Girls week out on the Spice Island

Trip Start Apr 16, 2004
Trip End Aug 31, 2008

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Flag of Tanzania  ,
Monday, August 27, 2007

"Without new experiences, something inside of us sleeps. The sleeper must awaken." -
- Frank Herbert

7 girls heading off to the tropical island of Zanzibar 20 miles or so off the Tanzanian coast!!! Three girls (Alison, Lea and Bronwyn) are heading up from South Africa, while 4 of us (Cindy, Nix, Lyndall and myself) are heading down via Doha. We'll be catching up on the beach, cocktails in hand on Saturday 18th August, though all of us leaving from London will already be catching our flights the night before.

I'm more than ever looking forward to this holiday. Following the dreary London weather, I really can't wait to be spending 10 days in some sunshine. Apparently the temperature at the moment is about 29 degrees celsius - could I be any happier? There's been quite a bit of preparation before we're even heading off:

1. Yellow Fever Vaccination (40) + Tetanus + Hepatitus A + Typhoid
2. Malaria Tablets (45)
3. Oh, and there is a bit of doubt as to wether we really need to have a visa prior to travelling so three of us girls are just swinging it with a couple of US Dollars in our pocket, hoping to get the visa there. It'll definitely be working out to be cheaper than getting it at the embassy, about $50 USD.

Our flights seem to be confirmed and organised, though organising, booking and paying for the flights from Dar Es Salaam to Zanzibar has been somewhat unconventional, fingers crossed no issues there.

The vaccinations and visas has worked out to more than our accommodation which is about 56 each for the whole duration. We've managed to book out the whole Jambiani Guesthouse which is on the east coast of Zanzibar, right on the beach beside the Indian Ocean.

17 August 2007 - Friday

We headed straight from work to Heathrow airport where the plan was to buy a bottle of alcohol each to take with to Zanzibar. While in the Duty Free shops we happened to come across Richard who was promoting Gordon's Gin (as far as I can remember). Four of us girls were being dished shot after shot of G & T mixed with Elder Flower which was really nice. However, by the time the bottle had been emptied, we realised we had limited time to make our purchase. We queued for about 5 minutes only to be told that Doha would not permit the alcohol to be taken through. Caught the flight with a few minutes to spare.

All of us were on such a high having had a good laugh in the airport and off on holiday. Amidst all the excitement and fun I managed to lose my small digital camera. Either at the airport or on the flight between London and Doha. Well, at least the loss was before rather than after the holiday.

18 August 2007 - Saturday

From London we transferred in Doha for a flight to Dar Es Salaam. We arrived at 14:15 and queued up for our tourist Visas. This was some pretty organised chaos. Lyndall had already obtained her visa from the embassy in London and thus went through to collect our luggage in the meantime. $50 USD later and no further checks we were through and looking for our final connecting flight to Zanzibar on ZanAir. This plane could not have held more than 20 passengers. Our flight to about 20 minutes across which was a vast improvement in time compared to our two other previous flights.

Without checking any visas or passports, we were welcomed to Zanzibar, jammed into a taxi and carted off on our hour and a half trip across to Jambiani. Our driver tried to relieve our nerves by mentioning that he'd been a taxi driver for years and years and that he was rather adept at missing all the cattle, goats, people, cars and bicycles on the road. Another example of organised chaos...

On arrival at our Jambiani Gueshouse, we were welcomed by Dude with a "Karibuni" and an awesome dish of curried fish for dinner.

Our house consisted of 6 basic bedrooms, with either a double or two single beds covered by mosquite nets (my saving grace). The beds were not the most comfortable around but then again they served their purpose. There were two bathrooms with basic showers. Without queries, I assumed that there was no hot water available and proceeded to cold showers for the first three days at the house. Once the hot water was discovered, it turned out that it wasn't available at ALL times. Not to worry though, as cold water was more than good enough when showering in temperatures exceeding 20 degrees celsius.

After dropping our bags in our rooms, and finally having the girls that had headed up from South Africa, join us we warmed up the evening with some Pictionary, which transponded to Actionary... and then finally with a decision to go for a skinny dip. We did not however realise that the sea had retreated to way back considering that our beach was padded with a huge sand bank. After looking for the ocean for about 2 minutes, we aborted that idea and headed down the beach to find a festive bar to join. We ended up at Dhow Beach Restaurant which is about 3 minutes walk from our house where we found music. Turned out that we were the party as there weren't too many other people there.

19 August 2007 - Sunday

We were all expecting some sort of hangover from the night before but turns out that the alcohol in Zanzibar is hangover free. None-the-less, we had a pretty lazy day considering it was quite overcast with a few thundershowers around.

