Zanzibar, as good as they all say

Trip Start Dec 12, 2010
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Trip End Dec 16, 2012


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Flag of Tanzania  , Zanzibar Urban/West,
Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Years ago, we remember talking to friends about their travels to Africa. They all raved about Zanzibar and how amazing it was. We had never really heard about Zanzibar, but soon it didn't take long to get excited about this small island off the mainland of Tanzania. And after spending five nights there, we can definately say that Zanzibar is a good as they all say.
Just off the mainland of Tanzania from Dar Es Salaam, Zanzibar is a small island with great beaches, a bustling medina, beautiful tropical forests and amazing spice plantations. It had been talked up by others, and as we boarded the ferry from Dar to Zanzibar, we were hoping that everyone was right.
Reaching Stonetown within two or so hours, we soon headed straight to the northern area of Nungwi Beach. As we settled into our hotel room, we headed straight to a beachside restaurant. With Zanzibar having a mix of Muslim, Indian and African cultures, we endulged on a seafood coconut curry while admiring the beautiful blue waters. We soon started thinking, maybe Zanzibar was going to be as good as they all say.
Our first full day in Zanzibar was spent completing our open water dive course. As we took to the water in a pole pole boat (slow boat), it became even clearer that Zanzibar was magic, and as good as they all say. We dived near the Mnemba Atol then at Magic Reef and the reef was beautiful, the water was a colourful greeny blue, just like paradise. This was Zanzibar and it was amazing.
After a long day diving, sipping on cocktails and enjoying a Zanzibar infusion style meal was just what the doctor ordered. Two nights in Zanzibar and we were beginning to feel that we were living in paradise.
Another beautiful morning with sunshine, then came some rain, but Zanzibar was still feeling like paradise. As we chilled out near the beach and took in our surrounding, it was ringing in our ears that Zanzibar is as good as they all say.
Away from the beach, we ventured into the local village of Nungwi and found an awesome, cheap local restaurant where we endulged in more seafood curries, Zanzibar style. We then walked around the village, acknowledging the strict muslim customs of covering up, and met locals on the way, saying 'Jambo' every chance we got.
An afternoon swim in the calm waters, then reading on the beach while admiring the amazing sunset, we thought this was the type of mini break from overlanding that we needed. Zanzibar was really agreeing with us. Then, the power went out on our way to a local village restaurant. Unfortunately we only get to have beans and rice, which were amazing. Imagine how good the food would have been if the power didn't go out. But, we needed to remind ourselves, even though we felt like we were in paradise, we were still in Africa, and power outages is a common occurence in some countries.
Our third full day in Zanzibar had us leaving Nungwi Beach and heading to Stonetown for two nights. On the way we stopped at a spice plantation for a tour and insight into the wonderful flavours of the Zanzibar cuisine. We checked out spices from the tree such as nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves, root vegetables like cassava, endulged in tropical fruits such as mangos, bananas, passionfruit and tried fruits for the first time, like jackfruit, custardapple and the dreadful smelling durian, which surprisingly Karen really enjoyed. The spice tour was a great experience and really made us want to indulge in more of the Zanzibar style of food.
Arriving in Stonetown, we checked out the old slave market and church. Zanzibar was used in the past as a slave island and we visited the slave dungeons, where in a tiny space, 75 people were forced to reside until they were sold as slaves. Crazy hey. But this was Zanzibar's history and it was interesting.
After another yummy local meal, we settled into our hotel room in Stonetown, then soon hit the streets of the Stonetown medina. Shaun and I browsed the shops, took photos of the interesting doors of Zanzibar and joined in an interesting game with local kids. Stonetown had a great Middle Eastern feel to it and once again, Zanzibar was as good as they all say.
Night time in Stonetown meant eating at the famous seafood night market. As we browsed the many stalls that popped up in only an hour, we were becoming hungrier and hungrier when looking at the large variety of seafood. Lobster, scallops, prawns, octopus and calamari, everything was on offer. And we must not forget the variety of fish, including blue marlin. When we asked why a man was selling an endangered non man eating species of fish, he replied 'they eat us, we eat them'. Apart from the seafood stalls, there were also many stalls selling Zanzibar pizzas, being a roti typed base, topped with onion, tomato, peppers, egg and meat (beef/chicken/lobster etc.) then cooked on a flat wok.
With so much to choose from, we finally settled for a lobster skewer, some breadfruit, calamari, octopus, a local soup, sugarcane juice, then a beef zanzibar pizza, followed by a coconut, nutella and peanut butter zanzibar pizza. Yum, what a treat, and so cheap. Zanzibar was as good as they all say.
Last full day in Zanzibar and what to do, but explore the nature that Zanzibar had to offer. We headed to the east side of the island in search for dolphins. In a boat, with our snorkelling gear on, we headed out further and further until we spotted the dolphins. Then, GO, we were instructed to jump in the water in order to swim with the dolphins. It was amazing seeing the dolphins underwater in close proximity. But it wasn't amazing that as soon as we hopped into the water, we were stung by hundreds of jellyfish, ouch!! Apart from the jellyfish, swimming with dolphins was amazing and once again, Zanzibar had delivered, it was as good as they all say.
Next stop in the Zanzibar tour of nature, was the Jozan-chwaka Bay National Park where we wanted to visit the rare Red Colobus Monkeys. We thought it might be a bit a of a challenge to find these monkeys, but weren't we mistaken. As we entered the forest, we soon spotted the red backed, white faced monkeys in the trees. They were the most placid monkeys we had ever seen as we could get up close without a bother. They were great, but this was Zanzibar and it was as great as they all had say.
Off to Prison Island to finish our Zanzibar nature tour. The pretty, quiet island was nice to visit and we even get to see some rare tortoises and peacocks. But with not much to do there, we left Prison Island after one hour and headed back to Stonetown.
On our last night in Zanzibar, we enjoyed the sunset and had to indulge in Zanzibar pizzas for the last time.
An early ferry the next morning, and we left Zanzibar satisfied that we had visited paradise. With the beautiful beaches, wonderful nature, amazing food, and fusion of cultures, Zanzibar was definately as good as they all say!
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