Our Tanzania Egypt journey of 2022 started with the knowledge that this would likely be the last big trip lasting over a month with the kids. Caroline will start high school next year preventing us from withdrawing the kids from school in the manner that we have done in the past. The kids are also very happy in school and will miss being away from their friends. We also were facing the headwinds of the Corona pandemic and the more contagious omicron. To be truthful, I though there was a decent probability of our trip being cancelled.
After making it through Christmas we shifted to preparations for the trip. We were extremely busy with getting PCR testing done within the 96 hour window for entering Tanzania (this would come into play later) and preparing visas for both Tanzania and Egypt as well as QR documentation for our vaccines. Not to mention packing and preparing all our business, projects and the house build for being gone for a month.
As typical once we finally packed ourselves into the car to begin our journey the stress of it all began to wane. We drove the 2 1/2 hours to O’Hare and encountered lots of lines and lots of extra Covid documentation. I still wasn’t convinced we would actually be able to go until we took off on the plane in Chicago. Once off the ground we settled in for the 13 hour plane ride to Doha Qatar, which wasn’t bad with lots of movies and ipad time for the kids and parents. The kids slept for part of the flight although Jules didn’t seem to get enough sleep and was very crabby in Doha.
We attempted to leave the airport in Doha with a transit visa but due to the restriction with Covid-19 our PCR tests were not taken within their 72 hour window and therefore were not valid. So we ended up having a lay over in the airport for 12 hours. After a few hours exploring we found several quiet/sleep rooms and bedded down for the night as the hotel in the airport was full. It was pretty obvious the airport was designed for travelers staying for looooonnnnggg layovers.
The next day we boarded our flight to Tanzania and the Kilimanjaro airport. After rapid Covid tests upon arrival (all negative) and a bit of hassle about our visas we were unleashed upon Africa. Happily our driver for the next five days on safari was on time and holding a sign. He drove us to our the Mount Maru Game Lodge where we dragged our weary bodies to dinner and then immediately to bed.
Loreto is probably a quarter of the way up the peninsula on the Sea of Cortez and normally is a pretty touristy location with beautiful sea views and like many other towns in Baja had it’s origin as a mission town. It also has a marine park off it’s shores consisting of 4 islands. We were lucky enough to take a boat ride around one of them, Isle de Coronado, it was one of the most amazing marine boat tours we have ever taken. The boat was easy to procure just walking down to the harbor we had boat captains offering rides. We started at 10am not expecting too much, after a 40 minute boat ride we approached Coronado and saw a turtle then another then some stingrays and then more sting rays. The stingrays are known for jumping out of the water in the area but it is the wrong time of year for this behavior. They seemed to be all over the place in the azure blue shallows. We spied some dolphins off in the distance and headed that direction and all of a sudden they were all over the place hundreds of dolphins jumping out of the water and playing in the wake of the boat. The kids were screaming with joy and just couldn’t believe it. After a half an hour playing with the dolphins we headed around the island and observed some sea lions.
We were flabbergasted with the abundance with the marine life and then our boat driver turned to us and said do you want to go see a blue whale?? We were like sure, but I thought to myself something got lost in translation, maybe a gray whale. We headed out to see where another boat was sitting idle and waited for the whale… All of a sudden there is this huge loud whooooshhh of air and we see this massive whale surface, it was enormous! We puttered the boat over and stayed about 1000 feet away and watched the whale surface and breath 8-9 times and then dove, showing it’s tale. We sat in rapt attention for probably 40 minutes as the creature dove and surfaced several times, likely feeding on krill. It was one of the coolest things I have ever seen on the ocean, we were in the presence of the largest species to ever exist on the earth! After our encounter we saw a blue footed boobie and hung out on a small beach for an hour or so before heading back to Loreto. We had more ceviche strolled along the malecon and walked to the mission but basically couldn’t stop talking about the blue whale.
