The island of spices and smiles

Who I am
Lluis Enric Mayans

Author and references

DIY trip to discover the island of Zanzibar. An island that remains in the heart not only for its immense beaches and its beautiful sea but, above all, for the smile of its children and for the atmosphere so? serene, relaxed, happy. Ed? just the contrast cos? strong among the poverty? visible always accompanied by the smile that suddenly made us feel better. So choose your little refuge, turn off your cell phones and television, mix with the locals, give your children a smile, enjoy spectacular sunsets, in short ... HAKUNA MATATA!

1 day

Departure from Rome with the Turkish Airlines flight to Istanbul. We land at 17:30 pm and wander around Ataturk until our direct flight to Zanzibar takes off.

2 day

It is 03:00 when the plane touches the dark runway of Zanzibar airport. We disembark on foot to enter the ... Terminal? In the shed used as an airport. Welcome Zanzibar. Time to attend to formalities? of entry (remember to have 50 $ for the visa) and literally take our suitcases and we are outside immediately breathing that smell of Africa. The driver sent by the hotel awaits us outside and avoids the boarding of taxi drivers crowded at the exit. Crossing the deserted outskirts of Stonetown we arrive near our hotel which we reach on foot. We stay at the Dhow Palace Hotel and are quickly in our room. The hotel? beautiful, included in many city tours? for its traditional architecture. The room ? a little less beautiful, but clean and comfortable for the hours we spend there. We are devastated since it is almost 05:00 ...

At 11:00 we are back up and still serve us a nice breakfast, albeit out of hours. Ed? finally time to start the holiday with a visit to Stonetown. Do we spend time getting lost in the alleys of the city? old, admiring the wooden portals, sifting through the thousand shops, chatting with all those who want to sell, want to accompany you or are just intrigued by our presence. We pass Freddy Mercury's house, the fort and the Forodhani park and its beautiful promenade. Despite the tiredness we are fascinated by this African atmosphere combined with a certain Middle Eastern flavor. We are also fascinated by people who immediately turn out to be smiling and friendly. We return to the hotel for a bit of rest and in the evening we manage to return to negotiate for some souvenirs that struck us and we go to mix with the life of the place at the Forodhani park, where the street food market is held every evening. There? many people walking, families with children, elderly people resting, groups of boys who smoke and compete in diving and groups of veiled and smiling girls with whom they look at each other from afar, flirting in the old way. We do not eat at the stalls since the prices applied to tourists are from the Amalfi coast and we go to dinner in the nearby "The Floating". We return soon ready for a good restful sleep.

3 day

This morning after breakfast we leave the city? headed to our first destination: Bweju. We negotiated the transfer with the same driver who picked us up at the airport and will accompany us for $ 30. he. It takes us about 2 hours and as soon as we leave Stonetown the island of Zanzibar begins to reveal itself in all its contrasts. Its beauty and its poverty. We cross small villages with mud and tin houses. We are immediately struck by the many children, but above all we are struck by their rampant happiness. Everyone smiles and says hello. And they are not paid extras. Unlike the untidiness of the houses, the schools strike us. Simple and minimal but clean with hundreds of pupils in white uniforms. Also in Bweju we are welcomed by the school children right in front of our small hotel.

Bweju? a small village north of Paje, on the east coast, where we chose to spend 5 nights. The "Sahari" Zanzibar? a boutique hotel on the beach, with an Italian owner, a real gem. Structure ? beautiful, well-kept, clean, intimate and familiar ... perfect for taking a break away from stress and mass tourism that, fortunately, is not here! The Superior / Deluxe room? on the first floor, with a small terrace, very clean and comfortable. The tropical garden has a beautiful swimming pool in the center and? a charm just looking at it. The cuisine of the Sahari? varied and very good, a true fusion style between Zanzibari and Italian cuisine! The staff ? courteous and nice and after a while? like staying with family. We settle down and spend the afternoon on the beach for a first swim and a long walk to Paje. The beach ? an immense strip of white sand where you will meet very few tourists but continuous scenes of local life. At low tide is not it? swimming, but the colors and atmosphere are magical and will not make you regret choosing this stretch of Zanzibar. We have dinner at Sahari and we immediately have the opportunity to form a table for an after-dinner chat with the other few guests. Here is not there? a lot to do and at 21:30 it seems already? to have done the small hours. No TV and it seems like a dream to me.

