We Are the Champions

Tanzania's flag
Africa » Tanzania » Zanzibar
July 1st 2014
Published: October 21st 2014
Edit Blog Post

Jump for JoyJump for JoyJump for Joy

Yes, we are that excited to finally be in Zanzibar!
Apparently, someone put a hit of X in the coffee of the Zanzibar immigration officer this morning. He loves EVERYBODY! . We aren’t even scolded for filling out our forms wrong.

My passport is officially stamped and slid back across the desk at me. With a wide toothy grin and a big thumbs up he chortles,

Welcome to Zanzibar!

Out of a shadowy terminal and into the brilliant midday sunshine, Zanzibar blasts us with a cornucopia of sights and sounds, and smells.

For the past twenty years, I have enthusiastically gathered Intel on this Island with the objective of conjuring up in my mind’s eye a perfect image as to what it would be like here.

In hindsight, nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to experience.

Historic Stone Town leans starkly against a stormy backdrop of swaying palms on an ocean of turquoise.

The very name Zanzibar rolls off the tongue like an exotic lover, doesn’t it.

But the sweltering midday heat has me lost in a wave of claustrophobia mixed with exhilaration as we push through the bustling, colourful crowds carrying our heavy loads. I am happily taking
Glorious BeachGlorious BeachGlorious Beach

I couldn't take enough pictures of this beautiful spot
it all in, despite being drenched in sweat.

The Australians lag and bicker, the Mzupaki moans about her backpack still dripping red wine, the Portugoose and Canadian stop short to barter with a fruit vendor, Captain Orange is way up ahead chatting to long lost relatives who are now gracefully hauling his stuff for him. He never sweats, and now I know why.

We find our lodgings, the Safari Inn is only a few blocks up from the docks, to drop off our luggage. The hostel is simple but clean, and there is a 600 lb man sitting in the lobby on a saggy chaise wearing a tent sized kanzu, watching grainy TV and paying us no mind.

The rooms are ancient but our windows have shutters that open out onto the narrow streets below, where children play and scooters wiz by. I am so thankful there are ceiling fans.

With a quick change of soppy clothing, I want to explore old Stone Town...but the others opt for a nap to get over their earlier bouts of ferry boat seasickness, so I set off on my own and promptly get lost amongst the maze of narrow
Pirates of ZanzibarPirates of ZanzibarPirates of Zanzibar

That was us, ripping up the high seas
breezeways and alleys.

All my romantic notions I had of Zanzibar are swallowed up by what I accidentally witness.

Although there is a certain mystique to this fair city, I’m afraid the crumbling poverty is too far gone. This is what happens when a million people cram onto a postage stamp island.

Exotic Zanzibar is dying.

I turn a blind eye to the gutsy, capybara-sized rodents that dart across my path, the waist high piles of rotting garbage, the haphazard electrical wiring, and tiny kittens curled up on doorways, dead.

I take pictures and people watch at a cafe. Due to a slight inner ear infection there is a possibility I may have leaned a little too much to the left while wandering around therefore coming full circle, finding myself back where I started…just in time to join the group for dinner and drinks at the nightclub named after Freddy Mercury.

Shattered, it’s not long before calling it an early night.

The following day, a local fixer amusingly named Alibaba appeared in a poof and takes us for a proper city tour through the labyrinth.

I like him and fixate on his
Little boy waitsLittle boy waitsLittle boy waits

In the cool streets of Stonetown he waits patiently for his parents
drawly accent as he points out historical tidbits and executes endlessly repartee with the Australians. He compliments us girls for respecting Islam by wearing our flowing cotton tops and obnoxiously patterned balloon pants.

Personally, I think we look like a mob of Albino Rastafarians who ran away to join cirque de soleil.

When in Rome.

Alibaba walks with an air of importance, shaking hands like a politician and kissing babies as we round each bend. Locals leer from darkened corners, but the kids are curious, and abandon their games of marbles to run up on us.

We visit several historical sites and mosques, as well as descend into a dank Portuguese church basement to see their devastating slave holding cells before taking us out by boat to Prison Island to look at gigantic tortoises from Seychelles for some reason.

Most notable, is no street peddler dare approach us while under Alibaba’s charge. However, he finally cuts us loose at a local bazaar where we are swarmed ludicrously. The bartering Canadian scrums fearlessly into the torrent of faces, I warily stick close to her. We get out alive with wallets still intact.

