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Leona Travels Part 2.....

After a 14hr bus ride from Nairobi, I sleep like the proverbial baby only to be woken up by the soft patter of raindrops outside my window at the Hotel Sapphire in Dar-es-salaam’s quiet Mtendeni  street. Peeping outside,I see people walking on the streets oblivious of the rain and for a moment I’m confused because in Nairobi,nobody even wants to imagine walking around in the rain, and moreso not in the Morning! It’s humid and overcast,but nobody seems bothered by the weather.

I head down to the restaurant for some breakfast which is served with a warm smile harmoniously blending with the striking hotel’s ambience which I’ve realized is common among Tanzanian hotels. They put in a lot of effort and thought into their ambience, it’s rare to find a plain looking hotel, even in smaller towns like Moshi & Arusha.

After breakfast, I’m fully braced for what lies ahead in the said romantic capital of Zanzibar. The island of romance,spices and endless white sandy beaches hence I head out to the ferry which is a few minutes’ drive from the hotel.

The ferry to Zanzibar from Dar-es-salaam is a 2hour affair and departures are at 7am, 9.30am, 12pm and the last one strictly at 3.45pm. After last year’s ferry disaster which claimed hundreds of lives,the Tanzanian Govt banned all ferry operators except the only professional and reliable Azam marine which operates the MV Kilimanjaro. There are 4 classes in the ferry ranging from Economy to VIP. Economy costs 35$ for all non-Tanzanians whilst First,Premium and VIP class cost 40$. Being East African,I was tempted to try my luck at getting away with the Tanzanian rate which is a paltry 23000Tsh(roughly 15$) but my Kenyan passport gave me away and I had to part with the full amount. This didn’t go down without some grumbling on my end, wondering out loud what happened to the East African brotherhood where we’re supposed to be one happy family enjoying the same benefits equally. The ferry ticket-man shot me a look akin to one you give someone who just landed from Mars and I quietly rejoined the queue. You only get away with the Tz rate if you have a Tz ID, anything short of that, you’re a foreigner.

Be cautious whilst booking your tickets though, because like most seaports, the ferry booking office is a bit chaotic and there are conmen lurking around waiting to pounce on the unknowing tourists or some similar mischief .

For the economy ticket, you sit outside and not on the cozy inside patio and there’s an overheard shade to shelter you from the sun or rain. You might be wondering what’s there to see on the Ocean for 2hrs,but trust me, with a keen eye,there’s a lot to see! For instance,there’s Bongoyo Island,complete with a discotheque,where the young and young at heart go to sway the night away(it’s an hour’s boatride away from the Tz mainland), and there’s Chumbe island,which is a must visit for anyone interested in marine life. Chumbe island,is a protected conservation area and one of the last pristine coral islands in the World. It’s home to unique species like the Ader’s duiker and the coconut crab(largest crab on earth). For the adventurous and historically inclined,there’s a lighthouse at Chumbe which was built in 1904 by the Sultan of Zanzibar,the lighthouse has 131 steps which if counquered,lead to the most amazing views of the Indian Ocean,with Zanzibar spotted at a distance and Dar-es-salaam still visible on the other end. Chumbe is a special Island,hence there’s a maximum limit of 14 visitors at any given time and you must book prior to your visit.

Finally, We spotted the romantic Island of Zanzibar in the distance,and we were soon ushered in via the immigration and onto the beautiful historical land. As a non-Tanzanian,you have to go through immigration and get your passport stamped and your yellow fever certificate checked which takes about 5minutes. Ali,my driver in Zanzibar was a cheerful man with a hearty laughter and soon I was learning all about Zanzibar 101. We drove to beautiful Bwejuu beach on the South East coast Zanzibar, a place I would call home for the next few days, This side of Zanzibar has a handful of interesting things to do and it’s so serene, it even made it to the 30 top island beaches in the World as voted by the prestigious Conde Nast Traveler.

Personally, what I loved most about this side of Zanzibar is that it’s accessible by daladala(matatus) and cabs aren’t expensive especially if you know how to bargain your way out of any rate(like yours truly). And the people here are amazingly friendly and willing to show you around!

Things to do at the South East Coast Zanzibar(in no particular order):

1. Visit the legendary Bi.Khole ruins – There’s a mango tree lined street near the ruins which is said to have been the result of Bi.Kholes sexual exploits. If she slept with a man, she’d have him beheaded and his head buried by the street side,and with time,the heads turned into mango trees.

2. Take a Stone town and Spice island tour.

3. Visit the Jozani National Park which is home to the rare Red colobus monkey endemic to Zanzibar.

4. Eat at the amazing Rock restaurant which is a rocky outcrop turned into a restaurant,on the ocean!

5. Take a boat ride to Kizimkazi where you get to spot the bottle neck and humpback dolphins as well as snorkel,dive,scuba dive,kite surf etc

6. Although the ride from or to Stone town can be uncomfortable if you’re used to a luxurious ride back home, a daladala experience is highly recommended. It helps you interact with the locals,appreciate our Kenyan matatus and open your eyes to a painfully slow World. I personally loved it.. would take daladala number 324 from stone town to Bwejuu,just for kicks..and to save a whooping 4,000 which would be my cab fare to & from stone town/mainland.

Where to stay in Bwejuu:

Breezes Beach Club and Spa – www.breezes-zanzibar.com

Dongwe Ocean View – www.dongweoceanview.com

Or Baraza beach resort if you’re feeling quite rich – www.baraza-zanzibar.com

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Good stuff!

Impunity | Tuesday, July 23, 2013
Thanks @Impunity. Sasa safiri Zanzibari ujivinjari

leona | Thursday, August 01, 2013
Very informative and helpful Leona. Any reason you choose Bwejuu and not the 'popular' Nugwi beach? Planning to visit next year and from Tripadvisor Nugwi seems like the beach to be at. Thanks.

shotgun | Sunday, August 11, 2013
Hi @shotgun I got a deal from two hotels in Bwejuu,and it was too good to say No.. Hence i went for Bwejuu and will maybe go with Nungwi next year as i plan to return to ZNZ

leona | Monday, November 11, 2013
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