Travel to Dar es Salaam then Zanzibar 5 & 6 August 2012

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September 11th 2012
Published: September 11th 2012
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Travel to Dar es Salaam then Zanzibar 5 & 6 August 2012

After getting up at 4.00am as we were in for a 14 hour trip to Dar es Salaam, we left at 5.00am. We stopped at a picnic area for lunch, which included the obligatory tourist market for tourists which sold paintings, African craft and carvings. We arrived on the edge of the large sprawling city and Marietta told us that we have 2 ½ hours to go to travel very few kilometres. For the 1st time, we experienced the city’s grid-lock. Our driver switched off the truck engine many times, rather than keeping it running. As we had been travelling for 12 hours, the prospect of 2 more hours of travelling without moving very fast, made the first beer and dinner all the more magnificent.

We arrived at our fantastic Park at about 7.30 pm, just on dusk. In 5 minutes the tent was up and we were in the shower – refreshing and salt water!!!!!. We walked past the large pool to the bar where our dinner was waiting for us and the refreshing Tusker Beer. In bed by 9.45pm.

Dar es Salaam ("harbour of peace"), formerly Mzizima, is the largest city in Tanzania. It is also the country's richest city and a regionally important economic centre. Dar es Salaam is actually an administrative province within Tanzania, and consists of three local government areas or administrative districts: Kinondoni to the north, Ilala in the centre of the region, and Temeke to the south. The Dar es Salaam Region had a population of 3-4 million (numbers are hard to get as almost ½ the people live in the slums on the perimeter of the city). Though Dar es Salaam lost its official status as capital city to Dodoma in 1974 (a move which was not complete until 1996), it remains the centre of the permanent central government bureaucracy and continues to serve as the capital for the surrounding Dar es Salaam Region.

Present day Dar es Salaam's origins have been influenced by myriad of Sultans, the Germans and the British. The city started as a fishing village in the mid 19th century, is now Tanzania's largest city, and has become one of East Africa’s most important ports and trading centres.

With its great atmosphere, mix of African, Muslim, and South Asian influences, picturesque harbour, beaches, chaotic markets, and historical buildings, it was an interesting city.

Dar es Salaam is certainly not at the top of the list of places to see for most visitors to Tanzania. Like most tourist, we used it as a necessary stop on their way to Zanzibar.

Dar es Salaam has a very humid climate and relatively stable temperatures, both in terms of night-to-day, and summer-to-winter. The driest and coolest season is June through early October. The locals all had their tracksuits on, even though it was 28 degrees.

6th August: We were picked up by 3 small vans at 8.00am then had to drive from our accommodation to the ferry terminal which was a couple of kilometres and we ended up in a grid-lock and stopped. We were supposed to catch the 9.00am ferry but missed it. We got out of our vans and walked – this was faster. At least we were moving!!!

We had a short ferry trip 1st and then got off that ferry and got onto a larger ferry which took us to Zanzibar’s old Town called Stone Town. This trip took us 2 ½ hours. It was a very pleasant day and many passengers took the opportunity to sleep – including Tom.

Zanzibar: 6 & 9 August in Stone Town, 7-8 August at Amaan Bungalows, on the northern coast of Zanzibar:

Stone Town is the vibrant and somewhat enchanting capital of Zanzibar and Nugwi – a popular small resort town on the northern tip of the island.

Zanzibar meaning "Coast of Blacks" is a semi-autonomous part of Tanzania, in East Africa. It comprises the Zanzibar Archipelago in the Indian Ocean, 25–50 kilometres off the coast of the mainland, and consists of numerous small islands and two large ones: Unguja (the main island, informally referred to as Zanzibar where Stone Town is), and Pemba.

Although Zanzibar is part of the Union it maintains its own immigration service and we needed to have a valid passport to enter, even though we came from mainland Tanzania. This farcically means we had to fill out a Tanzania arrival card for our arrival in Stone Town, and a Tanzania departure card when we leave. This process took 45 minutes.

The islands became part of the historical record of the wider world when Persian traders discovered them and used them as a base for voyages between the Middle East, India, and Africa. Unguja, the larger island, offered a protected and defensible harbor, so although the archipelago offered few products of value, the Persians settled at what became Zanzibar City ("Stone Town") as a convenient point from which to trade with East African coastal towns.

