Man, we lucked out when it came to the Airbnb we booked. Little did we know how amazing the private beach was going to be, how turquoise the water was, how we would have it entirely to ourselves. Our toes digging into the flour like white sand, Sherry and I drinking a bottle of wine as we watch the translucent crabs scamper around trying to avoid the heavy waves crashing in. It was paradise.
We stayed in a cute little place we found on Airbnb called Tarbush Bungalows. It wasn’t on the beach but only a 10 minute walk from where another hotel sat that was owned by the same family and we were able to use at our leisure. It was equipped with everything your mind would paint into picture of an exotic private beach. Slung hammocks with a soft blue pillow like mattress to lay on protecting your sunburnt skin from the scratchy and worn out rope material it is made of. A bar with a wide open balcony sitting on top of the rocky cliff overlooking the sea that, if you were take a picture, it would almost look fake. An uneven piece of broken beach wood hung along the railing enticing you in for a “2-4-1 cocktail hour’. You could see that it had been painted over several times to say something different every other day and the bits of wood falling apart from the salty sea air. It even came with an adorable dog name Jua, swahili for sunshine, who always got up to greet you the moment you came down the windy sand path aiming towards the Indian ocean. He would follow us excitedly down to the beach and lay by our things as if to guard them until we came in to bask in the hot sun, then he would retreat to the restaurant in hopes that some food had fallen on the floor from those eating their lunch.
The water was always warm, it was always that blue, even though some days you swore it was bluer than yesterday. It was always hot and humid and the air always smelled of dust and tasted of salt. It was a wonderful place to wind down after spending so many days in the dust and dirt of the Serengeti. We spent my birthday snorkeling at one the main islands where we got to see wild dolphins right next to our boat and enjoy a fresh fish and rice meal on the beautiful beach.
If you were to take a left outside the road our bungalow sat on instead of a right towards the private beach, you would come across something slightly opposite. It almost took you by surprise that only 15 minutes could separate two different worlds. Local women in beautiful dresses of colorful patterns. Their hijabs crowned with flowers or jewels running down their backs. Some dressed in Abayas carrying all their extremely heavy items magically balanced on the top of their head as they walked. This always amazed and fascinated me, the back of my mind telling me to give it a try but my gut telling me it might be offensive. Some of the men dressed in the traditional white gown down to their ankles and a kufi (prayer cap) atop their head and others in modern attire usually soccer jerseys, shorts or jeans.
The children were incredibly friendly, stopping whatever they’re doing and use this chance to speak the only few words of English they know. “Hello, Goodbye, Thank you, Welcome.” Big smiling faces running up to you sometimes for a high five, others hiding behind their older sibling shyly waving hello. Most of the adults were just as friendly also. I’d say 90% of the locals you walked by said hello, asked how you were, where you were from, welcomed you and thanked you for visiting their country, always ending the conversation with “Hakuna Matata.” Yes, its real, they use it everywhere here and I love it so very much! Just like any place with tourists you still have to be weary of those trying to scam you, sell you something, offering drugs or just following you to your destination in hopes to get a cut for ‘bringing you there’. It makes it a tad difficult to try to balance wanting to say hello to all the locals but not get caught in a sales pitch that goes on the full length of the public beach. Luckily none of these types of folks were allowed on our private beach so we only got it when we walked into town.
All of us expected Zanzibar to be a bit different from what we had already seen in East Africa. We pictured it more built up, more modernized considering it is getting to be such a hotspot for vacationers, especially those from Russia and Italy due to the quick flights. This was far from actuality. Mostly dirt roads that desperately need to be evened out, small huts hand made of brick and mud with iron sheets or banana bark used as roofing. All kitchens separate from the house or just directly beside it outside. Businesses hand paint their advertisements on the door of their hut or scratched into a piece of beach wood, only a handful equipped with air conditioning.
The main streets are lined with many goats and cows wandering around, eating grass and constantly blocking traffic when crossing the streets. Me with my hand out to all of those within arms reach just hoping for a possible snuggle moment. I did get one moment with a baby cow who seemed to thoroughly enjoy ear scratches as I baby talked to him.
Our evenings were spent pretty relaxed at the house drinking wine and playing cards while we snuggled Matti, the hosts kitten who all of us fell madly in love with. We would only go out for one meal a day, usually lunch and then the rest of the afternoon at the beach. It was too hot to eat more than one meal, especially in the evenings. The food we came across during our time here was so incredibly good. With a lot of Middle Eastern, Asian and Indian influences the mix of food choices was fantastic. Zanzibar was the main hub of the spice trade and still a lot of the island is covered in spice farms that you can tour. Its amazing to get a coconut lobster curry for only 13$ and have to pick the fresh cardamom seeds off your spoon. I fell in love with the curries with a side of chapati, an unleavened Indian flatbread, to use to as a scoop. We tried some small places that grill right out front all types of kebabs, coconut and sesame breads, types of potato and chickpea fritters and Zanzibar pizza. We enjoyed a fresh seafood dinner on the beach on our last night at a place called Baraka. With a long 6 foot table covered in all different types of seafood caught that day, you pick what you want and they cut a slab, grill it up and serve it to you. Some of the best calamari I ever had was in my 10 days in Zanzi.
Although I am incredibly saddened to be leaving Africa, I know in my heart this wont be the last time I visit here. I have been humbled, honoured and blessed to be able to experience so much and yet not enough all at the same time. My mind is racing for everything else I want to see here, what countries we will visit next, which direction to travel and anticipating the amount of time it will take until I get back here. I have learned so much and am eager to learn so much more.
We are onto our next stop — South East Asia! Vietnam to start, if we can only get there! Im writing this from the lobby of a 5 star resort in Zanzibar. No, I didn’t win any money to pay to stay at a place like this unfortunately. We were supposed to leave for Hanoi last night at 5pm but are having to wait 24 hours due to airplane problems. But hey, that’s part of the experience. I will patiently wait in an airconditioned lobby and enjoy my first hot shower in 17 days.
Love you all ❤