A different take on Zanzibar

By Lusanda · Jan 29, 2020
A different take on zanzibar picture

It has always been a dream of mine to travel, the interest in travelling kicked in while in High School but because I needed permission from my parents to do it and knowing that they would say no, I decided to wait until I matriculated then I would get my freedom. Post matric, myself and two friends started doing annual trips to different places around South Africa, we didn’t do much because we were on a student budget but the places we managed to see made me want to see more, explore Africa and the rest of the World. So when a friend of mine contacted me late last year regarding an international trip, I was excited, scared and curious, after all it was something that we always spoke about but never fully started planning or entertained to the point of implementing it.

When my friend (Zintle) contacted me regarding this trip, I was a bit skeptical because it was short notice and I had fears of not being able to afford it until she came through with the entire budget on what the cost of flights, accommodation, activities and extras would be and I decided that it was a risk worth taking, she formed a whatsapp group with her other two friends, we booked the single flight ticket as a way of committing ourselves to the trip and that’s when the planning started to what would be my first trip outside South Africa.

 

The planning phase of the vacation was very interesting for me as I got to have more insight on the country that we were to visit, the different activities and places that we were going to see got us in the mood to literally push to make the vacation the best ever. We had many places in our to-do list with everyone coming up with what they were interested in doing and a week before departure, that’s when we had to scale everything down to activities that we thought would be fun and interesting for all of us. We then decided that it would be best for us to sleepover in one place the night before departure since our flight was early in the morning and we would take an Uber to the airport. The two ladies that we were going to travel with and I had not formerly met, we only had conversations on the whatsapp group. The night before departure we met and figured we should go out for a turn-up just to familiarize ourselves with each other and boy oh boy did we turn up, we clicked immediately, the conversations were flowing and the girls were ready to spend 7 nights and 8 days in a foreign country. 

 

Day 1: D-day

It was finally D-day and we woke up with a beaming excitement, luckily for us no one was hungover from the previous night’s festivities, we got ready and headed to the airport, checked in, exchanged our money to US dollars, had breakfast and then went to board the flight to Zanzibar. 

Upon arrival at Zanzibar and getting off the plane, the first thing that hits you is the humidity of the place, the air is so hot yet moist, the weather was cloudy and we just wanted to get to the hotel and change into comfortable clothes. We went through the whole process with immigration and once everything was in order, we finally made way to our hotel. I have to say, it felt like we were in a movie, there is a certain expectation about a place before you go to it and there is a reality that you get to see and the reality I saw was totally different from the expectation. Zanzibar’s infrastructure makes South Africa’s look like a dream, the roads are not up to standards with lots of potholes, there are no barrier lines and the way the people drive, half of the time I was cringing because it felt like the cars would bump each other or we would be in an accident but we eventually made it to our hotel, changed to comfortable clothing and went out to hit the streets of Stone Town. 

 

Upon deciding on accommodation, we unanimously decided that we wanted something central so that we could get access to everything and explore the place the best way possible and Stone Town was the location for us. We were four girls who literally looked different to everyone walking on the streets, all eyes were on us, and we could not communicate with the locals because of language barrier so we had to scale down our English to the lowest of the lowest form. We got the directions to the place that we wanted to go to and started mingling with the locals, trying to get the cheapest bidder to be our tour guide. We knew which activities we wanted to do but we did not book them because we believed that we could get them at a cheaper rate when we are there and we were right. Almost all the activities we did were half price to what we were initially charged by the agencies so we not booking prior departure worked in our favor. We found the tour guide and it was all systems go. The first question we asked him after we all agreed that he was the one for us was: CAN YOU TAKE US TO A LIT CLUB BECAUSE WE WANT TO TURN UP!!!!! He obliged to our request and we had a date at 9 pm for him to take us partying. We spent the rest of the late afternoon waiting for the night market to open, got the food and went back to the hotel to get ready to be TURNT. 

