Jambo Zanzibar – 06-2016 – Part 4 : Stone Town

Stone Town: An 8th century city of mystical allure

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17 June 2016

Leaving the buzz of the touristy North behind us, our Toyota taxi headed us south-west down the island towards our much anticipated stay in Stone Town – about which we’d heard so very much.

En route a visit to the Mangana Spice Farm was most enlightening, although the availability and stock of spices on hand was quite disappointing as most are easily obtainable back home (in South Africa) in similar packaging.

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Fresh Nutmeg
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Our (male!) guide applies fresh Annato spice as a lipstick!
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Annato – a brilliant red colouring

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interesting nonetheless to see how each of the spices actually grows, to learn about the plants, and how the spices are harvested. Not to mention the many applications of some – including food-colouring!

IMG_3952 IMG_3954 IMG_3958Soon we were wending our way through the bustling outskirts of the city of Zanzibar, as we approached Stone Town within. Here we were met by our efficient transfer and tour operator, Masoud Othman and his brother Abdullah, who had enabled all of our transfers around the island with clockwork precision.

As the Stone Town streets are too narrow for vehicles, Masoud and Abdullah guided us and carried our luggage on our short walk to the eminent and elegant Emerson Spice Hotel where we exchanged greetings and news with them before they bade us a pleasant stay and went off about their business.

Russell Bridgewood, Manager of Emerson Spice Hotel, give Viv and I a warm welcome to this most exquisite and historic hotel
Russell Bridgewood, Manager of Emerson Spice Hotel, gives Viv and I a warm welcome to this most exquisite and historic hotel

Russell Bridgewood, Manager of the Emerson Spice, welcomed us and showed us to our first floor room – the Violetta (named after the courtesan in the opera La Traviata). This hotel, which consists of three adjoining World Heritage site buildings, is steeped in history and is known to be amongst the best in Africa, as is it’s sister hotel nearby, the Emerson on Hurumzi.

 

The main building of the Emerson Spice is a lovingly restored merchant’s house. IMG_3830 IMG_3854 IMG_3855Each of the eleven rooms (Aida, Camille, Belle, IMG_3794 IMG_3799Desdemona, Kate, Semile, Lamour, Mimi, Violetta, Siti and Turandot) have their own unique character and are appointed in the most exquisite Zanzibari furniture and antiques, which, combined with service efficiency and the friendliness of the staff makes one’s stay here a truly unsurpassed and unforgettable experience second to none in the world. IMG_3922 IMG_3927Dinner at the Tea House situated on the rooftop is highly acclaimed – and justifiably so – as the menu changes daily depending on what the chefs find in the markets. Enjoying this five-course meal in the balmy evening overlooking Stone Town and the nearby Indian Ocean is a divine experience-of-a-lifetime and certainly not to be missed.

IMG_3828 IMG_3860 IMG_3907 IMG_3908 IMG_4004 IMG_4023The hotel too is a photographer’s dream, where the colonial architecture and hand-carved Zanzibari lattice-work, creative nooks and crannies, secret gardens and cloistered breakfast areas, hand-crafted staircases and enchanting frescos combine to provide an infinite canvas for the lens.IMG_3815 IMG_3814 IMG_3812 IMG_3811 IMG_3810 IMG_3807 IMG_3806

Next day our small entourage of selves and porters, accompanied by Russell, ambled through alleys to the Emerson on Hurumzi – a mere few blocks away.

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Lisenka (R) and the wonderful staff of the Emerson on Hurumzi, Stone Town, Zanzibar

Here Russell introduced us to the Manager, Lisenka Beetstra, who welcomed us with true Zanzibari friendship and showed us to our home for the evening – the East Room – situated on the third floor [no lifts in these lovely old buildings!]. IMG_4032 IMG_3967 IMG_3988 IMG_3824 IMG_3966 Our room was probably the most incredible of our entire trip, appointed in vibrant green and orange colours and entirely “open-air,” enclosed only by hand-carved lattice – simply breath-taking and a totally new experience for us.

