Tuesday, January 26, 2010

'I'm up a tree'

Picture the scene, the phone rings, 'Hello, Ras Mbisi?' , 'Yes, this is Ras Mbisi Lodge, how can I help you?' 'I'm up a tree' - 'Umm, OK, where?', 'I'm up a tree near Ras Mbisi, please come and help'. 'OK, I need a bit more information, for one thing this is a Coconut Plantation and there are over 2000 trees so if you could narrow it down a bit it would help, and secondly who are you and WHY are you up a tree?' 'I am from the TRA (Tax man basically)I have come to collect the 'beach games & whaleshark fees', I had to climb a tree because the Ras Mbisi dogs were chasing my motorbike'. By this time Jon who was taking the call was practically on the floor crying with suppressed laughter.

The picture was taken last year on Ras Mbisi beach, please note, I was 8 months pregnant at the time!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Menu 23 Jan

Lunch - Garlic flatbread, Tomato Salsa
Crab Tart, Rocket Salad, Watermelon and Cucumber Salad, Three Bean Salad
Passion fruit curd shortbread
Afternoon Tea - Mafia Ginger Cake with Lime icing
Bar Snack - Karanga, Sambusa with Tamarind sauce
Dinner - Swahili Buffet
Fish Masala
Octopus Curry
Coconut Rice
Spinach with nuts
Aubergine stew
Potato Curry
Okra with tomato
Beans cooked with coconut milk
Roasted cinnamon pumpkin
Firni - a kind of rice pudding,made with rice flour and coconut, flavoured with cinnamon and cardamon
Kalimati - fried dough balls (a kind of cross between profiteroles and donuts) with local wild honey

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Menu 20 Jan

Rosemary flatbread, Tomato Salsa

Lunch - Crab Linguine & Rocket Salad

Fruit Salad & Cinnamon Biscuits

Afternoon Tea - Carrot Cake

Bar Snack - Chilli Popcorn, Kingfish goujons with tartare sauce

Dinner - Calamari & king prawn salad
Slow cooked Lamb with fruit & nut couscous and roasted vegetables
Coconut creme caramel

Monday, January 18, 2010


Ras Mbisi is set right in the middle of a working coconut plantation, guests love to watch the croppers collecting the nuts. Climbing a 100 foot tree that bends every which way in the wind is my idea of terrifying, all in a days work to the croppers who are self employed but heavily subsidised by our Landlords.

We use coconuts heavily here, the young 'madafu' (green or drinking coconut) awaits guests on arrival, very refreshing after the journey. Coconut milk in cooking and cocktails - coconut milk is not the juice of the young coconut, in order to produce it the flesh must be grated and then mixed with water, squeezed and strained. Coconut oil in the soap provided in the rooms, our roof is made of 'makuti' which is the leaves. The rooms and furniture are made from coconut wood, the fibres of the mature nuts are used to make rope and also mulch for the garden - i don't think there's a bit we don't use!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Menu 18 Jan

Lunch - Tomato salsa and garlic, sundried tomato and pine nut bread
Thai fish cakes,chilli squid, mango & flat leaf parsley salad, Green bean, Sugar snap pea & Red pepper salad with lime, chili & toasted coconut dressing
Fruit salad & Coconut shortbread

Afternoon tea - Hummingbird cake

Bar snack - Cashew nuts, Vegetable tempura & dipping sauce

Dinner - Crab & coconut soup
Octopus curry, rice, Steamed fresh vegetables, chapati
Mousse shots with Langue du chat (3 shot glasses with mousse, 1 dark chocolate, 1 passion fruit, 1 lime & mango)

Menu 17 Jan

Lunch- Tomato salsa and walnut bread
Lamb kofta,courgette & feta fritters, carrot & coriander fritters,tabbloheh, hoummous,baba ganoush,red cabbage and karanga salad,rocket and parmesan salad
Lemon curd Shortbread

Afternoon Tea - Chocolate & Beetroot Cake

Bar Snacks - Karanga, Parmesan Wafers

Dinner - Smoked Sailfish with Tanga Halloumi & Potato Rosti with Horseradish dressing
Lime sour beef fillet with coriander & mint, cassava chips, swahili spinach with sesame
Coconut custard pots with pineapple accompanied by cashew biscotti

Saturday, January 16, 2010

A bit of History

Myself, husband (Jon) & our 2 daughters (Maddie, born 99, Scarlet born 02)moved here (Mafia Island, Tanzania) in August 2006 from Ramsgate in Kent where we had lived since 2002, prior to that we had lived in Sydenham, South East London for 7 years (we married in 1998). Since we became a couple we had been restoring properties (in addition to our careers in the Civil Service, and then in my case becoming a full time Mum), the fruits of our labours have been poured into building a Lodge here on Mafia. Currently Ras Mbisi Lodge has been open for just over 2 years.

