The week that was: Zanzibar before all the disasters


English: The house where Freddie Mercury was b...

English: The house where Freddie Mercury was born, Zanzibar Italiano: Casa natale di Freddie Mercury a Stone Town. Magyar: Szülőháza Stone Townban. Freddie Mercury szülőháza. Deutsch: Geburtshaus von Freddie Mercury aus Sansibar (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Before the sinking of the Skagit, or the pain of the sea urchins  and Sakkie getting such snot sickness (flu) – apparently rife this time of year in Dar es Salaam, as it is considered their winter as well, we went to spend a few days on Zanzibar to treat our arrivals from South Africa.  I must just say at this point that I find it a joke to hear the term “winter” here, when I am still walking around in my strappy top and Kanga, and we swim almost on a daily basis.  I wonder what the Tanzanians will say about Cape Town weather this time of year!!  Cold, snow on mountains and rain, rain, rain!

But, back to Zanzibar.  What a surprise when I sent in a request to Tripadvisor – a search site to help you find the perfect match to your criteria when planning a holiday, and the best quote received from what I could see in the area I wanted to be, was a delightful find called Kilima Kidogo Guesthouse, run by a South African lass, called Dina.  I mean, of all the places on the island, I could then take us off to accommodation where I could reasonably expect some South African influenced cooking and hospitality.

We set off from Kisauni Airport after waving Kobus, who had to go back to Dar, good-bye at the Ferry terminal, with a lovely driver named Sharif, and three exited boys.  The brothers Kobus and Sakkie were happy to see each other, and as it was a first into Africa for Kobus Jnr, excited chattering ensued, taking in all the sites, sounds and smells, with Sakkie explaining some of what he has learnt in the two months since we’ve been here.  We weaved through the traffic of Zanzibar’s Stone Town area, past some flats built by government in a bid to provide more housing for all, in the direction of Mbweni Ruins along the main street again.  Although the streets are busy it is more bearable than the frenetic pace of traffic in Dar es Salaam.  Similar shops and traders are seen lining the roads, with anything from the most beautiful fruit and veggies (you simply need to stick a pip into the ground and you will almost hear the plant grow instantly!), to the beautiful handcrafted furniture which is so true to Zanzibar, barber-shops, electric wholesalers, building materials, car mechanic shops, tailors and general dealers.

Once outside main town, the countryside sweeps by as we drive through areas lush with palm trees and thick vegetation, and then clearing again to show some marsh lands.  The driver turns out to be a wonderful tour guide too, and I am starting to believe that the fee of $50 to get us to our guest-house, is well spent.  We pass Jozani Forest, apparently the only sanctuary in the world where one can still see the endangered Red Colubus Monkey, and we are extremely lucky to see some sitting on the side of the road and swinging around in the trees lining the road.  We also enter an area where the road is lined with huge, beautiful mango trees.  The boys would later find out from the owner of Paje-by-Night, a resort near to Kilima Kidogo, that a former princess, Bi Khole, got her male slaves to have sex with her, only to behead them after such pleasure, and then plant a Mango tree in their remembrance – not sure if the body was used as fertilizer, but hell, the trees are big and healthy.  Our driver told us that the monkeys from the surrounding forest basically move in on the trees for the whole period that the mangos ripen, and sleep and eat and get fat there for the whole period.  Once all is eaten, they go back into the forest.

Soon after we arrived at the turn-off to Jambiani – Kilima Kidogo lying between Paje and Jambiani, along the most beautiful stretch of sand I could see around Zanzibar from Google Maps.  A waiting Dina ushered us into cool, tastefully decorated rooms, and once we had our welcoming cocktail we headed down to the beach immediately to see what was in store for us for the next three days.  The sand is indescribably powdery and white.  I have seen and felt the texture of the sand on the beach at Mbweni Ruins Hotel, which was pure gold, course and Kobus and I used it as a body exfoliator – this was totally different!  The beach stretches for as far as the eye can see, and the water is all the colours of blue one can think of, with the traditional white sails of some dhows on the horizon.  I realised we were in for a treat, and excitedly booked a snorkeling trip on a dhow for us for the next day.

We were collected slap bang on time for our dhow cruise and snorkel, and set off to the nearby reef, joined by a few other boats with eager visitors to the island.  I have had the pleasure of snorkeling along the reefs of Mombasa and Kilifi in Kenya, Comoros and around Mauritius in my life, but it has been a few years since the last experience and I was really like a kid in a toy store again, marvelling at all the wonderful fish and even a sea snake.  I beckoned to the boys frequently to come and view a new find and dived down a couple of times to lift up a treasure like a bright red sea-star, taking care to handle it gently and after showing the boys returning it to its soft spot on the sandy sea bottom.  Visibility was great, and I had to be coaxed from the water after a few hours, joining three very happy and contented boys on board the dhow which now sailed to shore at some speed in the afternoon breeze that sprung up.  Being a sailor myself, skippering my own yacht in years gone by and also being crew on many other yachts of all shapes and sizes, I found the experience of being on a dhow a tick on my bucket list.  Exhilarating!!

Taken from Mercury Bar Stone Town, named after...

Taken from Mercury Bar Stone Town, named after Freddie Mercury, who was born in Stone Town Zanzibar + Fact: did you know Freddie Mercury was 100% Indian. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The next few days were spent exploring the beaches, picking up beautiful shells, eating great food, sleeping well, swimming and tanning.  I got the boys to play Mastermind, Jenga and they played snooker until bored with it and then packed the jenga blocks like dominoes to tumble over which they video’d.  We returned well rested and eager to finally make that move to Zanzibar – the Spice Island, birthplace of Freddie Mercury, currently celebrating Ramadan along with the rest of the Islamic people worldwide.

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About suletta

Fell in love again at age 50! And followed my man to Zanzibar, for him to set up a dairy farm. I managed to travel into Africa a few times in my life, always loving it and experience the "fever" that grips you on African soil - the one that especially the Europeans now and in years gone by, suffer from. Except I am an African by birth - a South African. A Mzungu.So I discovered at this late stage in my life (not that I feel old!) that some people find my babblings about life interesting, and I quote: "live their lives vicariously through me".
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