Finding Direction in Tanzania

I sent you a compass because I wanted you to recall the prominence of vast open spaces in Tanzania. Some of these places are reached by small planes and seeing the area requires travel by foot or river. But how would you find your way if you were alone? If you have a compass and map you could find your way using them.  Here is a Website that describes how to use a compass.

If you don’t have a compass and map but know something about the area you can use landmarks. Mount Kilimanjaro is big and can be seen from many locations. It is north toward Kenya so you could orient with this mountain in mind. If you know the rivers of the area and how they flow, you can follow the waterways. But what if you don’t have any of that? If you know a little about the area like the most common direction of wind movement, you can use that. Even on a still day you can observe tree growth and discern direction.

An important thing to remember is that Tanzania is in the Southern Hemisphere, below the equator. While we use the North Star to determine direction of the North Pole in the USA because we are in the Northern Hemisphere, the Southern Cross is used to determine the direction of the South Pole in the Southern Hemisphere. The North Star may not be visible from your position in Tanzania but because Tanzania is so close to the Equator, it may be visible from some places such as on Mount Kilimanjaro.

The skies of Tanzania, away from the light pollution of cities, provide for stargazing in brilliant clarity. There are even safaris on the Serengeti Plain that cater to the stargazer. Enthusiasts are able to watch the animal migration by day and view the skies with the help of an Astronomer by night. The Southern Cross can easily be seen and direction of South established. Here is a Link to a youtube to learn more about how to see the Southern Cross and use it for direction.

If you are traveling in the daytime you can establish direction with the movement of the sun. The sun moves east to west across the sky. If you stand a stick in the dirt you can observe the shadow placement and length to help determine the relative time of day and the direction.

Vegetation can be observed for hints to direction. Free standing trees are normally asymmetrical with vegetation more full on the side receiving greater sunlight. This is typically the north side in the Southern Hemisphere and the south side in the Northern Hemisphere. Wind effects can be seen on some plants as well. Wind normally travels north east and south east in Tanzania.

There are other methods of using knowledge of the country and its animals to determine relative direction. If you know the rivers of the area you can determine the direction by the flow of water. If you know the time of year and observe migrating animals you can make some assumptions regarding direction.

I hope you have gained an interest in East Africa through our virtual trip to Tanzania.  I know I have enjoyed it very much.



Eating in Tanzania

(Above Photo:By Paresh Jai from Nairobi, Kenya – Ugali & Sukuma WikiUploaded by Common Good)

The white substance in the photo above is called Ugali.  It is made of very finely ground cornmeal boiled in water.  People in Tanzania use this as an eating utensil.  They take off a piece, roll it into a ball and put an indention into it.  They scoop up other foods with it, always using the right hand.

You are expected to wash your hands before and after a meal.   Meals are usually taken sitting on the ground, often from a communal bowl or platter.

The people of this beautiful country eat many of the same dishes found in other parts of Africa but dishes including coconut and/or bananas usually originate from Tanzania.  Zanzibar – the islands off mainland Tanzania are known for spices.  A blend of Cinnamon, Cloves, Nutmeg and Black Pepper is an important part of many of the dishes eaten here, giving them a unique flavor.




Watch this youtube video to learn 10 interesting facts about Tanzanite.  This is a beautiful stone used in jewelry.  Some say it was first recognized by the Maasai people.  Some say a man came upon a cluster of the gems and reported it to man who was looking for rubies.  There is a Maasai legend that a bolt of lightening started a great fire and the heat of the fire created the precious mineral.

Tanzanite is found at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro.  Remember that this mountain has several volcanos.  The gem is mined from underground.  Here is video to watch showing a trip to the mines in Tanzania.  It shows how the gems are processed as well. That part was most interesting to me.

The gem is heated to 800 degrees to create the beautiful color seen in jewelry.  In 2002 it was made the December Birthstone. Do you want to know something really interesting to us?  Elias, Damien and Bri ALL have December birthdays!   Tanzanite is your birthstone.



Does Tanzania or China use Daylight Saving Time?

Tonight we change our clocks moving the clocks one hour forward.  One way to remember this is Spring Forward / Fall Back.  In the Spring we set clocks forward one hour. In the Fall we set clocks back one hour.  So if you go to bed tonight at 8 pm and you get up at 7 am tomorrow, you will get one hour less sleep than you did with these sleep and wake times yesterday.

I used this site to find out that Tanzania does not have Daylight Saving Time.  I did a search for China and learned that they don’t do this in China as well.  Please see the above map and see which countries use a Daylight Saving Time system.  The green areas are using a Daylight Saving Time.  The Blue ones used it in the past but don’t any longer.  The White areas indicate places that have never used a Daylight Saving Time system.

Are you interested in where this time change thing started?  Here is a internet site that gives good information about this.


Rare? Tree Climbing Lions

Well, who knew – cats climb trees!  At first I saw articles talking about a RARE tree climbing lion.  Now I see that they really aren’t so rare.  It seems that when one lion climbs a tree the other lions try it.   This article gives more insight into why they might be climbing trees.

