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Bless the Rains Down in Zanzibar

May 19, 2011

I wanted to start with that video for 2 reasons:  1.  Back in 2008, we did a big Africa swing for work and it started in Tanzania and Recher would play that song for us.  2.  It rained a ton while we were there…guess that’s what we get for going in rainy season!

BEAUTIFUL Blue Water (and yes that girl is that burnt)

After spending a few days in Dar, we decided to head over to the island of Zanzibar by taking a ferry.  We had been told to do the first class tickets because it was only a few dollars more and you got air conditioning and they played movies, so we went for it.  The ferry ride started out good until they began handing out little plastic bags that said “Azam Marine sick bag” – at that point, we knew we were in for some rough seas.  Sure enough, it did get extremely rough and we both felt a little sick but luckily my friend Amir had warned us ahead of time, so we came prepared with Dramamine.  The movies they played were pretty interesting – we started out with The Gods Must be Crazy and then they played parts of Home Alone 1 and Home Alone 2.  For whatever reason, they wouldn’t play the whole movie, instead they just skipped from random scene to random scene.  All of this made for an entertaining 4 hour ride.

We arrived in Zanzibar pretty late at night and found our way to a great little place called Zenji Hotel.  Since it was already so late, we didn’t really start exploring until the next day when we woke up to rain.  For some time, we waited for the rain to stop but when it never did, we finally decided to venture out in it.  Unfortunately this means we have no pictures of Stone Town since we didn’t want to take our camera in the rain.  After wandering through a local market, we made our way through winding streets ducking under overhangs trying to escape the rain.

Lunch was at a place called Livingstone’s that turned out to be pretty good, and we actually ended up staying a long while to get out of the rain.  It seemed that every time the rain would let up and we would pay the bill, our change would come just in time for it to start pouring again. So then we would order another beer and keep waiting.  Eventually we got back on the streets and met several people wanting to sell us tours and bus rides.  One such person was a man who convinced us to go to his food stall that night at Forodhani Gardens.    

Where we spent our days

Forodhani Gardens is a small park along the water with a ton of food stalls selling mostly seafood.  We found our friend from earlier in the day and chose what we wanted from his stall – fish, shrimp and squid.  He took our food over to a little grill and started cooking everything.  After talking with him and watching him grill for a while, he led us over to a little table nearby and said he would bring us our food.  He brought us 2 huge plates with bread, our seafood and salad.  It was all absolutely amazing – definitely my favorite meal in Tanzania!  On top of that, we got to walk back to our hotel with our new friend and hear all about what it is like to live in Zanzibar, including some good history.

Tying up the Sail

The next morning, we got up early and headed to a beach in the north called Kendwa.  The bus ride up only took about an hour and we are so glad we went.  The beach was beautiful!  The most turquoise water either of us has ever seen and pretty, soft, white sand.  Words and pictures don’t do it justice.

That first day it rained almost all day so we didn’t get a ton of time on the beach.  Luckily, the place we were staying, Sunset Bungalows, had a nice open air restaurant on the beach that we hung out in for a lot of the day – just playing cards and reading.  During the breaks from the rain, we did manage to take a long walk and lay on some chairs on the beach. 

Working to build a new hut on the beach

There were some awesome huts right on the sand that we spent part of both days lounging under.  The second day was beautiful and we spent all day laying on the beach – of course, I wanted sun so I didn’t want to be under the hut.  After Steven convinced me how burnt I was, I took his advice and moved under the hut into the shade. 

All up and down the beach were a ton of people selling things – to which we would quickly respond “hapana asantay” or “no, thank you”.  Most would realize we weren’t interested in buying anything and would move along, but one really nice guy named Frederick came by several times and would stick around to give us language lessons!  We didn’t learn too much Swahili but it was fun talking to him.  My favorite thing he taught us to say was “Poa kichizi kama ndizi dan ya frigi” – “cool as a banana in the fridge”.

Masai on the Beach

Our last day, we got up and had breakfast at our hotel and headed back to Stone Town after one last stroll on the beach.  In Stone Town, our last lunch was at a restaurant called Freddy’s, named after Freddy Mercury of the band Queen.  Turns out he was from Zanzibar and they are very proud of him.  Then it was back on the ferry for our trek back to Dar es Salaam and some more Home Alone.

Overall, we both loved Zanzibar!  It was beautiful and relaxing.  As much as we have been traveling, we haven’t spent much time on the beach so this was a nice little trip!


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