We had a two hour lay over in Nairobi before taking the hour’s flight to Dar es Salaam on the 23rd October where we were met by our driver to take us to the ferry port for our 2hour trip to Zanzibar. Life seemed a bit more frenetic here in Dar (as they call it).
We had a dreadful experience at the port when our driver went past the office where we were to collect our tickets.
He was trying to park in an area and a group of porters started banging on the car wanting him to move so a shouting match ensued. He started backing up still with the crowd around the car. I got out and went up to the ferry office where a lovely girl apologised for the behaviour and gave me our tickets.
They were all still shouting and trying to take our bags when I returned so we managed to take our own bags with the help of one young guy to the security area where all the bags had to be checked before we could get down to down to the covered seating area inside the port. The porter then wanted USD10 for the service so I gave him TZS3000 or about USD2.50 and told him that it was too bad if he didn’t like it. The experience reminded us of catching the slow boat to Lombok from Bali only the porters were not so aggressive there. There were many hawkers trying to sell crisps, drinks and cashew nuts. I bargained and got some cashew nuts for a very reasonable price and they were delicious.

Thank goodness we had been bought business class tickets for USD40 each for the two hour trip to Unguja, the main Zanzibar island. The safety video was priceless explaining that they had life rings for anyone who accidentally dropped into the sea! We unrealistically I suppose thought that this would mean an easy passage at our destination. No such luck. We went into the area where we thought that bags would be brought but only found out later that we had to retrieve the bags from their container near the ferry and then join the free for all to lift every bag onto a long concrete area where customs officers would again check the bags and give them a swipe with blue chalk. This was difficult as we had two bags each and trying to hang on to one while lifting the other was not easy with everyone else pushing and shoving. The custom’s officers were also not a happy bunch. Not a great first impression of Zanzibar.

By now it was almost dark and it had been raining. Luckily an older man who worked for the Azam ferry gave us the name of someone who would take us by taxi to our lodgings. When we managed to get out of the building we saw a sign with my name on it and met Mohammed who turned out to be a gem.
There is a large muslim population on the island but the call to prayer was very short and sweet all the time.
Unfortunately the street where we were staying could not be reached by car so Maurice stayed with the vehicle while I went with the taxi driver into the maze of alleyways to try and find the apartment where we were staying trying to avoid the muddy puddles everywhere as it had been raining. The couple who rented the apartment had failed to inform us that they would not be there. They were in Dar es Salaam for the night. There are numbers on houses but they are in no order so made finding anywhere very hard. We arrived at a certain point and I got the driver to call the owner of the apartment who then gave his housemaid instructions to come and find us.
Once found I looked at the apartment and we went back to get the bags. The apartment was really sub standard with peeling walls and a musty smell but it was too late to move then so we went in search of another place and happened upon Kisiwa house – a boutique hotel which was beautiful and only around the corner.

We stayed the night in the apartment as it was too dark and late to move but we got up early the next day, checked into the hotel and left a note for the owners saying that we would be back to pay them for the ferry tickets that they had arranged for us.
Stonetown is the main town of Unguja and a large section of the town is made up of narrow alleyways leading to larger roads and to the beach or inland. The island is 90kilometres long, so quite large.
We headed off early and walked for most of the day around the interesting town seeing a lot of the sights that Unguja had to offer as well as some nice hotels on the coast. We went past the Africa House hotel where the explorers David Livingstone and Stanley used to drink. At the other end of the scale we saw the house where Freddie Mercury was born and lived for the first six years of his life. His family had come from Persia to the island.
The old dispensary which was no longer used as such had been beautifully restored at the port and the so called ‘House of Wonders’ was a very large house with a clocktower and surrounded by tall pillars which was under reconstruction It was so named because it was the first house on the island to have electricity.
Many of the old Stonetown buildings are crumbling and in need of urgent renovation. They were built using coral and lime cement.
A lot of the older buildings need painting and have been badly affected by the humidity. The old fort is a sad looking place lined with stalls selling all sorts of souvenirs.

