Zanzibar, Tanzania

STOP 20 | Day 60 to 64 |

We were introduced to our first of many early mornings, with a 6am departure from Arusha (which means 5:30am breakfast and 5am wake up so we have enough time to get ready and pack the tent).  We spent the day on the road driving to Bagamoyo where we spent the evening. As we headed out of Arusha we caught a glimpse of Mount Kilimanjaro in the distance. The long drive was made even more miserable for A who wasn’t feeling well (likely food poisoning). Let’s just say she wasn’t a happy camper arriving at the campsite after dark, having to deal with tons of mosquitoes while being ill from food poisoning and having a cold shower in subpar facilities. To put this into perspective J chose to skip showering that evening and opted for a wet-nap wipe. Although we didn’t get to see Bagamoyo, the city was recently considered a world heritage site and was the center point of the East African slave trade.

We left at 5am the next day to catch the ferry in Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar. The distance to the ferry terminal is not far (68km), but we soon realized the reason for our early departure as we sat in standstill traffic outside the Dar es Salaam.  Even with our early start we did not make it in time to catch the early morning ferry so we had to wait for the ~noon ferry. Nomad offers a Zanzibar excursion, however we wanted flexibility so we chose to do this on our own, purchasing our own ferry tickets, booking our accommodation and transportation (which ended up being about half of the cost!).

Arriving in Zanzibar we had envisioned something similar to the Seychelles, but we were in for a rude awakening! After making our way through the numerous people hustling us for taxis, selling goods, luggage assistants, etc. we managed to find the car rental that J had arranged earlier. Heading up to Nungwi, which is located on the northern part of the island about an hour drive from ferry terminal, we realized how undeveloped the island was. Aside from the hotels and resorts the rest of the island is a village (mud huts and markets where locals make their living selling goods or trading items).

Enroute to our hotel we had our first taste of police corruption as we were stopped at a standard police check (these are all over Africa). At the stop the police officer made up an infringement and advised J he was driving recklessly and confiscated his license (we shouldn’t have let this occur as this is where the scam comes in). The police officer returned with his accompanying officer and had him read a section out of this battered torn “police manual” which stated a fine of $150USD. We were then told that in bastardized English “tomorrow you go to court” for the infringement hearing and J’s license would then be returned. After a period protesting we reluctantly arrived at an amount of 40,000 shillings (approx $18USD) so we could get J’s license back and be able to proceed.  We later discovered from discussions with locals we were ripped off and the market rate is ~5-10,000 shillings.  This was probably the straw that broke the camel’s back for A – after being sick and travelling for 48 hours the feeling of not being safe with the police corruption made her question being in Africa. After trying to shake off the uncomfortable feeling from our police experience we unfortunately struggled to locate the hotel as the booking had the wrong location and there are no actual addresses in the area. Thankfully we found a few locals that graciously helped call the hotel and point us in the right direction after we drove around on the unpaved, narrow dirt roads between the village and the beach. We found the manager at Ocean Dreams Hotel to be very friendly and kind but lacked experience in running the hotel (which was only recently purchased). The hotel was also probably a few months away from actually being guest ready with bare bones furniture and WiFi that consisted of tethering from the manager’s phone! Although we were glad to have an ensuite for the next few days (even with a shower head that had to be held up with one hand) the hotel didn’t have any a/c – something that is not common at all through East Africa.

The next morning we headed out at 7am to to go diving. After stopping at a dive places and we manage to find space with Poseidon Divers for that morning. The dive shop was run by an Austrian couple which much to our surprise was the same couple that had helped J with contacting the hotel yesterday. The owner said in Austria they have a saying “You’ll always meet someone twice” – we were happy to dive with them after their hospitality the day before. The two dive sites we visited were Shane’s Reef and Hunga. As the water temperatures was only 26 degrees Celsius we were persuaded full wetsuits were required. The first dive was a bit rough as the dive master wanted to go against the current, A felt like she was in a washing machine for 45 minutes! The second dive was much better, being able to enjoy the coral and marine life more without the constant battle with the currents! The tides at the beach go out a fair way and when returning to shore we had to walk 50 meters whilst navigating the minefield of sea urchins. We coincidentally bumped into our tour guide as we were returning the equipment to the dive shop and enjoyed lunch with him at Baraka Restaurant.  We relaxed for the rest of the day at the beach. Most of the locals on Zanzibar (and Bagamoyo and Dar es Salaam) follow Islam and therefore a conservative dress should be followed, however bathing suits are permitted in the resort areas.

The next day we enjoyed a day of relaxing by the beach. We attempted to explore Kendwa Beach just south of Nungwi but there wasn’t anywhere secure to park the car. That evening we enjoyed candlelight dinner on the beach back at Baraka.

Our final day we decided to head back and get on an earlier ferry back to Dar es Salaam. It ended up being a good call as we were in stand still traffic for over 20 minutes waiting for a police convey to pass (not sure what it was about). Arriving near the ferry we immediately started getting chased by individuals wanting to “help” us – the individuals try and offer their services to help you find parking, give you a tour of Stone Town or coordinate a tour to another island. They were way more persistent than hustlers we had experienced before, even after firm “no thank you” they continued to loiter near our car and ask us what we needed. We were happy to be able to get onto the 12:30 ferry and head back to Dar es Salaam. That evening we welcomed our stay in a hotel with a/c!

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