The Absolute Safari Week 5: Zanzibar

Zanzibar is described as a melting-pot of cultures and a destination not to be missed, however it did not come without its challenges. For the perfect mix of beach, history and culture, it's time you thought about heading to Zanzibar!

Day 29: Pickpocketed in Stone Town

Navigating the Stone Town markets

Navigating the Stone Town markets

I had a great sleep in and woke up in our hostel in Stone Town, which I was sharing with Amie and Emilie. I honestly don’t even remember my head hitting the pillow, it was so nice to have a proper bed. We headed up to the roof for breakfast, which was included, but unfortunately had already been pillaged by the early risers. Most of the crew had already headed off on various tours around the island so Amie and I decided just to go for a self guided walk through the nearby bazaar. Walking through the windy cobblestoned streets of Stone Town was a delight for the senses. It was eerily quiet, with not a lot of people around. The exquisitely decorated doors were a treat, and the colours of the various paintings and clothes being sold was seriously attracting my inner shopping-addict.

We were navigating our way through the never-ending labyrinth, with a make-shift map from hostel reception, which comprised of a few black lines to indicate the main streets. I had some postcards to send back home, so we identified the poorly labeled post office on the map and decided to start there and shop our way backwards to the hostel. On the way to the post office I revelled at the beautiful crafts and clothes that I was planning to buy on the way back, already mentally preparing myself on how much to barter for each item. We made it inside the post office, and being supervised by an armed-guard, I decided to quickly whip out some money (the equivalent of about $50USD local currency) from my money-belt and place it into my purse (which also had a $50 US note in it), in preparation for my purchases. I bought some stamps, threw my postcards in the box and we were on our way back through the markets. I stopped at the first shop after turning the corner to buy a cute little dress that I’d spotted which would be perfect for the next few days on the beach. I bartered down from $20 to about $8,  and reached into the pocket on the inside of my side-bag to get my purse…empty. I already knew it was gone, but Amie encouraged me to search the rest of my bag. I always put it in that inside pocket, because it zips up, there’s no way it could have fallen into the other compartment of my bag. 

Stone Town, Zanzibar

Stone Town, Zanzibar

I apologised to the shopkeeper that I wouldn’t be able to purchase the dress and we ran back to the post office. I hadn’t left my purse on the counter when I’d bought stamps. DAMN IT! It was inevitable that I would be scammed, hoodwinked, bamboozled or pick-pocketed at some point throughout this trip, and it had finally happened. We had passed not even 5 men between the post-office and the shop but I knew that someone must’ve have been watching me in the post-office, seen exactly where I placed my purse, and with a quick slight of hand managed to unzip the 2 lines of defence on my bag, without me feeling or hearing a thing. As annoyed, and overwhelmed as I was by my first ever pick-pocketing experience I couldn’t help but be impressed by the theif's skills. I hadn’t been flippant with my money at all, was on my guard, and still they managed the deception so easily. With nothing left to do at the point in time I encouraged Amie to keep shopping, and I could still retrieve money from my money belt (VERY CAUTIOUSLY) if I desperately wanted to buy anything, even though I was in no mood for shopping by now. I was so frustrated, knowing that my main travel credit card was also in that purse, and that I would have to transfer the money back into my account (losing out more than $200 in conversion fees), cancel the card and somehow call my bank back home (my iPhone had been broken since Uganda) to inform them that I would have to use my debit card for the remainder of the trip, putting a damper on my island getaway.

I still ended up buying a different dress, and my ritualistic magnet from every country on the way back to the hostel. Once I reached the hostel, I informed Kanyo of the pick-pocketing and he arranged for our local guide, Isaac, to take me to the police station to fill in a report. Knowing that I would never see the purse again, I didn’t see much point in making a report, however they convinced me that it was worthwhile incase I was to make an insurance claim (which I knew I wouldn’t bother, seeing as there was the equivalent of about $100USD in the $2 purse and my insurance excess was $250). The police station experience was more nerve-wracking than being in the bazaar. The officer would not speak to me, and instead spoke to Isaac in the local language (some sort of Swahili spin-off). Rather than translating for me directly, Isaac just recounted his version of my story, however I could see that the officer was writing down some incorrect details, such as the amount of money, so I would interject, but the officer would not look me in the eye and instead would ask Isaac what I was talking about. It took FOREVER for the officer to write down even one sentence in English, in pencil, in the ancient looking record book. I was asked to take a seat, and later lead to the big boss’ office, who sat behind his very official looking oak desk while the rest of the room was bare-bones. The boss was wearing casual jeans and a polo shirt. Again, he spoke directly to Isaac for a few minutes and then addressed me:

