Safaris & stories
Africa Geographic
Wildlife . People . Travel

Written by: Rosamond Earp

As 2016 dawns on the Tanzanian coastline, so will the first day of the Ngalawa Cup. For 29 brave sailors, the last day of the year will likely be their final day of dry knickers as they prepare to get spanked by the swells of the Indian Ocean.


These gutsy participants have accepted the challenge of the mighty Ngalawa, the favoured fishing boat of the local Swahili fishermen. Made from the hollowed trunk of a mango tree it has outriggers tied on with string and a canvas sheet for a sail. With no storage space, and sitting just above the waterline, these crafts take on more water than a diabetic camel.

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The sailors, selected from scores of applicants for their sailing and survival skills, will have to coax their vessels 500km along the Zanzibar archipelago in only nine days. In teams of three, they will race between the islands and reefs by any route they choose, sleeping wherever they land up at nightfall and eating whatever supplies not yet claimed by the waves.

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While the sailors are tracked by satellite, the race is unsupported. If they get scuppered, they’ll have to get themselves unscuppered.

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This is the Ngalawa Cup, the latest adventure from the British adventure outfit, The Adventurists. The pioneer Ngalawa Cup was held in July 2015. Ten boats started, and seven made it to the finish line. All of them were worse for wear.

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With the pioneer race a success, the second edition in January will be in the reverse direction to take advantage of the trade winds. We can’t wait to see how they get on.

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