So you may know (from Instagram) that I have a whopping 11.5 pound Yorkshire Terrier named Zanzibar… If you don’t, well she is not your ordinary small dog… She doesn’t like sitting on your lap.. If you try to get close, she usually avoids you… and she lives for fetch. I label her as a working dog. I try to keep her mind busy and learning so that she never gets bored or too crazy. ….But she isn’t the point of this post, although I wish she were.
The point is: Zanzibar the place. After a lengthy set of evening flights from Cape Town with a stop in Joburg, Brad and I eventually landed in Zanzibar. We had various documents we had to fill out on arrival, we had to have our pictures taken, and purchase our tourists visas. Thankfully, because it is not a large airport, this process was incredibly quick, they basically handed us our bags as we were two of the last people from our flight to pass through. Our driver was there waiting to take us to our hotel. Thankfully, Brad had rejected the idea of driving ourselves around because turns out there were no real road signs, bikes and humans were constantly in the street, and it would have been a nightmare! A long night commute & an airport arrival brought reality to my attention. FACT: Zanzibar is primarily a Muslim population… You can imagine how uncomfortable I felt arriving in a tank top.
Eventually, we arrived to our hotel, Next Paradise Boutique Hotel, after about a 45 minute drive. Upon arrival, one of the owners (a European gentleman) was there waiting. He quickly got us checked-in, and then informed us that we were the only guests there (this change each day that we were there, and was because they had just finished some light renovations, & we were visiting as the slow season was coming to an end). That part was amazing, and felt a little odd. They were nice enough to offer us dinner that evening, so once our bags were dropped, and we were ready. We headed out to the dining area to eat. The staff was incredible, and the service was fantastic… Literally, every day we were there, we were well taken care of. TIP: Coat yourself in bugspray at night, they go for your feet especially. After dinner, we headed back to bed to rest. Our time in Zanzibar was all about leisure, and relaxing considering the fact that the several days before were jam packed with events.
The next morning. We headed to breakfast. Again, we were the only one there. They offered a small buffet of meats, cheeses, fruits, small crepes, toast, etc. It was a good offering, and I never left unsatisfied. After that, we suited up to head to the beach. The view was stunning, unlike anything I had seen before. The water was so clear, and the sand was incredibly fine like white sugar. We couldn’t help but love it. We dropped everything & headed into the water. It was the perfect temperature. We just waded and played, and enjoyed what Zanzibar was offering.
As the day continued, we needed to cool off from the intense tropical sun, so we headed back to our patio which faced the pool. The staff was kind enough to come over and offer us some drinks, so we ordered a couple of African beers, that turned out to be amazing! ..then it was time for more beach time & pool time… then lunch time came.. and we headed back in. We ate, and then decided to do a beach walk. We put some clothes on to protect us from the intensity of the sun, and headed left from the hotel. TIP: Be prepared to feel scorched, and don’t forget your sunscreen. It was a fun walk, and we found many beautiful seashells. FACT: Taking shells out of Zanzibar is illegal, so I highly recommend putting them back unless an African prison is your idea of a good time. ….but there were some really beauties. Large, delicate, colorful, intricate… Skies the limit in Zanzibar. This was pretty much our day…. Low Key walks and talks and dining at our hotel and on the beach, it was a welcome break in an otherwise crazy trip.
The next day was really exciting….. We spent the first half enjoying the ocean again, after breakfast & before lunch. We even wandered into town, where we observed the locals & livestock go about their business. We bought a small case of water & met a wonderful couple that owned one of the local small hotels which only had two rooms. They invited us to try their restaurant, and stay with them the next time we were in Zanzibar. If it wasn’t for Brad’s basic knowledge of Swahili, we probably wouldn’t have had the offer.