We'd promised Salama, a local lady, that we would all have a Henna Tattoo done and stood in our queues while each of us got a variation of the picture drawn from what we chose. I managed to destroy Nikki's tatoo but hey...

Our house was surrounded by a small fence and this is where, we discovered, all the local kids and people would be lining up to greet us with a 'Jambo' and then try and sell whatever was on the menu for the day, whether it be massage, Spice Tours, Dolphin Tours, dinners, braids and the lot. Or alternatively you'd have the kids standing and staring at you like we were enclosed foreign animals at the zoo. As friendly as the natives were, by the end of the holiday when it was time to go, I'd had enough 'Jambo', 'Penischool' - (which means 'Do you have any pens/pencils for school, so if you do head on to Zanzibar, do pack in a few extras of these if you've got any on hand), 'Habari' etc.

As no meals were to be prepared unless requested, we headed down the beach to a hotel for some burgers. Not the best I've had by a long way, but I guess they filled the gap somewhat.

Our dinner was to be a Calamari Buffet at the Dhow Beach Restaurant, but without the Calamari. All pretty exciting. The rest of the food did turn out to be quite good.

20 August 2007 - Monday

As the weather was to stay overcast and rainy, the decision was made to head across the island to do a Spice Tour and a Stone Town tour. This isn't usually my kind of thing, but went along with the idea anyways. Without any breakfast, we were all packed into our taxi for our 1 1/2 hour trip with Abdul our driver.

Following a whole lot of bike, goat and monkey dodging, our first stop was to pick up our tour guide Mr Moody. His English proved to be rather good but his body odour didn't. Fortunately we were not to be stuck in the taxi for much longer. A bit north of Stone Town we stopped for our Spice Tour.

We walked around being introduced to virtually every plant on the farm, from Vanilla to Coriander to Iodine to Coffee... you get the picture... But since we hadn't eaten anything all day and having to smell all the spices, my body wasn't handling it too well and felt very faint. A thundershower broke the tour up for a while before we continued. Our last stop was below the palm trees where a few coconuts were picked and opened up for drinking. This helped alleviate the dizziness.

We then back to the encampment and tasted the various teas, coffees and fruits on offer before heading into Stone Town for lunch. This turned out to be a very crowded cafe but at least we would get some food into our system - chicken and spiced rice. Not too bad.

We then did a bit of a tour regarding the slave trade, a walk around the markets and the old parts of Stone Town, and finally finished the day off with shopping for crafts, paintings etc. Soft drinks were high on our priority list as these were not available in 2litre bottles anywhere. The supermarkets in this town were no different.

At sunset we started back on our long drive back home where Abdul tried to entice us into his restaurant for dinner. We were however really tired after a long day of being away and just wanted our guesthouse where we'd asked Dude to cook us a good cocunut octopus. Again, not disappointed!!

Just outside our guesthouse a fire was set up and we sat talking and listening to the drums being played. Some of us tried the art, but obviously leagues behind the locals. Really clear evening and a good indication for the days to come.

21 August 2007 - Tuesday

Since we'd spent the previous day touring around, we had no plans whatsoever to exert ourselves in any way and just enjoyed the day at home reading, and eating. Again it was a pretty rainy day.

By evening we decided to head out for dinner and took a half hour walk south to a larny restaurant where we all ordered exactly what we wanted. Good baracuda!!!

22 August 2007 - Wednesday
The sun had finally arrived but the only difference between this day and the previous was that there was sun to be enjoyed, and that's exactly what we did again... laze about and catch some rays.

Only downfall about sitting at home is that you get completely Jambo'd out and tired from being observed from the edges of our yard. Friendly people but it does all get too much sometimes.

For dinner we headed up north to the Blue Oyster Hotel where we enjoyed another really good meal around.

23 August 2007 - Thursday
An early morning rise to catch our taxi to Kazimkazi for our dolphin tour. We had been allocated snorkelling equipment the day before so were assured that our flippers would be the right size.

Again without breakfast and without much fussing we were all onboard our boat called JUMBO(a slight variation of the thousand JAMBO's we hear every moment of every day). I believe the strategy behind swimming with the dolphins is to firstly find all the other boats out on the water, as they probably have already located a school of dolphins, and then when the dolphins surface to race as fast as you can to them, off-loading swimmers faster than you can say "flipper" and hope for the best. I didn't particularly enjoy this practice but did manage to see the dolphins from within the water despite the water not being too clear.

While swimming you'd feel various stings all over your body and this was attributed to the 'jellyfish' - we call them Blue Bottles. So the choice was either to test your luck in getting up close to the dolphins in the water, but risk being stung, or alternatively to sit on the boat with a clear view of the dolphins, avoiding the Blue Bottle stings but on the other hand suffering extreme motion sickness which was also brought on by the heavy fumes emitted by the boats. I managed to do both, but where Leanne ended up feeding the fish, I managed to hold the one mauled banana in.