It was hot and humid so we stopped by the Hilton hotel for a drink before continuing winding our way through the alleyways and then went for lunch on the rooftop terrace (up five flights of stairs) to the Emerson Spice hotel overlooking the corrugated iron roofs and the Indian Ocean. From there we went on to where the former Slave market was situated and after our security check we spent a good hour reading the history of the slave trade which was very informative.
The large Anglican Cathedral was next door to the monument to the slaves. Apparently there are more human traffickers and slaves today than all of the slaves traded of the time between 1840-1905 before it was abolished.
On our way back to the hotel we stopped by and met to the owners. They agreed to refund our money for the three nights we were not going to use.
The staff at the Kisiwa were very welcoming, fiendly and very helpful and the room was beutiful, spacious and spotless. The Kisiwa hotel had been in the hotel for generations and they had thought of every small detail. The building was built by a wealthy and influential merchant in 1840 and the many staircases and entrance doors were original. There were three storeys to the building with high ceilings and with a lovely rooftop terrace to have breakfast and the staff The staff even brought us biscuits to the room in the late afternoon. Nothing was too much trouble.

Mohammed drove us about half an hour away to a lush part of the island where the government has a research centre for spices and fruit that are grown on the island.
The spice tour with Mamba was interesting even though we knew most of the spices. I was interested to see how cloves were harvested and we were both surprised to see that the trees were very large an the cloves are picked when they are still green and soft. They are then dried to their black, hard state.
On the way back to town we stopped at the Mtoni Palace ruins which were also in need of repair but were interesting to see none the less. The government worker who sold the tickets at $3 had them in a sack on his bicycle and we were surprised to see that they were of the official kind. The palace belonged to a Sultan whose daughter Salme was born there in 1844 and later eloped with a German merchant and moved to Hamburg. She later wrote a book called ‘Memoirs of an Arabian Princess’ which chronicled her life at the palace.

On our way back to Stonetown we could go no further with our vehicle. The King of Morocco had arrived for a visit, staying at the Park Hyatt hotel on the beach and the whole area was swarming with some African army troops and scores of Moroccans in black suits with ear pieces. Maurice and I detoured on foot around them and had lunch at the ‘Spice Route’ Indian restaurant where we had the best eggplant dish and Saag paneer.

Even though it was pouring the next morning we decided to go out on a boat organised by Kasim, a friend of Mohammed. Robert (pronounced the french way) was our boatman and he was a muslim. He was a very nice fellow and took us as requested first to the Nakupenda sandbar where we were the only tourists on the island. There were a group of locals who were setting up for a crowd of Italians who were to arrive later. The water was so refreshing and crystal clear and we saw many different coloured starfish. It is only a small sandbar so when the Italians arrived we departed. Our boatman told us that in high season there can be 500 people on the small sandbar – we had read that it could get busy so decided to go early. From there he took us to Prison island which has a hotel as well as a tortoise sanctuary.
We had a swim and then it started pouring so we saw the tortoises and left for Unguja. The island was apparently never used as a prison but as a quarantine station.
After freshening up we went down to the Park Hyatt for a delicious lunch overlooking the water. There was much security both Tanzanian and Moroccan (his entourage was huge and included Moroccan chefs as well as all the security staff).

After a much needed rest after lunch we went down to the beach area of the Forodani gardens where a food market was set up every evening with tasty looking seafood and lots of vegetarian options and lots of the local youth were watching others doing somersaults into the water, swimming and generally having fun. It was a lovely spot to watch the sunset before heading back to the hotel.
We were sorry to leave our lovely hotel and the island the following morning. The Zanzibar ferry terminal for departures was much more organised than that of the capital Dar es Salaam and as we had bought business class tickets again we could relax in reclinable chairs in a lounge before boarding the ferry. We were duly collected by Mr Pipe’s man back on the mainland and taken to the airport for our flight to Johannesburg. He wanted USD40 but we gave him USD25 and he didn’t even complain. Good try. There were many ice cream sellers on bicycles and guys selling packaged apples from South Africa.

The only downside to Zanzibar is the enormous number of unemployed who constantly offer their services for guided tours, boat tours and trying to sell you pre packaged spices and souvenirs. We found that by saying we already had been on the tour and already bought the items seemed to deter them but some were quiet persistent.
Tanzanian immigration in Dar es Salaam was one of the slowest we had ever encountered with forms to fill out going in and out of Zanzibar and in and out of Dar es Salaam.

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