Quick Guide to Zanzibar ~ The Urban Gypsy’s List of Must-do’s

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Zanzibar is truly an island like no other. Located in the Indian Ocean, approximately 35km from Tanzania’s capital Dar Es Salaam, this oasis is a mix of both beauty, culture and rich history. As early as the 16th century both the Portuguese and Omani People began using Zanzibar as a trading port and started establishing colonies of merchants and landowners. After much turmoil in Oman, Sultan Said Ibn Sultan decided to relocate his capital from Muscat to Zanzibar in 1832. Several Sultan’s continuously ruled until 1964 when then, Tanganyika and Zanzibar united to become the Republic of Tanzania (what we see today).

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I briefly visited Zanzibar about 10 years ago and I knew the moment I left that one day I’d return. This year I was able to spend more time exploring, and without a doubt I can say that Zanzibar has some of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen. In this guide I have curated a list of the places I was able to visit and some must-do activities and restaurants.

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Paje



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Paje is a village on the southeast coast of Zanzibar and most well-known to tourists for its kite surfing. Like all of Zanzibar, this 5km stretch of beach has impeccably white sand that contrasts with the brightest of turquoise waters. It is absolutely stunning and a beautiful place to go, however the tides change so much throughout the day that at some points you may have to walk for at least 100m to get to the ocean.

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This is a shot when the tides are out

Places to stay:

There are plenty of accommodations in Paje for the budget traveler at various price points. The lovely place that we stayed at is called Summer Dream Lodge. Just a short walk to the beach (approximately 70 meters) Summer Dream Lodge is a little oasis within itself. It consists of a cluster of little beach huts called bandas that surround a restaurant/bar and other day beds to lounge on throughout the day.  The rooms themselves are clean and comfortable and vary in sizes and prices. (Sizes range from comfort rooms to 8 room dorms). I happened to stay in a double room with a private bathroom for only $40/night. The only downside to Summer Dream Lodge is that is a little bit further down the beach from other hotels and guest houses. It is a short walk but in the heat of the day that short walk seems a bit further than it really is.

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Things to do:

Scuba Diving

No matter if you are a very beginner or a seasoned vet, Buccaneer Diving is the company to go with. They are East Africa’s only PADI Career Development Centre and have a Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence. They offer excursions twice a day on the outer coral reefs where you can dive or snorkel Jambiani lagoon.

I am not PADI certified but have done scuba once before. To be honest I knew I wanted to try it again, but over the years I have become more and more fearful. Our dive master was so calming and helped me feel comfortable in the pool before we set out for the two ocean dives. He held my hand when we were under and by the second dive it felt so much more natural. I was able to see so many beautiful creatures like seahorses, stingrays, clownfish and so much more. If anyone is contemplating diving for the first time I highly recommend it, as it truly is one of the most spectacular things I have done in my life.

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Dolphin Safari

No matter where you are in Zanzibar you will see postings for doing a Dolphin Tour or Dolphin Safari. Just off the shore of the fishing village called Kizimkazi is Menai Bay Conservation Area. Bottlenose dolphins flock to this area every day, which is how the dolphin tours began. The idea is that your boat will take you out to where the dolphins are and you can get in the water and literally swim with them. In theory this sounds amazing and about 10 years ago I did this activity and was absolutely awestruck by it all. There were very few boats at the time so when you jumped in the water you felt like you weren’t disturbing the dolphins in any way. I did this activity again this year because it was such a life altering experience, although this time however the experience was definitely not the same. In 10 years tourism has grown and with that the number of boats has multiplied. A pod of dolphins would surface and there would be easily 25 boats all jostling and competing for the best spots. By the time you jumped in you were surrounded by boats and the quick dolphins were so far below the surface that it would be hard to even see them. I felt badly for the dolphins because there were just so many boats around. It wasn’t a peaceful experience and it’s not something I would highly recommend.

Jozani Forest

Jozani Forest is the only National Park in Zanzibar. It is fairly small at only approximately 50 square kilometers, but is most well-known for its Red Colobus Monkeys. It is easy to get to the forest on the way to Paje, and although this is something that I did not do myself I spoke to many others that went and enjoyed themselves. One thing I was told was that getting a local guide at the entrance is not worth the money. It is easy enough to walk through the park on your own.