4 day

It is 06:30 when I open my eyes and open the window wide, impatient to start the first real day of relaxation and ... the sea? gone! And when I say gone, I really mean gone! We were informed and prepared for the tides phenomenon but I would never have imagined so. Advance breakfast with a single coffee? and I'm immediately on the beach armed with a camera. What an authentic sight. I spent cos? about 3 hours just watching the colors change, the water resurface and the many people at work, especially the women intent on collecting algae and transporting them on large buckets placed on their heads. And so what? we had a very good breakfast and then returned to the beach where we spent the whole day swimming, walking and chatting with passers-by.

After 13:00, when the school closes, the beach comes alive with the children who, without much shyness, besides the usual "Jambooo", ask us if we have some school pens for them. We have nothing but I promise him that before leaving I would have given him a pen. Another day goes by like this? and without realizing it? already? night.

5 day

This morning breakfast at dawn and after having lost our gaze again on the life of the low tide we go to the Jozani forest. We called a taxi, friend of a friend ... here they are all friends of someone and with $ 15 round trip it remains at our disposal for as long as we want. Entrance to the park? for a fee and? mandatory to be accompanied by a guide. We are lucky and there are only 6 people in our group. Visit ? been long enough with a nice walk in the forest where you can see several endemic plants and different animals depending on how much you? lucky. Are you then taken to an area where you usually do? You can see and approach the colo colo monkeys found only here on the island. The monkeys are more? that you get used to the human presence and almost seem to want to pose in front of the cameras.
The visit then continues moving to the park area beyond? of the state road where you take a long walk in a mangrove forest. Does the morning go by like this? and although it is not an exceptional park (compared to others seen around the world) it is part of the attractions of Zanzibar that are worth a visit.

Before returning to Bweju we ask the taxi driver to take us to a market where we can buy the stationery promised to children. He takes us to a shop along the road, a sort of emporium that sells everything ... we stock up on our minibar and above all we manage to buy boxes of colored pens and notebooks at really ridiculous prices (about 500 pens and 50 notebooks per less than $ 5!).
Back at the hotel, we spend the rest of the day on our beach and we don't need to look for our little friends who run towards us hoping for the surprise they receive. We didn't spend anything and a pen didn't? a gift but receiving certain hugs and seeing them smile as if they were children on Christmas morning has a certain effect. Very effect thinking about the children of our house always sulking in front of a smartphone and with Nike on their feet.

6 day

Also this morning breakfast at dawn. We are leaving for the "Blue Safari" excursion booked by one of the guys from our hotel who gives us the same price as the Beach Boys. With a minibus we go up to Unguja Ukuu from where the boats depart for those leaving from the southeast. We are 8 on our boat; the boats are made of wood and honestly more? traditional so you die. From here compared to Fumba it takes a little longer? but the view really deserves it.
The first stop? to a sizable sandbank at low tide. The sea ? spectacular with 1000 shades of blue. The White ? dazzling and we have time for a nice bath and a half hour of relaxation accompanied by a buffet of fresh fruit. We get back on the boat and go to a nearby area where an hour? dedicated to snorkeling. The fish are there, but the arrival of other boats all close and maneuvering creates only a great and dangerous confusion. The next step? the island of Kwale where they are perfectly organized with the usual shops and the area where to organize lunch with rice and lots of fish at the BBQ. On the island ? It is possible to see and climb on a giant Baobab tree and navigate a mangrove forest before resuming navigation to return to the coast.
Upon returning, the high tide makes landing impossible, so? after another half hour of attempts we change docking on a beach where we are forced to go down with the water to life amid the general laughter of those present!

Overall the excursion? no doubt to do for the colors and the beautiful sea then it depends on the subjectivity? of each ... well ... the sandbank is not the Maldives, snorkeling is not? the Red Sea and unfortunately everyone does the same tour stopping at the same points with the result of seeing wonderful and deserted coves while you? forced to come together as a group of Japanese on vacation. We arrive at the hotel what? already? the sun has set. Shower, dinner, sleep.

7 day

Today reversed day. We spend the whole morning enjoying the sun on the beach but we contact our now friend taxi driver to pick us up around 15:30 and we move north to the Michamvi area where we go to see the famous restaurant "The Rock" and we then bring to Michamvi Sunset Beach choosing the recommended Kae Funk to spend the remaining time.

