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.

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“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.

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