 

Where to eat:

Blue Doors Restaurant – Ndame Beach Lodge

We stumbled upon the best little beach bar restaurant while in Paje called Blue Doors Restaurant. With front row seats to the spectacular sea we lazed the day away on comfortable beach sofas while sipping ice cold beverages. It was the perfect oasis to escape the heat while taking in Paje’s picture perfect scenery. The food was delicious as well, and in the evenings the menu opened for a larger selection.

 

Delight Restaurant

Delight was another amazing little restaurant that I would highly recommend. The atmosphere was perfect – with its cute beachy decor as well the staff were warm and friendly.  There is seating both on the main level and upstairs that gives you a bird’s eye view of the beach. I highly recommend the wood-fired pizza! (…maybe not right before scuba diving though)

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Nungwi



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Nungwi is a fishing village on the Northern tip of Zanzibar. Known for its picture perfect sunsets and expansive coral white beaches, this hot spot is an ideal place for some R&R. There are a range of hotel options in Nungwi – from the 5 Star Resorts, to the backpacker hostels. What I enjoyed most about Nungwi was that the tides weren’t as drastic like they are on most other parts of the island, which made swimming a lot easier.

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Where to stay:

We stayed at the Baraka Beach Bungalows and although checking in was a little tricky due to the lack of organization of the staff, the facility itself was great for a budget traveler. The location was perfect and was literally a stone’s throw from so many different restaurants and activities.

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Things to do:

Mnarani Marine Turtle Conservation Pond

Just a short walk down the beach is the Mnarani Turtle Conservation. This community based NGO was established in 1993 in an effort to conserve the sea turtle population native to Zanzibar. Over the last 15 years this Turtle Conservation has educated and empowered local villagers to be an integral part of helping the various sea turtle species grow and thrive. Come support the facility by seeing these amazing creatures up close. There are volunteer opportunities as well for travelers to live and stay on site and help in turtle conservation.

I was lucky enough to be in Nungwi during the Annual Turtle Release. Once a year (usually some time in February) the Conservation hosts a major release event. Dignitaries, tv crews and live entertainment come together to celebrate the release of hundreds of healthy turtles back into the wild.

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Diving Poseidon

As I already just dove in Paje I didn’t try out this company,  but from what I could see this Diving Company looked like a well-oiled machine and one that seemed very reputable. It also has a 5 Star rating and is recommended by Trip Advisor.

 

Where to eat:

Baraka Restaurant

If you are looking for fresh seafood and a romantic dinner under the stars, look no further than the Baraka Restaurant. With a plentiful array of fresh seafood to choose from you can have your meal sitting at a table right on the beach. Make sure to choose a table a little further back if you don’t’ want to get wet feet when the tide comes up the beach.E18318F6-29CF-4118-81E0-1F0ACEA28602255CCFA3-3941-49F2-BFAB-F6CC1679E94B

 

Mama Mia

Mama Mia is an amazing restaurant that we frequented the entire time we were in Nungwi. Known for its delicious Italian cuisine they serve wood-fired pizza and amazing homemade gelato ice cream! What makes this place so special is how the restaurant juts into the sea so you have the most spectacular of views. There are also many nights where you can have a meal while listening to live music. Mama Mia is a MUST!

 

Cholo’s Bar

If you are looking for lunch or a light meal Cholo’s Beach Bar is a great place! They serve a wide variety of fresh food and the rustic beach décor makes it a great place to kick back.9244CEA3-84EC-4033-B915-2E4B55DAD82Bf66cb62b-242c-4b86-af65-a88926f2894f

 

Stone Town



The most well-known and culturally rich place in all of Zanzibar is hands-down Stone Town! Stone Town is a city of such historical and artistic importance in East Africa and for this reason it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Because of its location, the city itself reflects the Swahili culture; mixing Islamic, Persian, Indian and European elements. There truly is so much to see in Stone Town, and merely walking around its labyrinth of narrow streets is an activity in itself because there are so many shops and cafes all with exquisite and unique architecture.

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Where to stay:

We stayed in the cutest hotel called Abuso Inn. It is a family run business with a warm and welcoming atmosphere. There are approximately 20 rooms for single, double, triple or family occupancy, and all for a reasonable price. What makes Abuso Inn even greater is its location – just 300m from the Old Fort of Zanzibar. It is walking distance to all the major sites, shops and restaurants. I absolutely highly recommend this gem of a hotel.

