Zanzibar is a place where you can easily forget about the whole world. It is one of the most popular destinations among newlyweds. The style of my trip was slightly different, I travelled around Zanzibar with a backpack visiting many beautiful corners of the island. In this article I will tell you about my first moments on the island, beautiful underwater world on Mnemba island and unexpected encounter which I will remember forever.
Zanzibar is the first tropical island on the other side of the equator that I visited. The motive for choosing this destination were unusually cheap airline tickets (300 GBP). The price for cheap tickets was a long journey through 3 countries with backpacks. We flew from Luxembourg to Munich, then from Munich to Oman and from there only 5 more hours to Zanzibar, where the adventure began…
It was June, wintertime in the other hemisphere. However, I don’t think, that the people of Zanzibar know what winter is. When I entered the airport in Dar es Salaam, my clothes immediately stuck to my body. The fatigue of almost a two-day trip was clearly visible. It was 2 pm, but before we were able to leave the airport, we had to pay a visa, authorizing us to stay in the country. It lasted about an hour and cost us 50 USD, payable only by card (for fear of corruption).
After passing through customs, we found ourselves in a small room that was supposed to resemble the airport’s main hall. Although the airport in Dar es Salaam is the largest in Tanzania, there was only one conveyor belt and our luggage was already waiting. Backpacks were stacked on the ground by a group of locals, wanting to make some money by pretending that they were watching over.
Around, small exchange offices and the locals, trying to convince us to use their services. Finally, we went to a window from which no one was shouting to exchange our dollars for the local currency – Tanzanian shillings. It is better to exchange the money immediately at the airport. Unfortunately, the island does not have many ATMs, not to mention the exchange offices. It is worth mentioning that 1 USD is 2145 TZS, so you can also imagine how huge inflation prevails in this country. Beer costs 5000 TZS, a bottle of wine 30,000 TZS, dinner in a hotel restaurant about 20,000 TZS. Decided to change half of our money and for a moment we became European millionaires in Africa!
Finally, we left the airport and apart from the heat, local taxi drivers also hit us offering their services. We were certainly a bite to them. Approaching 4 pm and the day was slowly coming to an end. During the wintertime, the day is shorter and the sun sets around 6 pm. We still had to cover about 37 miles from the airport to the hotel. The place was in the village of Jambiani, located in the central part of the east coast. Getting to Mbuyuni Beach Village takes about 1.5 hours. After the initial bargaining, it finally stood at 60 USD, which was a very high price. However, we wanted to get out of the crowd of pushy natives surrounding us as soon as possible. Not wasting any more time, we packed the car and set off further.
Around me beautiful beach scenery. Small houses surrounded by palm trees and tropical plants stand on the sand, right at the descent to the beach. To be honest, I did not expect such peace and so many shades of turquoise. There is nothing more beautiful than waking up in the morning to the sound of the ocean waves. I open the door of the bungalow and walk barefoot on the sand to see all shades of turquoise bathed in sunlight. Another day on the paradise island of Zanzibar has begun.
Even the winter mornings on the island are hot and I felt like showering. You probably wonder what the situation with water looks like. I researched all the key information about sanitation in Africa. Therefore knew that oral contact with water in this country could end up in illness. That is why, before leaving, I secured a vaccination package for typhoid, tetanus or jaundice. Also, every time I took a shower, tried to avoid water contact with my face. Moreover, I only used bottled water to brush my teeth.
In my opinion, the conditions in our bungalow were at the level of three stars of European standards. It was very clean and pleasant. Above the beds hung mesh canopies. Designed to protect us against bloodthirsty mosquitoes, carrying malaria and other dangerous diseases. Besides, you can protect yourself against malaria with special tablets. Obtained with a prescription by a doctor. We went a step further and also bought wrist and ankle bands, emitting a specific smell, which was also supposed to repel mosquitoes.
