Beach Bumming in Nungwi

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February 18th 2018
Published: February 23rd 2018
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We travelled by taxi to the north tip of Zanzibar - an area known as Nungwi. This is a section of Zanzibar known for its fantastic beaches and expensive hotels. Places such as the Coco Cabana and the 'Z' charge anywhere from $400 to $550 a night. We are coming to the end of the tourist season in February - the rains arrive in March - so weekend rates run from $1500 to $1700 for three nights!! Monica and I had booked eight nights in a guest house resort called Makofi's. We were paying $216 for eight nights - or $27 a night. Obviously, we were not expecting much for the price, however we were pleasantly surprised. Makofi's is located only minutes from the beach, about a hundred yards down an alley. It has a large steel gated door that opens up into a compound of white beach sand. Four buildings form a kind of askew square with the sand in the middle. This is where a large old shell of a boat sits with a long smooth wooden table top nailed upon it. In the morning, this acts as our breakfast area - later it is the bar. Fresh fruit, coffee, tea, juice, and chapatis were all included in our breakfast with jam and, of course, jars and jars of Nutella for the Europeans. Our flat consisted of a single room, rather large in size and holding only a large, firm bed, bug net, fan and a small bamboo rack to stack our clothes. A few steps off our porch and around to the right was the bathing area consisting of three showers and three bathrooms. The place has only been open for three months or so and the young Italian gentleman who owns and runs the place appears to be doing an excellent job. The washrooms are cleaned every few hours and the walled in area gives one a sense of security. There is a crew of three or four women and the same number of guys who are always around and catering to any want or need in a courteous fashion. Anything from a change of bed sheets to getting one a cold beer was handled quickly and with a smile. It is always nice to have your own bathroom, however, we have backpacked enough to easily adapt to a hostel style. Most of the cliental were young adults in their twenties and thirties. We had two Italian girls on our left - one of them was teaching somewhere in the very rural western region of Tanzania - and a young couple, Matt and Lucy, from Liverpool on our right. This was their first stop on a year long adventure travelling the world. From here, they flew to Sri Lanka. They had started their journey by announcing their engagement. I had nothing but admiration for them - I think all couples should travel for a year together to test the relationship waters and see if this is the soul one really wants to spend the rest of their adult life with.

The highlight of this region are the beaches and the clear blue water of the ocean. The white sandy beaches are immense and one never has a problem finding a secluded spot to sun bathe and contemplate why more people do not visit this paradise. The swimming is outstanding - smooth sandy bottom and the clearest, bluest water I have ever seen. We spent eight days here doing little but swimming and soaking up the sun. The restaurants are plentiful and the competition tends to keep the prices reasonable. We ate at a couple of high level places - Macis, a tiny little outdoor restaurant on the sand run by a bubbly and talkative French chef - and the roof top of the Cinnamon, a part of the Z hotel. From here, one can watch the sunset over the ocean. Usually we ate at one of the many Italian beach places specializing in pasta, pizza and seafood. The Italian influence is very strong here - a good majority of the tourists are Italian and many of the signs are in Italian. It is a much more common language to hear compared to English. Lunch is usually enjoyed later in the day, around three or so, while dinner is served after sunset. The second largest group of tourists here are the Russians followed by other Eastern Europeans - Czechs, Poles, Germans and the like. We were pretty much the only North Americans outside of one girl from Quebec who stayed a couple of nights at Makofi's. Outside of their addiction to Nutella, the biggest adjustment for Monica and I was the heavy amount of smoking done by all these tourists. The two major brands sold here are Camel and Marlboro - both very strong and irritating to non-smokers like us. It seems that these cultures are a generation or two behind us in ridding themselves of this toxic habit. Oh well.

We basically had only two real adventures here in Nungwi: one was a day of snorkelling off of Mnemba Island and the other was swimming with the endangered turtles in a rehab centre. We paid $20 each for a 90 minute boat ride, a lunch, our snorkel gear, and about two hours of snorkelling in the clear waters off of Mnemba. The coral was disintegrating but the colourful fish were plentiful and the water was a good twenty feet deep so avoiding the sea urchins proved easy enough. Our host warned us that although we had anchored no more than fifty yards away from Mnemba, that no one was allowed to swim to the beach. It seems that this is Bill Gates' island - he has purchased this from the Tanzanian government and anyone landing on his island is to be charged with trespassing and stuck with a $500 fine. On our next to last day, we walked up to the northern tip of the island where a turtle sanctuary is found. These sea turtles are found in fishing nets and the like and this sanctuary kind of rehabs them back to health before re-releasing them into the ocean. We waded into the sanctuary with a bucket of seaweed to feed the critters. There were about 30 green sea turtles all swimming around, under and through you, rising to the surface for the odd breath or a mouthful of food. Once one gets used to their leather like fins scraping against your legs, they are a very passive and friendly creature. After an hour or so, the hosts have to start telling people to get out of the water - one could stay all day watching and swimming with these guys.

Leaving here on the 18th of February, we are down to a week left on this adventure. Three days in Machamvi - a peninsula on the eastern side of Zanzibar and then two days in Stone town or Zanzibar City followed by a final day in Dar es Salaam before spending a day and a half flying back to Vancouver. As we wind down towards the end, I am torn between the anticipation of getting back to Gabriola - my gardens and wood burning stove and my own bed - and a want to never leave this experience. I find myself talking less and making the effort to imprint some of these sights and feelings into my permanent memory. Life is good.

Additional photos below
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Mnemba Island Mnemba Island
Mnemba Island

Bill Gates owns

23rd February 2018

yes, life is good
you've had a great adventure, Monica and Marty. Consider yourselves lucky you were healthy enough to do matter how uncomfortable or difficult it was at times. Wonder what your highlight is? Dian Fossey's gorillas? Enjoy what's left and embrace each new day as if it's your last. But you two know that anyway! Safe journey home!

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