As the evening
Spices of ZanzibarSpices of ZanzibarSpices of Zanzibar

Such a wonderful fragrant exotic place
descends on old Stone Town, the sunset make the crumbly buildings glow as the salty sea gusts along the ocean boulevard.

We wander out to find a local eatery. Although we haven’t quite conceded, one could say we are lost, again. No problem, a fixer slides up and introduces himself. In the pitch dark, he’s going to find us a restaurant, follow him. Normally this scenario screams danger but I go along. After being led on a three hour odyssey which reveals an underworld of dishevelled ex pats who apparently only surface at night to gather in hipster eateries, we finally settle upon a nightspot that offers fusion fare.

An excellent night was had by all mingling with a congregation of UN staffers smoking shishas. As we try to find our way back to the hostel via landmarks of fortress walls and gates, we stumble upon a night market along the seaside where families and locals are hanging out, we peruse the wares and various food stalls while they eye us up. They don’t really hassle us, they’ve seen our clown-pant posse before.

Alibaba returns the following morning to collect us in his blissful air-conditioned matatu to
Friends foreverFriends foreverFriends forever

Me, Captain Orange and an Australian take in our last days together.
whisk us out to a spice plantation for a tour. Exciting for me, boring for the Australians, I’m lost in dreamy horticultural ecstasy as we stroll through gigantic groves of cloves, nutmeg, coloured peppers, cinnamon bark, and sample the endless fresh fruits, including my favourite, custard apple.

Alibaba takes us home to his village for lunch where his wife prepares lovely seafood dishes of chewy octopus, coconut fish stew, and spicy rice. The kids want to play soccer with us under a canopy of spice trees, so we endulge before we hitch a ride out to the other side of the island.

For the next week we are staying in cottages on Sunset beach.

The plan is to do absolutely nothing. I can’t wait.

As we drive north, I catch glimpses of turquoise as we whiz past rural villagers going about their daily lives with clackity horse carts and carrying gigantic bundles of stuff on their heads.

Unfortunately, our aging resort doesn’t offer up much roadside appeal. Insert shrug here. We drop off our belongings, don sarongs, and head straight for the beach for a closer inspection.

This, I think, is where I wigged
A picture tells a thousand storiesA picture tells a thousand storiesA picture tells a thousand stories

Oh how I loved taking pictures in old stone town, too bad my camera sucked.

All I know is I instantly turned into double rainbow guy. OMG OMG. This is so beautiful! *sobbing* What does it meeeeeean?

Never, and I repeat, never have I been happier to see a beach. I even rolled around a bit in the powdery white bliss before I finally got down to the serious business of becoming a beach bum.

When I wasn’t lounging in a wooden chaise inches from the tide line…being brought a watermelon gin slushy on the half hour…I was out wandering the miles of pristine shoreline plucking up beautiful shells to inspect before throwing them back.

If the mood struck, I’d wade up to my armpits into the bathtub warm salty sea to see off the felucca fishermen as they unfurl their sails before drifting silently out to sea.

Entrepreneurs wander by every so often to aggressively offer up trinkets, body massages, pedicures, sarongs, and although my Swahili is rough, I think, sex.

In the far distance, a storm is brewing, ever changing the skies into a kaleidoscope of abstract paintings. The Australians would flit in and out of my storybook, pulling up a lounge or performing interpretive beach
Sunset on Sunset beachSunset on Sunset beachSunset on Sunset beach

I think they named this beach appropriately enough. You?
art against a backdrop of wicked sunsets, much to my amusement.

There was wifi, there was a scruffy restaurant that offered deep fried calamari and passion fruit ice cream.

A resident Maasi warrior zero'd in on me, enraptured by my long hair. He speaks in riddles and tries to sell me things. It's amusing, but when I tire of him, I dig down deep into my dirty wet backpack to uncover a tattered novel, and leisurely read the entire thing.

Yep, I was fully embedded.

As a farewell celebration, the Australians and decide to rent a catamaran and go for a snorkel and sunset sail.

I have been with this lot for such a long time now in a stinky overlander truck that I'm finding it hard to grasp we won't be carrying on together any longer.

We laugh, we cry, we sing. The boat crew are fun loving local guys that are more than willing to take part in our shenanigans.

