Thursday, 28 April 2011


Fishing dhows on the Zanzibari beach
We had a lovely trip to Zanzibar over the long Easter weekend.  This was the first time we’d stayed over in Zanzibar since arriving in Tanzania 8 months previously, and it was well worth it – even if it did rain for a lot of the time!

We had actually planned to go to Mikumi NP for the long weekend, but with the car breakdown a couple of weeks ago, and having spent a lot of money  the month before going to the Serengeti, we decided at the last moment to go to Zanzibar.

Leaving Dar on the Kilimanjaro ferry
Normally quite well organised, the day before the long weekend, we’d planned nothing – very unusual for us!  So we decided to wing it… didn’t work – we arrived at the ferry at 6.40 am to be told that it was full… So instead we bought tickets for the day after and then took the opportunity to have a nice leisurely breakfast and phone around for accommodation in Zanzibar.

Although a long weekend, and pretty busy, it was the rainy low season, so we were able to get accommodation fairly cheaply where we wanted to stay.  We decided one night in the south of the island in Jambiani, then one night in Kendwa, and our last night in Stone Town.

Every place has its own unique appeal and we enjoyed each one of them thoroughly – so a bit about each one… we basically went through the guide book and looked for a good balance between location and value – well, we looked for the cheapest options ;)

Ocean view of Jambiani
Pakachi Beach Resort, Jambiani
We’d actually wanted to stay at the Hotel Red Colobus Monkey (apparently they have a troupe of monkeys that hang around the area) but through a mix up in phone numbers, we ended up arriving here in the middle of a thunderstorm.  Still, we were given a lovely double storey wooden cabin that looks right over the beach – very romantic ;)

The view from our cabin
The whole setup is very rustic, with a menu to match, but the atmosphere is very tranquil and doesn’t have the hordes of visitors that the north has.  The reason is probably because of the tides – it’s very extreme and was about a km out for most of the time that we were there.  So there was no swimming except for the most determined individuals.  We weren’t that keen, so lay on the beach under the bomas that are provided.

It’s a fabulous place if you want to just chill out and enjoy the scenery while relaxing.  We spent a nice day doing nothing and waking up with the sea right there in the morning is absolutely fabulous!  The cabin was $50 for the night for both of us, with breakfast included, but there are more upmarket lodges available right next if you’re looking for more luxury.

Snorkelling boat moored at Kendwa
White Sands, Kendwa
The most popular place for holiday makers I’d say, if the crowds were anything to judge by.  We arrived to a local organisation having their team building day, so the music started early – and it’s loud ;)  The restaurant was pretty basic, and we only ate there once.  The advantage is that there are a number of lodges right next to each other, so you can just walk across and have dinner or lunch in one of the others – which were a lot better with a bigger variety of Zanzibar meals.

Catching some sun in Kendwa
The major advantage is the sea – the tides stays in the whole time and you’re lying on nice white sand beaches – you can see why everyone flocks there!  Still, it wasn’t as busy as I thought it would be, and we spent a relaxing time on the beach before hooking up with a couple of friends that were staying at one of the neighbouring lodges.   

Fishing dhow sailing under black skies
The next morning we were up early and got a prime spot under the thatch roof on the beach – just as well, since it kept raining.  Still, although there were thundershowers, they didn’t last too long before the sun would come out again.  And because it doesn’t get cold, it’s not too bad.  We spent the morning, and then lunch, on the beach enjoying the sun (when it was out) and watching the dhows carrying on their daily business of fishing.  The scenery is lovely; you can see where all those postcards of white sands and turquoise sea come from!

The room was $50 for both of us, including a basic breakfast, and was fine – with air con working and a big bathroom – pretty good value for money, especially since you can walk to the other lodges for lunch and dinner.

View of Stone Town from the top of the Clove Hotel
Clove Hotel, Stone Town
After lunch in Kendwa we headed to Stone Town, about an hour’s taxi drive away. After finding our hotel, we wondered around the pier before having a couple of beers at Livingstone’s pub. 

Cars stuck being loaded onto the ship
The setup of the place is pretty nice and you can sit on the deck under a grove of trees, but the real highlight is the view – but not what you expect ;)  It right on the seafront, but it’s also where the ships dock to load and offload cars coming from the middle east on their way to the African mainland. 

The alleyways of Stone Town

The entertainment comes in, when watching the guys try to load the cars, as the cars have to drive across about 30 meters of thick sand to get the cars or trucks onto the ship.  They inevitably get stuck and is hilarious to watch the digging out.  We spent about an hour just watching the chaos of trying to get these cars on the ships and the flurry of activity every time they got stuck. 

Making a Zanzibari pizza
We had dinner at the Forodhani Gardens, an outdoor seafood restaurant that has a ton of different seafood, as well as Zanzibari pizzas.  The prices are cheap and you can gorge yourself on chicken, beef, prawns, octopus, and all sorts of other kebabs.  Well worth the visit!  And for us a bargain, since our hotel was a short walk away.

Seafood at Forodhani Gardens
One of the cheaper options that we read about, at $65 per room for the night, it was pretty good value for money, with a nice chill out room at the top of the hotel that looks over Stone Town, a nice place to relax and have the cool sea breeze blow over you at night.  The room is pretty small but adequate, especially if you’re going to spend your time walking around the town instead of at the hotel.

Chill out at the Clove Hotel's upper lounge
We got up early in the morning and spent the time photographing Stone Town waking up.  We were lucky because it didn’t rain, only starting after we got back for breakfast which is included in the price.  After that it was more walking and more getting lost – it’s inevitable with the maze of narrow alleyways and hardly any signposts ;)

Zanzibari door
After a bit of shopping for the usual curios we went back to collect our bags from the hotel and walked the short distance to the ferry to get back.  Chaos at the ferry, with about 4 different boats all loading at the same time. 

Shopping in Stone Town
We were like a massive head of cattle being herded to the butcher ;)  After what seemed like about an hour shuffling forward in the sun (luckily it didn’t rain!) we finally made our way to Kilimanjaro II – apparently the most seaworthy of the vessels.

Chaos at the ferry
On the way from Dar, we’d been in the economy seats – basically outside where it rained (luckily there is a shelter which everyone was crowded underneath) but going back we sat in Premier class, with comfy seats and TVs that show movies.  And 2 hours later we were back in Dar.

Stone Town
We thoroughly enjoyed our trip to Zanzibar, and it was a great alternative to our missed trip to Mikumi.  We’ll definitely be back over weekends in the future, especially to take advantage of the fantastic snorkelling and diving that is world famous in the area. 

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