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What to do:

There really is so much to do right in the heart of Stone Town, but truthfully my favorite was just wandering around the streets. There are so many photo opportunities that I happened to stumble upon. From the Hamamni Baths to Freddie Mercury’s childhood home…the history is deep which makes every discovery so exciting.

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Where to eat:

The Puzzle Coffee Shop

The Puzzle Coffee Shop is definitely the go-to place for not just coffee but all things café-like. I had the best smoothies and the staff were incredible. Definitely a must!

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Masa Japanese Restaurant

Are you craving Japanese food? Look no further than Masa. With its open views of the streets below you can enjoy fresh seafood and delicious Japanese cuisine.

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Jafferji House Restaurant

If you are looking for the perfect place to have dinner on the roof top high above Stone Town Jafferji House Restaurant is the place to go. Built in 1912 Jafferji House and Spa is recognized as a boutique hotel. Climb up the stairs to the rooftop and you can enjoy a delicious ‘Swahili Style’ cuisine, but more importantly with the most picturesque views.

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Zafarani

Zafarani is another restaurant that I’d highly recommend for the foodie traveler. The menu has been carefully curated to mix Zanzibar’s finest spices with the best local dishes. With its fresh décor and unique dishes, it is easy to feel relaxed in this cute little restaurant in the middle of town.

 



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Stone Town ~ The Final Days of the Trip

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This post was originally written February 23, 2018

February 22

After 8 glorious days on the beach the final leg of my trip has come. The last stop for me is two days in Stone Town.

Stone Town is a city of historical and artistic importance in East Africa. Because of Zanzibar’s location, the city reflects the Swahili culture, mixing Islamic, Persian, Indian and European elements. For this reason, Stone Town itself is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s really quite cool as it’s narrow streets are a labyrinth of shops and cafes all with its own unique architecture.

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Getting to Stone Town was rather interesting though. Seeing corruption first hand truly boggles my mind. We were stopped three times by police at separate check points. The police randomly stop you and the only way to get by without paying a fine (and not sure what the fine would be for) is to grease the palms of the police. Our driver literally shook the officer’s hand with a bill in his hand and once the transaction was through, we were good to continue on our way. These cops must feel so powerful that they can stop anyone and take their money.

February 23

As today is the very last full day of my trip it was time to get down to business and try to do some shopping. Before that though we took in Stone Town’s major sites. One being the home of Freddie Mercury. Did you know that he was originally from Zanzibar and later left to live in England? The people of Zanzibar are very proud of their home town hero and you can buy a ton of Freddie paraphernalia in most shops.

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The other ‘official’ touristy thing we did was visit the Sultan’s Palace. Dating back to the early 1800’s Zanzibar was ruled by Sultans. This carried on until the 1960’s when Tanganyika and Zanzibar united to become the Republic of Tanzania (what we see today). Anyway it was interesting to walk through the palace and see the ornate furnishings. But also a little sad how unkempt everything is. There are actually two separate palaces and in 2013 one of them partially collapsed. Five years later. and they still don’t have the go ahead to fix the palace. Apparently work on that palace will begin in June, but as they say here in Swahili ‘pole pole’ which means slowly slowly.

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Anyway, after an afternoon of shopping Ash and I had our final dinner on the rooftop overlooking the sea to one side, and the town below us. It really was a perfect way to end such a great holiday I’d say!

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It’s hard to believe that nearly a month has gone by and in that month I’ve been able to experience so many amazing things. Africa truly has a way with me. I keep coming back because no matter what country I’m in, I’m absolutely smitten. I’ve been so lucky to have been able to travel with Ash this whole time too. We’ve had so much fun together and to think we only met last year both so far away from our respective homes. Travel does bring the world together.

Tomorrow will be the start of my long journey home. I hope that you’ve enjoyed reading about all my adventures and mishaps over the last month!  Until next time ‘kwa heri’!



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Just Call Me The White Masaii! ~ And Let’s Release Some Turtles!

ACF6D087-30FD-4CAA-92D4-24A621A1875BThis post was originally written on February 21, 2018

Feb 19

Yesterday we left Paje, which is at the south eastern part of the island and made our way to Nungwi which is at the north. It took about an hour and a half drive to get there and on the way we happened to see a sand storm funnel in the air!

