Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Octopus for sale at Paje, Zanzibar

One and a half US dollars. That’s the approximate beach price of a kilo of octopus in Zanzibar. I asked. The sale was done right on the blindingly white sandy shores of Paje, a district that is now crowded with tourist resorts and villas. I saw several fishermen with their prized catches of the day. Some chose to ignore the man with the bicycle and spring scale. Perhaps they have some other interested buyers in the village. I could not imagine them going to the big market in Stonetown which is about 50 kilometers away, not with just an octopus or two in tow.

Paje man with spear and octopus
fisherman with octopus, Paje, Zanzibar, Tanzania

haggling on the beach
fisherman haggling with the buyer at the beach of Paje

buyer weighing the octopus
buyer weighs the octopus using a handheld spring scale

octopus sale is sealed with a smile
the sale is sealed with a smile

buyer bagging the octopus
the buyer bags the octopus

Subsistence fishing is real in Zanzibar. With tidal surges of 3 meters, waters in the area are hospitable only a few hours certain day, half of the time in a month. Come full moon time, water recedes and the reef flat extends kilometers, allowing menfolk to fish with spears and nets. Otherwise, when the sea is high, men need boats which are capital-prohibitive.

the white sand expanse of Paje
the wide sandy expanse of Paje as seen from the shore

the beach, as seen from the waters
Paje, in another perspective, as seen from the reef

man dragging an octopus
a fisherman dragging his catch

man in the sea with spear
fisherman with spear

So others say that there’s always agriculture or city work but to a lot of these Zanzibaris, choices are slim. And the sea beckons.

man with octopus looking for a buyer
man hopping around the beach looking for the best price

going home- spear fisherman
end of the day: going home

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Monday, June 29, 2009

portraits from Lotim

Lotim is a contraction of Lombok Timor which means East Lombok. It is the site of my frequent forays in Lombok for it is here that seaweed abounds. Production is healthy in this part of Indonesia thanks to a reef protected from strong winds and a steady ocean current action that facilitates nutrient circulation.

girl with a comb (Kaliantan)
girl with a comb, Kaliantan

giggling girls in Kaliantan
giggling girls in Kaliantan

seaweed harvester in Kaliantan
man with bushels of seaweed, Kaliantan

Seaweed does have its season in Lombok. Heavy monsoon rains in December to March disrupts production in that drying of the wet harvests is interrupted frequently so farmers tend to lie low during this period. By May and onwards though, farmers get busy expanding production so by middle of the year, cultivation would already be in full swing.

seaweed sorter, Kaliantan
woman sorting seaweed, Kaliantan

pulling out the seaweed strings in Kaliantan
woman cleaning the seaweed harvest, Kaliantan

It is June now so perhaps I should pay Lombok a visit once more. Could be a good time to do more portraits too.

Serewe woman, smiling
smiling at Serewe

Serewe woman, drying seaweed
woman spreading seaweed on the sand for drying, Serewe

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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Pemba from above, part 2

continued from Pemba island from above part 1

Zanzibar, a semi-autonomous district in Tanzania is composed of 2 major islands, Unguja in the South and Pemba in the north. Unguja nowadays is almost exclusively referred to as the “Zanzibar” and is a world apart from Pemba. While Zanzibar is more densely populated and teeming with tourists, Pemba is desolate. Not that Pemba is lacking of natural attractions. Pemba has a greater number of islands, more expansive white sandy beaches and thicker forests. What it lacks sorely are infrastructure and facilities.

the channel at Ngagu
aerial view of the channel at Ngagu, Pemba island, Zanzibar, Tanzania, East Africa

aerial Ngagu
Ngagu, in another perspective

aerial Fondu and Western islands
Fondu and Western islands of Pemba

Pemba has two big “diving” resorts but they operate in rather remote areas that once there, you could not easily leave for lack of access to other points. When you go to Pemba on business, the logical places to stay would have to be either of the island’s 3 centers: Chake Chake which has the airport and the port towns of Mkoani and Wete. In these places, visitors only have a few guesthouses to choose from, and most offer only modest and with basic accommodations. Forget about cable TV, internet connectivity or room service. Save for these hostels, restaurants, at least the ones with waiting service and menus are basically absent too.

East Pemba inlet
a seawater inlet in East Pemba that seems to have eutrophied with algae

dhows in the Kiungoni channel
dhows in the Kiungoni channel, Pemba

aerial of the South channel (tip)
the tip of a reef in the South Channel, Pemba

But like most areas that are remote, the people are eager, friendly and accommodating. There are no commercial touts in the streets that are now plaguing Stonetown, the capital of Zanzibar. Villagers are a curious folk and they easily talk to visitors especially the small children who often don’t see people of a lighter skin.

aerial Northwest Coast
an aerial of the northwest coast of Pemba

aerial North coast mangroves
lush mangrove forest are common in the north

aerial Kiungoni seaweed farms
seaweed farms in Kiungoni

To go: Pemba is a large island north of Zanzibar, a semi-autonomous archipelago that is part of Tanzania, East Africa. There are regular fast crafts and flights between Zanzibar and Pemba. Air charters can be arranged from various operators like the one we made with Tropical Air at +255 24 223 2511.

