21 December 2014.......At sea

22 December................Tulear, Madagascar

23 December................At sea

24 December................Mozambique Island, Mozambique

25 December................At sea

26 December................Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

27 December................Stone Town, Zanzibar Island, Tanzania

28 December................Jozani Forest, Zanzibar Island, Tanzania

29 December................At sea

30 December................Nosy Komba, Madagascar

31 December................Antsiranana, Madagascar

  1 January 2015...........At sea

  2 January....................Port Louis, Mauritius

  3 January....Mauritius  MRU — New Delhi  DEL

  4 January....New Delhi  DEL — Istanbul  IST — Washington DC  IAD — Pittsburgh  PIT



Two pages of photos to keep you interested...

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me

  A continuation of the cruise to the Western Indian Ocean Islands, these two weeks took me to places very different from the small island nations of the previous fortnight.

  Madagascar is an island nation off the southeast coast of Africa; the main island is the fourth-largest on earth, and many small islands lie close by. Following the breakup of the supercontinent Gondwana, Madagascar split from the Indian peninsula around 88 million years ago, allowing native plants and animals to evolve in relative isolation. Consequently, Madagascar is a biodiversity hotspot; over 90% of its wildlife is found nowhere else on Earth and these unique flora and fauna are the primary draw for tourists. The original population was a mix of Austronesian settlers from Borneo with Bantu migrants from East Africe. It had a short colonial period, from 1897 to 1960, when it was part of the French colonial empire. Recent politics has been in flux with the current government being a 'unitary semi-presidential republic'. (!) It is one of the world's poorest countries with most of the population living on less than $2 a day, and it certainly is one of the least developed: paved roads are almost nonexistent; the economy is a disaster; less than 10 percent of the population has access to running water and electrical service; health care is costly and concentrated in the urban areas. Recreational tourism is limited to a few islands in the north, and eco-tourism is perhaps the only growth industry. Not exactly an alluring destination. Nevertheless, it's a place I've wanted to see for quite some time–mostly for the plant and animal life. Our three port stops on the island gave me enough of the country to satisfy my curiosity without instilling a desire to return. Extremely hot weather and the dusty roads made traveling very uncomfortable—but I did at least get to see some lemurs and baobab trees and a couple of very nice beaches.

  Mozambique Island is a tiny island (less than 2 mi [3 km] long and up to 550 yards [502 m] wide) with a rich history. It is on the northern coast of Mozambique near the town of Nacala. It was an important Arab trading center before its discovery by Europeans; the Portuguese navigator, Vasco da Gama, visited the island in 1498 and Portugal established a port and naval base in 1507. The Fort of Sao Sebastiao was begun in 1558 and it is preserved in a sad, crumbling manner; several other buildings of that era also remain, mostly churches and administrative structures. Much of the island is covered by streets and buildings laid out by the Portuguese and the Portuguese building techniques and materials continue to be used and maintained, leading to the entire island being a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Time has pretty much passed by the island and it has little but its history to recommend it. I spent a pleasant couple of hours self-touring the Fort and the town until I was ready to swoon from the heat.

  Dar es Salaam is the largest city in Tanzania (though not its capital) and the largest city in East Africa. It is a major seaport, and the country's financial and cultural center. I took a city tour which ended up spending most of the time at a touristy 'crafts market'. Ho hum.

  Zanzibar is firstly an island archipelago located 25-50 miles (40-80 km) offshore north of Dar es Salaam, secondly one of the two large islands in the group, and lastly, the name of the capital city. All are a semi-autonomous part of Tanzania. The island has been inhabited for 20,000 years and may have been known to the ancient Greeks. From the time of Muhammed onwards, the island was part of a trading network between the Middle East, Africa, and India; Arabs, Persians, and Indians migrated to the island and the Arabs gradually became the elite, though it was the Persians who established Stone Town, the oldest part of Zanzibar City and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Europeans came into the picture in 1498 when Vasco da Gama stopped there and demanded tribute from the ruling sultan. Portugal ruled with a light hand for 200 years, and in 1698 the island fell under the control of the Sultanate of Oman. The Arabs developed a trade economy, with agricultural products, spices, ivory, and slaves the dominant items. In the early 19th century, Britain began pressuring the Sultanate to abolish the slave trade, and in 1873 the abominable practice ended. In 1890 the island became a British Protectorate which lasted until December, 1963, when the island became a constitutional monarchy under the Sultan. A month later, the Sultan was deposed and in April, 1964, the island merged with mainland Tanganyika. This United Republic of Tanganyika and Zanzibar was soon renamed, blending the two names, as the United Republic of Tanzania. We stayed in port for two days and I had ample opportunity to wander about in Stone Town and especially in the local market, which was a wonderland of color, patterns, and scents. I also visited the Jozani Forest on the south end of Zanzibar island, which is home to a population of Red Colobus monkeys, one of Africa's rarest primates. We saw many of the brilliantly colored monkeys going about their business and ignoring their strange relatives pointing noisy little boxes at them.

Madagascar

Mozambique Island

Dar es Salaam

Zanzibar

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