Our first weekend in Dar es Salaam.
The car was packed with enough food for the weekend, a few pieces of clothing and last but not the least two labradors. We were on our way to Chaza Mwamba a beach house on the southern side of Dar es Salaam. To reach the house we needed to cross the deep channel which forms the entrance to the harbour by ferry.On arrival at the ferry we encountered long queues of cars, bicycles, people on foot and vendors selling anything from chilled water to boiled eggs, fruit and nuts along the way.
We reached the house at last and experienced out first breath taking moment. The house is situated about 500 m from an unspoilt stretch of beach. A coral reef forms a natural pool which at low tide is about chest deep.
This is where it all started. Two 61 year old ladies learnt to snorkel and a whole new world opened for us.
Back in Dar es Salaam, the two of us together with my son took another ferry to spend the day on Bongoyo island. After our first experience with snorkelling we were determined to try again so the snorkel gear were packed in our bags.
“You want to go snorkel, I take you “ were the words the young man greeted us with when he saw the gear.
”I take you to shipwreck, yes?” he asked.
While I was still hesitating, bear in my mind my deep seated fear of the sea and boats, the other two all ready negotiated the price.
We bundled into a small motorised dinghy and set off around the point of the island. Once out of sight of other tourists and boats, he stopped the dinghy and said:
” Here you jump in and look”
After some hesitation I took the plunge and jumped. The water was deep and scary, but when I looked down and started swimming with the snorkel, I almost forgot to breathe. A most amazing sight greeted me . Hundreds of colourful fish of various sizes and shapes were swimming around and under me. Some flashed silver when the sun from above touched their bodies, others sported colourful stripes and some looked like zebras. Some had long slender bodies, while others were round in shape.
Deep down where the water turned an ominous dark colour I could see the shape of a shipwreck . There many big fish, dark in colour, milled around. Every now and then one of them swam upwards scattering the smaller fish in all directions. Later we learnt that these were barracuda.
I came up gasping with wonder and shouted
“It feels like swimming in my own aquarium!’
It was a most exhilarating experience and a true Wide Eye Moment.
When it was time to get back into the boat, we realised it might present a problem.
Seeing that it was a fisherman’s dinghy and not designed to take 61 year olds snorkelling in style, there was no ladder, steps or even just something to grab onto while trying to get back into the boat. Luckily no one was about to witness the very unladylike return of the brave swimmers into the boat. After a push from below and a pull from the top I landed like a beached whale in the bottom of the boat where I lay laughing helplessly for a few moments.
We returned to the mainland with wonder in our hearts at the beauty of creation that we witnessed on that day.