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Saturday, June 27, 2009

the Cacing Diaries #41

at Friday’s, Boracay, Aklan, the Philippines

The pictures here were taken only 6 weeks ago yet time seems to have stopped in slow motion. Cacing could just barely walk on her own and would only sprint short distances. Of course now, she is more confident in her abilities and is more like to insist on doing things her own way.

playing in the sand
playing in the sand


She recently went through a rough patch. She’s teething, growing a pair of incisors which are notoriously painful. Her appetite suffered for awhile and her bowels were loose. She even ran a temperature but only for a few days.

sitting in a red dress
sitting in a red dress

playing waitress
playing waitress

She’s fine now. Every now and then she gets cranky. It was not easy giving her the necessary medicines as they were almost foul to the taste but she’s over the hump.

bringing the menu
bringing the menu

studying the menu
studying the menu

Meantime, weather is stormy in the Philippines now. Not much sunshine. I bet she’s missing the beach as she smiles broadly every time she sees pictures of her in Boracay. We all miss the sun too.

digging sand
digging sand

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Friday, June 26, 2009

a place called Wingwi

The view from the plane was compelling. Orderly lines of seaweed cultivars sprawl across hectares on the reef of Wingwi, right where the channel forks like a trident in the isthmus northeast of Pemba.

forked channel of Wingwi (aerial)
aerial view of the forked channel of Wingwi, Pemba, Zanzibar, Tanzania

aerial of the Wingwi channel
dense seaweed farms fill the tidal flat of Wingwi

Just like Maziwa Ngombe, the road to Wingwi is exceedingly rough. How the seaweed gets trucked out of the village is clearly challenging but infrastructure in the outskirts of Pemba is poor.

woman farmer of Wingwi
a woman farmer watching us curiously as we passed by

arched treeline
arches of trees overrun by vine create a surreal background amidst the ricefield

Most of the seaweed farmers actually live in the village that are some distance away from the channel. It is normal fare for them to walk a few kilometers to get to their farm sites during the day but they still curiously choose to live away from the water banks.

boy carrying dried seaweed
a boy carrying the seaweed that he was able to dry for the day

shelter for seaweed and man
a shelter for respite near the drying area of Wingwi

seaweed drying platform
seaweed drying tables are fashioned from cultivated pine

Seaweed mariculture is a fairly recent enterprise. It was introduced in Pemba in large scale in the early 90s but it is only in the last 2 or 3 years that the industry saw a significant spurt in production. Conveniences like styropor-bottom boats, plastic floaters and bamboo rafts otherwise common in seaweed-growing countries like the Philippines and Indonesia are sorely missing in Pemba. Farmers generally don’t have capital nor do they have access to farm materials. In fact, to transport seaweed from farms to the drying areas, farmers still use traditional canoes called mtombwe that are dugout from century old mango trees.

3 Wingwi boats
these canoes cost about $500 each

mtombwe boats
a dock for mtombwe boats in Wingwi

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Maziwa Ngombe up close

Maziwa Ngombe. The name is hard to pronounce. Getting there too takes some patience. The village is accessible through a rough road that is best ridden in a 4x4. From above though, inside the comforts of the plane which we chartered from Unguja to Pemba, Maziwa Ngombe is a big producer of seaweed. The farms are dense and cover hectares of the white sandy tidal flat that gets exposed during low tide.

aerial Maziwa Ngombe
Maziwa Ngombe seaweed farms, as seen from above

lowtide scene Maziwa Ngombe
farmers swarming over the reef during lowtide in Maziwa Ngombe

lowtide landscape Maziwa Ngombe
some take the opportunity to plant seaweed, others to harvest

harvest over her head
harvest over her head

Seaweed farmers in Tanzania customarily work only during low tide. In high water, work becomes dangerous and boats are necessary. In low tide then which comes when the moon is full, the expansive reef can be traversed on foot and seaweed planting, tending and harvesting can easily be done. The rest of the photos tell the story.

a fur of seaweed?
it’s like seaweed fur around her

Maziwa Ngombe women in colorful attire
women of Maziwa Ngombe in colorful traditional kanga attire

women under the shade
women with their seaweed harvest, resting under the shade of the coralline crags

a landscape with baobabs
Maziwa Ngombe is dry and barren, with a few baobabs protruding over the flat landscapre

coralline seascape
umbrella-like limestone outcrops mushroom over the tidal flat

woman carrying a sack of seaweed on her head by the stairs
a woman with her seaweed harvest by the stairs leading to the drying area

women with seaweed, boat
wooden boats are used in ferrying the harvested seaweed

harvest by hand and by boat
typical harvest scene in Maziwa Ngombe

splashing race for seaweed
a splashing race

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