They established garrisons on the islands and built the first Zoroastrian fire temples and mosques in the Southern hemisphere. In 1896, Zanzibar was the location of the world's shortest war, which it is also ‘famous’ for — they surrendered to the British Army after 38 minutes.

During the Age of Exploration, the Portuguese Empire was the first European power to gain control of Zanzibar, and retained it for nearly 200 years. In 1698, Zanzibar fell under the control of the Sultanate of Oman, which developed an economy of trade and cash crops with ruling Arab elite. Plantations were developed to grow spices, hence the term Spice Island. On the way up to Nugwi on the northern point of Zanzibar, we visited a local spice farm which also included a lot of tropical fruit. After the 2 hour inspection we were given 9 different fruits, including the very smelly but durian fruit, and the Jack fruit, both of which we were familiar with from Darwin and SE Asia. We also saw a local climb one of the coconut trees which he sung a local song. He shelled and split the cocoanut so we could drink the milk and eat the coconut. They also gave us each a hat made of palm leaves. We had a bit of fun with these – as we all looked pretty ‘dorky’.

Another major trade for Zanzibar was ivory and a Centre for slave trading. It was East Africa's main slave-trading port, and in the mid-19th century as many as 50,000 slaves were passing annually through the slave markets of Zanzibar. Control of Zanzibar eventually came into the hands of the British Empire; part of the political impetus for this was the 19th century movement for the abolition of the slave trade.

The islands gained independence from Britain in December 1963 as a constitutional monarchy. A month later, the bloody Zanzibar Revolution, in which thousands of Arabs and Indians were killed in a genocide and thousands more expelled, led to the establishment of the Republic of Zanzibar and Pemba. That April, the republic was subsumed by the mainland former colony of Tanganyika. This United Republic of Tanganyika and Zanzibar was soon renamed (as a portmanteau) the United Republic of Tanzania, of which Zanzibar remains a semi-autonomous region.

The most commonly practised religion is Islam. About 95% of Zanzibar's population follow the laws of Islam so we were woken at 5.00am each morning by the muezzins for the call for prayer. Its history was influenced by the Arab and Persian people. The remaining 5% are mostly Christians. While we were on the Island it was Ramadan so they all fasted from 9.00am-5.00pm. We had to be sensitive about eating and drinking in streets as all the people were probably thirsty and hungry. The Ramadan lasts for 1 month between full moons. They follow the Lunar Calender. Many of the restaurants were closed at lunch time but we quickly found the ones that here opened.

There are 51 mosques, and muezzins which we heard before the prayer time. There are six Catholic churches in Zanzibar.

Throughout African countries we have travelled, the technology has been hit-and-miss (mainly the latter). However adding to this during May and June 2008, Zanzibar suffered a major failure of its electricity system, which left the island without electricity for nearly a month. Another blackout happened from December 2009 to March 2010, due to a problem with the submarine cables and the local plant. This led to a serious and ongoing shock to the island's fragile economy, which is heavily dependent on foreign tourism. In 2000, the annual income per capita was US$220. We experienced a power cut for only 2 hours.

Zanzibar's local people are from a mixture of ethnic backgrounds, indicative of its colourful history. Zanzibaris speak Swahili, a language which is spoken extensively in East Africa. Many believe that the purest form is spoken in Zanzibar, as it is the birthplace of the language. Many locals also speak English.

On the 6 August and then again on the 9 August, when we came back from the northern beach, we walked around old and new Stone Town and saw some of the important architectural features such as the Livingstone house, The Old Dispensary of Zanzibar, the Guliani Bridge, Ngome kongwe (The Old fort of Zanzibar) and the House of Wonders. We also saw the Peace Memorial building which was being restored as well as the Jamhuri Gardens which was also being worked on. We paid 5000 T Shillings each to look through the Old Slave Market site which is now where the Cathedral Church of Christ is built. The slave trade building is now accommodation.

Zanzibar was the first region in Africa to introduce colour television, in 1973. The first television service on mainland Tanzania was not introduced until some twenty years later, but it currently ranks low among African countries due to poor services offered and lack of modern production tools as well as experienced staff. The current TV station is called ZBC.