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I don’t know what it is about driving lately but the constant lull just puts me to sleep. It’s like being in my mother’s womb…but not! I managed to stay awake for a good hour which was a bonus because then I could see the beautiful, lush jungle countryside.

Nungwi is even more beautiful that Paje. The beach is cleaner and the water a lot more swimmable. It’s even a normal temperature so getting in the water is nice and refreshing! It does feel a little bit more touristy over here and it feels like half of Russia is on our beach. Clearly Zanzibar is the Cancun of Russia!

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These aren’t Russians 😉 I can’t help but capture the beauty of all the colourful ladies!

In both Kenya and Tanzani, live the well-known Maasai Tribe. These people are nomadic and are fairly easy to spot as they drape themselves in colourful fabrics, have jewelry stacked on their arms and legs and usually have a long stick. Genetically they are usually really tall and thin, and many of them also have the front few bottom teeth pulled as well as circular burns on their cheeks.  During the long hours on the road through Kenya I often saw them walking along the side of the road herding their cattle, but here in Zanzibar they’ve come to work and earn money for their family. I spoke to quite a few today and many work in the hotels doing jobs from security to serving in a kitchen. Like most locals here they are very friendly and happy to make small talk. Today while I was swimming in the ocean and older Maasai came up to me and started talking. He noticed my swimming abilities  (which I consider more of a DISability) and asked if I could teach him to swim. So there I was, in the Indian Ocean teaching a Maasai Tribesman to swim.  FYI ~ it was more that I was teaching him to float than to swim as my talent lies strictly in doing as little physical activity as possible!

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February 20

As luck would have it,  today was the Annual Turtle Release at the Mnarani Marine Turtle Conservation right here in Nungwi. When I found out about it I was all over that like a fat kid on a Twinkie. The thing is I had to go out on a limb and trust a local dude all by myself. A local man told me that he’d take me there … I wasn’t sure if this was code for murder me, but I went with my gut and decided to go. Ash sat this one out because it involved boats and she nearly yacked on our scuba instructor the other day. My ‘kidnapper’ and I walked along the beach for about 20 minutes until you could hear the sound of music and a party in the distance. This annual event was the place to be here in Zanzibar. I arrived safely and was left to my own demise for the rest of the day.

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The Conservation takes in injured turtles, turtles trapped in fishing nets as well as saves the eggs. They nurture the turtles until they are strong enough, and once ready they are released back into the ocean. For some reason they only do the release once a year so the event is huge. Television crews, dignitaries, as well as the Minister of Agriculture were all there for the big event. There were performances ranging from local dancing and singing, ridiculous lip sinking, Swahili hip hop and 6 men doing acrobatics. It was impressive but holy shit watching sweaty men try to flip and catch each other on the hard ground was a little insane. You could see their sweat flying through the air, so I’m not sure how they didn’t slip out of each other’s arms! Anyway I had my Tanzanian television debut as I too sweat profusely while sitting behind the Minister of Agriculture. After all the performances it was time to release the approximate 150 turtles.

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Each boat had six large turtles and by large they were so big that it took 3 men to carry them to the boat. Once on board it was like a massive party. Everyone was singing and dancing all the way to the reef. One by one we let each turtle go and as they swam further away from the boat I literally couldn’t help but cry. It was so moving to me, that for three years these big turtles were getting the help they needed so that they could be released back into their natural environment. Once our boat was empty of the big guys we made our way to Kendwa Beach. This is where the turtle eggs were originally found, so the smaller ones needed to be set free from the same beach. Apparently their instincts are really strong and they will keep coming back to the same beach to lay their eggs. I was able to hold one and pet his head until we were given the green light, and all at once they slowly made their way through the sand and into the sea. My umbilical cord snapped as I watched mine swim away from me. The whole experience was pretty surreal and I feel so honored to be a part of it.

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I made some new friends on my boat as well. Two more Maasai dudes. We hung out the entire time and when we arrived back to the main beach my Maasai dudes (one named Pedro and the other named Baraka) wanted to walk me home and make sure I got back safely. Of course when I told Pedro that I had a cat named Pedro his question to me was how many cows do I own! I have to say that it must have looked hysterical … two tall Maasai fully dressed in their traditional attire walking on either side of a white girl along the beach. I have to admit that we did get quite a few stares! After a few selfies with my new friends I came back to my room and by this time as I’d been gone all day – Ash was relieved that she no longer had to deal with a missing persons report.

