Living a beach life in Zanzibar

Why you hurry hurry…

“you should polle polle” (pronounced po-lay) say the Masai selling their necklaces and bracelets on the beach. Looking is free.. touching is free… but buying will cost you.

We are on a beach in a small community southeast of Stone Town called Paje. In my last post, we were on the ferry to Zanzibar. Now, I am in our beach hut at the Jambo Beach Bungalows and tomorrow we will leave Zanzibar for Kilimanjaro.

When we arrived in Stone Town on the ferry, we had a little trouble finding our hotel. It was very close to the ferry however it was kind of down an alley and no one really knew of the 1001 Nights Hotel. 1001 street people wanted to help us find it and would expect to be paid for it. None of them knew where it was though. When we did finally find it though, the one most persistent guy waited around for money. We gave him a little to make him go away but he was not happy with the hotel girl who would not give him anything because we already had a reservation. Perhaps the most humorous part of the whole experience was that when we were asking people for the 1001 Nights Hotel they thought we were saying we wanted a hotel for one night. So they kept taking us to different hotels.

We explored the streets of Old Town which is a seriously confusing web of confusing alleyways. Deep inside you will find mosques and an old church. Also, you can find the slave museum and slave jail. Zanzibar is where many African slaves were taken and transported around the world.

Perhaps most frustrating however is that there is a never-ending onslaught of people trying to give you a tour you do not want, helping you find something when you seem confused, selling you something you did not ask for, or offering you tours you are not interested in. They are quite persistent and it is difficult to know how to handle it. We tried to be polite and they just stayed with us. We tried to be definitive and say no but they were still persistent. In one case I was rude and said I was not interested and he acted offended that I was not interested in talking to him. I would say that is the one part I liked the least.

We ate a couple of dinners in Stone Town at Foradhani Gardens where there is a night food market. Earlier one day Bill Clinton had been there and we had no clue. We noticed lots of extra police around but had no idea why. We tried a lot of different things such as Blue Marlin, Barracuda, lobster, schwarma, and more. We had these desserts called pizzas which were dough with chocolate, Nutella, and banana in them. Nic had avocado instead of banana. So tasty. They have a tasty juice which is sugar cane and ginger. Our last meal there has caused me some digestive instability. That was three days ago and I believe it is starting to settle down.

We went on a spice tour one day while we were in Stone Town. We got a tour of a farm that grows many spices including vanilla, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, lemongrass, and many more. They also grow coconuts, rambutan, and other local fruits. It included lunch which was curry chicken, rice, watermelon, and chipatti. The tour continued at the beach and the slave caves but we skipped that part because we needed to sort out our flight from Zanzibar to Kili. Turned out to be extremely difficult to find a way to pay for the ticket. We learned that many websites look very different on our iPads than on a computer. We used the computer at the hotel to pay for our flights.

We decided to stay an extra day in Stone Town to relax. It was Sunday and we had been going since we got to Tanzania. We took this day to book a place to stay in Paje. We had met some medical students from UBC (Vicky, Erin, and Trevor) and they told us that they had booked the Dolphin and Monkey Tour and then it would drop them in Paje. They told us to look for a guy named Mr. Octopus. So on Sunday when we went looking for him he was not around… at least that is what we were told. We were speaking to the guys at the tourist information at the Fort about what the students from Vancouver had told us. In the end, these guys arranged it for us. For $35 USD each, we would do that Dolphin and Monkey Tour and then get dropped off in Paje. We also booked the same hotel as them… Jambo Beach Bungalows.

On Monday morning, we were ready at our hotel at 8 am for a guy to pick us up for the tour. We were getting very skeptical because at 8:30 there was still no one. We had only left a deposit of 20000 tsh (about $13 USD) so we would not be out much. However, the guy showed up at 8:40 am and we were off. The Dolphin Tour was amazing. We went out in a pretty rough-looking boat for about 25 minutes before we found dolphins. These are in the wild. When we found them the boat guy basically just told us to jump in. On the first stop, I think only Nic, me, and one other girl were ready. Of all the stops we made the first was by far the most amazing. I was so close that I could touch them… but did not. They were right there in front of me… it was almost surreal. There was one dolphin that was swimming straight up and had maybe four other dolphins all swarmed around it. I am quite sure they were mating but whether that was a king or queen I am not sure. I still cannot believe that we got to see them so close up. At each of the other stops the dolphins were down deep and away from us or there were so many other boats and people that it was a flurry and too difficult to see anything.