After about half an hour of dolphin chasing we were moved to an area where the anchor was dropped and we could snorkel and look at the corals. I can't say there was too much to see. I assume that there may be better spots for snorkelling but this was it for the moment. This area seemed devoid of blue bottles but on swimming back to the boat, one of these tentacles managed to catch me right across the ass leaving me stinging for ages. Nikki unfortunately came the worst off with a blue bottle having stung her right down her arm and across her back. Fortunately this wears off after a long while, but it does sting like hell!!

I was never more happy to be back on land as finally could try and get over the sea sickness. We were dished up an awesome brunch of kingfish curry. The food was really good. We were asked whether we would like to stay and 'bask' in the sun, but decided that 'basking' in the sun was best to be done at home.

25 August 2007 - Saturday

We had initially booked a snorkelling trip with Dude to take us to where the waves were breaking deep in the sea and hopefully get to see a bit more than we did at Kazimkaze, but when we woke up no one was really too keen to spend additional time out on the water risking more blue bottles an sea sickness, so a unanimous vote was taken to all have another last lazy day. Nikki, Lyndall and myself decided to hire a few bicycles and cycle north to Paje to see what was there and just for the sake of keeping ourselves busy as well.

Dude organised two bikes from some guy and the third was provided by himself. Obviously all of these bikes had seen better days, particularly Dude's who's you couldn't even change the gears on. The handle bar rubber was no more existing either along with a common Zanzibar bike defect - no breaks. All good!!!

We took a pretty good pace going north due to a nice breeze coming from behind. We were again greated by a thousand Jambo's along the coast while we continued with our trip. Paje seemed to be quite a bit more commercialised than Jambiani, and I was glad that we were staying where we were... We went into one of the bars to grab a few drinks. It was nice to see where Peter and them had stayed the year before.

Our cycle back was somewhat more challenging considering it was into the wind. Thus we walked a few of the stretches where there was soft sand or just when we felt a bit tired. My bicycle saddle was so close to the ground that it really didn't offer me much legroom and tired me out quite fast.

Our initial plan for the evening was to eat out at the Blue Oyster Hotel, but as it turned out. At the last party we confided into Moses that we would like Calamari, Rice and Surprise dished up on our last night there. This we had completely forgotten until the fresh calamari was dropped off at our house. None-the-less, the food again was awesome and this time calamari was interpretted as calamari and not octopus. Really good food.

For a while we sat at home enjoying our meal and a couple of drinks before we headed up north along the beach to the disco at Bahari. The place was mainly filled by locals with a few foreign faces about. This wasn't too much of a worry as we were a group of 7 girls thus were enough to keep an eye out for each other. The music was really good and everyone was having a pretty good time until a few hours later when we felt like we were being cut off from the pack one by one. I wasn't feeling too uncomfortable until there started being a bit more body contact than I would've preferred. Not only that but suddenly Mr Peace found me and invaded my personal space to such a degree that I nearly pushed him away. This was round about when we decided we had enough and would continue the rest of th evening enjoying our own company instead.

26 August 2007 - Sunday

This morning was taken up by saying our goodbyes to the girls heading back to South Africa, finishing off our packing, and grabbing some breakfast. Our long haul home started with the hour and a half taxi ride across the island to the Zanzibar airport. The check-in was pretty basic and we had to pay 1,000 Tanzanian Shilling for a Safety Fee. Not yet too sure what the fee was for. A safe flight? A safe take-off/landing? There must be some purpose to it.

On announcement of our flight we realised that we were to be 4 of about 13 people to take off in the Cessna 404 Titan plane. Probably about as small a plane as I've been in. After a bit of a taxi'ing around the airport we were told to get out of the plane and into another. (I guess we paid the pilot just to check whether the plane would withstand a 20 minute flight across to Dar Es Salaam - clearly this last one wouldn't). The second plane didn't fare too badly on the take off or across the stretch of water between the island and the mainland. However, once we were over Tanzania again, the turbulence kicked in and put me right on the edge of my seat. I was not ready to die. As you can tell by the fact this entry is written, we survived this short trek, but barely. Our nerves were frayed.

Our Dar Es Salaam stop over was very short. We barely managed to check in and get through security and all the other checks before we were whisked off onto our flight to Doha (where we were to spend 7 hours waiting for the final leg to London).

27 August 2007 - Monday
9:30 landing in London without any hitches. As sad as I was to have ended the holiday, I was glad to be back home. A weird thought on arrival in London - we left Zanzibar in the middle of their winter at a temperature of 30 degrees celsius to come back to a London summer of 14 degrees celsius.
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