The Kae Funk? a beach bar of the special ones, where you can enjoy a cocktail at sunset lulled by relaxation and reggae music. Are we leaving what? already? night and when the bar gets more and more? full of patrons ready to continue the evening. With this spectacular sunset we give our farewell to the south of Zanzibar and returning to the Sahari are we already? sad to have to leave him in the morning.

8 day

Even today we leave early. After breakfast we have time to say goodbye to all the staff for a pleasant stay and with the usual trusted companion we get in the car to cross the island to Nungwi where we will stay the remaining days of the holiday.

Nungwi? a village more? big where the tourism effect? much more? visible than in the south. We stay here at Hilton's Doubletree but would not recommend it. All good, clearly super clean and organized, but for a next time we will definitely prefer a family run establishment like the Sahari we just left. The time to settle down and immediately begin to discover the surroundings, walking to the center pi? tourist of Nungwi.
Do you beach her? by Nungwi? long and beautiful. Different between the area where there are restaurants and shops and the one to the north, to the fishing village and the aquarium, more? wild and frequented by locals. Here even at low tide? possible to bathe and this makes it among the most? popular in Zanzibar. Going north at low tide the scenario? postcard. Here are also beautiful sunsets and the many beach bars that give a perfect atmosphere.

And we come to the Beach Boys, here more? numerous than elsewhere. Many complain of their presence, but? enough to say yes? already? booked, exchange a few words with them and the problem? Resolved. They certainly don't allow you to experience the isolation of the Maldives, but Zanzibar? also this and is part of there? which makes it different and beautiful. And then ... considering the annoyances we have on Italian beaches, you can be sure that you will enjoy a wonderful relaxation!
After a nice swim and before returning we have an aperitif at sunset at Cholo's bar. But the real discovery is made after dinner. Jerry's bar, a local beach bar restaurant near our hotel. After dinner ? a continuous party between local music and dances involving locals and tourists. Will Jerry's become? our favorite place, especially at sunset.

9 day

This morning we go to the beach going all the way south to the beautiful Kendwa. Here the sea? pi? nice that on the east coast and walk? it's a pleasure. What? as ? a real pleasure to discover the fantastic and highly photographed starfish a few meters from the shore. The day passes like this, between baths, sun, shops and chat in the name of the "pole pole" now learned by the Zanzibari. Aperitif at Jerry's and evening on the beach looking for shells.

10 day

And even today the pole pole will be? our philosophy. But today we turn north until we reach the lighthouse.
And even today only sea, only sun. Aperitif and evening at Jerry's to the rhythm of Jambo ...

11 day

Early breakfast this morning and at 08:30 we are already? on the beach at the appointment for the boat trip to Mnemba atoll, Bill Gates' private island that houses a resort with prohibitive prices. We booked with the Beach Boys choosing the half day formula with fast boat. It's us and another Italian family. The excursion? unmissable. Even if the stretch of sea between Nungwi and the island cannot dock in Mnemba? absolutely the most? beautiful of the whole island. You sail along the coast in such a water? beautiful to look like an immense swimming pool. In front of Mnemba it becomes an intense blue and we have all the time available for snorkeling, better than that of the Blue Safari. We then go to sunbathe and enjoy a fresh fruit picnic on a practically deserted beach right in front of the atoll where? simple to feel in paradise.
We return at 14:00 and dedicate the rest of the day beached in Nungwi, then respecting the now traditional aperitif with sunset at Jerry's Bar.

12 day

This ? the last morning we spend here. We have breakfast caught already? from melancholy and return to the center for the latest purchases. Until lunchtime we take advantage of our sunbeds enjoying the last sun bath. Once again we return to Jerry's Bar for lunch trying to imprint the colors of the sea in our eyes. Let's wait cos? 16:30 pm when the taxi (this time negotiated with the Beach Boys on the beach) comes to pick us up and take us back to Stonetown. It is almost 19:00 when we arrive. Tonight we stay at the Doubletree taking advantage of a discount received in Nungwi. And we immediately go out for a last Zanzibari evening, retracing Mizingani Road to the port, where we have dinner, and saying goodbye to this magical island for the last time.

13 day

Time to have breakfast on the hotel terrace and our taxi? already? arrived ... it's 11:00 when we board the Precision Air flight destination Dar and then wait for the connecting Etihad flight that will bring us back? at home. Goodbye Zanzibar ...

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