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A Report from

Zanzibar 24/10-27/10/9,

David Kelly

Mrs. Kelly's sister had recommended Zanzibar to us and so we ended our holiday by flying from Nairobi to this near mythical island via Mombasa. When you arrive at the airport the first thing you notice are the abundance of coconut palms. No wonder Swahili cooking involves a lot of Coconut milk.

We stayed near the harbour and apart from the introduced House Crows and House Sparrows this was relatively birdless.  As someone from a coastal town I expect harbours to be full of birds but all Zanzibar's harbour could muster were a few Sooty Gulls, a single dark phased Dimorphic Egret and a circling pond heron.  The Pond Heron was over our hotel on the last day and based on its all white plumage I identified it as a Madagascar Pond Heron.  

On our second day we took a "Spice Tour" to the government of Zanzibar's own Spice Plantation.  This was fascinating and we bought some local spices to bring home after seeing how they were cultivated.  At a ruined bathhouse for a former Sultana, called Sheherazade, I was surprised to see a Pratincole fly overhead.  The shallow fork in the tail meant it was a Madagascar Pratincole.  Within the plantation we saw displaying Mangrove Kingfishers in the high treetops.  After the spice tour we went to the main Conservation area on Zanzibar, the Jozani Forest, but few birds were seen. We did, however, see the endemic Zanzibar Red Colobus monkey as well as Syke's Monkey and Red-tailed Coastal Squirrel.

On our third day we went to Prison Island where there was a colony of Aldabran Giant Tortoises.  These were brought here about 100 years ago and are now part of a breeding programme for this endangered species.  Again I saw few birds here other than the House Crows, Olive Sunbird and Indian Peafowl.  In the afternoon we went to the east coast to enjoy a nearly empty pristine white beach.  With hindsight we should have spent our first and last nights in Zanzibar town with a night in an east coast resort sandwiched between them.  The bush here had more birds in it and if I had stayed in the resort I could have birded it at a more suitable time.

Zanzibar is not the place to go for birds, I have never been anywhere else with so few birds evident, but it is a beautiful island with an exotic ambience.  The people were friendly and hassle was minimal compared to mainland Africa.  We arranged all our excursions with Mr Solomon on the waterfront and he made sure we got the "cheapest price".  I only hope that as tourism grows on the island it does not have a negative effect on the Zanzibaris friendly and respectful attitude to visitors.  

From Zanzibar we began the long journey back to Scotland touching down in Mombasa, Nairobi, Amsterdam and eventually Edinburgh.  We had thoroughly enjoyed our trip and look forward to our next African holiday, Lillian wants to see the total eclipse in Zimbabwe on 21/6/2001 so we will be paying her sister in Harare another visit around then.

David's full trip can be found by following the Kenya links above:

David Kelly
Editor Lothian Bird Report
East Lothian


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