After our traditional Zanzibari breakfast IMG_3848of fruit a day of shopping and bartering in the Stone Town street markets followed. Here in the frenzied but orderly chaos, zooming scooters hoot continuously warning pedestrians of their imminent arrival around the myriad blind corners, as bicycles and traders’ rickshaws ply their way through the maze.

In our explorations we discovered the Maru Maru hotel which advertised a “low price, happy hour.” Here we enjoyed another beautiful sunset and balmy rooftop dinner consisting of Chicken Tikka salad for TZS 8000 x 2 and wine at $2 per glass until 7pm. Night-caps followed an hour or so later on our balcony and we retired happily amidst the rolling sound of a massive city Ramadan Saturday-night party! My-my-my! What an audial expression of this truly vibrant city!IMG_4048

In the early hours we were awakened by a surprising torrential downpour which lasted an hour or so, as the gentle wailing “from a thousand mosques” began all over the city at various volumes, combining with the chiming of the bells of the nearby Catholic Cathedral and the drum-bells of the Hindu temple right next door to us. Yet another amazing audial experience as we dozed off back to sleep again!

Piping hot coffee arrived at 7h00 as arranged. Soon after we enjoyed a traditional Zanzabari breakfast on our balcony over-looking the city. This island delight consisted of various fruits: zaitoon, avo, pawpaw, grapefruit, passion fruit, banana, mango – followed by French toast served with a tangy avo-passion-fruit juice. Before we knew it we and our small entourage of porters were making the short walk to the nearby Ferry Port Terminal – sadly marking the beginning of our journey home.

IMG_2982The high speed ferry trip was a little like being in a trance, neither of us believing our dream trip had come to a close. Soon we were at the Dar es Salaam airport, and boarding for the flight home.

 

 

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An epic trip by all standards indeed, thank you Zanzibar – we’ll never forget you – and we’ll be back!

Kwaheri – tuanane tena – asante sana!!

Au revoir – and see you again soon – thank you so much!!

Click here to book your dream holiday to this exquisite tropical island.

Jambo Zanzibar – 06-2016 – Part 3 : The North – Nungwe Village

IMG_3448Jambo Zanzibar – 06-2016 – Part 3 :

The North – Nungwe Village

Hakuna matata!

All too soon we were whisked away from Ras Michamvi and the south-east coast by our driver, Hashim, in another of our specially appointed transfer and tour company Babou Tours’ wonderfully comfortable silver Toyota 8-seater air-conditioned taxis. Via the villages of Michamvi and Paje we cruised, first westwards then northwards up the centre of the island towards Nungwe Village situated at the northern tip of the island. Passing through rice and sugar cane fields, and endless coconut and palm plantations. Passing bicycles, Dulla-Dulla’s filled with European tourists and locals plied through the rural villages and mini-markets, and we arrive at our destination Lang Langi a mere hour and a half later.IMG_3551

At Reception, we were given the keys to our room. Porters led us through a beautiful Zanzibari door, up one flight of stairs and we found we were only one of two rooms in this part of the building. The view through our windows completely took our breath way as the door opened and we took in the exquisite azure aqua vista of ocean which stretched to the horizon, with vessels of all kinds dotted around at anchor: a yacht or two, dhows, dive-boats and fishing vessels. We entered our spacious sea-facing double-room, complete with a colourful, flower-decorated Zanzibari four-poster bed with mosquito net, wardrobe, desk/chair with tea/coffee making station, upholstered chairs, antique couch, table and mini-fridge. The bathroom is entered through a swing door and spans the width of the room with a lovely spacious shower.

IMG_3489 IMG_3490 IMG_3498 IMG_3509 IMG_3522We discovered that the waves were gently lapping right beneath our room and that we were very centrally-situated in Nungwe Village with resorts stretching for a mile or two on either side of us. Although we were on the northern tip of Zanzibar, we were in fact facing the sunset. We couldn’t wait to explore!

We took a long walk south down the beach and back through the dusty roads and alleys of the village, where we spent lazy time bargaining for a patterned shirt, a sarong and beautiful beadwork. The resort restaurant was directly below our room on a wooden deck supported on wooden stilts above the ocean. Each morning we breakfasted there in style on a typical Zanzibari menu – fruit, coffee, juice and omelettes with toast and sausages.

