Our next stop post safari was a beautiful island off the coast of Tanzania. Zanzibar is a particularly special place for me as my grandfather worked here many years ago. He put Zanzibar on the map for me so in planning our trip, it was a definite place to check out whilst in Africa. I visited here in 1982 (age roughly 6 months) and I wanted to check out if it still looked the same .
After a wonderful three days, I can only imagine the fun times my grandparents must have had here.
We travelled from Arusha airport on a small plane that had several departure times (depending on who you asked) 4pm, 4:30, 5, 5:30, 6, you get the point. Day 1 in Zanzibar was spent exploring a bit of the culture and history. Some of what we retained - Zanzibar is a part of Tanzania and had its independence for an extremely short period of time in history- 3 months. It was an arab colony and functioned as one of the central hubs for slave trade. 90 percent of the population today is Muslim and a lot of the architecture reflects the arab influence. Zanzibar has a great deal of natural resources, with spices such a cloves, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, saffron, to name a few. We visited a spice farm which we were a bit skeptical about but it ended up being very interesting. The other main cultural to do is visiting the old part of the main city- stone town. It resembles an old walled city with colorful old buildings, beautiful antique doors, winding alley ways, and a thriving market for spices, fruits, vegetables, fish and meat. Fishing is a big occupation in Zanzibar and we had the opportunity to see how fish gets auctioned off in the market. It was a cool but smelly experience. We saw massive tuna, octopus, sting rays, sardines, etc. We had a guide with us which was helpful to find our way around and who gave us bits and pieces of history but only kn request Overall an interesting experience but happy that we didn't plan to spend more than an afternoon here.
One key stop was to check out ya bawani, the hotel my grand father managed at one point in time. It was once owned by the oberoi hotels but is now run by the Zanzibar government. I wanted to see if I could place where I was sitting in my baby photos from 1982! Unfortunately the hotel is not very well maintained but I could imagine what it looked it in its heyday. The property itself is huge and situated in stone town. It was a special stop and I am happy we had the chance to see it.
As for the rest of our trip, we spent all three nights on the east side of the island directly on the beach. It's about an hour or so drive from the airport which gave us a glimpse into what local life is like driving through several towns. Zanzibar is rather undeveloped although the roads are excellent.
This trip was my first exposure to the Indian Ocean, at an age where I could truly enjoy it. It's a debate whether to describe it as Tiffany, turquoise or crystal clear blue. We went snorkeling one afternoon and saw spectacular coral up close and schools of fish in a beautiful array of colors. We considered diving but didn't have enough time- as it it turns out you see quite a bit just snorkeling here as the marine life is so visible close to the surface of the water. It's hard to do justice to the experience in writing but we were definitely wowed by how stunning the water was.
Zanzibar is sort of hidden gem and we hope to have the opportunity to go back again some day. Next stop, South Africa!