When we arrived in Stone Town on the 6th, we settled into our hotel room (large bed and on suit bathrooms, fridge and air-conditioning), several of us went for a walk, got ‘lost’, and then found a beaut restaurant (Monsoon Restaurant) for a yummy lunch where we sat on cushions on the floor in a great atmosphere (after taking our shoes off). Some had spicy chicken dishes and others had fish. We then came back to the hotel and did a bit of hand washing, got ourselves reorganised and then met all the group, including the 10 new people who were joining us, at Africa House (which used to be the British Club) for a magnificent sunset. The number of times we have faced the west coast of Africa for sunsets and the east coast for sunrises has been numerous. They have been spectacular due to the heat, condition of the atmosphere (including level of dust), and a few clouds.

It was a balmy evening and we watched a dhow and other fishing and tourist boats floating by – very pleasant. We all then went to The Silk Route restaurant for a beautiful Indian meal – yum!

The morning of 7 August was when we travelled (via the spice farm) to the seaside resort, Amaan Bungalows, on the northern coast of Zanzibar. When we arrived, it was obvious the resort had recently been expanded, adding a large swimming pool and many new accommodation rooms. We were given one room near the pool but then we were moved to another (older) room as the 1st room had 3 single beds in it. It was lucky we moved as there was no water in the original room and the 2 girls who were given the room had to use another room for a shower and sleep in the new room. They were nicely fitted out but they were not ready to be used (quality control is yet to be learned in Zanzibar).

We were told/warned that people are very friendly on the Island etc, etc, but their service is very, very slow – we experienced this a number of times and quickly learned that groups of 5 people were better to handle in restaurants than groups of 25!!!!

On the 8th at 9.00am we started our cruise boat and snorkelling boat trip. It was a beautiful day with a few clouds. We had a quick breakfast (vegetable omelette, cereal, coffee, juice, pastries and more). The boat had a license to hold 23 people, but we quickly learned the ‘local boys’ had other plans. After all of us got on the old dhow, and we then sailed for a short time before picking 4 Italians up on another beach, we were carrying about 40 people – oh well, that is Africa. There were also 8 people sitting up on the roof of the boat which was shading ½ the boat. It was creaking and we wondered if it would hold – it did. One of the Italian girls was just about to light a cigarette while she was sitting next to the owner of the boat who was working the 40HP outboard motor. I looked at her with horror so she put the cigarettes away.

After a 2 hour boat trip we came to a small island and anchored off the cost of it. We all went into the water with our fins and snorkelling gear. The water temperature was beautiful – about 25 degrees. There was a lot of coral but most of it was dead, however, there were an amazing variety of tropical fish, star fish etc. After 20 minutes, Tom & I were cooling down so got back on the boat. We had had a good look around and was more than happy with the experience.

We left the Conservation Site and headed back down the same side (west side) of Zanzibar and stopped a beach for lunch. We had spicy tuna, rice and a beautiful pasta vegetable sauce. After lunch, some of the group were displaying their gymnastics skills on the sand – pretty funny. We then waded back to the boat in water up to our waist and it was beautifully warm. We then started our way back to port. On the way back they put the sail up to help the poor little outboard with its over-load.

Some of our other group members went scuba diving and it was an average experience so I am glad I decided to not go, even though it was my 1st preference but because they had lost power the day before they weren’t sure if they were going to be able to prepare the air tanks – that was my deciding factor, and after all, we were in Africa!!!!

We got back at 3.30pm after a fantastic day. We showered and then did a bit of diary work by the pool before meeting the rest of the group for sunset cocktails. It was a beautiful balmy evening again and another lovely sunset.

I had a swim in the pool doing 20 lengths and felt good. It is amazing that even though I don’t swim for months, I can still swim long distances. The water was a beautiful temperature and it was very clean.

The 1st night on the northern coast, we chose a restaurant that served lots of fish as this was the place for fresh fish. They didn’t let us down. The next night we went to another restaurant with tables set up on the sand, right on the beach. We had another fish dish – this time white snapper – yum!!

Bed at 10.00pm and up at 7.30am on the 9th August for a 9.00am pickup. And it was raining so we left at the right time. By the time we got back to Stone Town, it was not raining there. We checked back into the Mazsons Hotel, showered, organised our bags for an early departure the next day and then met the group on the portside. We walked up to the 4th floor of one of their buildings where we found a restaurant and bar – and the sunset, again!!

After the sun set, we went to The Monsoon restaurant again for another beautiful meal. This was a farewell dinner for 7 of our group who were finishing their holiday.

Tomorrow we start our journey south heading for Malawi.

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