Beach/Sleep/Relaxation/Isolation Time

Trip Start May 04, 2011
Trip End Feb 20, 2014

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Where I stayed
Doubletree Hilton
What I did
Beach, pillow, a novel

Flag of Tanzania  , Zanzibar Archipelago,
Tuesday, February 7, 2012

For my working life, at least once a year, I take a week out and go somewhere by the beach and isolate myself from everything and anything. Usually it is Cottesloe or Scarbs. This time it is Nungwi, right up in the northern tip of the island of Zanzibar. A place I'd not heard of until I stumbled onto CNN’s website and saw that this beach was 10th on their list of 'Top 50 Beaches of the World’. Hell, that’s close I thought and "beach sand like baby formula" does sound appealing even tho I can’t recall ever sifting my hands thru baby formula, I got a sense it must be sublime. So that’s how I got here and what a paradise place it is. It has been a very enjoyable 7 nights and I type this on the plane journey back to Accra having just watched a peculiar Justin Timberlake movie where time is the currency.

I arranged thru the Stone Town hotel to book a $10 transfer up north to the Hilton, my new home for a week. Once again, I got pimped out to some random dude who took me down skinny back streets to a small office where I met a nice Canadian couple (1 a lawyer who has been involved in litigation against my employer in Sth America!) and we waited until another guy escorted us down another couple of streets to a waiting van where now 8 of us piled in for the journey north. No seatbelts, not even really a proper seat, and squeezed in like sweaty animals. Anyway, it was what I expected. Hilton would generously transfer me in exclusive air conditioned comfort for $70...the scrooge inside me laughed down the phone when this was quoted to me. The driver dropped off all 7 other passengers as we made our way up the coast which was interesting to see where others were staying. All were in ultra budget accommodation costing about $40 pp. So of course when the driver asked where I was going and I responded with “ah um, the Hilton”, the others in the van looked at me with suspicion as to why I was crammed into this death trap van if I could afford the Hilton! There was a part of me that wished I had booked into one of these cheaper joints to be with the young, fun, pretty people. Especially when we were driving the poverty stricken back-streets of Nungwi to get to my hotel. But then, the gates to the Hilton opened and the beat-up van pulled in and I caught one glimpse of the resort and instantly forgot about anyone or anything else. As much as I would like to party for 7 nights, this was not that week and this was a week I had longed for to catch some sleep...definitely not wake up with an alcohol induced headache.

I was met with a cool moist face towel and a porter to take care of my stuff while I checked in. I bet the others on the van didn’t get this treatment when they arrived! The reality is that this place is not that expensive, $207 USD a night includes breakfast AND dinner, free wifi internet and sleeping in the best room they have. My week here cost less than half the 4 nights in Amboseli! The room was perfect (except the shower which was worse than my one in Ghana). The bed is the comfiest ever. And then double doors that open directly out to the elevated private beach and those jaw dropping views. This exceeded expectations and more than matched what I had dreamed of. Made me very happy indeed.

The hotel was only about 15-20% occupancy at my best guess. Dead. Good for me! My daily routine was sleeping til 10 or so, watching ‘Keeping Up Appearances’ on tv (!), getting to buffet breakfast just before it closed at 11 (yes, breakfast closes at 11am!!) and then laying under a thatched cabana all afternoon reading a book. The ocean is warm enough, but could be warmer. Then as the days went by, the tide went further and further out each morning and didn’t come back until 130 or so. Bit annoying, but the pool was always an option and walking out over the sand bars and reef was quite surreal. Even though the beach is elevated and security prevent locals from coming in, people yell from below the retaining wall trying to sell u things or offering tours. I would step down from the retaining wall to enter the ocean and within seconds there was a voice “Jambo, how are you? Where you from?” – argh. There were occasional shows at night with dinner, which was either buffet or set menu. Fantastic food.

I enquired about doing a scuba dive and the trainer (a young Italian guy travelling out here with his gf) talked me into doing the course to earn my credentials as an entry level diver up to 12m. When planning the trip I had thought about doing this, but I understood it takes 3 days and I couldn’t bear to sacrifice 3 morning sleep-ins. But this guy trimmed the course to 1.5 days and an 815am wake-up wasn’t so tough to deal with! The course consisted of watching DVD theory, quizzes, practice in the pool, and then on day 2 my first ever dive! There was a 2nd dive in the afternoon followed by an open book exam and voila I have now done something productive on my 7 nights of relaxation! I did have a blocked nose, but the instructor said I would be fine and could always cease if I couldn’t equalise my ears. Fortunately, I woke up on the day of the 2 dives feeling much better. I had one minor moment of panic when underwater when I sensed I was losing my breath, but I just focussed and looked to my instructor for reassurance and all went well. Some interesting sights seen underwater. Nothing spectacular and definitely not as good as even snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef, but we did see a turtle swim by and some huge schools of fish just going about their business as I fumbled my way passed trying to maintain buoyancy. Glad that I did it and my instructor said I was “perfect” and should dive dive dive when in Australia cause we have amazing options at our doorstep that he is jealous of. At least that is what I think he said thru his thick Italian accent. He definitely said I was perfect though :-)

I arranged a late check-out and organised for the hotel driver to take me to the airport for $70 at 130pm. At this point, I couldn’t be bothered arranging something cheaper or doing the shared van thing. Just get me in one piece to the airport on time. We exited the hotel gates where I’d been living in luxury for a week and then drove the poor streets of Nungwi, which makes it hard to rationalise why they should live so basically while 5 star resorts fringe their beaches and people like me come here to spend more in a week than what they might dream of earning in a month. One local guy asked why I (and other tourists) would spend money to come all the way from Australia to his shores when he’d heard that we have equally as nice beaches? I didn’t have an answer for him.

So, my 2012 beach trip was great. I didn’t get as much sleep as I wanted (I think my days of sleeping solidly for 12 hrs are over I’m afraid...I’m surprised they lasted this far into my 20’s actually) and this head cold was a real buzz kill. But, it is nice to know that these postcard perfect places exist in real life.
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