This website has good information about the Serengeti National Park where we might see tree climbing lions.  This park is HUGE!  In fact it is 1.5 million ha (hectares,  1 hectare is about two and a half acres)

People go there to watch the Great Migration.  The animals move in mass to get to better water and the Wildebeests to the birthing plain where more than 8,000 babies are born every day!   They say when the 2 million Wildebeests run across the plains you feel the earth vibrate.  The heat makes the air shimmer.  Dust settles on everything.  Flies bother everyone and every animal.  I watched several videos trying to decide which one would give you the best feel of what it would be like to be in the middle of all this awesome activity.  I chose this one because it didn’t show as much animal killing.  I know that all animals have to eat but I just hate to watch the kill.  If you don’t mind seeing it, you can search youtube videos about the migration in Serengeti National Park.

I sent you a compass.  I did so because I wanted to emphasize that much of this country is enjoyed not through road maps but by direction and distance.  Did you learn how to use your compass?  I will post something about compass use in a day or so.



Kite surfing!

Tanzania is located on the east side of Africa with a coast line on the Indian Ocean. Zanzibar is part of Tanzania.  It includes several islands in the Indian Ocean off the coast of mainland Tanzania. Zanzibar is primarily Arabic. There are several kite schools. One is near the capital of Tanzania, Dar es Salaam. Several of the older schools are in Zanzibar.  You can check on what is happening there through webcams. Check them out.  Isn’t the sand and water beautiful?

Check out this site to watch a video about kite camps available. There are several youtube videos available to watch about kite surfing.  Here is a really good one to show you more about getting there and the views of the country and the people that live there.

Did you see the Rare Giraffe in Tanzania?

I remember a picture of you standing near the rare giraffe spotted in Tarangire National Park!  She was named OMO after a locally sold laundry detergent.  She is not an Albino.  Albinos lack pigment all over including the eyes.  An Albino’s eyes look red due the lack of pigment to cover the color of the blood vessels of the eyes.  OMO has a rare genetic abnormality called Leucism. Some of the cells, but not all, are unable to produce pigment.

When I saw the word Leucism I just knew the root – Leuko – had to be Latin.  Many words in medicine come from Latin.  I looked it up and the Latin word for White is Alba.  (Now I know where albino come from.) The Leuco…base is known to me because we have special blood cells in our body called Leucocytes.  These are White Blood Cells and they are responsible for fighting infections and foreign substances in our body.  I found out Leuko is the Greek word for white.

Leucocytes in our bodies might fight off infection but I am afraid that OMO’s Leucism may make her vulnerable to attack, not only by animals of prey but poachers who would value such a rare hide.  I hope OMO finds protection from both.  She is so very beautiful.  At any rate, Leucism would not be a good genetic trait to pass on.  I found out that it can be passed on but may skip generations before another one comes along.  She could have “normal” colored babies but one of her grandchildren could be born with it.  Not all creatures (many other types of animals can have the same genetic abnormality) have the lack of pigment in such a large area.  It could have been only on a part of her body.  Wouldn’t that look strange?  Imagine a normal colored giraffe with a white head!

I think OMO is pretty special.  Don’t you?


I think you will enjoy watching this 20 minute Video of a climb up the highest mountain in Africa – MOUNT KILIMANJARO.  The mountain has three volcanic cones that are dormant.  The most recent eruption was about 200 years ago.  There is an ash pit that is 300 meters deep as a result.

There are glaziers at the top of the mountain.  They have been there since 1600s and have been slowly melting since then.  They are expected to be gone in 30 more years or so.

I am amazed at how greatly the landscape changes in just 6 days of walking up this mountain.  You start climbing in the Rain Forest and you end up above the clouds where you don’t see trees or grasses anymore.  The people climbing it have to prepare for the thinner air at the top.  As you watch the video you will hear them speak of acclimation climbs.  Those are to get the body accustomed to the thinner air (less oxygen at higher levels).

I also found it fascinating that the porters wait to be picked by the climbers at the start of the climb.  They carry up to 30 kilograms. (One kilogram is equal to a little over 2 pounds) Each porter carries this weight up the mountain so the climbers don’t have to.  I read that the porters get about $10 a day.  Here is a Site if you want to learn more about them.


Music from Tanzania

I love music and find the music from different parts of the world to be so interesting.  The types of instruments can be quite different as well.  Watching music videos from Tanzania can give us a peak into everyday life in this beautiful country.  Watch this One and let me know what you think.  Do you like the language?

I don’t know what language is used in the song but Swahili is one of the main languages. There are over a 100 different languages spoken there because there are over 120 different ethnic groups.

Watch to This video of young children singing the National Anthem of Tanzania.

I liked this Video because I love drums and rhythms.    There are many examples of music on YouTube that you can enjoy.

Flying into Tanzania!

I checked the cost of round-trip air travel to Tanzania from Houston.  The lowest priced ticket was $870 for each person.  If we all went – Elias, Damien, Bri and Nanna – how much would we spend on our tickets all together?

The plane would need to land one time before arriving in Tanzania and that stop is in Turkey.   Take a look at your big map and see if you can select the best flight path to get there.

If a person left Houston at 9 pm, arrival in Tanzania would be 2:30 am.  There is something important to know though.  There is a big difference in the time zones.  I am looking at my clock and it is 7:30 am.  I checked on the internet and current time in Tanzania is 3:30 PM!  Imagine that: I am just starting my day and they are almost done with work and school for the day.

Watch this video to see what it looks like as you fly into Dar Es Salaam Airport in Tanzania.