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Tanzania – Zanzibar

June 3rd to 6th

We took the ferry to the island of Zanzibar and were told it was supposed to be a 90 minute sailing; it was two and a half hours.  Although Zanzibar is part of Tanzania, we had to go through Zanzibar “immigration”, because it is a semi-autonomous state, like Hong Kong and Macau. Our hotel was on the edge of Stone Town.

Zanzibar is a very tropical island with beaches, farming and fishing.  It is very green and fertile.  Many people tack this destination on after a safari for a break from the dry interior of Tanzania, but we are doing the opposite.   The humidity of this trip continues but at least there are cool island breezes here.  There is a great deal of poverty here as well as its heyday is over and unemployment is 70%.  Many locals would prefer Zanzibar to be independent again which causes much unrest.  Most of the buildings in Stone Town are not maintained and many are closed with the majority of people now living in New Town.

After checking in we arranged a walking historical tour of Stone Town on which we learned the history of Zanzibar; how it was ruled by the Portuguese (for 200 years), then the Arabs (for 200 years and once the capital of Oman), then the Brits till 1960s before becoming part of Tanzania and finally achieving independence. All this interest was due to its prime location for trade and exploiting the resources of Africa, especially the slave trade. We visited the Anglican Church which was built on the exact spot location of the former slave market, which was the last in the world.  A couple of the holding cells remain under the altar area of the building.

We were taken through the maze of streets and alleys seeing Africa House (where British ‘gentlemen’ used to meet, but now called Africa House because it became the site of African political parties) and the House of Wonders (first electricity, elevator and tall doors).  Very few of the old buildings are being kept up, but a few are being refurbished, like the Serena Inn which has a 270° ocean view.  It was a much safer city than Dar which was the most Muslim city we have ever visited.

We went to a roof top bar/restaurant for drinks and an ocean view of the sunset.  As is often the case, we were the only patrons and felt a little self-conscious about not spending more time and money.

The next day we took a tour out of Fumba Bay to go sailing on a dhow and snorkeling at two reefs on the south west side of the island.  We saw many, many fish in the water although it was a little cloudy and the reefs were a little deeper under the water than we’ve experienced.  This trip we had a snorkeling guide who found interesting fish for us to see.  This was good and bad as sometimes we wanted to linger, but were asked to join him.  We did have the good fortune of seeing a lone dolphin.   We enjoyed a lobster a seafood lunch with three South African couples and one French couple.  For dessert we were given a lesson in opening many tropical fruits and got to taste them all.  These included star fruit, jack fruit, baobab seeds, a huge grapefruit to name a few as well as the dreaded durian of which we did not partake; once bitten, twice shy!

For this night’s sunset, we went to the 6° South bar where we happened to run into the French couple we met earlier on the dhow trip.  We still find it surprising how fast the sun sets here near the equator.

On our last full day, we hired a driver to take us a few places out of Stone Town and got to see a lot of the countryside en route.  First stop was a spice farm.  We learned about the spices by smelling parts of the plant and having to guess what they were.  We were also shown and guessed the fruits grown on Zanzibar. Not all originated here.

The spices we experienced included:

  • Nutmeg
  • Cloves
  • Black pepper
  • Cardomon
  • Lemon grass
  • Vanilla
  • Curry
  • Ginger
  • Cinnamon and a few more we cannot recall.

We had a palm tree climbing demonstration and were given several items made from palm fronds and hibiscus flowers (check the photos especially for Doug’s vacation tie).  The tour ended with fruit tasting and spice shopping.

Next was the Jozani Forest National Park where we saw a troupe of rare red colobus monkeys, as close up as six feet.  They have cute babies and the adults have wild hairstyles.  Our guide led us through the main forest which has many large trees including mahogany and palm trees and we encountered black monkeys also.  The tour proceeded into the mangrove forest and was very informative where we learned how they are protected and being replanted.

We topped off the day on the east coast walking along the beach and spending three hours at the world famous “The Rock” restaurant.  We had the best spot on the edge of the patio bar and the view was unparalleled and cannot be described with mere words.  Fran tried a delicious drink called the “Pole Pole” and Doug had his first and last mojito.

The last day was a travel day where we experienced some of the toughest security with our bags being inspected thoroughly four times en route to Arusha, Tanzania.  After a longer than expected drive through chaotic Arusha, we checked into our nice hotel, where once again we were the sole occupants.  We went out for Windhoek lager (which we have not had since 2009) and Doug made balloon animals before a nice tilapia dinner in the hotel restaurant.

As we were preparing for what we think will be ten days without power on a camping, safari, we spent that evening, charging all batteries. Fun fun!