Wide Eye Wednesday 4: Swimming In My Own Aquarium

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.

One of the dogs on the beach and loving it
One of the dogs on the beach and loving it
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Swimming in front of the reef

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.

Beautiful clear water around the island
Beautiful clear water around the island

“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”

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Our friendly guide

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.

The L List Living: Three B’s Boat, Bongoyo and Bjaj

Day three in Dar es Salaam:  1 November 2012

The early morning air already holds the promise of heat to come. It is a beautiful sunny day and the water of the Indian Ocean is an incredible shimmery blue.  Today we are on our way to Bongoyo Island for the day.

Bongoyo is a small undeveloped island just a short boat trip from Dar es Salaam and is situated in a marine reserve. More information here Bongoyo Island 

We board the small motorised boat and I feign nonchalance but my heart is beating fast and my breathing is shallow, the result of my fear of boats in general. My desire to experience this trip however overrides my fear and once we are on the way, to my surprise, I actually enjoy the calm trip across the bay.

We are transferred from the boat by a smaller vessel taking us to the shallow water from where we have to wade to the shore.

We reach the island and are greeted by white sand, a few shade umbrellas made from woven palm fronds, a friendly Karibo to Bongoyo and a feeling of utter peace. We spend the morning reading, swimming, walking along the beach and just enjoying the beautiful surroundings.

Lunch is freshly caught fish, cleaned and prepared, then fried on the beach on an open fire by the friendly locals. The fish is accompanied by fried chips and luke warm coke straight from the bottle. A no frills, but delicious lunch.

Late afternoon we return to the mainland and complete this magical day by taking a Bjaj home. A cheap local form of transport available everywhere.

Thus the three B day is complete!