Day 221 - We Created an (Underwater) Monster

Trip Start Jan 10, 2011
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221
Trip End Jan 08, 2012


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Flag of Tanzania  , Zanzibar Archipelago,
Saturday, August 20, 2011

We signed up for a tour out to Prison Island to see giant tortoises and get a taste of the ocean along the African coast. After some seemingly resented (by the proprietor) negotiations we set out for a 30min ride on the rich navy blue water, warm wind blowing across our bow and rocking the boat a little bit more than Mia would have requested.

The tortoises were very cool and definitely worth the trip.  They were numbered by approximate age and were purported to be up to 185 years old.  To clarify tortoises are land reptiles while turtles generally live in or around water.  This sanctuary started 100 years ago with 4 individuals being transplanted from the Seychelles islands. 

We were able to get very up close to the giant tortoises touching their shells, leathery scaled legs and even stroking their heads as we hand fed them.  They were surprisingly deft and gentle when eating; obviously VERY used to human contact.

The island of Zanzibar was under Arabic control until around 1100.  When the Portugeuse colonized by brutal force in the 15th century they were met with a 200 year uprising from the Swahili population.  Interestingly, Swahili IS the local language here and has become the common tongue for both Tanzania & Kenya with various regions claiming to speak 'pure' Swahili. 

The island, also known as Changuu, was first used by Arab slave merchants to detain unruly slaves, before the British built what was intended as a prison for Stone Town in 1890. The building was never used as a prison, though later it did become a quarantine station for Zanzibar, Kenya, Uganda and what was then Tanganyika. 

After visiting with the turtles, we boated shortly offshore for some snorkeling.  The water was beautiful despite poor visibility and the corral diverse though the fish were very few and very small.  We were keen to get in the ocean after nearly 2 months since our underwater excursion off of Bunaken, Indonesia.  We soon realized that our experience has definitely changed our expectations.  Kind of like skiing in the Rockies (or even the Appalachians in eastern North America) and then skiing Blue ‘Mountain’ in Collingwood, ON – it can still be fun but is unquestionably not the same experience. 

Our subaquatic adventures are some of our favorite experiences and we are not saying we have regret nor that we would rather be blissfully ignorant, enjoying snorkling around a clowdy mud puddle in Ontario.  However, it has unmistakenly become part of our mindset on this trip to have very high expectations for underwater viewing.  Surely this must extend to other aspects of our travels.

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