'What is your name? How old are you? Are you married?... Why not?’ I hesitated for a second, and then decided to play the inappropriate question off with a joke. ‘Because he hasn’t put a ring on it yet’ and nervously laughed. The officer looked confused, as I stuck my 4th finger up in the air. ‘You know, like Beyonce?… Single lady’ as I motioned the rest of my hand. I felt like the biggest moron, until the officer began to laugh and motion as well… ‘Ah yes Beyonce… single ladies… Uh oh oh… Uh oh oh oh oh oh…’ I immediately felt more at ease in the chauvinistic atmosphere, and we chit-chatted for a few minutes. It wasn’t until 5 minutes in, that he asked me to recount the details of the pick-pocketing. He wrote the details down, handed me a signed piece of paper and asked if it would suffice? He must get so many tourists every day coming in to make an insurance claim that he thought that was all I was after. I’m not entirely sure why I bothered at all, but the comical experience lightened my mood and by the time I was back at the hostel, where everybody was waiting for me (OOPS), I told them about my bizarre police station experience. We stopped at a liquor store, and copious amounts of commiseration drinks were bought to forget about my morning. We drove to Kendwa beach and checked into our beautiful beachside resort (Sunset Kendwa). I immediately dropped my bag in the room and headed down for a cocktail by the beach. 

Sunset Kendwa Stairs Zanzibar

On the way down to the bar, which was down an intense flight of stairs and at least 100m across the sand, I concocted a cocktail idea in my head which would become ‘my usual’ for the next 3 days, thanks to the accommodating beach bartender. The cocktail was: mango, malibu, ice cream, milk and mint… and it went down such a treat I had to stop myself skulling it instantly.

The bar at Sunset Kendwa

The bar at Sunset Kendwa

The usual

The usual

The rest of the day was completely ideal, chilling at the bar, swimming in the clear blue waters of the Indian Ocean and just hanging out and enjoying the sunset.

Sunset Zanzibar
Sunset Zanzibar

Being Halloween, the whole crew decided to get dressed up and throw a Halloween party. We all met up at the American boy’s room for some drinks. By 11pm I was itching to get out of the room so Sam and I went for a walk down to the beach to see if there was anything exciting going on for Halloween, as we’d heard there was a club at the resort next door. We bumped into Manuela and Marie having a drink at the restaurant and persuaded them to come on this wild party goose change that we were on. Across the sand, and up a different flight of stairs we found it… the club! The only problem? Discounting the bar staff, there was about 2 people in it… but there was a dance floor, some tunes and lights. Sam ran back to the hotel room to gather the troops while the girls and I got the party started. By midnight, it was going off! We found out that the bar was offering one free tequila shot per person that walked through the door, so we ‘walked through the door’ multiple times to different bartenders. I didn’t even realise that I had walked over to the club barefoot. What a sight we must’ve all been in our makeshift halloween costumes, barefoot, breaking it down on the dance floor. After hours had gone by we headed back to our resort, but not without stopping for a quick dip in the ocean and a failed attempt to commandeer a small boat. There were far more shenanigans had by some of the squad, but that’s not my story to tell. A few of us stayed up talking until heading back to bed just before sunrise. It was one of the most memorable nights I’ve ever had.

Day 30: Bliss in Zanzibar

Sunset Kendwa Resort Zanzibar

Today was the perfect island holiday. Much less eventful than the previous day, but still an amazing day in its own rights. I did nothing but nap, drink cocktails, eat, sun bake, swim, chat, laugh, and get a massage.

Day 31: Scuba diving in Zanzibar

After such a refreshing day the day before, I arranged with Emilie to go for a morning jog along the beach. After more than a month of relative inactivity, running along the sand was a hard slog but I definitely earned my buffet breakfast today! Most of the crew were going scuba diving and snorkelling today so we all met promptly after breakfast to jump on the boat. This was to be my first time ever tackling scuba diving, and a bucket list item so it’s fair to say I was pretty excited. We were informed that the transfer would take close to 2 hours to get to the dive spot, and the boat was painfully slow! After a big night again for some, the queasy boat ride and hangover did not mix well, so it was a fairly quiet ride.

