Captain’s Log September 2002


Captain’s Log September 2002

September saw us continuing with all the necessary permits, licences & approvals to operate our Charter Business in Tanzania. In addition, we were organising storage ashore for all our spares and ancilliary needs to support the diversity of our operations.
We enjoyed a variety of events this month, including a corporate day trip to Fungu Yasin, a Wedding Anniversary day trip to Sinda Island, a promotional cocktail party at anchor and a 3-day whale & dolphin watching research project off Zanzibar.

On Sunday 8th nineteen guests of Regent Tanzania Ltd joined us at Msasani Slipway at 1030 hrs a one day corporate charter . Due to the Spring Low Tides they were greeted as they boarded, with a hose in one hand to wash their feet and a glass of Sparkling wine and freshly squeezed orange juice in the other.

By 1100 we were underway, motoring due to lack of wind, to Fungu Yasin, a tidal sandbank on the northern extreme of an extended coral reef some 10 miles north of our point of embarkation. On the way to Fungu Yasin we passed the wooded coral islands of Bongoyo and Mbudya. Both of these delightful islands are embellished with beautiful sand beaches that shelve into deep water on their respective north-western corners. With such ideal natural features they are a popular destination for day visitors from Dar es Salaam. We arrived and anchored at Fungu Yasin at 1200 and immediately launched our two kayaks, which proved a favourite activity for our guests. We also provided fins and snorkelling gear for those who wished to swim to the sandbank or view the coral. Others were ferried ashore by dinghy to wander around the sand bank. By this time the tide was on the way in and by the time we began serving lunch at 1330 the sandbank was diminishing rapidly.  Lunch was a buffet of BBQ fish & steak, boiled prawns with seafood sauce, fried squid, marinated prawns, marinated chicken, various salads including potato salad, tomato & onion, beetroot with mayonnaise and green Salads, plus cabbage & apple coleslaw. This was followed by chocolate mousse cookies served with coffee and Amarula. Beverages included a selection of red & white wines, a selection of beers, sodas and fruit juices. After lunch a number of guests returned to the ever-diminishing sandbank to swim or kayak or just sit under the Amarula umbrella enjoying this unique environment. The remaining guests stayed aboard and relaxed in the cockpit or on the foredeck. By 1600 the sandbank had all but been reclaimed by King Neptune and it was time to recall those frolicking in the waves and head back to the Slipway. We set the sails and began the beat back to Msasani Bay where we arrived by 1730. Some of the guests were ferried ashore whilst some remained on board for sundowners. Responses from the guests indicated it was a wonderful day for them and Lynne and I enjoyed having them aboard.

During the week we took our two local crew, John & Geoffrey, who have worked with us for the past 7 & 6 years respectively, for a 2-day training period and anchored off Sinda Island.

It was a great opportunity to teach the crew new skills related to the tourism and hospitality business, along with carry out necessary health & safety drills. They both enjoyed this time and improved their dinghy driving, snorkelling and kayaking skills too.

The following Sunday we had a Cocktail Party where we invited a number of friends and business colleagues to join us for Sundowners and snacks. This was a promotion on our part as it is not so easy for visitors to simply drop in for a visit at the anchorage. This also gave people an opportunity to experience “Amarula” and see what we are offering as a Charter package. In all we had twelve guests and served finger food and drinks. Our traditional boiled prawns are always a winner, plus spicy meat balls & fish cakes, curried egg with French bread, savoury octopus, marinated coconut, nuts & chips. It must have been a good bash as it was rather late when the final guests left.

On Thursday 19th, we had a family day charter setting off from Msasani Bay at 0900 for a day at Inner Sinda Island. This unique Island, located 11 miles south of our mooring, has one of the most stunning Baobab trees we have seen, in that its shape distinctly represents a wine bottle, hence the popular term for the Baobab, the “bottle tree”. To get there we sail past the Dar es Salaam city skyline, Inner & Outer Makatumbe Islands and the Single Point Mooring, where the petroleum requirements for Tanzania are pumped ashore. Sinda, like most islands here is blessed with a deep-water sandy beach at the north west corner, fringing reef and oyster-clad rocks. We anchored off the beach at 1100 and launched the ever-popular kayaks. At Sinda there is a walking track that goes from the main beach through to the beaches on the eastern side of the island from where you can walk almost the entire way back along the coral ridge to the point of origin, with the exception of about 200 metres at high tide. We provided a lunch with our traditional emphasis on local seafood rinsed down with a selection of wines, sodas and beers. Lynne also baked a cake and brownies as the day was a special occasion, the couple’s 21st Wedding Anniversary. The afternoon was spent kayaking, swimming and snorkelling and collecting shells from the beach as the tide rose. By 1600 we left Sinda in our wake as we sailed back to Msasani, arriving there at 1830 and a great day was had by all.

Early on Tuesday 24th we set out for Zanzibar for a 3 day whale watching charter. A couple of friends joined us for the trip across.

