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Unlike Mtwara, Zanzibar is described in every detail on web pages and guide books. In fact, to the extent that it seems an almost insurmountable task to choose where to stay and what to do. So we relied on a few good pieces of supposedly reliable information from good friends and headed off…

At Kendwa Rocks, Zanzibar

The first challenge was the ferries from Dar es Salaam to Stone Town. Lots and lots of people at the ferry station are willing to help you – for a small fee, of course. Hold on to your goods and chattels and politely insist on doing it yourself. The way to go about it is to find out whether you want to spend 2 hours (expensive) or 8 hours (cheap) or anything in between on a ferry and then find the ticket office for that particular ferry. Naturally, we didn’t do that!

We settled on a departure time and then found a ferry that suited us. It wasn’t too bad though. The Flying Horse takes 3 hours and costs 20 USD/pax. At a closer look it could do with a paint job, new interior and possibly some other stuff as well. But we were royally entertained by our fellow travellers’ diversities, an hour and a half of Muslim prayer on the cc-tv followed by an American action b-movie.

Lene at White Sands Hotel

The second challenge was getting off the ferry again. The trick is to stay in your seat until almost everybody else has left. We didn’t do that. We found out the hard way that no-one has any queuing culture whatsoever.

When we landed in Stone Town, we got up, took our luggage and and walked to the queue. However, even the tiniest gap between us and the person in front seemed to suck in the nearest person. When we finally stood our ground, a woman behind me placed a big jute sack on her head shaking it from side to side until my ears bled. Lene fared a little better as she was able to rest her head in the bosom of an enormous woman behind her.

The third challenge was to get up north to Kendwa Rocks in a shared taxi at three in the afternoon. We couldn’t. Nobody wanted to take us. Therefore, the trick is to be in Stone Town no later than 1 o’clock if you’re going to Kendwa (peaceful and quiet) or Nwungi (24 hr party). At least if you want to spend only 10,000 Tsch instead of 45,000.

We did get the price down to 37,000 but it took a long time. As soon as we paid a little more attention to one particular driver, all the others ganged up on us to pay what he asked. So whatever we saved on the ferry trip we spent on taxi fare. But then we weren’t here to make a profit.

The rest of the trip was effortless and very relaxed. We stayed two nights at the White Sands Beach Hotel at Kendwa Rocks.

We did two dives with Scubo Do Diving at the sites Nankivell (okay) and Mbwangawa (better) and generally just chilled and enjoyed the sun, the water, the beach, the beer, etc.

At Scuba Do Diving, Kendwa Rocks

Having learned from our challenges (and not to trust our friends) we got a shared taxi back to Stone Town, where we had booked a room at the Garden Lodge (budget) to do a little sight-seeing. Many Zanzibaris are paranoid when it comes to taking their photo, and a local guy even fetched the police when he saw that his picture had been taken by a Swedish girl. It was promptly deleted.

Spice Guide Makim with a couple of jackfruits

Stone Town is really dirty but very charming, indeed. One did get the feeling that most pictures in the guide books were either taken a long time ago or right after restauration.

We decided to take a spice tour to Kizimbani which turned out to a highlight of our short visit. Not just because of the beautiful countryside but it really was educational and interesting to learn about the stuff you find at your local greengrocer’s. Now I understand why a vanilla pod costs what it costs.

On route to Stone Town from Kendwa Rocks

We spent the last couple of hours at Mercury’s down by the harbour waiting to board the ferry back to Dar. At Mercury’s they are used to being used as a waiting room and they are not just going to let you sit there and enjoy the weather. So after several cups of coffee and whatnot we waddled onboard the Sea Express II and were back in Dar es Salaam two hours later.


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