Finally the time came to head to Cheetah’s Rock. Cheetah’s Rock is a wonderful wildlife sanctuary on the island of Zanzibar. It was started by a leggy, German woman named Jenny who seems to wear cutoffs and converse as her uniform (she kills it!). It was clear from start that she has a true passion and love for each of the animals within her sanctuary that had been rescued. We started with Chaka the Zebra. Jenny embedded into our minds, as we interacted with Chaka, that she trained him by building trust with treats and praise, not by force or tricks. This was a clear indicator of her love for animals. After each of us got to work with Chaka, we then moved on to the primates.. We were interacting with everyone, birds, lemurs, bush babies, hyena, her large male lion named Aslan, and even her Cheetah named Tyson. FACT: Cheetah’s purr like house cats. One of the things that I loved most about Cheetah’s Rock, is that Jenny was with us every step of the way, sharing each animal’s story. Some animals were abused by humans, some were found abandoned… each story was unique. I think our time there was truly special, and it’s something I will never forget. It was another life changing experience about how love and trust can be between many species, like the fact that I was in a cage with a Cheetah receiving kisses. It was magical. FACT: Cheetah’s Rock does provide back and forth transportation. Here are more of our photos from the excursion – have fun!
Afterwards we headed back to the hotel in time for dinner. With such an amazing day behind us, the trip was all down hill. Unsure of what to do the next day, we planned on going to bed, and figuring it out in the morning.
Arising at a semi-decent hour, we discussed our plans over breakfast and settled on a Stone Town tour. We had no idea what to expect, but it was something to do. We spent the better part of the morning on the beach as the tide was out…. We were able to explore the low tide waters shuffling through corals, looking out for urchin mines, and hunting for moving animals. We ended up being “picked up” by one of the locals who basically & automatically tries to give you a “tour of the area” and find animals for you to interact with… That was the hard part because even if you say “no, thank you”, they are relentless, and then want your money at the end. haha. TIP: Never commit if you aren’t interested. They won’t stop bothering you either. You have to outplay them at their own game. Some areas were a little hard to walk through, there were a couple points, I thought that my feet might bleed, but it was so beautiful that I couldn’t stop. We wandered past the kelp fields that the women tend to, but eventually we did have to get back and grab our things for our tour.
Late that morning, our driver came and picked us up. He drove us into Stone Town which is on the other side of the island. He dropped us off near the market where we were greeted by our tour guide. He was great, but I don’t remember his name, but I do remember that he wanted to be a News Anchor in London… He gave us the grand tour of the city, taking us through markets, leading us through the streets and telling us about the culture and the history… Also, he shared about the ornate doors on the homes lining the streets. He told us that the more ornate the door the wealthier the family, and their were two different styles, one that belonged to middle eastern families, and one that belong to Indian families. After trekking through the humid and crowded streets, we end up at The Seyyida Hotel and Spa near the Palace. This is where we had lunch, which turned out to be just fair, but the hotel itself was beyond beautiful, so my style! We also had great roof views of both the ocean and the roof tops.
From there we headed over to the Beit-el-Sahel for a very quick walk through. This was a former palace to the Sultan. It was interesting, but quite worn down. However, portraits of all the Sultans lined the walls around the large, creeky staircase. We saw the living quarters, and listened to the stories our guide had to share, but not long after entering, we were exiting. TIP: I’m rusty on the history so if you are interested, click the link above. On our way out, I snapped a picture of Brad with the tiniest cannon we ever did see. FACT: This tour was really rough to get through because we did the entire thing on foot, and it had to be 85 degrees Fahrenheit, with extremely high humidity, so we were struggling. …Not to mention, I don’t think we had bottled water with us. From here we continued southwest toward the Old Fort. We just basically cut through one end and back out the other, and then continued on what felt like a run through a maze. We were constantly turning different directions, but eventually it led is in a full circle, and we ended up near where we started. The tour was interesting, but not my favorite. Our guide was fun and definitely had great information to share at the time. It’s too bad that the only thing I remember is the fact about the doors.
AWKWARD EXPERIENCE: Like I said, it was quite hot and humid, which is a big part of why I wore shorts. By no means was my bootie out, and they were probably towards my mid thigh, but it did create some awkward moments for me. At one point a group of Muslim girls walked past me, stared & then starting whispering, I could only assume it was because of my risque attire & my amazing calves… but then another moment happened… As I was walking along with my husband and our guide, another man just stared at me as he walked by, so intensely that if felt like he was burning my alive with his eyes. It just made me realize how sensitive certain individual can be even though my level of dress was acceptable for an area so densely populated with tourists. It made me want a skirt. TIP: Ladies, pack a maxi skirt, or dress that passes your knees… I didn’t & that was a mistake.
