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Overseas and Off-Campus Programs Blog

Scorpions and dolphins and fish, oh my!

Author Name

Camille Skinner

Author Program

East Africa

Program Semester and Year

Fall 2015

It’s been a while since I last wrote, and this will be the last you’ll hear from me for three weeks! In two days we leave on safari, and there will be no internet, no beds, and very limited water access. I’m super excited! Besides lots of animal sighting, we’ll be finishing up our biology class with a savannah portion, and spending time with the Masaai, the Hadza, and the Iraqw tribes. The next time I post, there’ll be plenty more to talk about.

Here’s a quick rundown of what I’ve been up to since we left Wete, Pemba. We spent about 5 days total there, three painting days, one day off at the beach, and one day doing a forest walk and being carted around to meet a ton of people. From Pemba we flew to Zanzibar. We spent about three full days in Zanzibar, one in Stonetown, one travelling to the North of the island, and one day off to write our papers. The next morning we jumped on two fairly small boats and after a four-hour boat ride, we arrived in Pangani/Pemba Abwe. After 10 days there, we drove back to Arusha/Olasiti, and we’ve just been working on our papers since.

Pemba Abwe was easily my favorite location so far. We spent most of our time snorkeling, collecting data for the marine biology portion of our course. The coral reefs on the Tanzanian coast are even more beautiful than I could have imagined. Every day I saw hundreds of fish, beautiful and bright and colorful. At one point, I saw two octopus mating. There was also squid mating, which I didn’t really see specifically, but I did see the squid floating around and changing colors. They look so cool when they’re swimming! That day, one of our teachers bought two squid from a nearby boat on our way back to camp, and we ended up having calamari with dinner. Another day, some guy on a bike came up with a bunch of octopus in a basket, and we bought them for dinner. They were flung out onto the beach, where we poked and prodded them, and the ink sacs were removed. The guy then grabbed a wooden plank and starting whacking the octopus with it for a solid ten minutes. For what purpose, I couldn’t tell you. On our last day, I heard a whale while snorkeling. We also had dolphins come up to our boat and swim with us on the way to Pemba Abwe, and one day while snorkeling some dolphins swam up near our boat, and we came absurdly close to getting to swim with dolphins, but they swam off before we could get into the water.

Our animal sightings just kept going at Pemba Abwe. One day, I went for a walk, and just as I was about to head back to my bungalow, I turned and saw about 40 black-faced vervet monkeys—which are considered a pest here—along with a few mongoose standing on the grass, foraging. In our bungalow, our total number of creatures sighted/removed is: three millipedes, one mouse, one frog, two spiders—one daddy long legs and one about the size of my hand, and two-three scorpions. One night, Ina spotted a scorpion, but it got away. The next two nights we saw two more scorpions and Ina—being a total badass—caught both of them. I have pictures of the first, and smaller, one in a cup.

Not much to report otherwise. Zanzibar was an interesting experience, especially after being in Pemba, because it’s so much more urban and touristy than Pemba which is largely untouched by tourism. It was definitely a bit of a shocking experience to spend a full day and our last two nights, at a fancy resort on the North of the island. There was a wall for the resort, separating it from the main road, which was a dirt road lined by restaurants and little shops and chipsi mayai food stands. Chipsi mayai, by the way, is this absurdly delicious dish that generally costs somewhere between 75c and $1.50, that consists of freshly made fries cooked into egg on a skillet and covered in some mixed shredded veggies like cabbage and bell peppers and tomato and smothered in tomato sauce and chilli sauce. It’s amazing, and I am determined to make it when I get back home, so stay tuned for that. Anyway, it was very disconcerting to stay at a fancy resort after more or less roughing it for most of the trip. And it was strange to think that some tourists will come to Zanzibar and spend their entire time in this closed-off isolated resort, and never get a chance to see what the real Zanzibar looks like.

That’s all I’ve got for now! See you in three weeks!