Zanzibar Travel Blog› entry 17 of 36 › view all entries
...and so to Zanzibar!
Four nights on this tropical island which, as Denise accurately stated, is like diving into a postcard!
We took a VERY slow drive that morning to catch the ferry (we had to cross a small estree of water on a mini ferry first, which was rather scary at boarding time when the 2000+ foot passengers pushed and crushed themselves to ensure a place on the boat, paying no attention to the small children and women carrying babies as they thought only of themselves in the mad panic of making the boat in time).
Due to the delays here, we missed our planned ferry to Zanzibar but boarded around midday for the 3-hour crossing. The sea was calm and proved to be a good crossing, with sea sickness not too much of a problem on this occasion. We finally docked and met Daniel - our guide for the next 4 days - and, after passing through immigration (another stamp in the passport - yippeee!!), took a short walk to our hotel in the backstreets of Stonetown, the capital of Zanzibar (interesting fact for the day - although Zanzibar is part of Tanzania, they have their own mini government, meaning they are an "acapello").
After settling into our "Safari Lodge", we took a short walk into town and visited a couple of local places - firstly the "Africa House Hotel", where we sat on the high terrace with cold drinks watching the sun set over the ocean, complete with fishing boats in the distance and a live traditional African group playing tribal music and dancing around the tables. The setting was beautiful and the sunset was one of the best we have seen so far. From here, we proceeded to the "Night Market" - a long row of market stalls on the waterfront selling a plethora of different foodtypes on BBQ grills. Just about any kind of sea food was available, as well as traditional "Zanzibar Pizza" (meat, cream cheese and egg in a thin pancake wrapper). This was a very traditional way to eat and was a great experience to see the different stalls. We took the plunge with Baracuda, Spiced Lobster, Mussels, Shrimp and Escalops, then finished off with two pizzas - one Zanzibar and one Banana and Chocolate! After Aaron took a large piece of flesh from his toe, we decided to return to the hotel to rest.
Sunday morning - Easter Sunday! After beating temptation for the first four weeks, we finally tucked into the box of Kinder Eggs that Denise's Mum had packed for us! The "egg" appaered somewhat scrambled in small pieces, and tasted as if it had melted and re-solidified several times! ... but the little toy car inside was loads of fun and we were almost late for breakfast for playing with it too much in the room!!
Today's journey took us on a Spice Tour up the West side of the island. Stopping at a spice farm where small children created bracelets and rings from palm leaves, we were taken on a tour of the farm to see how traditional spices are grown and harevested, tasted and smelt and took small samples, including lemongrass and cinamon (from the bark of the cinamon tree). The tour was very interesting, and finished with a tasting session of local fruits. We were then treated to a demonstration by "Butterfly" - the local palm tree climber, who scaled a tree of over 50' using just a length of rope between his feet, and his bare hands - and even found the time to sing us a song on the way, before chopping coconuts from the top, which dropped just a few metres from where we were standing!
We continued to the Northern Beaches of the island (via a traditional lunch on the way) where we spent the next two nights. We spent a day snorkelling on a local coral reef, which was an amazing experience to see so many vivid colours in clear, warm water. We also spent over an hour bartering at the local market to get our hands on three wonderful pieces of artwork of Masai people, which will finally fill the big blank wall in the lounge back home!
Back to Stonetown for one more night (second intersting fact - Stonetown has been a World Heritage site since 2000, with every building being coloured white). Here, Daniel took us on a more detailed tour of the town, visiting the old Slave Markets (including a small underground holding cell where 75 women and children would be chained together without food or water for three days, with those surviving the ordeal being considered "strong slaves"), a church that marks the location of the slavery "whipping tree" and a very thought-provoking memorial of five stone casts of slaves chained together in a pit. We also visited the House of Wonders and an old Fort, all of which were very interesting.
On the final morning, we dragged ourselves out of bed at the social hour of 0530 for a trip to swim with dolphins off the South coast of the island. This cowboy operation of mismatched fins and semi-punctured snorkels obviously filled us with confidence, and the very narrow, leaking wooden boat (held together with string) with rather small engine rammed home the message that the locals really know their stuff.
The experience was not as we had expected, with a small fleet of boats chasing after a family of dolphins. Each time we jumped in, they either swam away from us or dived to the bottom of the water. Occasionally some of the group got close to the bottle nosed dolphins, but alas my brick-like swimming ability once again took its toll and I was unable to get anywhere near them. This, however, was one up on Denise's success, with her remaining on the boat with sea sickness and vomiting all the way back to shore.
That afternoon we bid farewell to one of the group and headed back to the mainland on a smaller, faster (2-hour) ferry and met back with the truck. One more night in Dar es Salaam in the beachhut again, and this time with 95% Deet sprayed liberally over every molecule of skin.
From here, we would head for Malawi...