We spent the whole day in a hotel that was arranged for a beach village and walked along the white beach along the coast. Here, life goes on very slowly and the rhythm of the day is regulated by ebb and flow which are quite spectacular. The ocean comes and goes 4 times a day for about a mile. As a result revealing white sand and various sea creatures. Walking deep into the flowing ocean you can admire the flora and fauna. As well as the work of Zanzibar women collecting the algae. This view is unheard of and inspiring, especially for photographers. Certainly, because of the colourful dresses of women, against the background of white sand and various shades of blue look great.
My attention was especially caught by crabs. A whole lot of small crabs appearing out of nowhere and disappearing suddenly in the sand. We walked the beach for about 1km. On the way, we passed a wooden hut, where a friendly local sold coconut water. Drinking straight from a freshly split coconuts, in the 30°C heat, was a real blessing!
Jambiani is a very quiet part of the island, relatively without tourists. Especially in the low season, which is June. Occasionally rain may happen in June, but it only lasts a moment and is very pleasant. The air temperature is about 28-30 degrees C and is very close to the ocean water temperature. I remember that it was a very unprecedented feeling for me. After entering the water, the temperature did not change at all, it was like entering a warm soup, only the water was crystal clear.
We spent two lazy days in Jambiani, enjoying the paradise beach, watching the tides and funny little, running crabs. Time passed slowly…
On the third day in the morning, we set off north of the island to Nungwi. A former fishing village is known for locally manufactured dhow boats with one sail and beautiful coral reefs. There, we were also arranged to explore the underwater world on the island of Mnemba. It is considered the most romantic island in the world! Not only because of the beautiful scenery and the presence of a coral reef, but also because it is heart-shaped.
The goal for today was to admire one of the most beautiful coral reefs. We went with our guide Niambu to the island of Mnemba. Island is located only 20 minutes away from the mainland, by boat. Niambu was an experienced diver and promised to show us the most beautiful parts of the reef. We took snorkelling masks, flippers and hopped on the boat. The water was deep blue. We were slowly approaching the island, when suddenly dolphins appeared next to our boat! I’ve never seen them in the natural environment before. That’s why my heart started to beat faster.
Niambu explained to us that this group of dolphins was passing by in search of food. After that, he directed the boat towards them and said that we would have to jump soon into the water if we want to watch them closely. In great excitement, we began to put on fins and masks (I have never done it so quickly). Before I even realize I was looking at something incredible, something I have never seen before. I saw a group of around 30 dolphins, bigger and smaller, swimming right underneath me.
Seeing these stunning creatures in their natural habitat, was something I’ve dreamed of for a long time. Hearing them communicating underwater was even more exciting. It was one of those experiences that you remember for the rest of your life. To become part of nature, although for a moment it is a great honour and distinction. We chased the dolphins for a while. When they left, we went with our guide to the coral reef, for even more sensation.
It is said that it is good to have an aquarium at home, because looking at the fishes is extremely relaxing. Well, for anyone who has never dived with a mask before, it is like being in a huge aquarium, full of colourful fish and other sea creatures like starfish, crabs, sea snakes and sea urchins. The latter can be a cause of great harm to you, so I recommend that you stay away.
Snorkelling on the reef is like putting your head into a three-dimensional world. So much happens in there, but you move in slow motion. You are only a passive observer, suspended about 2 meters above the reef. Sometimes you have the impression that your belly will rub against it. Above all, you should remember that nothing can be touched in this underwater kingdom. Time slows down and you have the impression that only a moment has passed. In fact, the sun has been burning your back for an hour and if you haven’t applied the cream, then well … This is undoubtedly one of the most relaxing activities.
After snorkelling, we arrived at the hotel in Nungwi to have dinner at a beach restaurant. I do not have to mention how hungry we were. The restaurant was quite unusual. Tables set on the beach towards the ocean. Feet could be immersed in the sand. With a larger wave, water was reaching under the table and washing your feet. I think that even dining at the best Michelin star restaurant, will not deliver such an experience. My dish for today was a fish in coconut sauce. Heaven in my mouth and heaven in front of me, because I ate dinner with the beautiful sunset view. Can you ask for more?