Our Zanzibar tour

27 June 2021 | Matthijs en Paul

Very early on Sunday morning, at the end of June, we drove to Schiphol. We didn’t want to be late because of the extra corona requirements (the PCR test result and health certificates for both the KLM and the Tanzanian government). But in the end it all went very fast and before we knew it we were drinking coffee behind customs ‘just like before corona’. What a pleasure to be able to travel again, now protected with our Pfizer vaccinations. We fly direct from Amsterdam to Stone Town on Zanzibar Island. We were here before 10 years ago, but then with the family. We are very curious about the changes.

After a relaxed trip with KLM, we hoped we brought the right papers with us. But everything went very smoothly: the results of the PCR test, the health declaration form from the Tanzanian government, the immigration form, the visa and the passport went through different hands. Everything OK! Hakuna Matata. We also expected a rapid test, but in the end it was not administered [Check the website for the latest requirements]. Once outside the building, ‘spiderman’ was waiting for us to take us to Matemwe (in quiet N-E Zanzibar): Karibu on Zanzibar. Along the way there is a lot to see and it seems that everyone is on their way.

But with every kilometre it is getting quieter on the road and once at Hodi Hodi Zanzibar we are warmly welcomed by Julia with a nice drink. What a lovely place. I always find it very special after I arrive: one moment you are still at home and the next you stand with your feet on the beach of a tropical island, watching and listening to the rushing waves of the Indian Ocean. The next day we don’t really do much, except enjoy the smells, colors, sun, wind and sea on the island where we will stay for the next two weeks and hopefully discover a lot. Oh yes, we decide to have the last stress massaged out of our bodies. Lovely under the palm trees.

The next day we take long walks on the beach and go with Naombe waiter at Hodi Hodi Zanzibar to his village and house in Kilima Juu, near Hodi Hodi. Lovely people full of good will and intentions. Beautiful children in brightly colored clothes. But the poverty… There is no electricity or sewage yet. Water comes from bottles. Cooking still takes place on a wood fire in the house… Then you realize again how fortunate we are and why they are so happy with our arrival and their work at Hodi Hodi. That makes our stay with Julia van Hodi Hodi extra valuable.

It is with sadness that we say goodbye to Julia and her beautiful lodge, a real ‘home away from home’. We agreed to visit each other in Stone Town at a later date.

From Matemwe we drive to Michamvi on Pingwe (peninsula in the east of Zanzibar). As frequent Bali goers we are pleasantly surprised by the vibe here at Baladin Zanzibar, let’s call it the Zanzibar vibe. We enjoy delicious espresso, both in the room and later in the restaurant with many Italian-oriented dishes. Nicolle and Rachid are the perfect hostess and hosts and make sure you want for nothing. We sleep in a private house with an outdoor shower, and right by the sea. In the afternoon we are taken to a very quiet bay ‘Kae Beach’ for the perfect sunset, gin and tonics and king prawns at Kati Kae, a lovely relaxed beach club.

When we wake up, the sun is just rising. Because it is low tide, swimming in the sea is a bit difficult. But what a beauty, all these different shades of blue. And we don’t have much time for that either, because a trip to Uzi Island is on the program. We plant a mangrove there, visit the village of Uzi and another village Njombe by ox cart, a sacred baobab and sail back in a half-hollowed mango tree. All very interesting! Just a few minutes’ walk from Baladin is the rock on which The Rock restaurant is located. A unique place. One of your bucket list. We had made a reservation and that was a good thing. Which also does not immediately lead to culinary delights. But they can make a nice cocktail. Nice to have been there for a while. After dinner we walk back on the beach in the dark. By now it was low tide again, so we didn’t have to be transferred from the rock by boat.

We say goodbye to Nicolle and Rachid and promise to come back for sure. We descend a little further to the south of Zanzibar and are soon in Jambiani. Here we spend the night at Sharazad Oasis, an eco-friendly boutique hotel, run by the Italian Francesca and her husband Simon. You can practice yoga, kiting and fitness here. We swim in the sea and read a lot. The silence is overwhelming here, there is deliberately no music so you enjoy that extra. The food is great, including at the Vietnamese restaurant on site. We are very happy with our Beach House.

With Helen, our relation in Zanzibar, we sail on Mimi de Dhow (original fishing boat) from Kizimkazi far out to the ocean. Unfortunately we don’t see any dolphins this time. Just yesterday a humpback whale swam past. But with the wind in your sails, this experience is also great! We have lunch at New Teddy’s on the beach with a tuna bowl and a delicious Chenin Blanc. Most of the wines come from South Africa and are very good. We walk back to Sharazad along the beach.

