Jambo from Zanzibar!

Trip Start Feb 26, 2006
Trip End Nov 28, 2006

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Flag of Tanzania  ,
Monday, April 17, 2006

JAMBO! (That's Swahili for 'Hello'). One of the places we've been most looking forward to since we booked this trip is the stunning island of Zanzibar in the Indian Ocean. After a two-hour ferry ride from the Tanzanian capital of Dar Es Salaam, we spent our first night in the old city of Stonetown.

It was a real treat because we had our own room with a bed, an ensuite bathroom, air conditioning, and best of all - TV!!! We cranked the a/c and spent the night shivering under the covers, but it was a welcome break from all the stifling nights we had spent in our tent!

The next morning we went on a tour of the island, with the highlight being the spice plantations which are a large part of Zanzibar's history. On the way out of town, we stopped by the local market, and it turned out to be a shock to the senses with stall upon stall of spices, fruits & vegetables, fresh (and not so fresh) seafood, and butchers carving up meat. If you are one of those people who don't like to see where their food comes from or has issues with food that has a 'face', this is definitely not the place for you!

Leaving the market, we headed across the island to see some of the spice farms.

At one of the plantations we were also given a coconut tree-climbing demonstration. Using a rope between his feet, one of the farm boys shimmied his way up a tree in a flash and then hacked off a few coconuts for us. We brought the coconuts back and had fresh coconut milk.

This snack got our appetites going, and we proceeded to a village where we sat down for a traditional meal of salad, spiced rice, fried fish, and vegetables.

As interesting as the tour was, what we were all looking forward to at Zanzibar was some R&R at the famed beaches! When we arrived at our resort on the north coast we were definitely not disappointed...the water was clear and blue, the sand was white and fine, the sun hot, and the beer cold!

Lucky for us, it turned out that our stay coincided with a full moon party at one of the resorts. Ed organized a trip with a local guy he met on the beach. Let's just say the boat was quite 'authentic' and several people in our group were contemplating whether or not they would be able to swim back to shore, but we safely made the half-hour ride to the party which is all that mattered!

The party started at the beachside bar, but quickly spilled out onto the beach where there were huge bonfires going and tons of people on the beach. Drinks were flowing, a hookah (Turkish tobacco waterpipe) was passed around, and we all had a blast.

The local acrobatic troupe put on a show which saw them doing handstands on stacked chairs, limbo under fire, and dancing with pythons.

The night ended with Ed and his crazy buddies Tobias and Geoff "dancing" to techno music on the beach, but it wasn't too pretty!

The next morning, we dragged ourselves out of bed to get on another boat, this time to do some diving and snorkeling.

We headed east of the island to the Mnemba Atoll, a protected marine reserve. It was quite an interesting ride; half way through, our divemaster also became the ship's head water-scooper as we seemed to be getting increasingly lower! You gotta love Africa! In the end we made it there, and the reef was simply amazing. I snorkeled while Ed scuba-dived, and we both agreed that these were some of the best (if not the best) reefs we had ever seen, and the number of fish was just unbelievable.

For our last night in Zanzibar, we made sure we had one more crazy night to remember! We had a yummy barbeque right on the beach, and it was the first time I had grilled calamari and actually liked it (I even had seconds)! Maybe it was all the sun or the drinks during dinner, but when the Danish couple Janni and Tobias started acting out (with a little too much excitement) the African fable of the Hippo and Scrub-hare on the beach, we knew it was time to get back to the mainland, pronto!

The following morning, we returned to Stonetown to catch our ferry back to Dar Es Salaam. We boarded what turned out to be the 'ferry from hell'!! What is normally a two-hour ride turned into three hours of very rough rolling seas where it seemed half of the passengers were puking at one point or another. While Ed and I managed to keep our lunches down (just barely though), we were relieved when we got off the boat and stood on solid ground again.

Zanzibar is a truly beautiful place, and we've already decided we'll be going back some day!
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