Our story begins on a beach, the 30th of January, and the sun was going down so it was the perfect time for baby turtles to swim into the ocean. It had to be this time because baby turtles can damage or even lose their eyesight from the sun. When it was sunset, our friends (and volunteers) came out of the turtle greenhouse. The greenhouse was to keep the temperature just right so that the turtles were 50% male 50% female, because the temperature of the sand determines the gender of the turtles, but I’m getting off topic. When our friends came out they had baskets of baby turtles! Wow, they were so cute we all immediately crowded around the fence they were in front of, as the volunteers gave a talk about how we were not allowed to touch the turtle because the oils on our hands are dangerous to them.
When the sun was going down we were allowed in the greenhouse so we could “adopt a nest” (which is donating to the organization so we could help a nest). We ended up picking nest 212 of Green Ridley Turtles, by the time we finished adopting our turtles it was almost time to let the babies go. As we were about to head down the beach I got handed the bucket of three baby turtles! They were so cute when I brought them to the water to go in the ocean and hopefully live a good life and come to the beach once again to lay their eggs. As the turtles inched their way to the ocean the waves kept pushing them back up the beach, we cheered them on anyway. We named them Ricky, Thunder, and Ranch. Ranch is the first to finally get swept out to sea but everyone else was not far behind. Once all the turtles were in the ocean we headed back into the RV, and then to bed. This was an amazing experience that I definitely loved and would recommend to anyone.
holding newborn turtles
Our friends Brynn, Chris, Soren, and Ezra spent months volunteering with the turtle nursery. They gave a talk about the turtles.
We arrived in San Jose del Cabo the sleepy brother to Cabo San Lucas on a Monday afternoon and checked into our Airbnb a lovely 4 bedroom house a block and a half off the beach. We had paid for the pool to be heated and it was quite amazing. I think the first couple days we did nothing but pool time and beach time, it was good to be away from each other in a way you can’t in the RV. It was good for Maddy to catch up on work after being out of cell range for a few days.
The two towns on the very end of the Baja Peninsula are collectively known as Los Cabos or the Cape and were by far the most populated areas that we stayed near. Normally these towns would be bustling with activity and tourist but these are not normal times. We stayed away from activities with lots of people which meant lots of beach walks especially at sunset. Quite amazingly there were very few people on the beach which makes for great sunset photos. About 3-4 days into our stay we decided we could all use more time at the house and extended to a week and a half. Below is a description of most of our activities:
We took a day trip to Cabo San Lucas by car to take a boat ride out to what’s known as the Arch located at the furthest point on the Baja Peninsula also known as lands end.
We did horseback ride on the beach one day, was quite lovely but we all had sore butts.
One night we went to the art festival in the downtown area of San Jose del Cabo. We wandered around and looked at art and got street food near the mission until we were convinced by the kids to eat Italian food at an outdoor restaurant.
We also had new friends over that were volunteering in Todos Santos to our pool one day. We had some lovely beach days and the kids played in the surf until someone told us it was dangerous at low tide due to riptides. Once of the days I took Julie to the beach and we spotted a whale in the surf, literally 10 feet off the shore. We were amazed that we saw a whale that close in (sorry no picture).
We arrived in Cabo Pulmo after several days in the windy towns of La Ventana and Los Barriles. We were warned that the last 10 kilometers to the town were unpaved and a bit rough but we had no problems just went very slow. Cabo Pulmo is a Mexican National Marine park that encompasses a coral reef off the coast and is known as the best diving in Baja, so naturally we were drawn there to dive. The Cabo Pulmo reef is the most northern reef in the Eastern Pacific and is an example of an overfished spot that was restored and preserved. We chose to stay on the south side of town at the Cabo Pulmo park, it was a boondocking spot with a ton of fun rocks to climb around on for the kids. There was snorkeling near the shore but the water was too rough.
The next morning we went diving, happily the waters were not too rough and we got two nice dives in. The first was a reef dive, with lots of fish and we saw a huge leatherback turtle! Our second dive was on a ship wreak that is frequented by bull sharks, we love sharks so we jumped at the chance. Unfortunately I busted my GoPro case last year so I wasn’t able to take it diving.