We freshened up and Mr R (our tour guide, came to get us) we went to a club called Tatu and we had the time of our lives and also drank local beer (Safari Lager). Later in the night we moved to our second club, where we had a blast and a half and only left around 4-5 am in the morning. The first night in Zanzibar gave us hope that we would have the best times of our lives and we were ready to take on day two. 

 

Day 2: Sunset Cruise

We were thankful that not all of us were hungover going on day 2, we had breakfast, went back to our rooms to sleep, woke up later in the afternoon and got ready to head off for lunch before our cruise which would start at 5 pm. We had our lunch then off to the sunset cruise we went. We boarded the local dhow boat and headed along the coast marveling at the views and turquoise water, relaxing and listening to local music as entertainment. There were refreshments included on the cruise, we got to meet other people who were visiting from different countries and got to know more about the Islands close by, the history of those Islands and life in general of the people in Zanzibar. To say that we were not carried away by how beautiful nature is would be a big lie, I still could not believe that I was in Zanzibar at this point. We also had a birthday to celebrate as one of my ladies (Naomi) was turning a year old, we sang, danced and had tons of laughter on that boat cruise. Upon our return, we decided to have a night in and recover from the previous night out that we had. We played music from our dear friend JBL (inside joke) had a few drinks and retired to bed to prepare for the long day that we would have the following day. 

 

Day 3: The Blue Safari Tour- Full day trip

THIS!!!! This was the one activity I had been looking forward to doing from the time we started planning for our trip, the ladies and myself were well rested, we were ready for a full-day of fun and being beach bums or should I say Island bums. We got up around 6 am to get ready because we needed to be at the meeting point by 9 am as the boat was going to be departing that time. We were ready at 8 am with our shuttle waiting for us at our hotel for a 45 minute drive to Fumba village where we were meeting for the activity. We got there and went to get our snorkeling equipment, we were introduced to our Captain ohhh Captain and proceeded to board on the boat to start the exciting journey. 

 

We sailed on the traditional dhow boat for our adventure for the day, while on the way, we were informed that we might spot dolphins on the way, we were on the lookout for those dolphins but alas, we did not see them. Our first point of departure was the sand bank, where when the tide is high it is covered by water, you literally cannot see it, and however, when the tide is low you literally see a raised area of sand in the middle of the ocean. We stopped there for a nice swim and had tropical fruits as snacks. If there was one thing the ladies and I appreciated in Zanzi, it was the abundance of fruits, watermelon, papaya, mango, bananas, pineapples and coconuts, we were indulging like there is no tomorrow!! We had these fruits for breakfast every day, to the point of us lying to ourselves and saying we would continue to eat like this when we returned home lol. 

After enjoying the sandbank, fruits and the swim, we headed to the next location for snorkeling. We were scared…. We were really scared, my adrenaline levels were on another level, people were backing out from doing the snorkel and we were trying to convince them to do it. At this point all the White people were already inside the water and having fun while all my fellow African sisters and brothers were still evaluating their lives and contemplating the decision to go ahead with the snorkel, can we please learn how to swim yhooo!!! Snorkeling has always been on my bucket list, so more than anything, I was thrilled. I wore my snorkeling kit and asked the captain to triple check if everything was in order, he demonstrated to me how to breathe under the water, we practiced the breathing technique and after he checked for the umpteenth time if everything was in order, I said a short prayer and jumped inside the ocean to experience one of the most beautiful sights I had ever seen. I’ve always seen such in movies or aquariums but to be within the fishes and checking out how magnificent the ocean looks like from the bottom is one sight I will never forget, it still feels surreal, I still have goosebumps just thinking about it. My ladies followed suit, Ndileka jumped in the water, Zintle jumped, then Naomi followed… we were happy that we didn’t back down from the snorkel. It was literally a high five moment for us!!! I was happy, we were happy, the people that we were sharing the boat with were happy, our hosts were happy that everyone was happy.  You could literally feel the atmosphere and energy on the boat of people that were satisfied. 