We are thrown out into a choppy sea near the lighthouse where one of the Australians gets sea sick while snorkelling (first time I’ve witnessed that!) and the unconfident Mzupaki clings
Lunch at a local villageLunch at a local villageLunch at a local village

Chewy octopus and gingerbeer, we sampled some of the beautiful dishes offered up
to a life ring hysterical.

Since I was a mermaid in a previous life, I dutifully take on lifeguarding responsibilities.

Back aboard the boat, sails are hoisted and we are underway, we have an absolute blast having dance-hall competitions, and reinacting that old 80’s Duran Duran video while drinking copious amounts of sundowners against an awe inspiring sunset.

In the dive shack the following day, I draw circles with my toes on the weathered boards in a half hearted attempt to knock the powdery heaven stuck to my feet, as the dive instructors drone on.

I’ve already been in the bathtub warm ocean all day. Barely a wisp of breeze, the sea calmly ebbs the shore. But a dark storm rages to the east, turning the sapphire sky into danger grey, the aquamarine sea is now a colour I have never seen before…a milky blue green.

Cyan…it was colour of Cyan.

The dive master saunters over and introduces herself. I must have looked like a lunatic as we shook hands because I couldn’t stop gawking at her with my mouth hanging open.

This. Woman. Has. Stolen. My. Life.

Sunset sailSunset sailSunset sail

So lovely the Indian ocean with friends, dancing, and warm breezes.
turns to leave with a smile, her face crinkles around her sky blue eyes. I nickname her Sunny. She isn’t in a hurry, yet she has somewhere to be. As she wanders off, throwing a ball for her elderly German Shepard, her bleached locks bounce in the midday sun.

Later, on the dive boat, Sunny fills me in all about the wonderful life I wasn’t having. A strongly independent girl she landed in Zanzibar twenty years ago, met her Afrikaans husband, and started their little dive business. The rest is history. She is bubbly but tries desperately to hide her Texan drawl under a fake Afrikaaners one. As she teaches tourists how to scuba dive, Sunny exudes a joyful yet chill aura and I catch myself staring at her, I should be jealous, but I’m not.

I’m enraptured.

I treat myself to two separate dives at three prime sites. They were unbelievable, even though the weather wasn’t quite cooperating. Off of Tumbatu Island, we descended just over 12m to a site called the Haunted Wall to watch fish come in for cleaning services. The following day we drove to the other side of the island and took

I love seafood and spices so the food offered in Zanzibar was my culinary favourite.
two dives off the Mnemba Atoll, saw lots of turtles, and my first ever scorpion fish at Kichwani. But visibility was poor and we came in early at Wattabomi, the last one.

On our last night in Zanzibar, we are invited over to a full moon party at the Kendwa beach resort.

Normally, I act like a proper forty-five year old...but tonight for some reason I go bonkers.

Nothing says "what have I done" like awakening in the wrong bungalow with wet, singed, clothing and seawater stiff hair.

From what I can piece together over fried eggs and rashers of toast, I may have attempted to fire walk on a bed of coals before plunging head first into the ocean, no doubt to put the fire out.

Safety first I always say.

And apparently there is go-pro footage.

All I remember is us singing "We Are the Champions" at the top of our lungs. I hope it never surfaces.

As I depart Zanzibar, those Queen lyrics swish around in my head. I've paid my dues, time after time, I've done my sentence, but committed no crime, and bad mistakes, I've made a
Party yachtParty yachtParty yacht

Having a fun day out on the water with the Australians and the Portugoose.
few, I've had my share of sand kicked in my face, but I've come through.

I’m headed back to Kenya. I fly back into the arms of my jealous boyfriend, Nairobi. He doesn’t know it yet, but I’m not sticking around. I plan to slip away in the dead of night to Namibia, hoping he doesn’t go bat shit crazy on me first. Wish me luck.

Additional photos below
Photos: 32, Displayed: 31


Storms a'coming!Storms a'coming!
Storms a'coming!

Each day the storms would roll over the horizon changing the seas into a myriad of blues and greens.
Ready for the mosqueReady for the mosque
Ready for the mosque

Enjoyed the cultural experience in Zanzibar
The sad historyThe sad history
The sad history

A slave storage in the basement of a church in Stonetown. So depressing. We are so awful us humans.
Kids of ZanzibarKids of Zanzibar
Kids of Zanzibar

We were followed by mobs of kids through the plantations

Captivating us all with his interesting drawl, he explained just about everything you needed to know about Zanzibar.
Volcanic rock gives way to white powder sandsVolcanic rock gives way to white powder sands
Volcanic rock gives way to white powder sands

Such a lovely locale, just a short distance from our resort. I walked for miles on this beach without finding the end.

