Saturday, June 4, 2011

Amazing Zanzibar

Our ferry ride across to Zanzibar only left at 12:30pm, so we had the morning to pack up slowly and make sure we took everything we thought we would need for the island. When we arrived at the ferry office we walked with blinkers on to the Flying Horse office, past the mass of people trying to sell us fake tickets or take us to another ferry office. We paid our one way TS32 000/ R140/US$20 and jumped straight onto the Flying Horse. Note for other travellers there are a number of ferries that commute more frequently and their prices range from US$30-45. The Flying Horse travels on certain days leaving Dar at 12:30pm with a return from Zanzibar leaving anywhere between 8-10pm. This means you have to overnight on the boat and only arrive in Dar the following day 6am (for us being on budget this worked out to a free night’s accommodation on a cheaper ferry – no complaints). When purchasing your ticket, be aware that if you are helped by a local in the vicinity it is possible that the price of the ferry ticket will increase as they seem to get a commission for bringing you to the ticket office.

The Flying horse, although a slightly older boat in comparison to the more expensive option was comfortable inside and we were pointed to the VIP section on the enclosed top deck with aircon and big leather couches. A number of other backpackers were on the ferry and we listened to some horror stories of their experiences in Dar en route to Zanzibar. Three hours later and we were on the island! Wooohoo! Colin, a chap that another traveller suggested we stay with, collected us from the port and took us back to his house in Vuga, Stonetown. He has two rooms which he rents out for TS10 000/R50 pppn. The room had two beds, mosquito nests, a TV and is located on the fringe of Stonetown– what more could we need!! We set off exploring immediately down the narrow streets bordered by double storey stone houses with magnificently sculptured wooden doors decorated with brass fittings. It wasn’t long before we bumped into Lidia and Pleun and heard that they had just arranged a scooter for the next day to tour the island. After a brief catch up we decided to meet back at the same spot to go and have dinner together at the Forodhani Gardens (the night market). Only an hour or so away we headed back to Colins to get our mosquito clothing on and organise a scooter through Colin’s connection

The flying horse
The pink awning was our rooms window and the speaker on the right was the mosquee which woke us up with a big fright every morning!!

Power cables across the roads

Forodhani Gardens is a night market aimed at the tourists. Tables cover an open area on the waterfront filled with the ‘catch of the day’, sugarcane juice with lemon and ginger, Zanzibar Pizzas and a table mixed with snacks such as chips, samosas, potato scones filled with mince and pita breads.  Octopus, fish sticks, lobster, crab and fresh breads (coconut, garlic and pita) were available at a Mzungu price (i.e. double or nearly triple the price for locals).  We only learnt afterwards that it would have been in our favour to speak to the locals before ordering the food, or alternatively to get two tables adjacent to each other to bid for the best price. Zanzibar pizzas are very different to the pizza we are used to covered in oily cheese.  They are combinations of chocolate and banana, mango and chocolate, beef or tomato mixed with egg and dough to make a pizza shape which tastes very similar to pancakes. After our fill we went to the old fort with the cheapest prices for beer and chatted about what we would do the next day with the scooters.

Freshly squeezed sugar cane juice
Catch of the day

Night market
We woke up early the next day to search for bread for breakfast and finally arranged the scooter which arrived at 10:30am.  Luckily we had remembered our international driver’s license which is necessary to avoid the additional cost of a Zanzibar driving permit.  For 24hrs we had the scooter for a cost of TS30 000/ R130 and just our luck the start of the trip was in pouring rain.  We found Lidia and Pleun and started our trek to the East of the island.  The rain stopped soon after we left Stonetown and the sun came out. The drive to the East was met with beautiful landscapes of lush green forests and relatively good roads.  We drove for about an hour and half navigating our way towards the East, but soon we came to a turn off and realised we had driven down to the South of the island…woops.  So we cut across to the East coast road through a town where we bought some fruit for lunch.  We started heading towards the beach we had planned to go to but instead found a little pathway off the main road which took us straight down to a secluded beach between the resorts.  Amazing clear turquoise water and white sand with no-one else in sight – awesome!  Snacking on our lunch packs and dipping in the warm water was such a treat until Lidia realised that she had misplaced their scooter key! Oh dear…the search began in the sand where she had been sitting, around the scooters, along the places she had walked, but unfortunately the single key had alluded us! They called the scooter hire company and we waited for the spare key enjoying the amazingly quiet spot listening to the wind blowing through the pine trees.  After about 3 hours we had a spare key and headed straight back to Stonetown hoping that we wouldn’t have to break rule number one: ‘Avoid driving at night in Africa’…no luck!  7pm we arrived on the outskirts of Stonetown ducking and diving in between the busses, cyclists, taxis and pedestrians.  Check out our night time driving video link at:   Quite hungry after our days adventure we started searching for a place to eat.  We had been told about a good restaurant that serves local meals at cheap prices, and couldn’t believe that we stumbled onto it through the maze of Stonetown.  Delicious, huge portioned meals at about R20 a head! Perfect ending to a great day!