 

Our next point of departure was the mangrove and lagoon, they call it the “natural swimming pool” it’s just the same as the sandbank where when the tide is high the mangroves are covered by water and when the tide is low they come out to play. We had such a lovely time there, we swam, canoed using a big tree log that we found there, we were starting to get comfortable with each other, conversations were flowing, you could hear people giggling and having a good time swimming and playing in the water, trying to find star fishes. The mangroves were literally surrounding the “natural swimming pool” it did not even feel like we were in the middle of the ocean, it was a sight worth seeing and to marvel at God’s creation. 

We had to cut our fun and go to the final destination which would be where we are having lunch, we were already starving at this point, however the Captain oh Captain and his crew kept us energized with fruits and water so we were still surviving. We had the most delicious seafood buffet which included a slipper lobster, calamari, grilled fish, shrimp, octopus, rice, potatoes, soda and awesome company. The food was so delicious that we literally cleaned out our plates. We were so full, the only thing we wanted was our beds, but we were here to have fun so we had to keep up the momentum. After lunch we took a walk around the Island, there were shopping stalls with beautiful Zanzibar items. We shopped around for a few things, bought items that we liked and we went to our last point of the day which was the Baobab tree. 

We explored the ancient baobab tree which had fallen down hundred years ago but still standing tall, we climbed the humongous tree that was centuries older than us, we kept going and in no time we were on top and taking lovely pictures. While the Captain was giving a brief history of the tree, we were not listening and still focusing on the climb, with some people (no names mentioned) scared of heights but conquering their fears nonetheless. 

After all that climbing it was time for us to come back down to earth and go back to Fumba village as our day had come to an end. In the morning while on our way to the sandbank we were singing the Jambo Bwana song with so much enthusiasm, on our return it was another story, we were sun burnt (even though we were not stingy with the sunscreen the entire time) we were tired of the water activities that we part-took in, we were still full from that delicious lunch we had, the version of the Jambo Bwana song that we were singing on our way back was a lazy one. 

To say that the day was an out of this world and one of a kind day is an understatement. We had a blast and a half. We arrived at Fumba village, got into our shuttle which took us back to the hotel, we took a shower and had another session with JBL with a few drinks while reminiscing and laughing at the day that was then retired to bed as we had another awesome day to look forward to the following day. 

 

Day 4: Jozani Forest

It was another day with another adventure on the books. This time we were going to Jozani Forest which is almost an hour away from Stone Town, so we had quite a long drive and by this time we were tired, our bodies were showing us flames but we kept telling ourselves that we came here with one goal, explore and have fun, so Aluta Continua…

Our shuttle arrived and off we went getting to explore the other side of Zanzibar that we had not seen. We got to the National Park, paid our entrance fee, allocated a tour guide and we embarked on our journey to see what Jozani Forest had for us. Jozani forest is the only National Park in Zanzibar so they are very big on conservation and taking good care of the Park. We started of the tour by going to see the red colobus monkeys which happen to be a rare species and got to learn more about them and their origins, after we had enough of the monkeys we went on a nature trail walk where we got to see the different medicinal trees such as the eucalyptus and mahogany trees and other various plants. Our tour guide had such a unique sense of humor, he kept telling us that there are snakes in the forest as if he was talking about candy that we should be on the lookout for, the way we like things, one would think that you’d turn back and return to the reception after hearing about the snakes but we continued walking. We learnt about animals, birds and reptiles that make their homes in the various habitats of the tropical rain forest. We further walked through the forest to see mangrove trees with fish that were fitting between the mangrove roots, we also saw the crabs scuttling on the mud. 