I found the lovely carved wooden doors amongst the crumbling buildings interesting photo subjects
Cabin CrewCabin Crew
Cabin Crew

Tray tables and seats in an upright position, we are ready for a party on the high seas with the Captain and his crew
Playing marblesPlaying marbles
Playing marbles

Kids and adults all played serious games of marbles in the back streets

21st October 2014

I have always wanted to go here, primarily because, well ZANZIBAR, what a name as you have pointed out! And now after reading your blog I really really want to go. I like the sound of your farewell party - I think it's important not to act your age every once in a while. That go-pro footage sounds fantastic :) Great blog!
21st October 2014

I've wanted to go to Zanzibar since forever, so I was so thrilled to finally get there. It did not disappoint. I'm glad I have inspired you with my blog Rachael!
21st October 2014
Volcanic rock gives way to white powder sands

Beach snob
I confess that I am a bit of a beach snob. Living in Australia and growing up with the pristine beaches in NZ, you get used to having beautiful beaches on your doorstep, and I've travelled to places where other people have raved about the beach, and I've gone "meh, seen better". But THIS is a beach worth travelling to!
21st October 2014
Volcanic rock gives way to white powder sands

Ha ha beach snob! I too thought after visiting the Whitsundays that I'd never see a better beach but I was wrong! This one blew my mind!
21st October 2014

TB'ers are getting Spicy
Love your blog Andrea..I can smell those spices stolen from Ternate through the screen. Glad you had a great time - love the pants description :)
21st October 2014

Thanks Cindy! After your spicy blog I must get to Indo someday.
21st October 2014

I want!
That looks amazingly good... spices and seafood works for me too :)
21st October 2014

It was a lovely experience, the food in Zanzibar was delish!
21st October 2014

What a magic place...Stone Town...stucco coral walls...spaghetti powerlines...salt air...spice plantations and exotic dives...washed down with a visit to Mercuruy's. Sounds as if you had fun Andrea. Is perchance the Obama Tree in Stone Town so named? It's where they used to press for Obama's election when I was there and had the name written in large red letters around it's base.
21st October 2014

Obama was HUGE in Tanzania, we saw his picture everywhere, they were very enraptured by him, so yes, it wasn't a surprise to come across the Obama tree in Stone town!
21st October 2014
Sunset on Sunset beach

A perfect ending!
A perfect beach and a wild party seem like a proper ending to your African adventures with your by-now, long-time friends. And how much more exotic can you get than Zanzibar, Alibaba, spices galore and clown pants. Oh, I'd love to join you for long swims in bathtub-warm water! Curious to see what traveling alone now will be like--best wishes.
22nd October 2014
Sunset on Sunset beach

Ah yes, everything must come to an end...or a new beginning!
22nd October 2014

Keep on fighting, till the end...
Okay, you've persuaded me... Zanzibar here I come!!! Well, one day, anyway... We'll keep on travelling, till the end... Great Blog by the way. Hope you had as much fun as it sounds!
22nd October 2014

ah yes, and thanks to you PNG is now in my sights!
22nd October 2014

Thanks for making me dream...
Fantastic pictures for a stunning place!
22nd October 2014

Thank you. It has been a dream!
22nd October 2014

Hot night in Stone Town
So glad you have ceiling fans! The heat and humidity might be too much for a fair haired Canadian like yourself but you seem to be holding up. Ecstacy for everyone...it would certainly make boarder crossings easier or at least more entertaining. Rainbows, beaches, pirates and ohhhh the foods. The taste buds do a bit of a dance as we read and look at the pictures. We hope to follow in your footsteps.
24th October 2014

We ate some pretty amazing food in Zanzibar. Seafood was so fresh and there was lots of spice added to almost every dish. I hope you go there too!
23rd October 2014
The Mercury Household

Will see it too
We are going to Tanzania i Decmber and will make sure to see FM's house when we are there. /Ake
24th October 2014
The Mercury Household

Oh wonderful! I know you will love Zanzibar Ake!

Tot: 0.084s; Tpl: 0.018s; cc: 19; qc: 35; dbt: 0.0382s; 1; m:domysql w:travelblog (; sld: 1; ; mem: 1.3mb