The archeplego of Zanzibar
When I decided to do a safari in Tanzania I also decided that if I was going that far I wanted to see more of 'Africa'. Looking at a map of Tanzania I saw, off the coast, the island of Zanzibar. Sounds romantic! The Spice Island. Sounds great! So that's where I went. By myself. Only four days. I want to go back.
When we say we are going to Zanzibar we are actually going to the island of Unguja. The other major island is Pemba and there are smaller islands. There is Zanzibar City , Ng'ambo, Swahili for 'for the other side' or the 'new' town, and there is Stone Town the medieval, walled town, Mji Mkongwe, Swahili for 'old town'. (Paraphrased from Wikipedia, Stone Town).
I feel a little provincial because I thought I was going to a very exotic place. Well to me, it is still exotic. But a lot of other people go there from all over the world. Considering the history of the Spice Island and really East Africa, it not so amazing. Through the centuries many countries have claimed Zanzibar as their own. It is now a semi-autonomous region of Tanzania.
The ocean water is warm. The sand is very white and very fine. When you walk along the beach and the incoming waves hit you, it's a sweet brush of water.
There are main paved roads but the roads leading off to beaches, farms, etc. are mostly dirt or sand, pot-holed, and twisty. You get to practice the most useful of Swahili words, pole pole (pol E) - slowly slowly.
You can pay $300 USD for a Spa/Resort and all the way down to around $50 USD for a place to stay. I did all my own arrangements (which may or may not have been a good idea) and chose a place, Kirsten's Family Home, in Jambiani, for $52 a night. Kirsten's is no longer in operation but the facility is being renovated with a new name Casa Paradis Zanzibar and soon a new website. So I can't give prices or show pictures for you. (I will update this as I get more information. It should be ready for late August/September 2019.)
The first night I was the only guest. A few others did show up but essentially I was on my own.
I did worry about safety because I'm a single older woman. For me, it was a worry that was totally unfounded. Who knows, maybe that was a factor in why I had such a good time. On each of my excursions I was the only person except for my driver. The new managers, Valentin Khoshkbari and Denisa Brinzea, (between them they speak at least six languages) arranged all my excursions for me. I paid upfront and that was it, including Karnanda, my driver. So I don't actually know how much entrance fees or whatever cost. The lack of having to figure it all out was worth whatever the cost.
The Jozani Forest (The Jozani Chwaka Bay National Park)
I had a different driver take me to Jozani. He paid the fee and walked away. I had no idea what was going on. But finally a guide decided to take 'the old woman' (oh my), on the tour, so it was just he and I. First a short walk around the woods to look at medicinal trees and plants. Naturally there are plants to help men be more 'vigorous' and other plants for women to not be pregnant. Plus of course the ones to help arthritis, stomach ailments and heal wounds.
In a different woods I saw the Red Colobus and Blue monkeys. They were mostly disinterested in me, though I was told they may come and take your glasses but would eventually give them back.
Then a walk though the mangrove swamp on a boardwalk. It was low tide so you can see the roots and shoots of the mangrove and the coral. Didn't see many butterflies or unusual birds.
Shabuta Spice Farm
Another walk in a forest with lots of spicy plants. It was quite fun. Well organized. My driver, Karnanda, and I were the only ones on the tour. The guide, who spoke Swahili, English, and French and his trusty assistant kept up an amazing banter. As we walked the assistant made little decorations for me out of plants and leaves. By the end of the walk I had flower earrings, a necklace, a ring-bracelet, an ankle bracelet, a crown and a little woven basket that each of the spices we picked and identified were put in for later use. (Actually they didn't use them but it was a fun idea.)
With a whistle and a call a young fellow showed up and climbed a coconut tree for us. Another delightful entertainment with singing from the climber, soon joined by the guide, the assistant and Karnanda singing a familiar song. Two coconuts were opened, we drank the liquid and had some of the young flesh from inside.
Finally at the end of the tour we sat in an open shelter and a rice dish was set up for us. I must say they were very particular about making sure the plates and forks were cleaned with bottled water. The rice was delicious. Much like biryani (an Indian rice dish) with very distinctive spices.
Really a great tour. I'd highly recommend it. I learned a lot and it was fun to see all the different spices as seeds, not just powder.
Snorkeling at Dongwe
I'm a water baby so had to have at least one day on and in the water.
Again, it was all arranged for me. Luckily we went fairly early in the day because by the time we left, the snorkeling place was crowded. I hate snorkeling and having someone kick me in the mask with their fins. So we were out of there when too many boats showed up.
I love the water here. It is lovely and warm. No shock of jumping in. The visibility is good (the water isn't very deep) and when you get to the reef there's a fair amount of various colourful fish, like surgeon fish, tumpetfish, triggerfish, butterflyfish, pennant coralfish, moorish fish, sea urchins. Also saw a blue lipped clam. Saw it and was happy and satisfied with my snorkeling adventure.
There are other, better places for snorkeling but this is good for a taste of snorkeling. I saw very attentive instructors in the water holding new learners up.
My driver was Karnanda IsHaka, a delightful young man who played Reggae music and sang along to it much to my amusement. One day I wanted to go to Stone Town but there was little parking and I wasn't up for a long walk on a very hot, humid day. So Karnanda drove me around Zanzibar City and at my request took me to meet some of his family. They were charming and very gracious. I so appreciated him trusting me and allowing me this special moment.
Karnanda had one last treat for me. We drove to Kae Beach to watch the sun go down. We looked across the bay at Stone Town. People stood in the water chatting, laying on the many lounge chairs, and just enjoying a calm, warm evening sharing a sunset. A perfect end to my adventure in Zanzibar.
If you're going to Zanzibar and want a driver, contact me and I'll see if Karanda is available. His vehicle can carry 6 people.