Five Days and Four Nights in Zanzibar

30 Oct

When I arrived in Zanzibar, the first thing that I noticed was the heat.  While I was temporarily uncomfortable, as I was wearing my heaviest clothes for the flight, I was pleased with the weather, as it boded well for beach time in Kendwa.  My first stop, though, was Stone Town.  I spent my first day there wandering around (and getting lost, per the usual), shopping for souvenirs, and sampling my first Zanzibar pizza for dinner at Forodhani Park.  The pizza is made by wrapping an extremely thin crust around your choice of beef/chicken/fish/prawns/vegetables, plus minced salad, cheese (of the Laughing Cow variety), mayonnaise, and an egg.  This creation is lightly fried in a giant wok and then served with a very small side salad as well as various sauces.  Pure deliciousness, all for less than USD3.

The next day, I took a guided tour of the city, including stops at the House of Wonders, the Old Fort, and Forodhani Park.  The most interesting stops, though, dealt with Zanzibar’s role in the slave trade.  Two underground rooms were left open for tourists (the many others having long been filled in).  One of these rooms housed male slaves while the other housed women and children.  With only a small window in each room for light and ventilation, the slaves were packed inside for three days without food and water.  This was done to weed out the “weak stock”, who died from suffocation, hunger, thirst, and/or disease.  As a bathroom, the slaves only had recourse to a deep channel in the middle of the floor, which was washed out daily at high tide.  The slaves who survived the ordeal were taken out to a tree and whipped until they bled so that they could be assigned an appropriate value.  Higher prices were assigned to slaves who took the beating without crying out.  In the end, the slaves were sold off, which one child being handed out as a free gift with the purchase of ten adults.  The women were divided up: the most beautiful ones were converted into slavemasters’ concubines, and the rest were designated as caretakers for their owners’ children.

After the informative and thought-provoking tour, I decompressed.  I grabbed (an, unfortunately, not very good) lunch and then headed back to my hotel, where I lounged in my mosquito-netted bed and watched the two most recent episodes of “X Factor USA”.  Later that evening, I serendipitously caught up with a couple from my safari, and we sipped drinks and watched the sun set from the veranda of a popular local hotel bar.  I ended the evening by returning to Forodhani Park to grab a different, but equally delicious, variety of Zanzibar pizza, which I devoured in my hotel room before promptly falling asleep.

The next morning, the couple from my safari and I headed up to Kendwa Beach, with a stop en route for a spice plantation tour.  We got to learn about the growth patterns and uses for many a fruit and spice plant.  The tour ended with a tasting of a wide variety of fruit grown on the plantation as well as a climbing and singing performance from a young man nicknamed “Butterfly”, for his impressive ability to scale coconut trees.  He also had a great singing voice, an added–and necessary–bonus.  To get a coconut, you have to climb to the top of a coconut tree and knock the coconut down yourself.  However, this is actually quite dangerous–anyone standing near the tree could be hurt or killed by an errant, falling coconut.  Hence, the singing–if people stop and listen to your song, they will be warned away from your falling coconuts.  After watching the performance (including some awe-inspiring acrobatics), drinking fresh coconut water, and buying some overpriced spices, we got back in our van and headed to the beach.

At the beach, I ended up getting a double room instead of a twin–sweet!  The room was sparsely decorated but pretty, with a huge bed bedecked with ocean-blue linens, a small outdoor balcony with table and chairs, and a fairly sizeable bathroom.  I must admit, since I was at the beach, my main activities consisted of the following: reading, writing, sunbathing, drinking at lunch, exploring the beach (and avoiding persistent dudes, one of whom was bold enough to introduce himself as “Mr. Boombastic”–Shaggy would be proud), and sleeping.  Fantastic.  Still, I did manage to squeeze in two, more exciting activities.

First, I went snorkelling.  Due to cancellations, I ended up getting a de facto private tour.  Though I had snorkelled before, it had been awhile; that, plus my general discomfort with water, made me a bit nervous.  I made sure to express my concerns to the guide, with a mixture of pleas and threats:

Me: “I’m not going to lie–I’m scared.  I don’t want to die.”

Him: “Don’t worry, you won’t drown.  If I have to, I can swim all the way back to shore with you on my back.”

Me: “I don’t know about that, I’m deceptively heavy.  You look strong, but have you been lifting weights lately?  Did you have a hearty breakfast?  You know I’m a lawyer, right?  I know a lot of other lawyers.  They would be really upset if anything happened to me.  Just sayin’.”

Him: “Don’t worry.  If anything should happen, I would die before you.”

Me: “Well that’s not very comforting, is it?  I need us BOTH alive.  If anything happens to you, I’m DEFINITELY screwed.  You’re my ticket home!  Can you please remind me of your name?”

Him: [Gives his name.]

Me: “Well, if anything happens to me, I now know the name of the person whom I have to come back and haunt.  I’m serious.”

Him: [A worrying amount of dismissive laughter.]

In the end, I had a wonderful time.  The guide was incredibly professional and remarkably patient, pointing out fish (including trumpetfish, pipefish, and scorpionfish) amongst the dense coral and complimenting my skills in the water, stating that I wasn’t giving myself enough credit (I replied that I was keeping all of my fear on the inside, like a grown-up).  I told him that I wanted to get scuba certified once I improved my swimming skills, and he said that I should definitely come back to Kendwa for my certification.  Kendwa might be the most beautiful beach I’ve ever visited, with the most beautiful water, so I’m definitely more than tempted to return.

After returning to shore, and giving my snorkel guide a very generous tip for keeping me alive (hey, there are certain things that you do NOT skimp on), I quickly showered, changed, and headed to neighboring Nungwi Beach for my second more-exciting beach activity: hanging out with another couple from my safari.  They had (intelligently, in my opinion) scrapped their plans to spend a dirty, chilly, miserable week climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in favor of staying at a posh, all-you-can-eat, all-you-can-drink (including alcohol) resort in Zanzibar.  We ate, drank, and laughed for hours.  I, of course, alarmed them with some intense, spontaneous dance moves when an only-five-second clip of “Candy Shop” came on over the bar’s speakers.  Finally, five hours later, the front desk staff of their hotel handed me a hot chocolate chip cookie (classy!) and saw me into my taxi, which safely deposited me back at my hotel in Kendwa.  I crashed in preparation for an early start for the next leg of my trip: Johannesburg.


Posted by on October 30, 2011 in Africa, Tanzania, Zanzibar


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5 responses to “Five Days and Four Nights in Zanzibar

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