Sometimes you give a lot of thought to titles for blog posts, to sum up the content, or give a cute or clever headline. But sometimes the destination does the work. Zanzibar. Is there a more evocatively named place on the planet?
An African safari is a must-do for any serious traveller, and I’ve been lucky enough to have gone twice – in Tanzania, and in Kenya. On both occasions, the ‘bush and beach’ combo was chosen, and Zanzibar was the beach. Yet it’s so much more than beach. Starting with the capital, Stonetown, the old town of which gives a sense of having been unchanged for centuries – electrical power is the only give away.
From spices to slavery, every aspect of the island’s history is accessible, the old slave dungeons being a particularly haunting site.
We stayed in the Tembo House Hotel, which is perfectly located for the Old Town. This is a Muslim island, and Tembo House does not serve alcohol, though there are bars nearby, so don’t let that deter you. What it does have is a beautiful pool, perfect for cooling down from the near-equatorial heat. A must visit in Stonetown is the Tower Top Restaurant at 236 Hurumzi: the sun sets, the call to prayer goes out, you sit on traditional cushions and are served with tasty local food. The hotel looks quite special too.
The Jozani Forest is a good trip from Stonetown to meet the endemic red colobus monkeys. They’re the highlight, but the forest itself though small is a fascinating place in itself.
So finally to the beach. Nungwi at the very north of the island is perhaps Zanzibar’s busiest resort. Don’t let that description fool you – it is laid back beyond description, even if development has accelerated in recent years. The sea is an almost impossible colour, and it’s role as a base for dhow building and fishing means it has active local industry and life separate from tourism. Cholo’s Beach Bar is a good spot to meet people, or just strolling along and chatting. There’s snorkelling, diving and fishing, the small turtle conservation facility, and stunning beach walks galore. You’ll read and relax more than you planned, and as you head down the dusty track to leave to head back to Stonetown, and onwards to Dar es Salaam, it will have you counting the days until you return.
If this DOES all seem to hectic for you, there’s always Kendwa which is a couple of miles up the beach – even more tranquil, and in itself the walk (at low tide!) along the coast to Kendwa will help while away some of those long languid hours.