger daughter practicing her horrible French with a Belgian girl as they take turns canon-balling off the elevated deck into the pool. The screams and splashes don’t seem to disturb my wife who is blissfully focussed on reading a book, pausing only to sample the fresh fruits, cheeses and snacks that periodically emanate from the nearby restaurant.



Evening brings a spectacular fiery sunset followed immediately by poolside canapés before we settle into the open-air dining area. Personalized attention is the resort’s hallmark with the chef visiting each table every evening. After ensuring everything was to our liking (an array of seafood for the adults and macaroni and pizza custom catered for the kids) we discuss what we might like for breakfast. The next morning our selection of eggs, pastries and fruits are freshly prepared before another table-side visit from the chef to discuss the day’s dinner plans. My daughters marvel at the exotic lychee and bungo fruit, prompting Chef Samir to excuse himself briefly, returning with an entire lychee tree as he launches into an educational seminar on the differences between this unique African variety and what we might be used to back home.


Our culinary education continues when we day-trip out to a local spice planation. For centuries Zanzibar has been an important port for many of the world’s most precious spices and fruits. As we transition from the countryside into Stone Town, we also learn about Zanzibar’s shameful history as the capitol of the global slave trade for many years.


The streets of Stone Town appear to be laid out randomly. We traverse the narrow alleyways admiring the many ornate doorways and arches that alternate between Arabic and Indian design influences. We hear the call to prayer of the Muezzin in this heavily Muslim city and slip into the colonial luxury of the Africa House hotel to rehydrate with a cool drink in privacy so as not to offend the religious sensibilities of the locals who are fasting during this month of Ramadan. The girls get ‘inked’ with intricate Henna tattoos before we settle in for a sunset dinner overlooking the port on the Seyyida hotel’s outdoor terrace.


As we board our tiny plane from Stone Town to the mainland city of Dar Es Salaam, I reflect on this final stage in our African adventure. Zanzibar proved its worth as the perfect acclimation zone between the untamed wild of the Tanzanian bush and the inevitable return to the cosmopolitan industrialization of my home in Toronto. I can only hope that my acclimation from Serengeti safari to criminal courtroom will go as smoothly.



Sand in my Suitcase says April 29, 2013,10:37 am

What an amazing family trip! Your Zanzibar post, in particular, caught our eye. We’re heading to Zanzibar after our South African and Zambian safari adventures (see “Dreaming of Our African Safari” We look forward to reading more of your travel stories…

The Crime Traveller says April 29, 2013,1:25 pm

Thanks so much for the kind comments. I’ve been blessed to travel to many places but Africa has a magic that makes me pine for a return nearly every day of life. You won’t be disappointed with your tours through South Africa, Botswana and Zambia…I’m growing jealous already of your time scheduled on the Zambezi Queen!

Zanzibar is an incredible place. Take time to wander the island the drink in all of its facets. It’s a beach destination to rival the most impressive Caribbean resorts, yet the maze of pedestrial pathways and markets in Stone Town create an exotic Muslim allure that wouldn’t feel out of place in the Middle East. The entire island is filled with the bubbling energy of classically African villages. There’s nowhere like it on earth.

I can’t wait to hear more about your trip and trade stories on our mutual travels.



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Ed Prutschi is a criminal defence lawyer in Toronto, Canada practicing at the law firm of Adler Bytensky Prutschi. When not completely absorbed by the rigours of his trial practice, Ed revels in grabbing his camera ..