After swimming with the dolphins and lunch, we went to Jozani National Park to see monkeys. There are lots of Sykes monkeys (also called blue monkeys because of their blue testicles) but you can find them in many places. More unique to Zanzibar however is the Red Colobus monkey. They are in a protected forest and are quite comfortable with humans. We were very close and took some amazing pictures. Perhaps the best picture I took was the last one I took when I stuck the camera right down to his level and I think I startled him a bit. His hair and face both look like he is in shock. Nicola has now made that picture her background on her iPad and I can see us putting it up at home when we get back.

There was an absolutely miserable girl from Finland we think on the dolphin tour. She bitched at everyone in the van about not splashing and scaring the dolphins. Then she was sick on the boat and missed. Oat of the chances to jump in because she was throwing up. She yelled at Nicola saying that she got ten chances and she only had two. She complained about her mask and never did see any dolphins. When she was in the water and the guide said to look down she yelled at him saying she knew to look down she wasn’t stupid. I get that she was sick but no need to be rude to everyone. I feel sorry for her friends because they seemed very nice.

At the end of the monkey tour, a taxi took us to Paje. Everything worked out perfectly. We thanked the future doctors for the advice only to find out that theirs did not work out as planned. They actually did not get to see the monkeys and the driver dropped them off at the junction of the road to Paje and they had to find their own ride in.

I feel for the trio right now who were scheduled to leave today to return to Canada. Their flights on KLM were scheduled from Zanzibar to Nairobi to Amsterdam to Canada. However, the International Airport in Nairobi was on fire today. Nothing was coming or going. Long story short, after many phone calls, emails, etc. they are still here… until Friday and are being re-routed avoiding Nairobi. We had planned to fly Nairobi to Morocco (likely with a stopover in Abu Dhabi) in a few weeks but we will need to keep an eye on the Nairobi airport situation.

Our visit to the beach in Paje has been peaceful and quiet. Strolls on the beach, laying in the sun, sitting and reading have been the activities that filled our days here. The Jambo is not the best place. For $60 per night, I would expect a bit more but the prices seem to be much more than we expected. We are in a beach hut, in a bed that is built of trees, with a mosquito net over it. Last night my feet and hands were eaten alive. The girl, I think the manager, said that they could have sprayed the room if we had asked…. would have been nice to know before I was mosquito bait all night. The bed is like sleeping on a pull out couch with a bar in your back… it is terrible actually. Yesterday we thought we would have lunch here but anything we asked for they did not seem to have. Needless to say, we have had the rest of our meals at other hotels and resorts along the beach. The girl keeps telling us that there will be big parties here on Thursday and Friday. We will miss them I guess.

Tomorrow is the last day of Ramadan. I can say that I am glad it will be over. There are lots of things that are closed and it can be a little difficult to get food… not too difficult but a little more challenging I think. We bought some food on the street last week and the guy lectured us about not eating it in public because God will hate us. I am guessing that if that is why God will hate us he will probably hate us for eating it in our room too. Apparently, there will be some good celebrations tomorrow… I am guessing after the sun goes down.

The next stage of our journey… We are flying to Kili tomorrow. I have booked my climb on Mount Kilimanjaro. I will take six days up and down including five nights on the mountain. The peak is at approximately 5900m. I was getting nervous about it earlier this week but on the dolphin tour, I met two young girls who both did it and were quite excited about it. I hope that I can do it. It is a slow pace and so it is not about fitness levels I think… it is more about how your body handles the altitude. Hopefully, I can do it without getting AMS (acute mountain sickness) but I guess I will have to see. Cross your fingers for me friends.

While I climb, Nic will be doing a few tours and things in Moshi and the surrounding area. She will also be sorting out the next stage of our adventure which is a Safari. We will either go to the Serengetti in Tanzania or to Masai Mara in Kenya. It is basically the same park but on different sides of the border. I cannot wait to see my kindred animal spirits the giraffes in the wild. The biggest question is whether to camp or to stay in lodges.

Things are way more expensive than Nicola remembers from 9 years ago. A safari is likely to cost us $1000 each and climbing Kili is probably going to be $1700 for me…. We need to find some budget places to go next because we will not be able to keep up that kind of spending all year.
Lights out now. I will post this tomorrow when we arrive in Kili or at the Paje by Night restaurant up the beach… No internet at the Jambo.