Since being here we have had to; dig our own bore hole (and learn how to use the various pumps required), build a solar system for the house (no mains power here), restore the house we now live in, start a vegetable garden, employ over 40 people (for building the lodge then staffing it etc) thereby feeding over 250 mouths a month, set up a development programme for the local village – currently raising money for the school and clinic, set up a satellite internet connection and home school our daughters. Build a biomass gasifier to power the Lodge. Plus deal with both central government and local government paperwork. Learn how to live in isolation, in my case remember my long forgotten Swahili, in Jon’s case learn it from scratch. Not to mention learn ‘the swahili way’ – nowhere near understanding that yet!
When we moved to Mafia we spent 3 months living in an insect infested guest house (infested to us after the UK) whilst this house was renovated from a subsiding bat, rat and hornet infested pit into a semi-inhabitable hovel. We have been in this house for 3 years and two months during which time it has; poured in water during cyclones and the rainy season due to inadequate capping to the new roof, run out of water due to bad remedial work on the plumbing and the final straw, the NEW shelves in the kitchen fell down bringing all my herbs, spices, cereal etc with them. Why the final straw? Cereal has to be stored in glass jars, to keep the dreaded white ant out of them, Cheerios cost £6.92 for 750g, yes you read that right £6.92!!!!!! And i can’t feed my children cereal sweep off the floor with glass in can i? Olive oil costs £15.84 a litre, hmm can i mop it up and squeeze it into a bottle?!! WHY did that shelf come down? It was held up with ONE screw per bracket (3 in all) and NO BLOODY RAWLPLUGS which we bought and paid for and are nowhere to be found! Lesson in Tanzania, don’t believe that just because a team of builders from Dar has worked for Embassies and High Commissions that they know what they are doing, or rather they know what they are doing but cannot be trusted to get on with it for even as long as it takes you to drive to town for whatever they insist they need!

In addition to all that we run the lodge, I deal with food, bookings, invoicing, marketing, the kitchen & dining room, housekeeping, buying/ordering updating, Government permits etc. Jon deals with all things accounting, mechanical, building,electrical, plumbing, front of house, the grounds etc etc. Oh, and we had another baby 9 months ago, so we keep busy – if we couldn’t multi-task before, we can now.

At some point in the next few days I'll fill you in on how/why we ended up here, even if you aren't interested LOL :-)

Rambling thoughts

Much of what graces the plates at Ras Mbisi is obtained here, fish, seafood, fruit, we grow what vegetables we can(although the humidity and wadudu (insects) limit us somewhat). Everything else must be brought in, some by ship, some on the small aircraft of Coastal Aviation. The ship was due over a week ago, it's unlikely to arrive before the middle of next week now. Obviously this affects our supplies, but has a real effect on the southern part of the island as said ship brings the fuel for the Power Station, currently the main town and the main tourist area of Utende (i use these terms loosely as the town consists of a few dukas and the main tourist area 5 small Lodges)have no electricity, mimicking the problem on Zanzibar. Thankfully we are self sufficient in that regard as we are not on the grid and given our distance from the Power Station we are never likely to be.

It often surprises guests that Mafia is so undeveloped (and therefore unspoilt), there is no ATM, no phone lines, patchy mobile reception, no shops. This is changing slowly but like they say 'no hurry in Africa'!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Menu 16 Jan

Lunch- Sundried Tomato & Pinenut Bread, Tomato Salsa
Lemon Chicken, Crab Soba Noodle Salad, Cucumber & Mint Salad, Lime & Coconut Bean Salad, Avocado Salad.
Fruit Salad & Shortbread
Afternoon Tea - Banana Muffins
Bar Snacks - Chilli Popcorn, Spinach,Feta & Black Olive Pizza
Dinner - Roasted Butternut Soup with Toasted Seeds and Chilli Oil
Pan Fried Kingfish with Caramelised Watermelon, Lemon Rice & Steamed Vegetables
Crepes with Mango and Chocolate Sauce

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Early morning trips

Kaskasi (northern trade monsoon)finally dropped slightly today, the sea looks like a mill pond this morning. Wageni (guests) off first thing to swim with whale sharks, armed with Bacon rolls, homemade pastries and strong coffee. Ibra our Dhow skipper spent 3 years working with a marine research programme and therefore has an extremely strong code of conduct regarding the Whale sharks, all guests get a lecture before he will allow them in the water. He and Johnson then swim with the guests watching out for the weaker swimmers whilst Bakari looks after the boat and gets the coffee and snacks ready for everyone when they get out. Hot coffee is always welcome after snorkeling even in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean.

My day today will consist of time in the kitchen as always, as well as home school for the older two and playtime with the baby, not to mention marketing, invoicing, answering emails and trying to avoid the last three with timewasting on Twitter :-)

Menu 15 Jan

Lunch - Tomato salsa and garlic flat bread
Coconut &coriander battered prawns,rice salad,Loatian Larb salad,red cabbage,lime & karanga salad, tamarind sauce
Donuts with mango sauce

Afternoon Tea - Lemon Drizzle Cake

Bar Snacks - Salted, caramelised nuts, Guacamole with potato wedges

Dinner - Calamari Caesar salad
Pork Saltimbocca, Sauteed potatoes, broccoli, Green beans & Roasted red and yellow peppers
Passion fruit curd tart

Menu 14 Jan 2010

Lunch - Vietnamese pork meatball & noodle soup
Fruit Salad with condensed milk ice cream
Afternoon Tea - Scones with cream and jam, Mafia Ginger Cake with Lime Icing
Bar Snacks - Karanga (fried groundnut with coconut)
Dog Tooth Tuna Sashimi with Wasabi, Soy & Homemade Pickled Ginger
Dinner - Roasted Tomato Soup with Fennel Seed Rolls
Whole Karambesi (Giant Trevally)cooked with Coconut,Chillies & Coriander, Matchstick Potatoes, Roasted Butternut Squash & Mangetout
Pineapple Tarte Tatin with Chantilly Cream

Playing catch up

Having set up the new blog months ago (old blog at travelblog.org/bloggers/titch - note a lot of posts lost during travelblogs server failure) we have been so busy I have not had a chance to actually write anything!

Christmas and New Year were full and frantic, the sheer amount of food brought in and consumed was scary, the less said about alcohol consumption (yes Helen's Party that's you!)the better.

Whale sharks are now constantly being seen in the channel, these gentle giants are so amazing they actually follow the boat, no need to search for them at the moment. Combining a whale shark trip together with a fish bbq on deserted Shungu Mbili Island is a big favorite especially with honeymooners.
The photo has our dhow Kukulachi in the background and a local fisherman in the foreground.