Pleun, Lidia and Nick drenched waiting for the rain to subside

The little red devils !!

Nick and darth vadar !!

Pleun and Lidia

Our path way to secluded beach


YAY turqoise water !

Lunch spot where the treasure hunt began !

Excelent local food
We woke up early the next morning to explore the north as we still had the scooters till 10:30am.  We headed out and passed the ruins and smaller towns finally arriving at the northern fishing town of Mkokotoni.  Wandering amongst the many fishing boats, looking out at the islands it was awesome to still be able to have visited the another section of Zanzibar.  That afternoon was spent relaxing at Colin’s place writing our blog and snoozing as we felt like it.  We had heard that we should go to a place called ‘Africa House’ to watch the sunset and enjoy a drink on the balcony, and use the wifi facilities.  Africa House is a really old hotel used when Zanzibar was a hub for trade.  The old pictures covering the walls were fascinating and the d├ęcor had a very Arabic feel with some sitting areas being cushions on the floor with hookers (the smoking pipes) on a middle table.  Definitely a great place to watch the sunset and meet the other travellers visiting the island while catching up on emails and skyping home.

North fishing harbour

Millions of little crabs running around

Stonetown manhole covers

Africa house

Africa house sunset bar

Some locals doing capoeira
After a relatively late evening we decided to sleep in the next day. Our mission was to wander the rest of Stonetown and visit all the historical landmarks that truly reflect how old the city is. Unfortunately most of the attractions have a cover charge so we only saw the outside of the Museums and Churches, but managed to see the Hamamni Persian Baths used by the Sultans in the early 18th Century. We also stumbled into the fish and vegetable market and finally Teeny got to have her broken slop fixed…yes the other one broke but the Malawi fixed slop is still going strong!

Not knowing whether we were leaving that day, we decided to let the ferry office visit determine our departure date. It was either we left that night at 8pm or Saturday night 8pm as they didn’t have a Friday ferry, so we opted for the Saturday night ferry not wanting to leave the island just yet. That night we enjoyed a delicious chicken wrap at Green Garden , and using the free wifi doing searches that we needed to do, can highly recommend Green Garden very friendly staff and great food.

Not having had a good breakfast on the island yet we decided to endulge ourselves at a restaurant on the waterfront called archipelago , we then strolled along the beach looking out at the sand islands and watching the fishermen repairing their boats on the shore. Finally Nick managed to get the mapsource program he has been trying to get for a while now, we chilled at home while Nick updated the map , which we will soon be loading onto our blog so everyone can see where we are and how far we have come. We had been told about another local eating spot called Passing Hotel where we again indulged ourselves for lunch at a much more reasonable price !!

That evening we decided to treat ourselves to a cocktail, very excited we headed off to another water front restaurant and ordered motjitoes…well our cocktails arrived in little tumbler glasses much too our disappointment, but were very tasty! We then headed back to Green Garden for dinner where we thoroughly enjoyed our pizzas with cheese, remember cheese in these parts is hard to come by !!

Our last day in Zanzibar boohoo !! This morning we took a walk to the ferry office to purchase our tickets for our ferry ride back to Dar, again trying to avoid the over eager locals trying to escort us to the ferry offices. Being an over night ride we had to stock up on some supplies for the ferry ride, so we bought some juices and some biscuits to snack on over night. We then headed back with long faces, to Colins place to pack up our bags and get ready to go to the ferry. We said our good byes and we are now sitting at the Green Garden again finishing off our Zanzibar blog for you all to enjoy 

Zanzibar…incredible, amazing, historical, fascinating a definite must see for all.

St Joseph`s cathederal

Portugese Arch

Amazing wooden doors

Anglican cathederal

Hamamni persian baths, this room echoed

Busy main street by the fish market

YAY shoe fixed finally !! for R2 !!

Cast iron pillars outside house of wonders

Wooden scaffolding
Sultan palace

Old fort auditorium

Pizza :)

Our room at Colin`s house

Lukmaans food buffet

Green Garden restuarant


  1. Well you certainly are well fed my mouth was watering while reading your blog. Amazing how many people you meet doing the same as you. What a wonderful world!! Lots of love Trish (Auntie)!!

  2. sounds awesome.. lotsa love. Van

  3. WOW guys! You have had me riveted all afternoon and evening! Kristine from our good old varsity days to running into you randomly at Maputo airport your adventure is something that will most definitely have many many tales to tell. Nick, although still to meet you, seems like you are having a blast (well the both of you).

    It's really encouraging to read your tales and to watch your progress (as I will be doing intently going forward!). I look forward to seeing more of your trip and if you guys happen to land in CPT on your way back dinner is on me!

    Carl Fourie