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All in all a pretty good day I’d say. Released some turtles and the bonus was I didn’t get kidnapped!



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It’s a BUMMER in Paradise

72A07CAE-7BB6-4700-9301-071716BE0208This post was originally written on February 18, 2018

February 17

Today was another day out in the great big sea, but this time we were in search of dolphins. I did this activity about ten years ago when I was last here and it was one of those life altering experiences. Every morning the dolphins come to this specific part of the ocean on the Southern tip of Zanzibar so the locals have created a dolphin tour. What happens is they will find a pod of dolphins and take you to them by boat. Once you see the dolphins surface you jump in with them and there are literally dolphins all around you. When you look down it’s even more spectacular because there are twice as many below you.

I have to admit that my experience was a tad bit different from the last time. Obviously in ten years tourism has grown and the amount of boats doing these tours have multiplied.  It seems a lot less authentic when you have 20 boats searching for dolphins rather than two! But if you get the timing right and are able to get close to these beautiful creatures the exhilaration is no different. It was absolutely amazing when I was snorkeling around and then they all came up to the surface so close to me. Now this is living!

*Unfortunately I didn’t get any photos of dolphins…I was too busy swimming!!!

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Here are a few pics I took of local fisherman. 

February 18

Perhaps the opposite of living is dying AND something close to dying is having an injury AND having an injury is something I’m currently dealing with … so basically the segway is… I have to tell you about my multiple bum injuries.

Yesterday when I jumped off the boat in a frenzy to get with the dolphins, my not so graceful self skidded my left ass cheek on the wooden part of the boat and it made a bloody road rash burn. It hurt like a son of a bitch –  so basically dolphin tracking is a tough sport or I’m just an awkward white girl. Probably the latter. Anyway today it turns out that on top of my road rash/boat rash it’s also quite bruised. This is bum injury number one. Today I couldn’t help but whinge about my tailbone too. I thought that I must have bruised this at the same time… but nope something much more embarrassing happened that I’ve never experienced before. Inner-ass-crack-chafing. I made Ash take a look and apparently right at the beginning of my crack it’s bright red and sore as a mother effer. Not sure if its possible that sand got in and then my butt cheeks rubbing together caused an eternal flame! Needless to say it hurts to sit down!

See sometimes paradise has its downsides too!

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Just assuming the turtle position! Why not??

Zanzibar ~ The First Taste of Paradise

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This post was originally written on February 16, 2018

February 15

Yesterday was a travel day where Ash and I took a flight from Nairobi down to Zanzibar, Tanzania. Zanzibar is a picture perfect paradise island. I was lucky enough to come here about ten years ago when I was volunteering in Moshi, Tanzania. At that time I only had one weekend to explore the island, and in that brief time I knew it wasn’t enough. One day I’d be back and that day is TODAY!

Check out the photos of both our flight and our plane. The flight was really cool because we got to fly right over Mt. Kilimanjaro. The plane however could be left to interpretation on how safe it truly was. The ‘CUT HERE IN EMERGENCY’ on the side of the plane, as well as the flat tires…seems like we were leaving a lot to chance on this one! 1920D6ED-F8B1-4BEE-9AD4-13249EC2E044E30CF41E-8C49-4FCE-86D2-66618F2D5CD69A69DC2C-9357-4EF1-887F-9192E74C607A

We’ve booked four nights in a place called Paje, which is on the south eastern part of Zanzibar. It’s known for its kite surfing and bizarre tides. When we arrived here we wanted to go for a swim but when we got to the beach there was this eerie feeling. The tide was a couple of kilometers out so all you could see was the ocean floor. And yet within a few hours the tide came in and it looked like a normal ocean shore again…except for the temperature. I kid you not ~ the ocean was so warm that it felt like you were swimming in your own piss … or worse, someone else’s! With plus 30 temperatures and high humidity I can safely say that this was not a refreshing dip! Although it may not be refreshing it truly is absolutely stunning. A white sandy beach and turquoise waters!!!