After walking for a good two and a half hours in the scorching sun we were tired. We went back to our shuttle to return back to the hotel. Fell asleep on the drive back. We asked our shuttle driver to drop us of at a restaurant because we were starving. We opted for restaurant called 6 degrees without even knowing that it was owned by a South African. When we got there we ordered drinks and were having a nice conversation when the owner heard the South African languages and came up to us to tell us that he is also from South Africa, we were so delighted to see one of our own, he gave us shooters on the house. We ordered lunch then went to relax at the bar upstairs where we could see the ocean and the beautiful view of Stone Town. Did I mention that this was our last day in Zanzibar as we had another mission to attend to the following day? We had so much fun at 6 degrees and left very late at night, we walked back to our hotel as it was a beautiful night, went straight to bed because we were tired and had an early flight to catch the following day. No night caps, no conversations in-between, just silence and sleep!!

 

Day 5: Dar Es Salaam

When we were planning our trip we had two options; to live as Island girls or to explore Tanzania by going to another Region of the country and the latter made sense to us because we had scaled down all the activities we wanted to do and we were very happy with them so leaving was the best option. 

We woke up very early because of our flight that was early in the morning. We had to pack all of our belongings, rush for breakfast then make our way to the airport. We got to the airport, checked in and boarded the flight to Julius Nyerere International Airport. At this point I did not know what to expect, did not even want to have expectations of the place. I had told myself that I will see the place when I get there. We got to Julius Nyerere International and the weather was humid there as well, we got our luggage and luckily did not have to go through immigration since we were coming from Zanzibar. We found ourselves an uber and we were off to our hotel. Dar Es Salaam looks like a city, it looked like home, Johannesburg in particular with the buzzing traffic and people rushing somewhere.

It was hot we were sweating, we got to our hotel, showered and changed to comfortable clothing and we thought we were still in Zanzibar (Stone Town), we thought we knew better and we would be able to find our way quickly, we decided to go get food by foot. We googled and discovered that there was a KFC close by and asked for directions to go there. We got the directions and started walking (I want to cry just recalling that moment because I am still traumatized from that walking). We walked, walked and walked but we could not see a KFC. We tried to get directions from locals and they plainly ignored us, at this point we missed the humble and welcoming people of Zanzibar, however we kept walking until we got proper directions to KFC only to discover that we took the longest route and KFC was just a 5 minute walk from our hotel. We got the food and went back to our hotel room to rest. 

We rested for a few hours, then we got ready to hit the streets of Dar Es and see what their nightlife had in store for us. We went to a club called Havoc, had our supper there and started dancing the night away, it was so lit that we even lost track of time, the only time we decided to leave was when we got annoyed with the DJ refusing to play Diamond Platinumz Baba lao which was our theme song by the way. It was around 3 am, we got an Uber and went back to the hotel to sleep. 

 

Day 6: Coco beach

We loved the hotel we stayed in as it had the best view of the Town. We woke up and for the first time since our arrival, we were conflicted on what to do. We had three different activities in mind but we did not know which one to choose as we were running out of time. We went to breakfast and got ready for the day. We decided to go and purchase our ferry tickets to return to Zanzibar and then proceed with the plans of the day. We decided to go to Coco beach as it had the vibes and a nice restaurant that we wanted to have lunch in. We got there after being stuck on traffic for what seemed like forever, got our drinks and chilled outside the restaurant to admire the ocean view that we were blessed with. We later went on to the beach to enjoy the water where we saw Maasai men and engaged with them. We went to have our late lunch, drank our lives away then decided to go back to the hotel to continue with the drinking fest that we had started in our room with our lovely travel partner JBL. On our way back to the hotel we saw University students that were going to their graduation as there is a University nearby and we could not help ourselves, we rolled down our windows and started cheering them on and congratulating them. We got to the hotel, bought our favorite local beer (Kilimanjaro) then we drank the night away and went to sleep. 