We anchored off “Blues Restaurant” at Stonetown and cleared Immigration at 1200. We then went to “Mercury’s” for lunch. This is a popular place on the beachfront of Stonetown that has a theme of memorabilia of Freddy Mercury, possibly the most famous son of Zanzibar. Born in Zanzibar, he spent his early years there before moving to India for schooling, then onto UK for higher education before ultimately becoming the second “Queen” of England. We spent the afternoon wandering around Stonetown and visiting “Grave” Island, just to the north. This is where the graves of all the British servicemen killed in the Slave and First World Wars are located. A new resort, Chapwani, has been built on this Island and the operators have taken it upon themselves to preserve this important part of history.

We anchored off Mtoni Marine Centre that night and at 0700 next morning our friends departed and we embarked the charter group of three Marine Research Scientists. The group came aboard to observe dolphins and whales behaviour in the field. Two of the group are based at Stockholm University, but have linked with the Institute of Marine Science in Zanzibar to undertake these studies, partly funded by SIDA. This was a pilot study with the emphasis on the Humpback Whales that inhabit the waters around Zanzibar & Pemba during the calving months from July to October.

We motored up the beautiful West Coast of Zanzibar to Ras Nungwi where we spotted our first pod of about 50 Bottlenose Dolphins. We followed this pod for a time until their immediate behaviour and population had been assessed after which we moved further around the peninsular where we encountered a pod of the smaller, more active Spinner Dolphins. This pod numbered around 100 and again we followed them, with our clients photographing and monitoring their behaviour patterns. We continued past Ras Nungwi, around to Mnemba Island where we spotted two Humpback Whales, just south of Mnemba Island and close inshore. We followed this pair, however they split up, so we followed one of these, coming as close as 15 metres at times. It was during this first interaction that it was explained to us that each Humpback has different patterns on their flukes, which can be individually identified by photographing the tail with specific interest to the white areas on each fluke. Photographs of the tail and of the dorsal fin will fingerprint an individual Humpback Whale. We followed close by this Humpback monitoring behaviour until such time as our clients decided to take a skin sample for DNA analysis. This is done by using an adapted .22 caliber rifle with a shotgun size barrel that shoots a specially designed dart onto the flesh of the whale. This dart has a buoyant barrel about 150mm long. It takes a small sample of skin and when the whale dives the buoyant forces detach the dart from the whale after which it can be recovered by either scoop net or surface swimmer. In this case, when it was thought appropriate to take a sample, the Humpback made a deep dive, changed direction and after what seemed an interminable time surfaced almost half a kilometre astern of us, end of story. By this time it was 1700 so we decided to head for the anchorage on the northern side of Mnemba Island.

Next morning we were underway by 0700. We motored south through the passage between Mnemba and Matemwe and it was only half an hour before we sighted a whale about a kilometre to the east of us on the south side of Mnemba. We moved to position Amarula alongside the whale as it cruised along at 3 to 4 knots. It soon became evident that this was a female with a recently born calf. This generated a lot of excitement with our party as they believe that the calf had been born within the previous few weeks and in the immediate area.

There was no apparent agitation shown by the mother & calf so we gently cruised alongside them for half an hour whilst rolls of film were burnt up and then it was time to take a skin sample. This was done with ease and there was no apparent distress shown by the mother when she was darted. With the excitement of the darting and the exercise recovering the dart, we lost sight of the mother and infant so we carried out a search pattern for other whales. We motored further south without success and then sailed back to the northern side of Mnemba when we again found the same mother and calf, about six miles north of our original sighting. After identifying them as the same pair as earlier, we left them to avoid any possible stress.

We met one of the sailing Catamarans based at Nungwe, S.V. Ingwe, and had a chat on the VHF. They had had the privilege of seeing three Humpbacks breaching (jumping clear of the water) earlier in the day. We sailed beyond Nungwe and into Pemba Channel before returning to our anchorage at Mnemba without further sightings. We were away again next morning by 0700, covering the same early search pattern as the previous day, but as our charter concluded that evening at the Institute of Marine Science in Stonetown, midday saw us rounding Ras Nungwe, heading for Tumbatu Island on our way back to Zanzibar Town. There had been previous sightings in this area so we kept a lookout, although unsuccessful, on our return to the Institute where we disembarked our guests and their array of equipment at 1630. The group were delighted with the results of their pilot study and the number of sightings within a close area, along with the new calf.

Previously there was a stranding of a calf in August this year between Chwaka Bay and Mnemba and a similar stranding in September last year, a little further south. All this is indicative of a local Humpback calving area that has yet to be identified. Similar pilot studies to this have recently been undertaken in South Africa, Madagascar, Mozambique. This group will be putting together a proposal for a more intensive and extended study over a number of years in the future and we have indicated our willingness to be involved as the support platform for such studies. Their future studies will include all of the four species of whales and the five species of dolphins that are known to inhabit Tanzanian waters.

A little trivia: In total there are seventy five known species of dolphins and whales world wide and it is believed that up to thirty five of these species are found between Cape Town and Kiwayuu, Kenya. If this is the case then it will be the highest concentration of whales and dolphins on any coastline in the world.

We had dinner with our party that evening at one of the many fine restaurants in Stonetown before having a leisurely sail back to Dar next day, stopping off at Pungume Island for a snorkel in the coral garden there. Then a good sail with the brisk South Easterly wind across Zanzibar Channel, anchoring at Dar Es Salaam Yacht Club at 2130 where friends we had met at Cocos Island some months before had just arrived from Madagascar.


Click here for the August Captain’s Log