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You could walk out for miles when the tide was out

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The place we are staying in is a beach hut. It’s made of palm leaves and even though we have a door and a lock there are spaces for creepy critters to squeeze through. Nothing too freaky to write about yet – just the odd lizard! (((( I retract that sentence. Last night I had to get this flying beetle thing out of here and this morning there was a freaking praying mantis! ))))) It’s really cool though and has the luxuries of a bed, fan and a bathroom. It’s absolutely perfect!

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found this dude taking his last breath on our floor in the morning

 

February 16

Today was pretty exciting! We booked two scuba dives. I have done it once before in Australia, but that was so many years ago that I have built up a fear over the years. I remember that it was fantastic, but the fear of all the things that could go wrong and breathing underwater without being able to surface easily has kept me from doing it again. Until now…

First we had a quick course in the pool and in the course they basically scare the shit out of you because they give you all the scenarios of things that could go wrong. I have to admit that when I first went under and was literally just below the surface I started to get all panicky. My thoughts raced through my head and all I wanted to do was breathe…I had to talk myself down to sanity and eventually I got the hang of it again.  Once that was complete and we passed all the mini tests, it was out in the great big ocean. It was pretty spectacular. It’s just unbelievable to see all the life that exists below the surface. The colours of the coral and how gracefully it sways back and forth is mesmerizing. There are so many types of pretty fish but what stands out were the sting rays, flounders shuffling at the bottom of the ocean floor, sea horses, polka dot sea snakes, massive sea cucumbers that were more the size of squashes, all the various kinds of starfish, huge lion fish…I could go on and on really!! It’s bloody amazing. The first dive I was kind of freaked out when my flipper got caught in the coral and I was so scared I was going to drift into the spiky sea urchins that were everywhere. But the second dive was so much calmer and I felt much more at ease.

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Certificate of Completion with my Dive Master

Anyway it was definitely a day to remember and it just goes to show that when you face your fears it’s really not that bad. I was told once by a friend that when you push yourself out of your comfort zone that is where the magic happens – this couldn’t be more true!


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My Sponsor Child

this post is originally from February 7, 2008

Hello everyone!

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Town of Mwanza

So since I have been in Africa I have truly tried to embrace the cultural differences. But as much as i try, there is one habit that I just cant get hooked on…nose picking. Yep, that is what I said-everyone picks their noses. I will be standing there having a conversation with someone and there they go-in for the pick…or should I say dig. Maybe it is because of all the dust that is in the air, but still-I just don’t want to see it. Lucky for you it has not caught on in my habits. Wouldn’t that be a lovely one to bring home??

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So yesterday I had my long awaited visit with my World Vision Sponsor child. At 5:30 am I took a small plane to the west side of Tanzania to a city called Mwanza. It is called the Rock City, and for good reason. It was the coolest thing because everywhere you turned there stood these giant boulders. The massive 1000 year old rocks did not stand alone – there were clusters of them, and some lay right on top of each other looking like at the slightest touch you could push it over. Mwanza is situated right on Lake Victoria so it had a beautiful harbour with the boulders sticking out of the water. I loved it and have never seen anything like it.

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The World Vision staff picked me up from the airport and took me to a hotel to meet both my sponsor child, Regina and her mother. It was so amazing to meet these people, but at times a little awkward too. We were unable to speak the same language and only able to really converse through the staff. Even at that, Regina speaks her native tongue and not Swahili so again it had to be translated through her mother. The mother was so sweet and called me her daughter. I don’t think she particularly needs another daughter as she is preggo with her 6th child at the moment!!  Regina was shy but as the day went on she smiled more and even held my hand. I gave them all the stuff that was collected and they were in awe. I obviously couldn’t show them everything right there because there was so much stuff. Let me tell you that getting rid of that bag was freaking fantastic. I have had many problems with airlines since leaving Edmonton with it. Regina loved all the dolls I brought and as soon as she saw a pair of socks that were colourful she wanted to put them on right away.

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Regina and her mother have never left their tiny village so this was their first time in the city. This was also the first time that Regina has ever seen a white person. First time they have seen a television (which was in the restaurant we had lunch at). This girl’s eyes were as wide as horse turds!!!! Lunch was interesting. The mother ordered rice, veggies and a fish for both of them. There was sauce over the food and I was not expecting them just to dig in with their fingers. I mean, they have never used a utensil before so this is all they know. Like many here in Tanzania they live in little mud huts with leaves over the roof. They sleep on the floor and of course have no electricity. So this was one hell of a day for them. As we sat there over lunch there were only so many things you could talk about as our lives are so extremely different.