The weather was perfect and we descended the restaurant stairs straight into the warm, transparent waters for a swim, laughing for the pure joy of being in such a paradise, floating along over the gently undulated waves – what heaven!

Each morning we’d watch the dive-boats go out, returning a few hours later with happy divers and snorkellers climbing down into the shallow sea, unpacking equipment to get ready for the next trip out to the reef, which we heard is around 12 m deep.

IMG_3253We bought wine and beer at a tiny grocery store for sun-downers on our balcony, visited the Bureau de Change to exchange Dollars for Shillings, which are more commonly used in the markets, and we dine on seafood in the evenings at a couple of very beautiful restaurants all facing out over the sea, listening to the waves gently lapping against the rock walls. One evening, we walked past resorts and hotels along a paved pathway to the far north and enjoyed a Mojito in the moonlight, sitting at a little table in the sand in the middle of a small beach with not a soul anywhere near us.

During our stay, we hired bicycles and rode along dusty, bumpy roads down the coast to visit the luxury Ras Nungwe resort which we’d been invited to visit. We were met by the typically friendly staff and the reservationist who seemed to be in charge and were shown around a fabulous, up-market and large resort with rolling lawns, colourful tropical gardens, beautifully-appointed accommodation, sparkling pool and long stretch of powdery white beach.

IMG_3725 IMG_3696 IMG_3609Our last evening was spent, once again, on a sunset dhow trip for an hour and a half, this time on a much larger vessel with seats below and upstairs and four men in attendance. We were joined by another couple and sun-downers were poured as we skimmed along, sail flapping, looking down through the transparent azure ocean to the smooth white sand below while the sun, a fiery red ball, gradually dipped beneath the horizon.

That night all was quiet as the restaurant closed at 10 PM as we listened to the gently lapping waves beneath us, lulling us into a deep, happy sleep enclosed by our mosquito netting, with door and windows wide open to the gentle sea breeze.

Another chapter of our journey has come to an end all too soon!

IMG_3417Click here to let us plan your itinerary and book your passage to Zanzibar now.

Jambo Zanzibar – 06-2016 – Part 2 : The south-east coast peninsula

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Visiting this part of Zanzibar is truly a study in understanding the depth and meaning of words and phrases such as:
idyllic; tranquil; island style; Hakuna matata; culture; guest comfort; azure waters; mystical island cuisine; relaxation and friendship.

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The south-eastern peninsula region of Zanzibar is remote, quiet and peaceful. It comprises the nearby village of Michamvi, the most remote village in Zanzibar, as well as a few lodges set amongst the ever-present coconut trees. The local people are very friendly and helpful, always offering a ready smile and “Jambo” or “Mambo” at every turn.1-map-zanzibar-P2-S-E

We soaked up this part of the island for a full four nights and four days – the perfect length of stay to begin unwinding.

To start planning your personalised dream holiday to Zanzibar  click here:

“After a pleasant flight with SAA we touched down at Julius Nyerere International Airport, Dar es Salaam and were met by our friendly driver, Hassan, waving a board with our names on it. En route through the heavy and chaotic local traffic to our overnight stop at Kijiji Beach Resort we chatted with Hassan, who gave us much insight into the workings of Dar and Zanzibar – Hakuna matata! .. is the all-encompassing local phrase – meaning No worries.

IMG_2948 IMG_2973 IMG_2970Here we stayed in a canvas and wood “banda” with a coconut palm-leaf roof. Tiny but fine for a $60 overnighter, and situated right on a lovely beach. The food was good with a beach seafood braai served, however the service was extremely slow. To top it all as we retired for the night there was a power cut and a huge generator started up seemingly right inside our room! Unable to sleep John went back to the beach not a happy chappy. So this venue gets a firm thumbs down.

We had arrived during the early stages of Ramadan, a little uncertain about what to expect, but were well prepared nonetheless following weeks of research. Yet at 04:00 on our first morning we were startled awake for the first time by the wailing, eerie tones of the muezzins in the surrounding mosques calling people to prayer. Known as an Adhan, this evocative series of calls in the mornings and evenings echoing across the towns and villages was soon to become quite soothing for us – no matter what the time of day or night.

