Paradise in Zanzibar

Paradise is probably the most accurate word to describe the past few days. We traveled from Arusha to Dar Es Salaam where we spent a night camping on the beach before heading to Zanzibar on my birthday… Not too bad of a way to celebrate a twenty-second birthday! Zanzibar is located just off the coast of Tanzania and consists of two small islands: Unguja and Pemba. Prior to April 1964, Zanzibar and Tanganyika (mainland of Tanzania) were separate countries however in 1964, the two combined and the country was renamed to Tanzania. The two hour ferry ride led us to a land of paradise, one very similar to the Caribbean with palm trees lining the streets and the beaches filled with pristine white sand. The ocean was aqua green-blue in color and simply picturesque. This was our first real relaxation, vacation-like portion of the trip as we didn’t have an agenda and we even had the opportunity to sleep in! The first night we stayed in Zanzibar city which contains the historic town center known as Stone Town. There is one thing you have to do if you visit Zanzibar and that is a spice tour so we did that on the first day when we arrived at the island. We learned about the plants and trees that produce different spices and learned about many of the different tropical fruits that they have on the island. We even had a fruit tasting which was delicious! We were decorated with hats, bracelets, rings, and baskets made of leaves during the tour which overall was excellent! After wondering around Stone Town for a bit, we all met at Mrecury’s for a birthday celebration! Freddie Mercury, of the band Queen, was actually born in Zanzibar so the restaurant was a tribute to him! I was even surprised with a birthday cake that we all shared! Despite being halfway around the world, I was surprised with birthday messages galore from many of my closest friends so I thank you all for helping to make my birthday so wonderful! The next morning, a few of us were up at the crack of dawn to go swimming with the dolphins. We didn’t really get a ton of information about the excursion and really had absolutely no idea what to expect. I’ve been swimming with dolphins a few times before where you learn about dolphins then get to feed them, dance with them, get pushed by them, etc with trained dolphins in an enclosed area. But this is Tanzania and as I said, I had absolutely no idea what to expect. Well, we got to the boat that was supposedly going to take us to swim with dolphins and it looked like a canoe… the motorized boat was very small, rundown, and looked anything but safe. We had to haggle with the guy in charge who wanted to charge us for life jackets… what in the world were we getting ourselves into? Not to mention, we were the only people there. We got onto the boat which was essentially constructed from a piece of tin and some wood that served as benches. We were equipped with a rusted anchor and a stick… literally just a stick… no oar or anything. At this point we were pretty much just laughing at the sketchy situation we had gotten ourselves into. Our “guide” pushed us out of the sand and into the ocean then got out his stick and string and began fishing off the back of the boat… this was just getting better. We were soaked from the waves which were pretty intense as we cruised for about an hour in our small boat on the way to see the supposed dolphins… during it, we created every possible escape plan possible making use of our life jackets and stick. Finally we saw more mzungus (white people as we are termed here in Africa)… thank goodness! We had finally reached the dolphins. Soon after, we saw dolphin fins so we jumped off of our little boat and into the water with our snorkel gear to see them… how cool! We climbed back onto the boat and a few minutes later there were more dolphins so we were jumping off the boat once again and swimming with another pod. We had about an hour with the dolphins and it was spectacular! When we were in the water, the dolphins (in groups of about ten or so) would swim below us then ascend to the surface around us for air then dive back down. A few even stayed near the surface just literally inches from us… wow! We literally got to swim with wild dolphins and it was incredible… such a highlight! When we got back from the excursion, we were off to the beach resort! This means that we had a few days off from camping and rather had a hotel room… with air conditioning and a bed… it is certainly true that you appreciate things so much more when you go without them! The resort was beautiful—right on the beach with lots of beach and water activities. One of the days, a few of us ventured out for snorkeling and scuba diving near Mnemba Island, about an hour and a half boat ride away. The scuba diving was incredible—we saw fish galore (eel, starfish, sea urchins, Nemo, and Dory (ha)) and the reefs were stunning! We dove all morning and afternoon, with lunch on the boat, before heading back for a beautiful sunset cruise which served as my birthday party! The following day was spent on the beach with an afternoon spared for the turtle conservatory at a nearby hotel. The conservatory was a natural pool with about twenty sea turtles. We got to snorkel with the massive creatures, feed them, and pet them… it was so neat seeing them so close! When we got back to the beach, I treated myself to an hour long massage (which amounted to being $13… not too bad!) before soaking up the last bit of the Zanzibar sunshine. Our luxury was over as we headed back to Dar Es Salaam where we are spending the night tonight before having two long driving days ahead of us as we make our way to Malawi! What a week!
~Susan

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Spice Tour in Zanzibar

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Zanzibar

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Zanzibar

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Scuba Diving

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Sea Turtles

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