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One thing I was a little annoyed about was that the World Vision staff drove us around the city. It was a nice drive however seeing the mansions built on the slopes of the rocks felt uncalled for. Apparently a lot of Arabs have loads of money and build massive houses even by our standards. I felt very uncomfortable having these people see this, knowing the poverty that they live in.
I made it there and back all in one day. It was amazing, like so many of my experiences here. They really appreciated all the stuff that some of you donated with me. And they were so thankful that I made the journey to come and see them. World Vision Canada

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It is now Thursday evening and I sit here with this cloud over my shoulders. This afternoon I broke down because the thought of saying goodbye to the people and this country saddens me. I feel so comfortable here and the people feel like extended family. This has truly been a trip of a lifetime and I am so thankful that I have had the luck to live in country that allows me to see the world.1934096_22129310433_416_n
Tomorrow a few of us are getting pizzas made and we are bringing them to the orphanage for the kids to eat. I can’t even imagine what a blubbering idiot I will be when I say good bye to kids.1934096_22129345433_2604_n
Saturday I leave at 9:40 at night and get into Edmonton late on Sunday. Call me crazy but guess who is going into work on Monday morn? Not looking forward to that alarm whatsoever.

 

Also on the way home I will be spending 8 hrs in my Fatherland-Amsterdam, Netherlands so I look forward to seeing a few things there.

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Lots of hugs from Beautiful Tanzania
Kwa Heri

Beautiful Zanzibar

this post was originally from February 4, 2008

Get ready-I have a lot to tell you…
On Wednesday last week we all went to Arusha. It is a city about  2 hours away and is quite congested with traffic compared to what I am used to here in Moshi. We got there and went to the United Nations Rwandan War Tribunal. This is where they are trying the criminals from the Rwandan genocide. We had to go through security checks to get in and then were herded into a small room to listen. We sat behind glass and had earphones on so we could hear the whole thing. Sitting right in front of me was the person who had done the most heinous of crimes!!!!  It was crazy how vague he was. They were making him read letters that he had wrote and he kept acting like he had never seen them. There was a cassette that he obviously knew who distributed it on Rwandan Radio and  his answer as to where it came from was that it was accidentally found in a pile of rubbish…then he proceeded to say that  he didn’t remember who found the cassette.  It was crazy to be right there watching history unfold, but also a little discouraging as it was an obvious ‘pass the buck’ and never take responsibility for his actions.

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On Thursday after placement I was quite ill. Throwing up and not being able to flush the toilet because of the water being turned off, made for a pleasant treat for my roomies. But there was no way i am staying sick, so I willed myself up and went to the orphanage to make macaroni necklaces with the kids. I am feeling much better now though. So many of the volunteers have gotten malaria…my roomie had to go to the hospital last night.Don’t worry…apparently when treated early you are totally fine within a couple of days.

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On Friday Maryanne and I went to the airport to go to the beautiful island of Zanzibar. The landing was fabulous…the water was so blue and all I wanted to do was jump into the ocean as soon as I could. When we got to our hotel there was no booking for us. Maryanne was convinced that one of the bookings for someone by the name of ‘Halbersma’ was me and that was our room. She is a firecracker and would have fought that one to her death. I was like the more time we spend arguing the less beach time we have…so i dragged her out and we found a hotel nearby for half the price. It was perfect –  bed, a shower, and best of all it was on the beach. The sand felt like you were walking on flour. It was powdery and white. The ocean was warm and man oh man i couldn’t ask for anything more.

