As arranged in Nungwi, the same taxi met us at 9.30 the next morning to ferry us to our accommodation in Stone Town ($40). We stayed at Princess Salme Inn in the port area ($42 per night, shared bathroom). It was an old building full of character, with very thick walls with ceramic dishes in them as decoration. We stayed in the ground floor room behind reception, but they only had internet on the roof terrace.
I had an hour sleep before we took the ten minute walk along the sea front to the centre. We past a white and lilac building reminiscent of New Orleans that was the old dispensary. We continued to Forodhani Gardens and saw the House of Wonders (Beit-el-Ajaib) and the Old Fort. The House of Wonders was so called as it was the first on the island with electricity and a lift, it is famed for its Indian door, covered in brass knobs. The old fort, now a restaurant, was made of coral stone, and has a reddish colour. We went through a small tunnel to the Shangani quarter where we ate in a place called the Book Cafe. We were surprised it was so open given that it was still Ramadan. Mark had a cheesy beef pizza and strawberry milkshake, I had a tasty steak sandwich, chips and watermelon juice. The food took a while to arrive, so Mark thumbed through one of their books. It was worth it the wait though. The food was delicious. We then took some pictures outside Freddy Mercury’s house (he was born in Stone Town) and strolled along the Shanghani beach admiring the azure waters and the soft, white sand.
We climbed up a broken stairway back into town and made our way to the market on Benjamin Mkapa road before taking the narrow streets to the Christ Church Anglican Cathedral. The entrance fee of $5 included a guide who started by showing us the slave holding cells, where they were kept for a day or two before being sold. The ceilings were low and the slaves sat on a raised floor either side of a toilet through. Interestingly the slaves mainly came from the east African mainland to work on the spice farms and the locals were used as slave masters. We then visited the coral stone church itself, built under the instruction of Bishop Edward Steere to commemorate the abolition of slavery. The altar was built over the old whipping tree where the slaves were taken to assess how strong they were. We were then led to the anti-slavery memorial, which was a collection of clay sculptures created to display the original multi-person neck chain. We tipped the guide and picked our way through the narrow alleyways towards the fort.
On the way we stopped at a sugarcane juice vendor’s and he cut Mark a piece to chew on. We wandered back past the souvenir shops and fort back to our hotel. While I finished my amarula on the roof terrace we met three Slovenians in their early twenties. The two girls, Kristina and Veronika had been working as nurses in Zambia, and Veronika’s boyfriend Rok had just arrived the day before to visit. The five of us went to Mercury’s restaurant near to sea together, Mark had red snapper green curry and safari beer and I had an yummy tuna steak and Amarula, as they had run out of king fish.
We woke and went to the roof for breakfast. They served fried eggs and sausage, so Mark had mine, and I ate my papaya. A man arrived to take us on our prearranged half-day trip to Prison (Changuu) Island ($15 each). We walked to the large hairy Banyan tree by the beach and paid another $4 to hire snorkeling equipment. There we met a couple of young women from Birmingham who came with us. It was about half an hour before our boat reversed into the beach on the island. The captain became our guide and showed us to the Aldabra Giant Tortoise Sanctuary. We had seen pictures but they were enormous! There must have been about fifty, and they were all over the paths. We could stroke them and tickle them under the chin. They normally got up once you touch the shells. Such a lovely experience! While walking amongst them Mark almost lost his foot and dropped the camera. He was fine though. Then our guide showed us the tiny babies and then the slughty older ones which we could hold (once the keepers turned around). There wasn’t much worth seeing at the old prison/quaratine hospital itself, just a nice courtyard and a view of the sea. Afterwards we snorkeled for a bit just of the coast but the trainee teacher didn’t join us. It was good. We saw starfish, angel fish and tiny, transparent jelly fish, amongst others.
Back to shore side we went back to our Book Cafe restaurant to eat. We casually strolled back to the hotel, where they let us use the storeroom to get change before having our shower. We put our swimming kits and towel on the waving line to dry, but when our taxi for the airport arrived ($10), regrettably we left them behind. On arrival at the airport I realised I still had the key to the storeroom, the taxi driver wanted $5 for returning it, but I didn’t pay him.
Our precision air flight got us to Dar es Salaam at about 8pm and the taximan I arranged with the hotel sped us to the Livingstone Formula 10 hotel ($40 per night with breakfast). Our room was spacious and quite nice but there was a small cockroach on the floor so the security man carrying our cases got it.
We woke at 4.15am and ate a meager breakfastnof buttered toast, coffe and cornflakes. The same taxi driver came to pick us up (it turned out he had slept in the car) and drove us back to the airport. We finally remembered to claim our tax refund for the Tanzanite we had bought in Tanzania ($111 cash), and went through security. Mark still had a suncream in his bag. However, he managed to go back and put it in the main case.
We found Zanzibar a fabulous place to visit!