Apres diving we went and got fish tacos and ceviche then found another beach to boondock at. I was able to find a place with a tv and caught the Packers game in a well ventilated space. The kids played around on the beach coming up with a way of surfing down the rocks.
When we were in La Paz we went on a boat to go see whale sharks. We learned that the whale shark is the world’s largest shark although there are larger whales in the oceans this is the biggest fish. First we rented wet suits because the water in the Sea of Cortez is very cold. Then we took a boat to go see the sharks in a protected cove near the harbor of La Paz. Once we got to the protected area we spotted a shark in the water. Everyone else went into the water but I chickened out because I was too scared. The next time I got in I had to swim really hard to get close enough to see the shark, the water was freezing was not the very clear but we were able to see it because the whale shark was huge. The shark was gray and had white dots, there were only juvenile sharks in the area that were probably 15-20 feet long. A full grown whale shark can get to between 30-60 feet!!! Did you know that their eyes are the size of ping pong balls.
At first, I was so terrified that I wanted to go back to the boat. I also thought we were too close to it so I thought we were going to get hit by its tale. After a bit, I got used to the big shark. At the end my parents went into the water again to see a whale shark that was eating, and I could see it from the boat which was really cool. usually you should not swim with sharks when they are eating because they could eat you! but whale sharks only eat tiny plankton, also they have filters in their throat that filter out anything bigger than that. After we finished we ate sandwiches, and they were really good. On the way back it was windy and cold. This was super cool to do and I would totally recommend it.
After the crash we stayed one night a Playa Santispac and although it was quite a nice beach we were all a bit frazzled by the accident. We did enjoy some time on the beach and relaxed a bit, the kids went out on the paddle board and I chased them with the drone. The beach campsite was considered dry which means it doesn’t have any electricity or water only a toilet and was only 200 pesos ($5) per night. The views were pretty stunning.
The next day we packed up pretty early to go and call our insurance and get the accident reported since we didn’t have cell service at the accident site. We sat around the town of Mulege until the adjuster was able to come look at the RV. Once that was completed we were free to continue on our adventure. We traveled south along the Bahia Concepcion and decided on Coyote beach and chose one of the last palapas on the beach. Again it was a dry camp site but the new solar system seems to be keeping us in power although the battery for the RV seems to be running low on power quickly. It’s always something.
We decided to stay at Coyote for two days our first location with more than one day! The kids went snorkeling and we hiked around the area and were rewarded with some spectacular views of the Bay. There were lots of Mexicans that would come throughout the day and try and sell things to us on the beach. I did purchase some really amazing fresh halibut and made my first ceviche. It turned out amazing and I didn’t get sick.
On our last night we got invited by a Mexican family to their fire for some smores. It was a lovely cultural exchange, they couldn’t speak much English and our Spanish is so so but we seemed to muddle through and had a fun time.
Alebrijes is a type of craftsmanship native to Mexico also called Nahuatkzosquit. These are handicrafts made with paper mache and wood that are painted with mostly cheerful and vibrant colors. The alebrijes represent beings that are several animals that have come back as spirits. Not only are they fantastic but also have a parade for dedicated to them in Mexico City. They were officially created by a Mexican artist Pedro López Linares (1906-1992) then people started to love them!! When we were just playing on the beach in Bahia Concepcion we saw a guy selling Alebrijes so I got one. Alebrijes are also in the movie Coco. this video is cool!!!!! (link below)
Not everything goes as planned on travel and we certainly learned that in Bahia Concepcion after a relatively short day of travel about 2-3 hours with stops for shrimp tacos. We had arrived at Bahia Concepcion, we were pulling into our camp site at Playa Santispac traveling at a very slow speed 5-10 mph when were crashed into by a rushing ambulance trying to pass us. We were shocked to say the least, the kids were shaken up but unharmed. Thank goodness nobody was hurt and both vehicles were able to continue. The ambulance had a woman in the back who was in labor!!! Campy took some scrapes but did well considering.