I was in a lot of doubt between Tanzania, Madagascar and Moçambique. I’m really glad I chose Tanzania for my first African experience. It’s really a country that has everything, amazing beaches, mountain and safaris.
My first stop was Zanzibar. I was really looking forward to some days of just lazing around the beach. I have a really “on the spot” way of travelling, and I truly don’t plan anything. And when I mean anything, it means that on my stop over in Addis Ababa airport I was going through Booking to find a hotel for the first night. Internet was really slow so I ended up just making a print screen of the address without actually booking it.
Was just sitting at the beach and found myself surrounded by local kids, since we couldn’t understand each other we just drew together on the sand…
I got to the airport in Zanzibar and there was no wifi, of course. The taxi drive didn’t know where the hotel was, and he had no internet either, of course. So he called about five people and managed to get us there, after a one hour and half drive around the island.
Zanzibar is quite big, the roads are terrible, driving is difficult and the cars go quite slow. Mainly because there is police everywhere, there are people on bicycle carrying things like doors, kids and animals crossing… It’s crazy.
My first stop was Pwani Mchangani, a quiet beach at the north east part of the Island. There are pretty much only hotels there, and no restaurants or bars, either then those you find in the hotels. Since it was off season we were the only ones at the hotel, which was a five star treatment.
Not a bad place for breakfast… We were alone at the hotel, so this was allll for us.
So many star fishes!
The amazing thing about this part of the Island is that during the day the tide goes way back, and you can walk around and spot all sorts of sea animals. We found a little 15 year old guide (for $5) who also had shoes to rent (for the corals) and was awesome since he would spot all the different animals and colours. And the weirdest thing is that in this part of the Island all the locals speak Italian. Most of the hotels are Italians and they teach it at the schools, but it was weird all the same.
I got to hold all sorts of animals, having a purple urchin dancing your hand is definitely better than accidently stepping on them!
The tide goes back for many kilometers…
Next stop was Nungwi Beach, the very north part of the Island. I think this is probably the most amazing sea I’ve seen. So many different colours. Nungwi is an ex fisher man village, and with a lot more to do. Many restaurants, bars and a lot of people trying to sell you things on the beach.
I always try the local food and drinks when I travel, not a big fun of beer but with this view, it was the perfect combo.
These ladies got into the sea, with a nest to fish. It was incredible to see, even though I’m a vegetarian. They were pretty mad about me taking the pic though.
There was this particular guy trying to sell us a boat ride to see the sunset at Kendwa beach, which is about 2,5km away from Nungwi. The guy told us that the tide would go up so it was impossible to come back. I thought this was just a selling technique, and though “nahhh I can walk that far”. Little did I know.
The sunset at Kendwa is truly amazing, many pink and orange colours, we then found a bar right on sea and went to enjoy some cocktails. At around 10pm we deceided to walk back to the hotel at Nungwi, and well.. the tide was up.
So what does one do? I stripped to my bikini, my man held my bag over his head while I had my phone as a flash light, and we walked with water sometimes over the waist for around one and half hours. It was a crazy and amazing experience all at the same time. Zanzibar is not dangerous, there were no big waves, the water was warm, the stars were shining…
The sunset was worth all the trouble that came after…
Then we went to Stone Town, the actual “city” part of Zanzibar, where we had a flight after two days. You would expect Stone Town to be more of a “Town” and although it’s full of buildings, hotels, roads… at night it’s all dark. It was amazing to see how the locals leave though, to be able to eat the amazing Uroju at the street markets and drink so many weird juices.
A lot of people told me to be careful with the water I drunk in Africa, but if I was to do it I would miss out on so many amazing juices and sugar cane. I took the risk.
I also took a boat trip to Prison Island where the giant turtles sanctuary is, and a snorkelling trip to Bawe Island. Expect to haggle all prices. For everything, boat trips, food, clothes. You can always get around 2/3 of the prices down. It’s exhausting.
I had to pet them all of course.
In prision island, about 2 seconds before I took down my Zacchissimi Kimono and went to the sea and got burned by a jelly fish. It freaking hurts.
Have in mind that Zanzibar is mostly a muslin place, so even if bikini is ok at the beach is nice to cover up when walking around. Long dresses or trousers will do.
You can see a local lady and me with baggy long trousers. Showing the arms wasn’t an issue though.
After five days in Zanzibar, having gotten my second ever sun burn, done to a yoga class at Yoga Stone Town, we then left on a private plane to Arusha (the north part of Tanzania).
Ready to Board, with the paintings I bought in Stone Town. They were originally $100 and I paid $25. I’m not used to having to contract in everything I buy, so this took all the fun out of shopping for me.
Although the flight was amazing, and the Capitan had lived in Moçambique so we got to speak portuguese together, I had some issues at the airport. I had bought the tickets online, but after the checking the air company lady came to tell us that there was a problem with the payment, and that we could kindly pay cash to her. Of course this was just a way to get us to pay twice, and it looks like something that is done often. I had a payment confirmation email as well as a text message from the credit card company saying the payment had already been made, and I kindly told her that I could wait for her to confirm with the her office. She came 10 minutes later saying that she had – magically – found the payment confirmation.
Things to absolutely do:
- Eat Urojo at Stone Town. It’s a dish you can find in all of the street markets.
- Try the many weird fruits and juices you may find (My favorite was Bongo)
- Drink sugar cane juice
- Change dollars to Tanzania Shillings: I went with dollars, the exchange rate is 2,2 but they would always do as if it was 2, and always try to give you less change in Shillings. So at every transaction I was losing a dollar or two.
- Haggle every price
- Sunset at Kendwa Beach
Things to avoid:
- Renting a car: I rent a car in almost all my trips, but driving here seemed a bit like a challenge, and police tends to stop people to look for bribes.
- Dressing with short dresses, respect local culture.
- Staying online at the five stars resorts: The local life and restaurants are so good!
- Stressing out over time: As they would say “Pole Pole” (slowly slowly) and that’s how things go over there.