Our diving boat

Our diving boat

The boys didn't pull up so well from the night before

The boys didn't pull up so well from the night before

Our resort: Sunset Kendwa

Our resort: Sunset Kendwa

About half an hour into the journey, my morning coffee began to kick in… uh oh! After an hour, the situation was becoming urgent as I squirmed in my seat quietly. I tried to think of a contingency plan but no matter which way I thought of it I was screwed… we weren’t travelling to another small island off the coast, we were going to be stopping in the middle of the ocean with not a piece of land or toilet in sight, and to make matters worse I was in a full length wetsuit. There was no escape. The captain of the boat had told us at the beginning of the trip to ask him to stop if we needed to hang off the side of the boat for a wee, but it wasn’t a wee that I needed. A beautiful pod of dolphins swimming by distracted me for about 20 seconds but half an hour out from the planned arrival time, I couldn’t hold it any more! I had to ask the Captain to stop. Spoiler alert: this is probably the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened in my life and a word of advice, don’t drink coffee the morning of a long boat ride to nowhere! I stripped out of my wetsuit and lowered myself down the ladder by the side of the boat while the other passengers kindly and patiently chatted amongst themselves, looking in the other direction. The water was freezing! And I got stage fright. ‘You’ve gotta be kidding me’ is all I could think, ‘two seconds ago I was about to explode so much I couldn’t get out of my wetsuit fast enough and now I can’t go!’ But then a second of relief washed over me, ‘Thank goodness I can’t go! Maybe I can hold it now’. ‘Haha JOKES!’ is all my body had to say before IT happened. I’ll let you guys in on a little secret… when there’s no drop between the toilet seat and the toilet water, number two’s stay whole. Want to know how I know this? I’ll let you in on another little secret that I hadn’t thought of in the last hour… number two’s float! I was absolutely fucking horrified. What a shitty situation!

What do I do? Maybe no one will see it. Maybe I can splash it in the direction under the boat. Nope, still floating. Maybe I should break it up a bit so it will sink. Oh god I don’t wanna touch it. It’s okay, I’m in the ocean, plenty of water to wash my hands after. Hell no, don’t worry about it no one will see it. Even if they do, maybe they won’t judge me, I mean it’s nature’s toilet right? It’s all natural, nothing gross about it. It’s probably the biggest turd I’ve ever seen in my life just floating along there, but I couldn’t help it, when you’ve gotta go you’ve gotta go right? Probably should do something about it still though right. Oh god don’t touch it don’t touch it don’t touch it. AH I touched it. Oh my god this is so fucking gross. Okay a little bit smaller, it should sink now right? Wrong. Fuck. Fuck it, just get in the boat tell the captain to GO. FUCKING GO! Nobody will look back, that’s just plain rude. Just wash your hands Kirstin, get in the boat. Act cool. Put your wetsuit back on and just be cool. Nothing happened.

Do you think I got away with it? Hell no, that wouldn’t be a good story would it? I wouldn’t be telling you any of this if I’d gotten away with it. The Captain asks if anybody else needs to go while we’re stopped, everybody shakes their heads. Alright, let’s go then. Just as he starts up the boat I give a sigh of relief. As if the universe thought oh no, this is just too good, Alè turns back and then swivels her head back to stare me straight in the eyes. Her eyes were so wide while she stifles the laughter and purses her lips. ‘Please, don’t!’ I mouth to her, violently shaking my head. It’s like it all happened in slow motion, as she lifts her arm, points out her index finger and taps Sam, next to her, on the shoulder. I just let my head hang and drop into my hands of embarrassment. I look back up and they’re both looking back from the ocean, towards me and pissing themselves in laughter.   And so forever it will now be the day I dropped the kids off at the ocean. 

