There will always be places that will make you feel as if the best thing in life is traveling and that your scope has been fulfilled, that place for me is the Island of Zanzibar. Someone once said that it is something about Africa that makes people fall in love and never want to leave, he couldn’t have been more right.
My trip to Africa should have been a birthday present to myself and should have been in late March so that I could celebrate turning 30th in the southern part of the continent, but due to the wet season I ended up taking the trip at the end of February, probably one of the best decisions I ever made, since in March the Covid-19 pandemic took over the world and blocked everyone from traveling. With not the biggest budget and a lot of dreams, we packed our suitcases and headed to the airport, and after a day spent in Bruxelles we found ourselves in a small and modest airport, in 30+ degrees Celsius and a high humidity level from Zanzibar.
Our trip started with a safari on the continent, that I described here. It was only after that amazing experience that we returned for a different one, 10 days on the sunny island. Our accommodation was at a Villa near the beach in the south part of the island. Some might say that the north is the best place to stay in, for us the proximity to Paje made it a perfect fit. We even walked to Paje when it was low tide, a 20 minutes walk on a virgin beach was one of the most peaceful experiences. Looking at the locals harvesting the algae and the kids going to school each morning made us connect to the beauty of the simple life.
Our host in the villa was a Romanian guy who moved to Tanzania to do tourism, he has two places in Zanzibar and one keeps only for Romanian guests. Around 10 rooms, in the 2 villas with a pool and restaurant that are built in a traditional style. The African food and the relaxed vibe made us understand that our crazy and rushed life is far from the ideal one. Food made from natural ingredients, cooked in a heavenly way made us gain a few pounds in a few days, but none of those were regretted. Probably because I am such a foody, I can say that for me heaven is serving African sea-food.
In the 10 days we took 5 trips to learn and see more of the island, as follows:
- Stone Town and Prison Island
A cultural tour started in the capital of the island. A tough history lessons that take us all back to a time when slavery was run here and the gruesome truth about the lives of the locals during that time. At the end of the tour a visit to the Prison Island, it was never actually used as a prison, but more as an isolation place for people with leprosy. Nowadays is a hotel and a place where the endangered tortoise are kept and bread.
- Safari Blue
A trip to the south of the island, from where a boat takes you to the most beautiful beaches with turquoise water. Relaxation and swimming in the crystal clear water.
- Snorkeling Mnemba and the north beaches: Nungwi si Kendwa
Mnemba is one of the best places in the world for snorkeling, there is also a dead part of the reef because of heavy fishing, but the one near the island owned by Bill Gates (yes you read it right) is magnificent. If you combine that with a summer storm you will get an amazing experience of staying in the rain to cool down. I wasn’t that impressed by the beaches from the north, yet we only stayed for a little while.
- Jozani Forest, The Rock and the sunset in Michamvi
Did you know that Zanzibar is the only place you can find the Red Colobus monkeys? The small primates live in the forests of the island and can be found in this cultural trip.
The Rock is probably the most famous place from here since all the searches for images from Zanzibar will return it. The restaurant itself didn’t impress me, it was overpriced and I thought that the view would actually be better from the restaurant from across the beach, where you could see The Rock.
The last part of the tour would be the sunset on the beach since I was there with my significant other, you can imagine that it was nice to see the bonfire and the beautiful sunset.
- Spice Tour
The last tour that we made was to a spice farm, we got to learn about the different kind of spices that grow on the island and how those look before they get to us. We also enjoyed seeing how the coconut is harvested and eat lunch on the farm. This is a half-day trip that you should take if you have an extra day to spare.
During the 10 days that I have spent on the island, one was very special, that was the day we got to see the giant starfish from the reef. Locals guided us through the sea when there was low tide (make sure you ask for help since there are A LOT of sea urchins and even with special shoes they could still sting you and ruin your trip). Once you get to the reef try not to touch it, and if you want to touch the starfish, don’t keep them out of the water and don’t bring them to the shore. The beauty of these creatures needs to be enjoyed in their natural habitat.
Usually, I don’t want to return to places I have already seen since I want to see more and more of the world, yet it is something about Zanzibar that keeps on calling me back to it. I am not sure if it’s the white sand, the amazing food, the locals, or the sea, but I am sure that I will someday return to this place that found a special place in my heart. From all the places I have been, I will recommend this one the most.