With our tour over, we ended up back at the hotel in the late afternoon. We went back to the room, and changed into our swimwear. We decided to do a beach walk. This time, we went right as we left the hotel gardens. We found a couple of the other resorts, and we found the Masai guys, or the salesmen of the beach. Each hoping they can convince tourists to buy things they don’t really need. They had beach tunics, tribal masks, jewelry, art, and various other goodies. We however, weren’t interested at that moment, but those guys would practically beg you and trick you into their small beach side hut in hopes that they can get more for it than its worth. We however, were more interested in going back to the hotel to unwind for dinner. We wrapped up our evening with a hot meal in the cool Zanzibar air, and then headed back to our room to relax. We ended up watching the majority of Armageddon before we fell asleep.
The following morning, we decided we wanted to go scuba diving, but unfortunately, we were too late in trying to schedule, so we settled for snorkeling. We had a few hours of time to just hang out before our afternoon snorkel session because we had to wait for the tide to come back in. This warranted another beach walk down to the Masai. Honestly, I had my eye on a couple things the day before, and had requested that one of the guys custom make something for me. I requested that one of the ebony wood plates be carved to say “Zanzibar” because my plan was to put it in my dog’s corner once we have a home again. …and I got a fantastic African mask which now hangs next to my vanity in my bathroom.
As we waited, we started to wonder if our snorkeling trip would be cancelled because the sky over the ocean was becoming incredibly grey, as we watched the women come back in from their work.
Eventually, it was snorkeling time, and they didn’t cancel which made me question how the visibility would be. Once again, we were picked up in a van and brought to a different beach north of our hotel. We wandered through the small village and had to walk through the ocean to get to the boat, little did we know… We were completely unprepared for walking through urchin-infested water, and in some ways I think we are incredibly fortunate that neither of stepped on one. Once we were in the boat, we headed north once more, we passed the villagers coming in from fishing, and braved the waves. It was a fairly long ride, but the sea was a textured painting of rich colors. I couldn’t get enough! Eventually though, it was time to jump out & swim… we were in the water for probably about an hour. We saw large bulbous starfish that look more like a rock, a striped sea snake, many fish, and periwinkle colored coral. It was beautiful. However, towards the end, we did have a run-in with a few tiny jellyfish. The stings were fairly painful. I had one that got my wrist, and one that felt like it wrapped around my torso. Brad also got stung a couple of times, and in the end even had his nipple bit by a small salty fish, which was hilarious!!! Our guides cut up fresh pineapple & watermelon for us, and it tasted so refreshing, crisp & vivid after an extensive period in the warm water. Sadly, it was time to leave, and as we headed back inland the waters were even worse than before. At one point I was concerned that the boat may flip. Thankfully, we made it back in the boat and in one piece. I was so happy when we hit land. Because the tide had come back in, we didn’t have to walk through the water. They basically were able to beach the boat.
What we found upon our return to the hotel, is that we had missed the rain. Turns out we were lucky because we passed it.
It was our last night there, and we had no big plans… It was mostly to just relax once again, and pack. We were able to do one last beach walk in search of pretty shells & peace. We just wanted to enjoy our time together as it was beginning to run low. We found a fantastic crab that was behaving quite oddly, I imagine due it is egg sac, as it would wander and freeze on the beach, but it made for a fantastic photo.
After dinner we played a bit of very casual badminton in our room. It was the perfect blend of playful and competitive, as our games usually are. Then we did our best to get our things in order for our flight the next day.
The next morning, we finished packing, had breakfast, and then got everything ready to be moved. Our driver eventually arrived to transport us to the airport, and like that our vacation was over. We were both headed back to Johannesburg where we parted ways after one last Indian meal together.
1) You WILL feel uncomfortable if you are not dressed for the culture
2) BUG SPRAY! BUG SPRAY! BUG SPRAY!!!
3) Lemurs fingers are as soft as the finest lamb skin leather
4) Lemurs are my new favorite primate
5) You can never interact with too many animals