Our friendly transfer driver Hassan fetched us early to take us to our Zanzibar ferry. Along the way he suggested “the ocean route,” which incorporated crossing the harbour on the “local ferry” – which has a bottomless capacity for a pressing throng of people which we estimated at about 2 000; in addition to motor cars, taxis, scooters and motorbikes. This ferry runs non-stop back and forth all day. Certainly an experience of a lifetime but most certainly not recommended!

IMG_2982From there a short drive brought us to the Azam Marine ocean ferry port. Although these ferries are really modern, powerful and fast high-tech vessels, we found the over-attentive army of porters overwhelming – both at the Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar ferry ports – to the extent that we recommend that our clients either fly in to Zanzibar from the Dar es Salaam airport, or fly direct to Zanzibar from Johannesburg, thus avoiding the ferry.

On our arrival  in Zanzibar we cleared passport control to find our next transfer driver, the very pleasant Abdalla, waiting to take us off on a 90 minute drive to Ras Michamvi Beach Resort on the south-east coast in his very comfortable Toyota air-conditioned cab, chatting all the way about local conditions and customs.

A"dula-dula" taxi - primary mode of transport in Zanzibar
A”dula-dula” taxi – primary mode of transport in Zanzibar

What an exhilarating experience driving through the town of Zanzibar, before getting out onto the “open road.” The roads and traffic buzzed with activity as we sped past markets, villages, quaint shops and stalls and coconut forests.

IMG_3041Upon our arrival at Ras Michamvi Beach Resort, we were given a welcome most royal by Wilimina the resort manageress, and Bashiru, the accounts assistant. And we were promptly ushered to Room No 1 – their very best. This hotel has arguably the best view of all in Zanzibar, set high on a peninsula ridge overlooking the tranquil azure Indian ocean and coral reef below – it is a physically breath-taking sight at first view.

IMG_3086 IMG_3087We relaxed with sundowners on our sea-facing verandah set amongst the lush well-kept tropical gardens, overlooking one of the two sparkling infinity pools.

Wi-fi is available in the dining-room for those needing to take care of urgent business or family communications during their stay.

Prawns and chicken breast and Chardonnay were our choice for dinner in the huge beautifully appointed open-air thatched dining area.

Later that evening we were fortunate enough to watch the resident Barn Owls darting around in the trees in front of us scooping up insects on the wing.

On our first morning, a bracing fresh coffee was served by the amazing Elisha in the dining room. IMG_3057IMG_3023 IMG_3024 IMG_3068A refreshing walk along the pristine, deserted beach followed before we returned to a lovely breakfast of fresh tangy fruit juice, tropical fruit, Spanish omelettes (a Zanzibar speciality) and toast.

A lazy walk along the adjacent Bao Beach was truly inspiring and relaxing, with an array of interesting bird-life on the rocks, rock-walking with plenty of inlets around the tip of the peninsula and then back to the front beach.

IMG_3096 IMG_3114The rock pools at low tide enabled hours of exploring, dodging the myriad sea-urchins and soaking up the azure tranquillity.

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We’d arranged a dhow trip for sunset which was quite amazing and “technically” very enlightening considering this ancient mode of ocean transport. En route we passed resorts along the way, stopping for a short walk in the nearby mangrove forest.

Throughout our stay the staff of Ras Michamvi insisted that we consider this “home-from-home” and that they are our Zanzibar family. Their hospitality is unprecedented in all our travels at home and abroad – ever! Truly such a wonderful team.

IMG_3224 IMG_3245We also visited the renowned Jozani Forest – at $80 and a $5 tip for guide it was a worthwhile experience. The majestic red mahogany and apple trees are home to Squirrels, the Black Monkey and Red Colobus Monkeys – which are very social and curious, following your trail through their canopy all the while with babies and youngsters in tow. Bird-life in the forest was a tad disappointing with much heard but little seen, as was the nearby mangrove swamp, which showed beautiful well-established and strong mangrove trees – yet strangely very little life within, in the form of the mangrove-crabs.

