Tanzania 1998.

During the Belgium (AKFB) exhibition in Marcinelle in spring 1997, Mike Agnew and John Rosenstock decided that now it was their turn for a collecting trip to Tanzania. Back in Denmark John asked whether I would like to join them on such a trip. After some thoughts- mostly economic of course, as I have wished for a long time to take on such a trip – I said yes. Later Brian Watters also joined. After many conversations on the telephone and some overseas communication via email, we finished the various preparations to the trip.

Finally Saturday morning 16. May 1998 Brian Watters, Mike Agnew and I met in Schiphol airport in Amsterdam. Together we flew with KLM to Kilimanjaro airport in the northern Tanzania near Arusha.

Sunday morning after one night on hotel Mountain Village - just outside Arusha - we went to Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke (MS), Danish Association for International Co-operation, trainingcenter in Tanzania (MS TCDC), east of Arusha to meet John Rosenstock. He had been in Zambia the last two weeks (official journey) and arrived also in Tanzania Saturday May 16.

Our plan was to hire a car at MS TCDC. Due to misunderstandings the driver had a day off on Sunday and would not arrive before Sunday night. Therefore we used the day for planning our trip. Because of "El Nino" it has been raining a lot in the entire East-Africa; bridges and roads were washed away. An experience we had many times later on.

On Monday May 18. we took in supplies in Arusha and then we started chasing Nothobranchius.

The first days we spent in the north-eastern part of Tanzania - mainly in the area around Arusha and with trips into the Masai steppe. We also visited the "Manyara" locality. In spite of persistent fishing on many promising places we did not catch any Nothobranchius. On the "Manyara" locality we caught barbs and cichlids - species that neither Brian nor John had caught at that place before. But no Nothobranchius. Brian thought that the Nothobranchius simply were washed away because of too much rain.

At two places in the area we visited offices for a Masai organization. At both places the people were very hospitable and very interested in what those "Mzungu" (europeans) were doing. The Masais knew where the fish were but either the localities were too far away or they were impossible to reach because of too much water. Not even with a Masai as guide did we find any Nothobranchius.

Thursday May 18. we reached Mombo. We were told that the road to the airport was washed away but nevertheless we reached the place that probably is the typelocality of N. vosseleri. At last we caught our first Nothobranchius. N. vosseleri "Mombo, TAN 98/1". Apperently, there were a lot of fish and soon we had caught all the fishes we needed. On the way along, we stopped at the "Mombo, TAN 95/19" locality south of Mombo to take a GPS-position; we did not go fishing. Then we went to Tanga where we decided to stay for the next two nights.

The following day was dedicated to the search for Nothobranchius on the Umbra steppe north-west of Tanga. Already on the outskirts of Tanga, Brian would fish in some small ponds close to a river. In 1995 Brian, Ian Sainthouse and Ruud Wildekamp had caught Pantanodon podoxys in this locality. Immediately some local people hastened to the spot. They pointed on the water surface and said "Mombo, mombo". Our driver told us that it meant ‘crocodile’. After all we did not see the crocodile and unfortunately neither some Pantanodon podoxys. However, Brian caught some glasperches.

North-west of Tanga near Machimboni we caught Nothobranchius again - this time N. melanospilus and N. palmqvisti. Unfortunately the N. palmqvisti’s were in a bad condition and looked ill. Later on we lost most of them and out of 12 couples only one male and three females were alive when we left Tanzania. Luckily we had more success with the N. melanospilus from this locality - and moreover with the fish from all other localities. This locality got the name "Machimboni, TAN 98/2".

Unfortunately, we could not cross the Umba river, again because of too much water. Therefore we had to return along the same road to Tanga.

Next day we went to the west again. Between Segara and Korogwe - near Mandera - we caught N. vosseleri again, this time in a roadside ditch. The locality was given the name "Mandera, TAN 98/3".

In Karogwe we left the main road and turned towards Handeni to drive towards south-west to Morogoro. On our way to Handeni we fished at several places but without success.In Handeni we got the information that it was impossible to drive towards south-west as a bridge was washed away. Therefore, from Handeni we had to drive towards Magamba and Mkata to join the mainroad again. Just north of Chalinze we stopped at a small muddy pool at a culvert under the road. Here we caught N. melanospilus (In april 1989 John had caught N. melanospilus in the area around Chalinze.) The locality was named "Chalinze, TAN 98/4".

