Although we do a lot of safaris in Saadani National Park (of course we would always love to do more – we are not getting tired of it), it seems that each time we go, we see something new. Yesterday we went only for a half-day game drive with our guests and saw the five zebras again – they are apparently still around since February, still only 5 of them, still together with giraffes and still extremely fat to be honest.
Around a month ago we just went for a few hours in the northern part of Saadani (Genda Genda), which is great for spotting Sable Antelopes, and just on our way out, three porcupines crossed the road and headed off into the thick grass – really funny the way they run with their short legs and their quills swaying from side to side.
But the most encouraging and surprising encounter we had on September 23 just when we were coming back from Dar es Salaam and only crossed through Saadani National Park to get back home. Shortly after the Wami Gate (in the south of the park, the closest entrance to Bagamoyo and Dar es Salaam), we spotted around 15 elands, including at least one small one and one that looked pregnant. So not only that we finally saw them for the first time in Saadani, but also with encouraging news that there will be more in the future.
I am very much looking forward to our next safari – excited to see which other animal is hiding in Saadani and is only waiting to be discovered!
We love wildlife – and we enjoy to see it again and again, discover new animals and watching their behavior. Luckily we don’t always have to go to safari in Saadani National Park for this, but just being at Tembo Kijani, we really see a lot.
It’s not only the crabs at the beach or the birds and butterflies whirling around, but also with a bit open eyes and ears that you can spot monkeys and gazelles. Usually we have some vervet monkeys playing around between the Bandas and a pack of Sykes monkeys jumping from tree to tree next to a big Cashewnut tree. Walking a bit outside the lodge you will encounter yellow baboons.
In the afternoons an African Fish Eagle couple passes by and rests on one of the dead coconut trees; also a Palmnut Vulture flies by quite frequently and lands on the beach to annoy the crabs.
Of course all sorts of other birds can be seen as well – usually you hear them very clear, but spotting them in the green of the trees can be a bit difficult.
But most of all it’s fun when you walk through the lodge, hear some noises in the bush, wait a little bit and then see a dik-dik or a red duiker coming out. If you stand really still, they won’t really notice you and just go about their business as usual.
We are in the middle of adding some small waterholes on the plot in the middle of the bush, so that for the next dry season there will be plenty of water and maybe then we’ll have some new four-legged visitors as well.
Here on the Swahili Coast of Tanzania you find fruits that are more than rare or totally unknown in Europe, e.g. Jackfruit (green fruit with spikes and up to 10kg heavy), which produces a huge mess if you don’t know beforehand, that the white stuff is better than any glue you can buy.
Or the Cherimoya (or Custard Apple), which is small and green and also spiky and also easier to handle if you have time (and you do have time in Tanzania) to take out all the little black seeds and make it as a parfait or a nice ragout for desserts.
But of course there are also the fruits that are less known like Baobab seeds (you know, from these huge Baobab trees), which are great together with Vanilla in a juice.
And then there are the ingredients, from which we don’t know the names in anything besides Swahili and which even most of the locals don’t know what to do with them and are surprised to see them used in the kitchen of a lodge. Some examples here are Tonga (see picture) or Bungu (looks a bit like passion fruit, but is really sour – lemon is nothing compared to Bungu).
The worst is the Bibo, this is the fruit (not the nut) of the Cashew, which looks a bit like an apple. I tried to make it into a juice or as a cocktail, to cut it into thin slices and bake caramelized chips – the problem stays the same: it’s impossible to get rid of this floury taste that it has. The only option that I know of is to produce beer from it like the locals do – but well, come on, I am a chef, not a German beer brewer. If you know of anything that could help get rid off this floury taste or have any idea, you’re more than welcome to post them… Cheers!
Sometimes guests arrive and ask us if we still have rooms at all, because of all the cars in the parking, the lodge should be full already. Well – yes, we actually have still lots of rooms, because all three cars belong to us. I assume that this sounds a bit pretentious for most, but we have learned the hard way here in the bush that with less than that, it’s difficult to survive.
The first car is working the way it’s supposed to, the second car has some noises and needs some maintenance and the third car is not functioning altogether and is waiting for the fundi gari (car mechanic). So, since the workshop of the fundi is around 120km away, he just doesn’t stop by, it usually takes him a week to decide to appear – sometimes we are faster and manage to bring the car to him.
But mostly here right on the coast the problems are the same – loose bolts, eaten bushes, rusted body parts. It’s nothing that anybody coming from a western country would ever have to think about repairing, and so just by living here in the African bush, we started to become mechanics ourselves and manage to fix the small things without the mechanic and at least see and understand the bigger problems when they appear.
Sometimes though we are still stunned – driving on the road and just seeing your back wheel pass by – oh well, the car is still driving, but you better stop and catch the wheel and put it back on. No worries, this happened only once, but it was definitely an experience that I never thought would happen.
Now finally the rain season is almost over, only some showers here and there and mostly in the night. But the last two months were good for the land (and our wells) and hence really bad for the roads in Tanzania, especially the black cotton soil in Saadani. You might get in, but you’ll never get out!
So, the rain is the reason why we haven’t been in the park for quite some time now, and because we missed it so much, we watched the short clips that we have filmed during the last years. With some editing, lots of laughing and finding the right music, we finally managed to organize them and upload them to YouTube as short clips and to share them with you, our guests from the past and the future. But mostly we made them, I guess, for ourselves to watch during the rain season.
We hope you enjoy them as well Lions in Saadani
Running a kitchen in Africa is really exciting, because you get really fresh and untreated products from the sea and the land; but also unknown products you will find, for which you have to first figure out what it’s good for at all. The big benefit of a family-run lodge here is, that if we have new unidentified products, we try them ourselves – until now everybody is still alive 🙂 and you get an honest feedback as the chef.
But there are also lots of difficulties that you have to face (in Germany certain things are working, but not here), like the humidity, which makes you bake some stuff just on time, but also the wildlife (little tiny ants), which force you to work extremely clean and fast.
Also good and exquisite products are possible to afford without going bankrupt, like lobster for example. On the other hand many products are not always available, so that as a chef you have to be very creative and organized with your stock – you don’t get the supplies delivered to your door (ok, besides the fish and the seafood coming right from the ocean). And you also have to be very careful with your resources like water and electricity since Tembo Kijani is a self-sufficient lodge and these are very limited resources and don’t just “come out of the tap or plug” like in Europe, but it definitely makes you appreciate them more.
All in all it’s great to cook in Africa if you know the basics in the kitchen, because you have to make everything by yourself – bread, gnocci, parfait, where in most other places you would take the shortcut and just order it, but I hope you’ll feel the difference when enjoying your next dinner at Tembo Kijani.