IMG_3270 IMG_3277 IMG_3290A huge splash out later (even though it was low tide) at the world famous “The Rock” restaurant. For an exorbitant US$40 each we were doled up a very basic pre-prepared meal, but certainly well worth the experience of being there.

During our stay we were privileged to meet Axel Imhoff, the head chef of the neighbouring Qamboni luxury resort. He was kind enough to arrange for us to visit to Qamboni where his colleague, Priscilla, showed us around. A very impressive five star retreat indeed, most certainly worth a four day stay escape.

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The extraordinarily professional team of Ras Michamvi, with Viv on the right.
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Elisha (L) and Wilimina (R) with John

IMG_3262All too soon it was time for us to leave Ras Michamvi. In our short stay we had developed very close ties with our new “Zanzibari family”; Wilimina, Bashiru, Namir, Elisha, Sabi, Zai, Zebi, Mash Mash and their colleagues. Thank you all so very much for your homely hospitality.”

We will be back !

To start planning your personalised dream holiday to Zanzibar  click here:

 

 

Part 3 of our journey, the northern region of Zanzibar, follows.

Jambo Zanzibar – 06-2016 – Part 1 : Trip overview

fb-imagesJune 2016

Zanzibar: An exquisite, mysterious, unforgettable tropical island destination. 

Pristine powder white beaches are the hallmark of the remote and peaceful Michamvi peninsula beaches of Zanzibar
Pristine powder white beaches are the hallmark of the remote and peaceful Michamvi peninsula beaches of Zanzibar. Here Viv soaks up the tranquility of this very special place on our planet.

As promised the 2BWild Safari team visited Zanzibar this month (9-19 June 2016) with a view to exploring this beautiful mysterious island and to establish at first-hand the right destinations, advice, recommendations and transfers for you, our clients.

Our expectations were far exceeded as our trip unfolded, revealing ever-breathtaking sequences of tranquillity, history, spicy culture, friendly people, and – most of all – the most stunning ocean and beach vistas.

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Just a short flight from Joburg to Zanzibar…

Best of all, access from Johannesburg is an easy 3 1/2 hour flight, and your dream holiday is underway.

This high tech ferry operates from Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar
This high tech ferry operates between Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar

To make it happen, do what we did: book one aspect right away, such as the flight or a portion of the accommodation twelve months in advance – and the rest will fall into place progressively. The best thing about this approach is that one’s life then revolves around that commitment, and as each aspect is firmed up and paid, one ends up on the departure date with a fully paid trip :).

Tip: Mango fly direct to Zanzibar and you can book early online, making the airfare cheaper. We are also most happy to assist you with your flight bookings.

Our travels took us from the town of Zanzibar, to the remote east coast peninsular, thn up to the northern town of Nungwe, and back to Stonetown
Our travels took us from the town of Zanzibar, to the remote east coast peninsular, then up to the northern town of Nungwe, and back to Stone Town

Our travels began on the remote and quiet east coast of Zanzibar – the perfect spot for a relaxed and tranquil tropical break; we then moved on to the vibey beach metropolis of the northern tip of the island, Nungwe village and surrounds; and rounded our visit off in the ancient alleyways and markets of Stone Town.

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This island has a special something to suit everyone, and is certainly a destination for every bucket-list.

 

 

Click here to begin your journey. List your preferences, including the dates required and number of people, and we’ll work with you in personalising your itinerary.

Part 1 : Trip overview
Part 2 : The south-east coast and Jozani Forest
Part 3 : The north – Nungwe Village
Part 4 : Stone Town
Part 5 : Scuba diving and snorkelling
Part 6 : Trip advice

2BWild Zanzibar operations
2BWild Safaris works with specific hotels and resorts, transfer and tour operators and dive centres to suit your budget. Your friendly drivers will meet you on schedule and transport you in air-conditioned comfort to your next destination or activity. 2BWild has done the research with a view to making your visit smooth and unforgettable.

The Rock - world renowned restaurant
The Rock – world renowned restaurant
Sunset on the dhow
Sunset on the dhow