Paradise in Zanzibar

Trip Start Aug 22, 2012
Trip End Jun 16, 2013

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Flag of Tanzania  , Zanzibar Archipelago,
Thursday, February 28, 2013

After 18 hours of travel, from Bangkok through Dubai to Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania then a short, small-plane journey to the island of Zanzibar, we were ready to rest.  Stone Town is a unique spot, introducing us to African culture with strong Arabic,Indian, and European influences.  Needing a short nap, I laid down while Jim went out to explore the town coming across groups of highly athletic children playing soccer, volleyball and doing gymnastics in the late afternoon following school. 

By the time I was mobile it was dark out but we headed out to find a bank machine and something to eat.  We felt nervous walking the busy street with no street lights, many people staring at us, and dust swirling in our faces. Eventually we returned to our hostel having not found an ATM that worked nor a restaurant that met our criteria (open and somewhat clean).  Our fifth continent of the trip was providing us with some culture shock.

Our hostel was right beside a mosque that amplified their 6:00am prayers for about five minutes - just long enough to awaken one from a deep sleep. We spent the morning wandering the winding, historic streets of Stone Town and enjoying a really good cup of coffee in an outdoor restaurant on the beach. It was time to get to the northern part of the island of Zanzibar to live beachside!

We settled in a cute area just outside the village of Nungwi.  Our 4-day stay on the beach was rejuvenating as we slowed down to the African rhythm of 'pole, pole' (slowly, slowly).  The water here is exquisitely coloured shades of turquoise and blue and the sand is white and very fine.  It is a swimmer's dream. We snorkelled, drank fresh fruit shakes in the sand-floored restaurants, read, napped in the shade, swam and hung out with other travellers.

Sounds ideal?  Well, it was mostly except for the gradual blossoming of information on how difficult it will be to do this 10-week African leg of our travel and the subsequent expense of it. After almost 3 months of relatively cheap and easy travel in Southeast Asia, the contrast of outlandishly expensive options here in Africa came as a surprise. Instead of various and effective modes of transportation available to us (including flights under $100) in SE Asia we were faced with inadequate options and prices escalating close to $1000 for flights between countries in Africa.  Safaris go for no less than $180/person/day (for camping) and up to $1000+/person/day for luxury lodges or camping.  What to do?  Come home early? Miss out on some of the experiences we had hoped for? Bite the bullet and blow our budget?  Tough it out with primarily camping?

You will be happy to know we are doing a combination except we are not coming home early (we return on May 10).  After we finish our 2-week volunteer stint in Arusha, we will do a camping safari for 6 days then fly to Livingstone via a convoluted 18-hour journey to Rwanda/Johannesburg/Livingstone (northeast, south, then north) where we will join a G Adventure trip. It is a 21-day camping overland trip from Victoria Falls, through Botswana, Namibia and along the west coast of South Africa to Cape Town.  Although advertised as available to 18-39 year-olds, they approved us old timers to register! 

Then we will have 4 weeks in South Africa where we will travel
independently from Cape Town up the east coast, inland maybe to Lesotho
and will hopefully get some good hiking in.

We are thankful to Valerie and Alex, fellow Canadians we met in Zanzibar who, because they were returning home, were open to selling us their new Mountain Equipment Co-op sleeping bags.  Yahoo!  We have warm, compact and CLEAN sleeping bags that 100 other people have not slept in (second hand bags would have been our other option). I actually think I will be able to sustain 4 weeks of camping, although I have never camped for more than a week or two in my life.  Jim is an old hand at this so the prospect of it is welcoming for him.

Sometimes I wonder why I choose to enter into some of these challenges, especially at this stage of my life and I quickly remember that these are the times when I experience the most growth and excitement.  And it's never too late to explore new adventures.  I remind myself, too, that there will be a time in my life that I will either be unable to or will have no desire to do these kinds of things and that will be good, too. So get it in while I can!

We are on the cusp of the rainy season here in Tanzania so we will hopefully miss most of it as we make our way south.  South Africa will be autumn by the time we get there in mid-April and weather will be conducive to travel and hiking.  And then we land in Nova Scotia in springtime.  How nice is that!
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Cheryl Burgess on

Hi Donna and Jim. it sounds like you are both doing amazingly well. I love reading your story and about your adventure, stay well and safe and enjoy all of your travels

Katharine on

All I can say is WOW, a big whopping WOW. I really get it, Donna, do it while you can. You have whet my appetite for SE Asia. We leave for China in 2 weeks.

Sue Walker on

Looks amazing, Enjoy every moment on your African adventure with the young souls, camping. It will most definately be an exciting challenge for you Donna, go for it girl. Have Fun can't wait to hear all about it. ENJOY!
Love Sue xo

Angie on

You go girl!!!

Krista on

I'm not sure why, but this particular set of pictures are some of my favourites from your whole trip!

Maureen on

I'll be i Spain for April...any chance of a rendevous??

Valérie on

I enjoyed your post and being reminded of the beach. It's quite cold here in Ottawa! I hope that you enjoy the sleeping bags. We went to Bushtuka and bought new ones, the last ones in the store!

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