It’s December 2013 and the first snow has arrived in Winterthur, Switzerland. Its one of the colder winters in Switzerland with a thick snow layer on my balcony and a cold breeze brushing my face every time I walk the dog. But a slight smile appears on my face when I think of my next week flight to Zanzibar, Tanzania. The wildness of Africa has always inspired me and I started packing my luggage, including four pairs of bikini and sun cream. When I entered the airplane in my cashmere coat in Zürich it was very cold with temperatures below zero, but when I left it, I had to take off my warm coat as the wonderful island welcomed us with lots of suns and positive vibrations.
After we have arrived at the wonderful DoubleTree Hilton Sansibar Hotel, we were welcomed with a very tasty chocolate cookie. This cookie was so good! Next time I will ask for the receipt! The hotel is the most remote hotel of the island, with a large lodges complex and private beach. The turquoise color of the ocean is sparkling in the background. I want to dive into the water right now!
Apart from spending wonderful moments at the hotels’ beach, having cocktails, snacks, and plenty of refreshing baths, there are a few more things to do in Zanzibar…
Not far away from the hotel, 10 minutes East along the beach we have arrived in a Fisherman’s village. The poverty of the local people was in a huge contract to the luxurious hotels not so far away. We were walking along the narrow sandy streets and were engaged by amused children. Adults in this village have welcomed us with greater distance and were complaining if I tried to take some pictures.
This place has a dark history. Slavery was a problem for a long time and Sansibar is an island which managed to resolve it as one of the last places on Earth. We are taking a taxi from the hotel to the internal capital Stowntown and our guide shows us the Done of Slaves. This locus is a terrible place and I imagine thin and deeply unhappy people being kept here in that small prison cell. Too small to stand, with no bed and proper food, this cell would be a home for up to 75 slaves for weeks. In the 19.century Sansibar was a well-known center for human trafficking. At that point in time, every year 40’000 to 50’000 slaves were sold. That’s a creepy story. Quietly I am thankful, that these terrible times have passed and the world is heading to become a more friendly place to live for all people.
From the Anglican cathedral, where the slaves’ market was once held, our guide takes us through the wilderness of the old town. For centuries, peoples from all over the world came here – Portuguese, Omanis, Indians built palaces and merchant houses. The salty and damply sea air has enormously destroyed the buildings over the years. There are innumerable yellowed façades, most of which require urgent renovations. The only cultivated places are the small hotels and restaurants, which number is consistently increasing in the old town. Just like the Swahili House in a 125-year-old merchant house. It is a stylish hotel with a luxury restaurant. But for us, it is still too early for dinner and the breakfast buffet at the hotel was plentiful. Now we are on the way to the street market, which attracts locals and tourists with fresh fruits and local spices. I didn’t like the smell of the warm raw meat lying at some stands and the flock of flies fluttering around it. During our short shopping time we didn’t check the exchange rate with my partner, so we have accidentally paid 20 EUR instead of 2 EUR for some spices and made a big “gift” to the seller (who suddenly was very quiet). But this story was worth it and we laughed in the evening about how we were tricked on our journey. There is also the Mercury House in the city, where the famous singer of Queen grew up. As 97% of the inhabitants of Zanzibar are Muslims, homosexuality is a difficult topic here and so are the local feelings about the lifestyle of the famous singer. Since 2004, same-sex partnerships are forbidden and punishable.
On the spice tour through the spice plantations of the Tatala Spice Farm at Kizimbani, once again I’m very positively surprised. Cardamom, turmeric, ginger, nutmeg and green pepper flatter the smell. The guide leads us through the plantations and cuts through freshly picked plants to show us their original shape of the plants before these arrive in our European supermarkets several months later. In the evening at our hotel, we were able to convince ourselves during a romantic dinner with flickering candles, relaxed music and sparkling stars above us. Various local dishes were served, including the delicious oriental-flavored curry-fish and chicken with ginger served with cardamom rice. What a fiesta of senses!
Another day we have booked the dolphin tour. The event was offered for more than 300 dollars at the hotel but only for half of the price at the private stand at the beach, led by 3 locals. I have decided to support the locals and we booked the trip for 300 dollars 2 people. Next morning our driver was already waiting in his car in front of the reception door. Surely a little bit less luxurious than the one from the hotel, but I try not to pay too much attention to this kind of things. The driver was friendly and tried to make a conversation with his broken English. In order to get to our dolphin tour, we had to drive along the whole island, to the other end. After one hour we were welcomed by two quite locals, who would guide us to the boat with our new diving equipment. Apart from us, there were 3 other boats with tourist ready to jump into the ocean whenever the wild dolphins come out. We were waiting for 10 minutes watching the surface of the water and finally, our guide has discovered the dolphins. I just heard a loud noise of the boat engine and the next moment I was already jumping into the water. I have never been so close to those wild animals and I must admit it is a wonderful feeling. However, today I have mixed feelings about this attraction as I believe I shouldn’t have interrupted the life of those wild animals.
I don’t have pictures from this journey as my ex-boyfriend unwittingly throw my camera in the water 🙂 #thanks #again #mate
USEFUL FACTS FOR YOUR ZANZIBAR TRIP
- December till March and July till October are the best seasons for summer holidays (in the other months you can expect heavy rainfall).
- Ethiopian Airlines or Condor will take you directly from Europe.
- Your visa for 50 EUR / 50 USD – this one can be obtained in advance at tanzania-gov.de or directly at the airport zanzibarairport.com.
- There are several good travel agencies (that I know) who offer interesting round trips Tanzania (Safari) and Sansibar (Sunbath) – Marco Polo Reisen, Berge und Meer, Wikinger Reisen, Aufsafarid.de, Thomas Cook (only Zanzibar).
- Be careful with your luggage. Ask your hotel to arrange a cab driver with your nameplate for pick up at the airport (in the past cab drivers would occasionally kidnap tourists and keep them until a certain amount of money is paid out. However, since the police patrol was increased over the past years to keep the tourism safe, this kind of situations are not so common anymore).
- If you like to buy spices as a gift from beloved once or for yourself, don’t buy the “pretty baskets” specially made for tourists. They will be filled with leaves and only the top cover is a thin layer of spices. Buy the herbs that locals buy or those at the spice tour. Make sure to keep them dry, so they don’t get bad – remember that you are in the tropics.
- Africa, in general, is a country where tips are very welcome. Make sure you take some one dollar bills with you.
- Wear a hat or a scarf on your head to avoid burning your skin on the head. Yes, this happened to me 🙂
- If you order drinks, please order them without ice cubes to avoid digestive problems.