A Weekend in Zanzibar, Tanzania

Zanzibar is seriously the most beautiful place I’ve seen to date.  The ocean was absolutely breathtaking.  I was so overwhelmed, I literally took a deep breath when we turned the corner. Simply gorgeous.

 

Since I only had a few days to explore, I did most of the typical Zanzibar tours…Stone Town (including the former slave market), Prison Island and a Spice Farm.  You can find those pictures and descriptions below.  But what a lot of tourists don’t get to do is swim with wild dolphins.  It doesn’t sound that exciting because dolphins are not the most exotic animal and you can see Flipper at any local Aquarium.  I’ve done that and he looks so nice and friendly in his medium sized, man-made tank.   But seeing them in their natural habitat was a different story.

Imagine riding a small motorboat out to the ocean (not that far from the shore) and immediately seeing a family of dolphins swim next to you!  I was nervous at first, but our guides kept urging us to jump in.  I kept wondering if our tour guides knew what they were talking about.  These were wild animals.  But I put on my big girl pants and jumped in.  The first time Flipper swam by me, I had a small heart attack and swam for my life (cue RuPaul) back to the boat.  No, really.

 

Me having a panic attack

Me having a panic attack

Underwater and through my goggles, they looked like a combination of whale and shark, and I went straight into panic mode.  But once one of our local tour guides swam with them and came back to the boat unscathed, I decided to just go for it and I’m so glad I did.  They paid us no attention and kept swimming about their merry way.  As a side note, can you imagine if we had actually seen whale sharks in Mafia Island?  If I panicked after seeing a dolphin, I’m not sure my heart could have survived swimming next to the mammoth whale shark.

Aside from wild dolphin watching, I recommend traveling Zanzibar, especially if you’re already in Tanzania.  It was a $40 and 1.5 hour ferry ride (45 minute flight) from the mainland to Zanzibar.  It has a rich cultural history and was breathtakingly gorgeous.  See more of my pictures below.

Getting off the ferry

Getting off the ferry

View from my hotel room

View from my hotel room

Legendary Zanzibar Doors. As the story goes, because Indians used to hunt elephants for their tusks, elephants would retaliate by killing them in their homes. Indians began putting brass knobs on their doors to prevent the elephants from intruding. When Indians came to Zanzibar, they kept the tradition alive. Zanzibari doors are still made and used today.

Legendary Zanzibar Doors. As the story goes, because Indians used to hunt elephants for their tusks, elephants would retaliate by killing them in their homes. Indians began putting brass knobs on their doors to prevent the elephants from intruding. When Indians came to Zanzibar, they kept the tradition alive. Zanzibari doors are still made and used today.

Stone Town Market

Stone Town Market

Typical Stone Town Street. It’s called Stone Town because the buildings were all made of stone when it was first colonized. Buildings are not built with stone today, but they must have the same look and feel.

Typical Stone Town Street. It’s called Stone Town because the buildings were all made of stone when it was first colonized. Buildings are not built with stone today, but they must have the same look and feel.

Slave Market

Slave Market

Slave Chambers

Slave Chambers

Slave Chambers. Up to 70 people could be kept in this room at one time.

Slave Chambers. Up to 70 people could be kept in this room at one time.

A church was built on the site of the slave market. The tree pictured is the type of tree people were tied to and beaten against.

A church was built on the site of the slave market. The tree pictured is the type of tree people were tied to and beaten against.

Altar inside the church, which is the site of the old whipping post. While a little dusty due to renovations, the red tile in front of the altar represents the blood of the slaves that were beaten here.

Altar inside the church, which is the site of the old whipping post. While a little dusty due to renovations, the red tile in front of the altar represents the blood of the slaves that were beaten here.

Slave Monument 

Slave Monument 

Panoramic View of the Indian Ocean

Panoramic View of the Indian Ocean

Two Aldabra Tortoises, one male and one female, were given to the Sultan of Zanzibar by Seychelles hundreds of years ago. Since then, they’ve reproduced and there are over 100 tortoises living on Prison Island today. The one pictured here is 101 years old.

Two Aldabra Tortoises, one male and one female, were given to the Sultan of Zanzibar by Seychelles hundreds of years ago. Since then, they’ve reproduced and there are over 100 tortoises living on Prison Island today. The one pictured here is 101 years old.

The tortoise with the cracked shell is the oldest on the island at 190 years old.

The tortoise with the cracked shell is the oldest on the island at 190 years old.

View from the pier on Prison Island. It’s called Prison Island because the Sultan of Zanzibar used the island to house prisoners from the mainland. After a few years, the island was then converted to an infirmary, as this was the place where people with malaria and other infectious diseases were sent.

View from the pier on Prison Island. It’s called Prison Island because the Sultan of Zanzibar used the island to house prisoners from the mainland. After a few years, the island was then converted to an infirmary, as this was the place where people with malaria and other infectious diseases were sent.

Swimming with wild dolphins

Swimming with wild dolphins

Zanzibar Red Colobus monkey. It’s an endangered species and Zanzibar is the only place in the world you can find them. We were lucky enough to catch one on the ride home.

Zanzibar Red Colobus monkey. It’s an endangered species and Zanzibar is the only place in the world you can find them. We were lucky enough to catch one on the ride home.

On the Spice Tour

On the Spice Tour

Lipstick Fruit. Women ground the insides and use it for nail polish, lipstick and eye shadow.

Lipstick Fruit. Women ground the insides and use it for nail polish, lipstick and eye shadow.

Quinine tree. It’s bark is used to treat malaria.

Quinine tree. It’s bark is used to treat malaria.

Cocoa fruit from a cocoa plant

Cocoa fruit from a cocoa plant

Cocoa Seed

Cocoa Seed

Coffee Beans

Coffee Beans

Unripened Pineapple

Unripened Pineapple

Pepper seeds. They are picked and then left in the sun. After they blacken, they are ground up and used as a spice.

Pepper seeds. They are picked and then left in the sun. After they blacken, they are ground up and used as a spice.

Vanilla Plant

Vanilla Plant

List of spices we saw during the tour

List of spices we saw during the tour

After the Spice Tour

After the Spice Tour

Traditional Biliani (different than regular pilau) with beef…delicious!

Traditional Biliani (different than regular pilau) with beef…delicious!

My shorts were a little too short for conservative Stone Town, so our tour guide made me cover up. Shrugs.

My shorts were a little too short for conservative Stone Town, so our tour guide made me cover up. Shrugs.

Until next time Zanzibar…