Welcome to Zanzibar!
Location: An Island off the country of Tanzania, East Africa.
Current destination = Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. Wanted destination = Zanzibar. For someone who usually plans thoroughly in terms of how to get around on a backpacking trip, this time I was not so prepared. I actually didn’t even realise Zanzibar was its own country.
Dar Es Salaam to Zanzibar
Myself and my travel friend woke up early to have a good breakfast and pack before checking out of our accommodation. One of the staff members not only drove us to the ferry port but also accompanied us to buy our tickets. Ticket price approximately $35. Soon after we were boarding the boat and super excited to be sitting on the top deck which is completely open. That excitement didn’t last too long due to the blistering heat we had to endure for almost two hours with no where to hide. Not only did we stand out as the only two none black people, we arrived in Zanzibar burnt to a crisp, sporting a new lobster red glow.
After arriving, collecting our bags and meandering through the port we were back in the sun where the taxi vultures were waiting for their prey. Stubborn and unorganised as we were, we ignored them and proceeded to walk to the nearest bar/restaurant which luckily was only five minutes away. We had only gone and stumbled into Mercury’s Bar, named conveniently after the one and only Freddie Mercury, lead singer of the band Queen. Fact: Freddie Mercury was born in Zanzibar. Whilst eating and drinking the sunburnt pain away, we managed to book accommodation. All we had to do now was wait for the driver to collect us. The drive alone from the port to the accommodation was breathtaking with lots of local homes dotted along the way.
Arriving at the Bungalows we were told ZeruZeru is the Swahili word for Albino. Interesting name if you ask me. We were pleasantly greeted by the owners and shown to our room, but not before the lady owner gave us a large amount of aloe vera from her personal garden.
Exploring ZeruZeru! The grounds include numerous bungalows, a swimming pool, a communal area with sunset viewpoint, reception, the owners home, outdoor football-pool table, table tennis, bicycles plus much more. You can take the bicycles and venture out of the grounds to the nearby beaches. There is a beach both left and right out of the Bungalows and only a 5-10 minute cycle to both. The views are worth the short cycle even if you are unlucky like us and you end up walking the bikes back because the chain pops off.
A few days into our stay at ZeruZeru other travellers began to show up to begin their trip. It had been a bit quiet up until that day. A lovely European couple shared lunch and dinner with us which quickly turned into a drinking session resulting in too many Safari beers. Even the owners joined for the drinking part of the evening to relax after a long day of work.
One thing I should kindly mention, too many Safari beers without proper hydration isn’t fun. Getting into bed that night both myself and my friend were taken over by dizziness, headaches and cramps which resulted in a bathroom tug of war. Safari beer is only 5.5% but after living in China for almost seven years, the strongest beer I’m used to is up to 4%. Sad but true.
Paje Beach is the more beautiful of the two beaches close by to the bungalows and has up-scale bars and restaurants with accommodation. Although I don’t scuba dive, I was approached by locals offering so maybe you could try it on your trip and let me know how it goes. You will come across a number of Masai trying to sell you handmade beaded jewellery, paintings and clothing. Some even have tour options including: swimming with dolphins, visiting a Masai village and many more.
Anyone who enjoys cooking or eating for that matter, will enjoy a tour around the Spice Village. Walking around nature, gently shaded by the trees and listening to a well-spoken tour guide is a great way to spend half a day. Not only can you learn about the various spices, plants and fruits but also some aspects of the local culture. A few things stood out for me. Firstly, it takes 6-10 months to grow ONE pineapple due to the local climate. That is some dedication to fruit! Secondly, the Butterfly Man who climbed the tallest tree without any safety measures whilst singing and dancing. It was a very unique and funny experience.
After much walking, learning and laughing, it was lunch time. The lunch provided exceeded all my expectations and the sheer volume of food was both immense and delicious. To add, there was also a constant line of fruit to try for dessert. Before leaving you can buy some local products such as Zanzibar perfume, coffee, cooking spices and soaps all at very reasonable prices.
The Doors! Being guided through the narrow streets and alleyways of Stone Town you will stop at a variety of doors in various shapes, sizes, ages and designs. One of those doors will be the front door to the home/museum of Freddie Mercury.
The Architecture! The buildings generally have a very European style to them with lots of beautiful stain-glass windows, wooden furniture and light coloured exterior. In a word, beautiful!
The Views! On entering a number of the buildings dotted around the town I was blown away by the views. Each one had a viewing area looking out over the island. I must have taken a hundred pictures and not one looked like the other.
Local Culture! Like any place, if you are willing to explore, talk to people and be open minded you will be lucky enough to have some unique experiences. Something as simple as visiting the local food market can give you that. The market was huge and packed with local food products with customers chatting and laughing away. Be sure to get involved and enjoy yourself.
(meaning welcome to Zanzibar)