Thursday, August 21, 2014

Our Last Day in Stone Town – an expedition to Jozani Forest

For our last day on Zanzibar, our group had decided on an excursion to Kizimkazi, the site of a 12th century mosque, and to the Jozani Forest, which claims to be notable as the one place in the world where visitors can be confident of seeing red colobus monkeys (on checking later, though, I learned that there are several species of red colobus monkey; the red colobus that can only be seen on Zanzibar is just the Zanzibar red colobus). As the time approached, however, enthusiasm had waned for spending the time needed to travel to Kizimkazi, especially because several of our number wanted one last chance to do souvenir shopping in Stone Town.  Once again, we had turned to Hassan at Jojoba Tours, who had arranged our safaris to come as well as our tours and transportation to locales outside Stone Town; and he, in turn, assigned Juma, the same guide who had taken all of us on our Stone Town and spice tours as well as the trip to Prison Island.  When he came to pick us up, he disabused us of the notion that we could skip Kizimkazi, go straight to Jozani Forest, then head back to Stone Town for an afternoon of shopping.  The monkeys, he said, generally head to the tops of the trees at midday and are obscured form view.  We agreed, therefore, that we  remain in Stone Town for the morning, have lunch, and meet for the trip to Jozani Forest in the afternoon.

Nancy and I had very little in the souvenir buying to do, but we enjoyed browsing in various craft stores and I ended up buy a couple more kangas at a women’s cooperative.  We had a nice lunch at Buni Café, sitting outside on a small porch.  I particularly enjoyed a drink that theretofore had been unfamiliar to me:  called ginger juice, it was a combination of freshly squeezed pineapple, ginger and carrot juices.  Nancy and I shared a kebab of tuna and prawns that was quite nice.

At the appointed hour, the group gathered for the one-hour drive to the Jozani Forest.  Juma had barely paid the admission fees when he led us back to the road we had traveled to reach park entrance where several red colobus monkeys had gathered on a pair of trees by the side of the road; after a few minutes, they scampered down the trees and across the road to some bushes where they munched on some attractive food.

One of the monkeys was carrying a baby which can be seen here, peeking out near its mother's elbow

As we admired this band of cuties, Juma explained that red colobus monkeys could be found ONLY in Zanzibar – there were some 2000 of them in the national forest, and 1500 more in the various surrounding villages, where they were called “poison monkeys” because of their penchant for eating fruits and other agricultural products.  The government has created an incentive program the discourages local people from killing the monkeys so that the touristic value of the park is not lost.

The monkeys by the side of the road were the only monkeys we saw during our visit, although though we heard the call of a male in the mangrove area later on during our visit.  Juma speculated that the monkeys have been lured to the roadside area, where tourists can pretty much be guaranteed a sighting of the monkeys if they cone at the right time, by planting bushes from which the monkeys love to eat.

After admiring the monkeys for a while, Juma and a park guide led us on a nature walk.  As we stepped into the brush from the road, we encountered this lovely little flower, the
lantana camara
and a tiny blue flower whose name I never got

We saw a few examples of excellent camouflage, such as the tiny frog sitting on dead leaves on the forest floor in this photo,
and the gecko shown on a tree trunk below.

It stands out relatively well in the photo, but in person it took me quite some time to find it even after I knew where to look.

We were shown some examples of the  palm oil tree, which produces not only the oil used in cooking, but  a leaf that can easily be turned into a particularly tough thread that resists tearing  and thus is used for making fishing nets

Palm oil tree

Leaves of palm oil tree
Thread from leaves of palm oil tree

There was also a lovely stand of mahogany trees

The forest, our guide explained, was built on coral;1000 years previously, the entire area was under water; the entire area is a morass of mud during the rainy season.  The coral rock emerged from the soil in a number of places, here in the mahogany forest,

and here in the mangrove forest

Finally, we followed a boardwalk around a mangrove forest, with our guide talking to us about the three types of mangrove that can be found in Jozani.

To me, the most fascinating of the mangrove species was what our guide called the “long--legged” variety: because as little as one foot of soil is available to support the trees, each plant sends down several roots were are spread widely to support the trees.

These roots are curved but so strong that the thicker piece are commonly used as the ribs for boats, because they a pre-curved and hence do not have to be bent by the boatwright.  To show us just how strong these roots are, our guide walked out onto one of them and then encouraged us to try it as well – sometimes two at a time

After getting back to Stone Town, our party split up for dinner.  Despite somewhat discouraging reviews from my brother, who had dined there the previous week, and from Sam, who praised the atmosphere but not the food, I was attracted to the idea of eating at the Monsoon Restaurant,  both because some guidebooks touted the food and because there was to be a live performance of taarab music.   So, during the morning shopping period, I had stopped by to make a dinner reservation for two and up to six.  None of the others opted to join us, but did they ever miss out!  Our selection was well -rewarded.  We were led into the inner room of the restaurant where we were seated on cushions at low tables. had what I consider to be the best restaurant meal we had during our entire time in Zanzibar.  I had the “grilled kingfish with thick masala” — the masala was not so thick as the menu had implied, but it imparted a delicious flavor to the fish – and Nancy had octopus in a thick coconut sauce.  And the music: the music was excellent, performed by a small ensemble of  a drummer, a violinist, and a zither player.  The small, non-electrified group was much better than either of the larger groups that had performed at the women’s wedding lunch the previous week.  They performed with verve, and the drummer was making a show of flirting with the violinist throughout; then he performed a sensational drum solo.  It was hard to bring ourselves to leave, but we had to wake up early the following morning to get to the airport for the flight to our first safari.

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