My first Scuba Dive

My first Scuba Dive

Not long after dying of embarrassment, we arrived at the dive site and now I was in a totally different emotional state. We kitted up with the oxygen and went through a quick safety run down and how things worked and I was nervous as hell! Alè and I were both the only first time scuba divers so we stuck together with one instructor. We practiced going underwater and equalising before we hung onto a rope and started our descent. Not even 5 minutes in, and my heart was going a million miles an hour. I’d never focused on my breathing so much in my life as I was now. I motioned to the instructor that I wanted to go up. ‘What’s wrong, are you okay?’ he asked once we got above water. ‘I dunno, my breathing was all out of whack, I think I’m just anxious, I don’t think I can do it anymore, how far down did we get?’ ‘We were 12metres down, that’s as far as we were going!’ Oh. ‘Okay just give me a minute, I’ll try again’. I had been so excited to cross another thing off of my bucket list, never in a million years did I think that I wouldn’t enjoy it. I love adrenaline activities, and I’m pretty proud to say that I’m pretty much not scared of anything. Snakes, spiders, heights… nothing really phases me. Not being able to breathe so good 12 metres under water? Turns out that phases me. We dived for an hour, and saw incredible corals and beautiful fish, a few cool sea snakes and eels and other things but I’ve gotta say, I didn’t love it. Would I do it again? Yes, but only to overcome my first dive, not because I have an overwhelming desire to go diving again. I learnt something new and surprising about myself today. 

Snorkelling in beautiful blue waters

Snorkelling in beautiful blue waters

We snorkelled for a while longer a few minutes down from where the dive had been before packing into the boat for lunch and to head home. The two hour boat ride home was just as long and boring as it had been there. By now, the hangover had most of the boys in a really bad way. I’ve got to say, I felt pretty great after releasing my entire insides earlier. Most of us fell asleep with the warmth of the sun hitting our faces, and had a good nap until we got back to shore. 

That night, a lot of people were ending their tour in Zanzibar, so we had a big BBQ seafood buffet on the sand. Naturally, by the time I came down to dinner everybody had heard the story, there was no denying it now. Dinner was lovely but I was feeling a bit off in the tummy again so I headed to bed early to read a book and was passed out by 9pm. Apparently I missed out on a good night, but sometimes that happens on an overland trip.

Delicious seafood buffet dinner with friends on our last night in Zanzibar.

Delicious seafood buffet dinner with friends on our last night in Zanzibar.

Seafood Buffet Dinner Zanzibar

Day 32: Returning to Dar es Salaam

We left the hotel in Zanzibar at 10am to start the long commute back to Dar es Salaam. A 1.5 hour drive, 2 hour ferry, 10 minute walk to the shops, 5 minute taxi ride, half an hour wait in the basic ferry terminal, 10 minute ferry, 5 minute walk and 5 minute tuk tuk later, we were back to the same campsite we’d left Dar es Salaam from by about 4pm. It was a long day. We stayed up that night playing ridiculous drinking games and farewelling my tent buddy, Alanna.

Day 33: Delayed in Mikumi

Today was a 4:15am start to head to Iringa. Not everything goes to plan on an overland though. The truck wouldn’t start. It wasn’t until after 6am that we got out of the campsite. We stopped on the side of the road at 8am to smash some cereal standing up. It was a long drive day, and there was no way we were going to make it to Iringa before dark, so other arrangements were made and we stopped earlier at a campsite in Mikumi. The campsite had a pool and wifi so we weren’t complaining. I somehow managed to pull together the motivation to do a quick body-weight workout but must’ve dehydrated myself and was feeling terrible. I had a massive headache and couldn’t finish my dinner. I swapped chores with Jason, so that I wouldn’t have to do the dishes that night and was in bed before 8.

Day 34: Iringa

I woke up at 5am before everybody else due to the ridiculously early sleep I had gotten and watched the sunrise over the campsite. I headed to the lobby to bum some wifi (always the best time to get a good connection with a large group). We drove to Iringa through Baobab Valley. Baobab’s are those really cool, huge, upside-down looking trees you picture when you think of Africa. We played badminton and kick-to-kick until dinner. The campsite we stayed at was supposed to be infamous for its home-made brownies so of course we couldn’t pass that up. We headed to the bar to have a drink and a brownie, and comically people-watched a much older overland group, dressed to the nine’s enjoying a private dinner in the restaurant.

Dary 35: Iringa to Chitimba

Today was yet another uneventful day crossing the border into Malawi. 

 

In case you missed it, click here to read about Week 4 in Tanzania...

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The Absolute Safari Week 5