On our way towards Morogoro we passed many promising localities where N. melanospilus probably would be present too. But since it was so late we had to drive directly to Morogoro. We took lodgings at Morogoro Hotel. Again for two nights as we planned to use the next day in the area west of Morogoro. The hotel was something special. The main building is a big circular and open house, and everywhere grasshoppers were present attracted by the light. At night time a noisy discotheque was running. The beds were much too short. The hotel also had a swimming pool - probably without water for the last 10-15 years. In the restaurant 90 % of the stuff on the menu card was not available. Otherwise, it was a very cosy place.

The Sunday was used in the area west of Morogoro. First we went towards Kimamba and then towards north-west to the main road between Morogoro and Dodoma. On the way we fished in many localities. We caught N. melanospilus in nine localities but did not take any fish with us. We measured the position with GPS at each place and took some pictures to get some more spots on the "Notho-map". At last John suggested that we named the tour the "Melanospilus expedition 1998". Among other things we looked for N. steinforti, but the whole area was much too wet; in spite of our intense search we did not succeed in catching N. steinforti. We went back to Morogoro Hotel empty-handed. The evening was spent changing the water for the previous days catch.

The next day we went westwards. At lunch time we arrived at Dodoma. We continued to the south towards Iringa to fish at the "Chipogola" locality. After some searching we succeeded in finding the "Chipogola" locality. But first, the road was being built further away from the lake that made it difficult to approach the lake. Second, the lake was enormous because of the heavy rainfall. Although we tried we did not catch any N. neumanni. On the way back to Dodoma we fished at a few places but without success. In Dodoma we stayed at Dodoma Hotel - again for two nights. Though the Dodoma Hotel should be the best hotel in town it was rather run down - but cheap.

Tuesday May 26. we deided to spend in the area west of Dodoma. Three km west of Bahi we caught the first Nothobranchius of the day in a rather deep ditch with a connection to a little water pond on the other side of the road via a culvert. We caught N. taeniopygus and N. neumanni. In spite of the rather intense fishing on the locality we caught only very few fishes and we could not see any difference in the females. The locality was named "Bahi, TAN 98/5". Three km farther to the west we caught Nothobranchius again - this time in a wide shallow ditch on the north side of the road. Here again we caught N. neumanni. Several times before N. neumanni has been caught in Bahi Swamp - among others by John in 1995 - but the fishes have never been established in the hobby with success. There were a lot of fishes here and soon we have caught the number we needed. Let us hope that now this fish will be established in the hobby. The locality was named "Bahi, TAN 98/6".

We fished at a number of places in area west of Dodoma and we found another Nothobranchius locality too. Here we caught a N. neumanni male and furthermore a Nothobranchius species which probably is unknown. No differences on the females could be seen. The following breeding will show whether there are females of both species. This locality was named "Tangawizi, TAN 98/7".

Back at the hotel the dinner was a disaster: fish scales on my French roll, the pork tough and impossible to eat, the pomme frites raw and the banana as dessert was almost black. The only thing not spoilt was the beer. Again the evening passed with changing the water for the fishes.

Wednesday morning we packed the car with all our luggage for the last time. We had decided to go to Dar es Salaam and then start from there the last days of our trip. We went from Dodoma to Mlandizi with only a few breaks - a distance of about 430 km. At Mlandizi we went to the south towards Mzenga. South of the railroad at Mzenga we fished and caught again N. melanospilus - this time a very nice red one that we of course would like to bring home. The locality was named "Kikongo, TAN 98/8".

A little further to the south we fished again. This time in some shallow water with high grass and some scrub near the border of a rather big lake. Again we caught N. melanospilus but this time also N. janpapi. We only took the N. janpapi with us from this locality that is called "Kikongo, TAN 98/9". Then we had to turn around as it was late in the day. We went to Dar es Salaam where we took lodgings for the rest of our trip.

The next day we went south towards Ndundu at the Rufiji River. We had decided to cross the Rufiji River to fish south of the river at the locality "Kitonga North, TAN 97/9" where Cooper, Wildekamp and Watters in 1997 - among other things - caught the newly described species N. fuscotaeniatus.

