Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Beautiful Zanzibar

We were lucky to be able to leave “Ruth” safely at the house of Zully’s sister for the week we planned to stay in Zanzibar, although I believe there are a couple of carparks in Dar for overlander’s to leave their vehicles protected.

From there we caught the Kilimanjaro Ferry across to Stone Town, Zanzibar, a quick two hour trip and pretty enjoyable but for the extreme air-conditioning they had turned on.

Stone Town
Upon arriving in Stone Town we proceeded to Zanzibar immigration to complete the required paperwork; we had been expecting to go through this process, however we still didn’t understand at the time or now, why Zanzibar has an immigration process given it is still part of Tanzania. Anyway….

Once outside we were mobbed by touts trying to sell us taxis’, accommodation, tours, etc. They were really in our face and angrily annoying. Fortunately we had decided on where we would like to stay and were pretty sure it was close by. Unfortunately when we mentioned the name of the hotel we had guys grabbing us and “offering” to take us. We did manage to shake all but one who tagged along with us making me cranky, but in the end no harm done.

Our accommodation in Stone Town was a place called Warere, a townhouse/ B&B at the ferry end of the town. Warere was one of the more reasonably priced places (~$55pn), with basic but nice rooms, air-conditioning, ceiling fans and hot water. Initially I wasn’t sure about staying there because the rooms felt so small, especially with the massive king size beds in each room, but given we didn’t plan on hanging out in the room a lot, it really didn’t matter. 

Warere Town House, Stone Town, Zanzibar

Exploring Stone Town, even with a map, it can be easy to get lost. There are so many little alleyways that it is possible to walk around for hours and not really know where you are. The first thing I noticed about Stone Town was the “buzz”.  After being on Ilha de Mocambique and Ibo Island in Mozambique, both feeling pretty deserted, Stone Town felt a bit crowded, but in a nice way. Around us there was lots of business taking place, kids travelling in packs to school and lots of bikes of both the motor and non-motor varieties.  The bikes would come to be annoying over a few days as some nearly motored us down, flying through alleys. Nonetheless, but the buzz was nice.

View of the water from The Silk Route Restaurant
Guys playing football on the beach at sunset
Stone Town beach

One of many alley ways in Stone Town
Stone Town is full of old buildings and history and again we opted to not do a lot of touristy stuff and just enjoy the town for what it is. However we did do a “Spice Tour” which was a great half day outing.

Coffee plant and other seeds above
The Spice Tour left in the morning and went for around 5-6 hours costing $13. The tour took us about 30 minutes out of Stone Town to plantations and private gardens to search for the spice plants that Zanzibar is famous for.  I don’t know why but I was expecting them to take us to some sort of spice market and teach us about the different spices, but this was much better. Our guide showed us the various plants and we were able to pick them and see them close up the origin of many different spices. Following this we were taken to a small market where they did have the spices dried and selling at very cheap prices, relative to what we get charged at home. We purchased a few items such as vanilla sticks, garam masala and vanilla coffee before we headed to a traditional lunch of yummy spiced rice, vegetables and chapattis’s.

Helping ourselves to a traditional meal
Spiced rice, vegetables and chapatti
After a few days of wondering around in Stone Town we thought it would be good to see another part of Zanzibar, in particular the beach! So we did a bit of research and decided on the north of the island and a town called Nungwi.

Note to other overlanders:
We would have liked the opportunity to be able to travel to different parts of the island and considered hiring a car, but ended up just choosing a place. At the time we wondered if bringing “Ruth” over would have been worth it and I have since tried to find out if it’s a possibility. I believe there is a ferry that can take cars over from Dar to Zanzibar but believe it to be quite expensive and requiring a lot of paperwork. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find a cost but believe it may be better to hire a car ($40 per day) or bike on the island if you want to travel around.

Our first impression of Nungwi, well the beach anyway, was how blue the water was and how white the sand was. Perfect!

We travelled by mini bus (chartered for travellers @$10pp) from Stone Town to Nungwi where we were staying at Ora Resort: My Blue.  This was an all-inclusive resort (minus alcoholic drinks) and a bit more than our budget, although because it was just before high season we got a great price. It was a chance to relax and not have to think about anything and it seemed worth it. It WAS worth it. 

The resorts private beach

Most of our days were spent reading and swimming (Ora also has a great pool in addition to beach); meals were all at set times (yes, it was one of those places J) and we also did a bit of training for KIli in the fitness centre, despite some of the equipment not being up to standard.

Beautiful turquoise water!
Maasai on the beach
"My Blue" pool at night

We had planned to go snorkelling on our last day there, but as our luck goes, the weather wasn’t good and not ideal for snorkelling, so we opted to “whether” the rain onshore.

Bad weather coming in and Mike's reaction to it :-)

Being a bit silly. Check out cool wristbands we had to wear!

Fruit for breakfast.....And wine list including Deakin Estate wines for the bargain price of 25euros

I was sad to leave Ora and Nungwi. We had three nights and full days there but I could have easily have spent longer! Still our business in Stone Town was unfinished and we decided to head back for another couple of days.

Enjoying the beach
The shower head in our room's shower: I'm going
to get one of these when I come home!!
Back to Stone Town
Our return back to Stone Town was marked by rain yet again in Nungwi, so it did make it a bit easier to leave.

Back in Stone Town we returned to Warere where the staff were very kind and upgraded us to a room with a balcony to avoid us having to move from our designated room on the second night.

We did a bit more walking around but our remaining time in Stone Town was really to have a chance to see the Slave Market and do a bit of touristy shopping (well for me anyway).

Monument to the Slaves at the Slave Market

One of many ruins in Stone Town
The Slave Market wasn’t quite as exciting as we had thought it might be but I guess our visit to Stone Town wouldn’t have been complete without it. Shopping was fun minus one incident with a local store owner who followed us around for half an hour wanting us to come into his shop. We tried to explain that we would come when we were ready and that following us around didn’t make us want to come. Long story short, he got pretty agro with us, telling us we were not nice people because after being followed for 30 minutes we didn’t want to see his shop anymore. Oh well, I guess that’s something we’ll just have to live with :-)

I just loved this building!
And another photo from the front

"Mercury's" Bar in honour of Freddie Mecury, born on Zanzibar

A couple more nights in Stone Town and we were ready to return to Dar and beyond….

Food of Stone Town, Zanzibar

There’s not much I can say except YUM! I realised when looking at my photos that I had a lot of food which I felt warranted a separate heading. Highlights were Lazuli, The Silk Route, Zanzibar Coffee House and House of Spices. Unfortunately I only have cocktail pictures from The Silk Route but it was great Indian. I have included photos from for the other three plus others noting where they were taken.

Coffee at Zanzibar Coffee House
Muesli and fruit at Zanzibar Coffee House
Inside Lazuli
The BEST juice I've ever had at Lazuli: Pineapple, Passion fruit,
Mango and lime
Salad at Lazuli
Beef Burger, salad and tandoori chicken sandwich at Lazuli
Cocktails at The Silk Route

Grilled tuna with flavoured rice and salad at Lazuli
Grilled prawns in chilli and garlic, chips and salad at Lazuli
Complementary starter at House of Spices
Prawn pizza done in a wood-fire oven at the House of Spices
Cinnamon ice-cream at House of Spices
Cold chicken noodle salad at Lazuli
Chippatti with chicken curry, mango and advacado salsa at Moonsoon

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