The next morning, during breakfast, we see some cows on the beach. They walk very relaxed and drink some salty seawater on an empty stomach to aid their digestion.

This morning we walk along a practically deserted stretch of beach from Sharazad to Mr. Kahawa Lofts for their famous coffee and homemade pastries. Mr. Kahawa (= coffee) is located in Paje, a real kitesurfing spot, and while walking we see several kites at sea in the distance. A super cool walk, to a completely different environment and dynamics, great!

We walk back on the soft sandy beach. Put on your sunglasses, because the sand is blindingly white. And so unprotected by any form of shelter, it is also nice that put on suntan lotion! In the afternoon we take a bike ride through the atmospheric village of Makunduchi. A green village with lots of fruit trees. Hundreds of times we are waved at and greeted: “Jambo”. What lovely people!

It’s time for Zanzibar city! We are taken to Stone Town for a stay at Emerson Spice Hotel. We first drive past a spice farm. Actually more like a fruit tasting. We smell and taste: papaya, mango, red banana, passion fruit, ginger, turmeric, jackfruit, Zanzibar apple, nutmeg, cloves, ylang ylang, lemon grass, cocoa, coffee, vanilla etc etc

On the way the traffic gets busier and eventually we stop at a hectic Arab market and walk the last part. You get used to the crowds quickly. We push our suitcases through the narrow streets and arrive at our hotel. A hotel with an atmosphere from the fairy tale ‘1001 nights’. Our room ‘Kate’ has a large balcony, overlooks the city and is named after Kate Hepburn. We take a coffee in the Secret Garden of the hotel and go on our way. Of course we get lost in the narrow streets, but still make it back in time for dinner at the rooftop restaurant of Emerson on Hurumzi. We eat in a circle of guests on the floor and enjoy local dishes, wine and live music.

The next day, after breakfast on the roof terrace with a beautiful view of the city, Saïd is waiting for us in the lobby. He shows us Stone Town and really knows everything about the history of the Arab-African town. He has an amazing knowledge of all dates, names and facts.

And then it turns out that he is a professor of alternative medicine and the grandson of a medicine man… what an acquaintance. We walk past Forodani Park, House of Wonders (now under scaffolding) and over the fish/meat/vegetable market. Once a wealthy city with many Omani royals, Stone Town is a dynamic and historic place that you should take the time to get to know and understand. Now that we are used to it, we can also find the special places ourselves. We like to pop into the Zanzibar Coffee House.

The next day we do our PCR test at the Migombani Medical Center. Ultimately for nothing, because just at that moment the Dutch government decides that a vaccination certificate is also good enough. No bother. After that, we are picked up there by Mr Ali and Mr Salih of the Jane Goodall Institute and we visit the Chukwani Mangrove forest. On a voluntary basis, they teach students to plant mangroves in their spare time, in order to preserve the ecosystem and the coast of Zanzibar. As a result, they also cultivate respect for the mangroves and their function, and hope that this will also end up with their fellow villagers so that they no longer destroy or pollute the mangroves. Explore Tanzania is sponsor of this project.

Our last stop is Fuma beach Lodge. We are received and shown around by Edwin. It is quiet in the lodge, so unusual for July. There are actually not many tourists in Zanzibar for this time of year. While it is so nice to get away from it all. It’s possible, you can go there and when you’re there you don’t notice much of corona. Edwin hopes that tourism will pick up again soon. In any case, we are pampered with a beautiful beach villa, right on the beach and delicious food. Blue Sikes monkey and Red Colobus monkeys jump from tree to tree.

We make one last excursion on the day before we fly back to the Netherlands. We sail with a Dhow to a beautiful snorkeling spot and later on to Komonda Island …. an uninhabited island where we had lunch and swim. So special!

The return flight is as expected. The PCR test result was looked at, but vaccination proof would have been sufficient in the end. We fly back with KLM via Dar es Salaam. After taking off from Zanzibar it is a 15 minute flight. The fixed seat belt sign hasn’t even been off. Passengers get off and on in Dar es Salaam. And then we fly on.

It was really wonderful to be able to travel again and to experience in real life the beautiful photos of accommodations, trips and areas that have passed by over the last year and a half. Zanzibar is a lovely tropical island with beautiful spots, lovely people, beautiful lodges and beach houses right on the beach, delicious food and drinks and large enough for a very varied holiday. We will come back!

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