The first stop for fishing that day was at a lake connected to a little river not far from the village Jaribu. In the lake we caught Aplocheilichtys kongoranensis which was present in rather large shoals here. The locality was named "Jaribu, TAN 98/10".

The trip continued to the south and just south of Ruhoi River we stopped to fish again. At some distance from the road between trees, scrubs and high grass we found a small pool (4 x 2 metres and 20-25 cm deep). The first Nothobranchius was caught very quickly. A short time after we had caught N. melanospilus, N. janpapi, N. eggersi, N. annectens, N. ocellatus, Aplocheilichtys kongoranensis, Ctenopoma muriei together with barbs and cichlids - however, only a few specimens of each species and this probably because of N. ocellatus. John thought that it looked like a beginner’s aquarium with two fish of one species and three fish of another species. It was a very fascinating place with five Nothobranchius species at the same pool and I had the opportunity to visit a real N. ocellatus locality. We succeed in catching three males and two females of N. ocellatus, four Ctenopoma muriei and 1-1 ½ m from the pool we found a very shallow pool - 1 x 0.3 metres and 2-3 cm deep covered by high grass - where some N. eggersi had taken refuge for the predators in the pool. From this locality we took these three species. Among the rest of the species we only succeeded in catching very few specimens and we took none of these with us. The locality is named "Ruhoi River, TAN 98/11".

The trip continued but about 20 km north of the Rufiji River the road had disappeared. We were told that that we only could go on with a tractor and that the ferry had stopped because of the floods. We had to turn around - annoying.

On our way back to Dar es Sallam we stopped to fish a few kilometres south of our locality 11.This time it was a flooded area with high grass connected to a drainage channel or a large ditch. Here we again caught N. eggersi, N. annectens, N. melanospilus, N. janpapi, Aplocheilichtys kongoranensis, Ctenopoma muriei and barbs og cichlids. Unfortunately no N. ocellatus. We caught enough of N. eggersi, N. annectens and Ctenopoma muriei to take away. Among the rest we again only caught rather few specimens. The locality is called "Ruhoi River, TAN 98/12". Then we went back to Dar es Salaam.

The next day we went southwards again. This time looking for N. luekei. Soon we found the locality at Mbezi River but we did not catch any N. luekei. We only caught a few N. rubripinnis males, few lampeyes, a few elephantfishes from the genus Mormyridia and also two species of cichilids. From one of the species I caught some juveniles that I took away. They turned out to be Astatotilapia bloyti. South of Mbezi River we fished again and this time we got a few N. albimarginatus. However, we did not take any of them away as we were told where to go for more fish. We found the place quickly, a shallow pool with many waterlilys. Here we caught N. albimarginatus again and also N. annectens. The locality is called "Kiparagande, TAN 98/13" after the nearby village Kiparagande. Then we decided to go to Soga west of Dar es Sallam where the typelocality for N. foerschi is situated. Just south of of the village Soga we fished in a rather big lake again with many waterlilys. Close to the bank of the lake we caught N. foerschi, N. janpapi and a few N. melanospilus. However, we did not take any N. melanospilus away. The locality is named "Soga, TAN 98/14".

Now the fishing had come to an end on this tour and we had to go back to Dar es Sallaam as it was late. We spent the evening on the hotel changing water for almost all the fish we had caught.

Saturday May 30. we checked all the fish again and changed the water for the fish that needed in spite of yesterdays effort. Then we distributed the fish among us : nearly 400 killifishes but also glasperchs, barbs, guppies, Ctenopoma muriei and Astatotilapia bloyeti. Altogether a rather nice catch. Then each of us packed our own fish so that they could stand the trip home. It took me three and a half hour to repack all my fish, exactly 100 specimens. I packed my trunk and we had a good-bye beer in the restaurant before Brian, Mike and I were picked up by the driver Abdallah who should take us to the airport. John would not go back before next morning. In the plane to Amsterdam we tried to take a nap and Sunday morning Brian, Mike and I say goodbye at Schipol Airport. I was home at lunch time and started letting out the fishes, a fantastic experience and many fish richer. We had travelled about 4100 km in Tanzania, mostly on dusty roads full of holes hunting the Nothobranchius.

All my 100 specimen of fish survived the trip home.

Copyright © 1998-2010 Finn Milvertz, All Rights Reserved

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