Our flight from Kilimanjaro only took us as far as Dar, so we had to go through the dingy corridor again to change to the Precision Air flight that would take us to Zanzibar. The plane was a small one with propellers and the take off was much steeper than usual. The wings were fixed to the top of the fuselage and the plane sat very low to the ground, they even stored the luggage in the back rather than under the plane. It only took about half an hour before we landed in Zanzibar International, on the main island. We then wrestled the cases back off the porters (as we didn’t want to pay them) and got a registered taxi to the northern tip of the island, a place famed for its beaches, called Nungwi.
The taxi would have cost $50 but for an extra $10 he agreed to take us to a Spice Farm on the way. It was beginning to get dark but he found a place, and two teenage boys ran alongside the car before we stopped in a place that felt like the middle of nowhere. Nervously, we left all our belongings in the vehicle and followed our new guides. The elder of the two sent the younger up a very tall tree to pick some leaves. He explained that we have the Spice Girls and they have the spice boys. He rubbed the leaves together and invited us to guess which spice it was. They explained that cloves is the most valuable of all the spices, then vanilla then saffron. They then showed us cardamon, lemongrass, ginger, cocoa beans, vanilla, pepper corns, aloe vera and ylang ylang (used for no. 5 perfume). They tried to sell us soaps and perfumes and I got a little bottle of aloe vera. They opened something that looked like a lychee and showed that it contained an orange dye used for lipstick or Indian bindis. He then applied it on me and himself. His friend then appeared with a crown, each of them made of palm leaves, a ring and a tie for us to wear for photos and then buy (but we didn’t bother). We tipped the spice boys and drove the rest of the way to Nungwi.
Nungwi village was very simple, with bumpy earth roads and only a handful of shops, most of which were manned by young guys wearing Premier League shirts. We stayed at the Smiles Beach Hotel ($140 a night) because we could’t find anywhere cheaper. It was a nice place with sand covered walkways between the buildings. We stayed in a ground floor room closest to the beach, in one of their attractive wooden beach blocks, just metres from the sea. Unusually the bed frames were painted concrete and looked like stone, and there was even a small sandy area on part of the floor. We ate at the restaurant which was right on the beach, and the food was great, despite the service being very slow.
Breakfast was included and they were very careful to give me the food I could eat. Mark had a cooked breakfast of sausage, hash brown, toast, mushrroms and tomato. They had a good chili sauce that looked like ketchup, so he had that with it. After eating, conscious that the good weather might not hold up we dropped our towels on some sun-loungers and went for a swim in the Indian ocean. The hotel also had a row of concrete sun-loungers, we stuck with the regular kind. We were a bit naughty and cracked open the small bottle of Amarula I got at the airport in Dar. The sand was very soft underfoot and the sea was brilliant blue, with turquoise sections next to the shore. We walked to the left, along the coast as far as the restaurant on stilts built over the sea. Along the way we met a Danish family looking at the sea urchins washed up on the beach, one was even still alive and you could see its thin, black spines moving. Quite suddenly we spotted a browny yellow crab on the small cliffs, then we saw dozens of them, even an orange one. There were also lots of tiny white crabs scooting around across the sand, they moved so fast that their legs were a blur. Wandering back we saw a little girl stopping to pick up each urchin shell and stacking them one on too of the other.
We got back to the hotel in time for lunch, then strolled along the beach in the other direction in search of the Mnarani Natural Aquarium, near the Lighthouse. On the way we met a Norwegian couple from our hotel, and we went with them. Entry was $5 at it was small but really good. There was a large pool where the water rises and falls with the tide. Inside there were lots of large green sea turtles. We could even go down a couple of steps into the pool and stroke them while the guide fed them spinach. He explained that they had been caught by fishermen, who now had a place to take them. Previously they used to eat them. They also had a few small crocs, a monitor lizard in a separate area, a humpbacked whale skeleton and a few dolphin skulls from animals that got washed up on the beach. The turtles were the stars though. On the way back we passed the fisherman again, just as they were heading out to see in a line. It was a very nice scene with the sun setting behind their sails.
The following day we took the day trip to Mnemba Atoll, a small island in north east Zanzibar famous for its snorkeling. We had to wade in up to our waist to reach the wooden dhow boat. There were about twenty passengers including an Aussie guy who had been prospecting for nickel in south Tanganyika, and a Dutch mother and daughter. The journey took about an hour and a half, and there weren’t loads of seats so a French family sat on the roof. We saw lots of fish, including black sea urchins, cigar fish, angel fish, clown fish and zebra fish, it was amazing. It wasn’t quite as good as the red sea though. On the way back we stopped at a remote spot on the coast of the main island for a lunch of fish, rice and tomato sauce, with fruit for dessert. There was a hole made of concrete in the ground surrounded by a small screen in the middle of the bushes for a toilet. On the way back the engine was augmented by a large sail, we had to take a longer route to catch the wind.
Back on dry land we wandered along the beach to see the crabs again, now that we had our camera with us. When we got back to our hotel we saw the two dutch women again, Fonda and Yanni, sitting on a outdoor corner sofa in the grounds of our hotel drinking red wine from a carton. They explained that they weren’t staying at our hotel, rather one for just $40 a night nearby. We sat with them a while and discovered that the mum was scared of flying and this was the first time she had flown to Africa to see Fonda. It always makes our trip very special to meet interesting people. They were lovely.
As arranged the same taxi met us at 9.30 the next morning to ferry us to our accommodation in Stone Town ($40).
What a lovely, cozy and relaxing place Nungwi was!