11.20.08

Africa Day 15: Seeing sealife (and eating it)

Posted in africa 2008, personal, photos, travel at 2:22 am by wingerz

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I wake up early to take a short walk along the beach. I find a few ghost crabs that scurry back into their holes and venture out when they think I’m gone.

In our guidebook I’ve found a nearby aquarium (the Mnarani Natural Aquarium). Bob, Abhinav, and Sim agree to accompany me. We walk along the beach. A young boy sells us shells by the seashore (for about $8 each), and a group of local villagers walk their blue net out to deeper waters.

A few things worry us when we reach the aquarium – a $2500 Tsh entrance fee (the book said it was $1000 Tsh, about $1 USD), a pile of turtle skeletons, and a rickety ticket stand next to a rickety wooden fence. I am going in regardless of how shady it looks and the others decide to follow. As we enter, we see buckets of young turtles lining the inside of the fence. They unsuccessfully struggle to escape. The main enclosure is a natural lagoon. Several large turtles swim by slowly, and our host grabs a pile of seaweed to feed them. He drops several pieces in, and the turtles come to the surface, chomping voraciously at the floating seaweed. As they eat, water is propelled from their nostrils in small spouts. Their shells, covered with geometric designs, are incredibly beautiful. They flap gracefully through the water.

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The turtles start out as fish-eating creatures but later switch to eating seaweed when they become less mobile – too sluggish to catch fish. In the wild, only 2% of the young turtles survive. We hold some of the baby turtles. Abhinav tries to convert them to vegetarianism before they are ready.

Our host also feeds the kingfish living in the lagoon. He chucks a small piece of fish up into the air. A fish zips along the surface to snatch it as it lands in the water. He does it several more times.

The aquarium is a very pleasant surprise, well worth the cost of admission.

* * *

The trip is coming to an end, but that doesn’t mean that we’re in the clear. We run into a little misunderstanding at the airport (fortunately all of us make it back to Dar) and another at our hotel. Turns out there aren’t enough rooms for us. Arrangements are made for us to stay in another hotel which is nicer, but a bit further away. We don’t mind so much because they agree to throw in a couple vans to take us to dinner and the airport in the morning.

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For our last dinner we dine at the Moevenpick Hotel. The seafood buffet is amazing in its variety and quality. The highlight is the raw fish stand – you pick your seafood then they grill or steam it. I eat three incredibly succulent crabs (2 grilled, 1 in curry sauce). I also sample just about everything else – shrimp, calamari, barracuda (very tasty). There’s lots of other delicious stuff as well, and we all eat until we can’t eat anymore.

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