Zanzibar - The Spice Island.
Located just off the coast of Tanzania, Zanzibar is a popular island getaway for most South Africans due to it being a short flight from Johannesburg at roughly the same cost as a domestic flight. Check out Skyscanner to see how cheap!
It’s natural untouched beauty will take your breath away and for such a poor country there are nothing but big smiles and happy go lucky personalities all round.
“Hakuna matata” (made famous by the characters Timone and Phumba from the Lion King) is a Swahili phrase, meaning “no trouble” or “no worries” and “take it easy. A true reflection of the way of life in Zanzibar and a phrase taken home with me never to forget.
I was fortunate enough to win the vacation through my work (I was a real estate agent at the time). Our first 4 days in Zanzibar was spent eating, drinking, partying and sunbathing with work colleagues, I think 80% of those four days was spent at the pool bar making the most of our drinks packages.
We stayed at the Karafuu Beach Resort, an all-inclusive hotel which frankly was the best way to stay. There are no restaurants that you can just pop into for dinner, so being isolated on the east side of the island made the meal/drinks package the best way to go.
The resort was HUGE and offered a variety of accommodation options, from villas to suites there was something to suit deep or shallow pockets. The concierge desk offered land-based tours and they also have their own dive center with various snorkeling, diving and deep-sea fishing excursions on offer.
Being a bit squeamish about creepy crawlies in the ocean, I opted to go snorkeling with the girls where the water was clear, shallow and where nothing could munch on me.
The abundance of sea life and corals was amazing, much better reefs than some we have seen in a while. It’s really sad to see how tourists and global warming have caused such damage to coral reefs in some parts of the world, Zanzibar was a refreshing surprise!
On the second leg of our vacation we said goodbye to some work colleagues who had to leave us and head home. Those who stayed a few extra days all headed in their various directions. We headed to Stone Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site on the west side of the island. It’s the “Old Town” of Zanzibar. Centuries ago the islands was used as a shipping stop over known for its trade in spices and slaves. Doing a city tour one can still visit the old castle and see the dungeons where the slaves were kept. Stone Town is known for its labyrinth of streets and ornate wooden doors influenced by Persian, Arabian and Indian cultures.
We stayed at the Tembo Hotel, a historic building with a long history spanning back to the eighth century AD, its corridors and lobby displaying antique furniture pieces from a bygone era and its décor reminiscent of Persia or Turkey.
Our accommodation was ideally located on the beach with a short walk to shops, restaurants, and the Old Town historic sites, one of which was the Freddie Mercury Museum, yes that’s right, the lead singer of Queen was born in Zanzibar.
Tanzania is also known for its Tanzanite, one of the rarest gems only found in this country. Its deep blue/violet in color and a thousand times rarer than diamonds. So if you are looking to get that special someone in your life something that sparkles at a very good price, then one of the many jewelry stores in Stone Town is the place to buy it.
The spices in Zanzibar...OMG!
For someone who loves cooking and can appreciate the strength and fragrance of a spice, the Spice Tour is a must. Zanzibar is best known for nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom and black pepper. I went gaga over the price of the black pepper and could not help taking a few kilo’s home with me. Just be very frugal when grinding it over food due to its intense flavor. Vanilla is also grown widely and is very affordable compared to regular store prices and strong in fragrance. Worth taking some home too!
Our time in the jewel of Tanzania passed very quickly, as it does when you’re having fun. Looking back on my time spent there, going through photos, and remembering things I had forgotten, my “take home” piece of advice about this amazing country is “no matter how poor one is, one can always afford to smile”.
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