 

Day 7: The Market

We woke up very early on the 7th day as this was our last official full day in Tanzania. We wanted to go and get souvenirs at the market so we were advised to go there early as it gets packed soon. We showered, had breakfast then asked the ladies at the hotels reception for directions to the market. Luckily for us it was also not far, literally three streets from our hotel. The market is so big, I got tired just by looking at the entire place as I felt like the day would end with us still walking around there. We did not buy a lot in Zanzibar because we knew there was a day that we had set out for shopping in Dar Es. We walked, bought, walked, negotiated, walked, window shopped and so on and so forth. We left the hotel around 8 am and by 1 pm I was already fed up. We met another lady who said there is another market in Mikocheni so we wanted to go there and see this market and hopefully buy more things. 

We took the tuk-tuk taxi to Mikocheni and explained where we were going. The ride was about 40 minutes long, it was hot, I was now hungry and thinking of the leftover beer in the fridge, it was hot and we were getting lost. We could not find this market and asked around and nobody knew about it, so we decided to go back to the hotel. Naomi and I had had enough of the market and the heat so we told Zintle and Ndileka to go back to the market and buy for us as well. We had lunch at the hotel restaurant, went back to the room to listen to music and finish off the beer that was left over. We also started packing as we would be going back to Zanzibar the following day. When Ndileka and Zintle came back they were so tired and hungry. They ate and rested because we had one more turn up to deal with in a couple of hours. 

A few hours later we took a shower and got ready to hit the streets for the last time. We started off by going to a Jamaican club, we had our fair share of fun then headed over to the second club, we don’t know the name of that club because we were already turnt upon arrival. We partied like we were in a movie, we danced to music we had never heard before, and we ate like our lives depended on it. The time was around 3 am now and we decided to go another club, we proceeded with dancing and having the time of our lives until we saw the sunrise, that’s how we knew we were on day 8 and should get our lives together because we had to go back to Zanzibar. 

 

Day 8: The final lap

We rushed back to the hotel, we literally had two hours to get our things and bounce. We got to the hotel, showered and went to have breakfast. Luckily for us we had packed everything the night before so we just needed to tidy up the few things that still needed to be packed and in no time we were on our way to the ferry station. We got there did the necessary check-ins and had to wait to board the ferry. The fatigue came back in one go and I was already starting to fall asleep in public. I wore my sunglasses and told my ladies to wake me up when we are boarding, proceeded with my young nap until it was time to board. We got into the ferry, admired the views Dar Es Salaam had to offer us for the last time and made our way back to Zanzibar, what a bitter sweet moment for us. We got to Zanzibar, got our luggage, went to have lunch for the last time, we had to opt for a take-away because we were rushing to the airport. We got our food, paid and went to the airport. We were tired, happy, fulfilled and couldn’t wait to get home. The past 7 nights and 8 days were the best ever. We went through the process of immigration once again, boarded our flight back to South Africa and slept almost throughout the flight. Upon arrival home, we went through customs, got our luggage took another uber to get to our respective places. 

Travelling with strangers was something I had never done before and one of the things I’m very opened to doing after this trip, one of the things I would advise people is to travel and see the world, you will never have the money to go see places, however you can always recover over the months after your trip. I am now so encouraged and driven to see more places locally and internationally as there is a world full of possibilities and so much to learn outside of our comfort zones. Not only do you get to discover certain things about yourself, you also get to experience a life outside of what you know, learn about the similarities and differences in people’s cultures and get to embrace and respect the diversity of human beings.

 

Zanzibar was a dream, the fun we had was beyond our expectations. Our spontaneity made the trip even more interesting because we just lived on the edge, did every booking ourselves which worked out way cheaper and found our way through the country which was an adventure on its own. We lived the dream, we ticked off our bucket list, we conquered our fears, we had a lot of first times together, we fought a lot, we laughed at our own mistakes and stupidity and lastly we formed a sisterhood that promises to last for a long time. To Zintle, Ndileka and Naomi, it’s been a great one my ladies, I cannot wait until we do many more trips together!

To Zanzibar, you’ve won my heart. I definitely plan on making a return in the future. 

ASANTE KWA KUMBUKUMBU…..

 

 

 

 

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