Zanzibar

What is there not to like about Zanzibar? DonQui thinks to himself.travellers (1)

He is at one of his favourite spots —  the Travellers’ Café in Stone Town, tucked down a small alley and overlooking the Indian Ocean. When he looks up from writing this post, he sees a dow sailing by in the mid distance.

It is true that there are problems here — political, religious and economic. Two years ago there was the horrific acid attack on a British tourist. Fortunately this seems to have been a one-off which filled the Zanzibarans with the same feelings of revulsion as it did for Brits.

The union of Zanzibar with Tanganyika, which created modern Tanzania, was never to be a marriage of eternal bliss and happiness. The problems and differences have exploded into violence during past elections and with polling day tomorrow (Sunday 25 October) the number of tourists are lower than usual.

election

The ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party has won all of the previous elections but this time the expected outcome is too close to call. DonQui’s Tanzanian friends assured him that previous violence in Zanzibar is unlikely this year.

streets

As DonQui wanders around the back streets of Stone Town he does not feel any great tension. He has a good nose for such things and can usually sense trouble before it blows up . The parties have their flags flying but DonQui cannot smell any aggression.

Sultan's Palace Stone Town (1)

Stone Town, a UNESCO world heritage site, is a fascinating place to spend a couple of days. It’s wonderful mix of Arab and colonial architecture, the narrow winding streets, and the ever present influence of the Indian Ocean appeals to DonQui’s sense of history while also giving him the chance to relax in a beautiful setting. Zanzibar cuisine mixes Arab and Indian influences, drawing from the sea and the spices which are cultivated on the Island. He has had more than one or two excellent meals here.

boat

Many boat excursions are on offer to some of the outlying places such as Prison Island and Nakupenda Beach. Last year DonQui took a small boat to Prison Island (or Changuu). The island got its name from the fact that it was used in the 1860s to incarcerate rebellious slaves. During the British regime it was used as a quarantine station for yellow fever cases. Now it is home to a giant turtle sanctuary.prison island

It also has a coral reef just off shore where there are excellent snorkelling opportunities.

nurses

It did DonQui’s ego no harm to be the stallion in a herd of Australian nurses, even if their interest in photography outweighed their interest in his wit and charm!

Nungui

There is far more to Zanzibar that Stone Town. A few years ago DonQui and Duchess spent a few blissful days at Nungwi on the northern tip of the island. They stayed at the Z hotel which was about as close to heaven as DonQui can imagine.

Z hotel

This wonderful small boutique hotel occupies a prime spot on the beach, has amazingly comfortable rooms and superb food. DonQui even took the opportunity for a rather excellent massage at their spa.

Fire Dancer

DonQui is not usually a great fan of in-house entertainment as he usually finds  such things rather kitch. However one night’s show at the Z Hotel was more than a little bit spectacular.

spice tour

Another popular thing to do on Zanzibar is to go on a spice tour to see how the many spices which grow here are cultivated and prepared. DonQui passed up the opportunity because he wanted to simply relax. However, Duchess, who was with him at the time, went on the tour and reported back in glowing terms.

Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar

DonQui is on his way to Zanzibar for the weekend.

He had a number of travel choices from Dar and has opted to fly rather than take the ferry. His main reason for doing so is to be able to get back to Dar es Salaam airport to connect with another flight on Sunday evening. If he took the ferry he would have to struggle through Dar traffic again and he would rather maximise his time on the beautiful island of Zanzibar.

He takes the evening Precision Air flight, the return portion being due to deliver him back to Dar 2hrs 30mins before his flight on Sunday.Precision Air

He hopes it will all work out as planned!

It was a bit of a struggle getting to the airport from Jangwani. Late Friday afternoon the roads are always clogged in Dar and his Tanzanian friends warned him of election rallies that were blocking the traffic and making the journey even more nightmarish than usual.road

Fortunately he had already struck an agreement with a local taxi driver who took him a circuitous route through markets and the down the dirt roads of the more ramshackle parts of Dar. Bypassing the stationary traffic on the main routes he got DonQui to the airport in plenty of time for $15 less than the official rate.Dan Air 2

Previously DonQui has taken the Dan Air flight to Zanzibar. Dan Air is a very small outfit flying very small planes.IMG_2375

The trip itself was great fun, flying low and slow over the Indian Ocean.

What DonQui did not know at the time was that Dan Air operates from a different domestic airport which is close to main terminal but far enough to make connections problematic. Precision Air, on the other hand, flies out of Julius Nyerere International.

Travellers Cafe

The hop over to Zanzibar takes only 20 minutes and before long DonQui is settled down at the very pleasant Traveller’s Café in Stone Town.Samosas

Here is sips a Serengeti, munches on some rather fine Samosas, listens to the sound of the waves and begins to feel quite relaxed.

DonQui recommends
Trust the taxi drivers in Tanzania. You need to agree prices in advance but they will always honour them. If you arrange a pick up at a certain time and place you can count on them being there. Completion is stiff and they will keep their part of the bargain to gain future custom. At the airport there is no room for bargaining — the rates are set, but if you make a private arrangement in advance you can lower the price considerably.

Make sure you have a plentiful supply of US dollars in relatively low denominations. Many places are cash only and many prices are set in dollars. Even hotels and airlines will at times take cash only and not credit cards.