Zanzibar was our next destination with plans to relax after the several weeks of safari we had endured :). Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous archipelago off the Tanzania coast. It is 97% muslim.
We were suppose to catch our flight around mid-day and had told our driver/guide (same idiot we had for a week) we’d be leaving from the Arusha airport. He showed up at the hotel on time and we headed out. About a half hour into the drive, he pointed out Mt. Kilimanjaro that was peaking out of the clouds. This was odd in two respects: he barely pointed out anything earth shaking while we were game driving; and it occurred to us we shouldn’t be getting good views of Kilimanjaro heading to the Arusha airport. So we asked him, “you’re going to Arusha airport, right?”. There was a long silence and then he pulled off the road and said, “you’re leaving from Arusha?!”. We couldn’t believe it! This topped it all and put an underscore and exclamation point on his inabilities to listen and take direction. We told him we had explained all this to him the day before, but he insinuated it was our fault. He turned around and headed back the right direction, but not with any urgency even though we were going to be cutting it close. We bluntly let him know if we did not make our flight, his boss was going to foot the bill for our food, accommodation, and any flight change fees. He finally got the message and put the gas pedal down. We made it but it was close, as again, they decided to leave 45 minutes early. It was a quick uneventful 1 hour flight and after collecting our baggage, we went to look for our driver outside the Zanzibar terminal. After being harassed by taxi drivers asking where we were going and watching all the other tourists depart with their drivers, we were finally approached 20 minutes later by a young kid with the name of our B&B on a sign. After a little over an hour of driving, he delivered us to the doorstep of our accommodation in Jambiani and told us the ride cost $60, even though we had already agreed with the hotel manager it would be $40. We came unglued with this kid (the stress of the morning had built up), gave him $40 and told him to basically get lost. What we didn’t know yet is that he was not our arranged driver. We were greeted at the Stone House B&B by a kid who barely spoke English and showed us to a miserable-looking single room (looked like a chicken coop), with shared bathroom. OK, so we didn’t do thorough research, although it had rated well on Tripadvisor – the $45/night should have been a give-away! He showed us a couple other rooms that looked slightly better, but the whole place was very unappealing. So we left despite our reservation and here we were again, on foot, dragging our luggage under the scorching sun, looking for another accommodation in the small village of Jambiani.
Dragging luggage around trying to find a new accommodation
Fortunately, while driving, we remembered passing a sign for the Blue Oyster Hotel, which Sylvie recalled was a nice establishment from her previous research on Tripadvisor. The hotel gods were smiling on us that day as they had one room left. The price of this place was more than we had planned on spending, but at this point we didn’t care. We ended up staying 4 nights and enjoyed all the luxuries of wifi, en-suite bathrooms, and a large breakfast buffet. Life was good again and we could get on with the “relaxation”.
Jambiani is a small quiet village stretched over a kilometer of beachfront. It’s quite picturesque with outrigger canoes dotted along the water’s edge and varying hues of turquoise and dark blue seas (the dark blue is actually from seaweed). It does have a few vendors on the beach (maasai and villagers) trying to sell trinkets and pareos.
One day, we arranged a taxi ride to Stone Town, the capital and old town of Zanzibar (also a UNESCO World Heritage Site designated in 2000) where we were let off in the middle of the busy and chaotic market. We felt a bit out of our element in the chicken area: chickens everywhere, dead, alive, being butchered and a smell like no others! No tourists, just locals.
We then wandered into the maze of narrow alleys lined by houses, mosques, and bazaars where store proprietors are quick to welcome you to their shops. It quickly became somewhat of an irritant “Hi, Jambo, you are welcome to my store, come in my store etc..”so we decided to go have lunch to get some respite, walking hastily with eyes forward and ears closed. We had a wonderful tasty meal and drinks at Lazuli, a small hole-in-the-wall place. Later we did a bit of shopping and had tea and spiced Tanzanian coffee (way too spicy!) at a tea house. Khalid, the waiter was very friendly and chatted with us a bit.
Above: Traditional Stone Town door
Above: Cats are everywhere in Zanzibar even in art galleries! Below: Khalid serving us spiced coffee and mint tea.