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On Saturday we were picked up and brought to the southern part of the island. Here we got on a boat with a bunch of Italians and sent out to the middle of the sea. In an instant there was a pod of dolphins. We could see about 8 of them swimming next to our boat. Our boat then positioned itself in front of the pod and then we were shouted at to jump out of the boat. Here I was – swimming in the middle of the ocean with about 8 dolphins swimming towards me. It was absolutely unreal. Some swam so close that I could see every detail on their bodies. But what was crazy was once I looked down below me there were not just 8 dolphins…no…more like 25!!!!!! Once the dolphins swam passed (as they are far better swimmers than I) we all hauled ourselves back in the boat and drove to the front of the pod again…once in front we jump back in and experience the whole thing over again. I sure wish I could relive this experience over and over again. I have never been able to do anything remotely like this in my life! Simply amazing!
We spent the rest of the day on the beach and had a relaxing evening. I fell asleep and woke to the sounds of Maryanne’s sobs. She is only 21 and I think this is her first time away from home in a not-so-western-country. She is constantly on the phone with her boyfriend and this time she was crying about how horrible it was where we were sleeping. She was crying about the bugs and how she wants to come home. Holy shit is all I can say. She told me that the last straw was finding an ant in our bed. I just laughed…’you definitely wouldn’t want to come to my house then, because I have ants in my bed all the time!!’  (Yes I do need to find a new living arrangement when I get home because I have an ant infestation…but hey, maybe it was basic training for Africa!) Anyway i tried to calm her down and soon enough it was morning.
Have you ever had a massage on the beach? I did for the first time and it was splendid. This woman had her own concoction of oils that she made and her massage was to die for (except my stomach because I found that too ticklish)!  Yesterday evening we made our way to Stone Town which has intricate Arab architecture. The sultan of Oman once lived here until the 1940’s so his palace still exists as well as forts from the Portuguese. All too often you would hear the call to prayer coming from the nearby Mosque which was very cool.We also got to eat at Freddie Mercury’s…did you know the Queen legend was born 1923679_22079455433_4676_nhere?
Our flight home was…special. We had to wait for a full hour in the blazing heat on the tarmac just to get our boarding pass. The flight was then delayed because of ‘technical difficulties’ and when we finally boarded the plane, the tires were desperately flat. I took a photo of that one. It was funny because a boarding pass did not guarantee you a set seat.  Once on the plane it was a free-for-all as everyone did a mad dash to the seat they wanted. There was so much shoving and pushing! 1923679_22079450433_3609_nAnyway, we got home in one piece.
Today at placement I was happy to see that my girls were wearing real shoes. Some of them have been wearing things on their feet that slightly resemble a shoe so I gave Mama Mrewa money to go get them shoes that actually fit and are not falling apart. They were so happy. You should have seen the smiles on their faces!!
On Wednesday I am going to Mwanza to finally meet my World Vision sponsor child. The village has been planning a celebration for me but because I only have one day to go and meet her I am unable to go to the village. The flights are not working out so the only choice I have is for World Vision to drive the child and her mother to see me and then I will be back that same day. I have tried every option of trying to get there and stay for 2 days but it is so expensive and there are no guarantees that I will make it to the village and back in time. I will just see her briefly and give her all the goodies that I have collected from some of you guys.

The Babies of Africa

This post was originally from January 29, 2008

Hello habari za leo?

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Things are still going great here in Tanzania. I just enjoy every minute. All the other volunteers are amazing and I am making some really special friends. Part of this group goes home at the end of the week which sucks…but my turn is quickly approaching.
The other day I went back to Kili Kids Orphanage with a few of my friends. We made masks with them out of paper plates and all the fun things we brought from home. These kids have nothing, so doing these activities is like going to Disneyland for them. One of the kids named Michael took a special liking to me. He is the most outgoing 10 year old and loves to dance with me. We sang together and he taught me a song “yes, we are happy, yes we are happy”… He just sat with me and we drew pictures for each other. Before we left that night he got one of the workers to translate for him. He asked me if he could come home with me. This nearly broke my heart….but not nearly as much as when I heard his story. He is here with his two younger brothers.  His mom died of AIDS and the three children were living just with their father. One day his father found out that he too was HIV positive so he slit his throat. Michael found his father dead on the floor and two days later someone found Michael crying with the father’s body. He had sat with his father for 2 whole days before anyone found him. This is so heart wrenching…and this boy comes across so happy. He is a strong little nugget.

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A few of the other little girls there have been raped as babies and you can tell they are just not socially normal. We can’t even begin to comprehend what goes on in the lives of so many children. It is a nightmare.1934096_22078855433_2352_n
But let’s change topics…on to a lighter note. Tanzanians name their kids some pretty whacked out things!!!! Names like Forget, Godwilling, Loveness, and here is a doozey—are you ready?  US Dollar Bill. No word of a lie—US Dollar Bill!!!! The only thing that could possibly top that one is Japanese Yen!!! Oh why mom and dad did you not name me Peso???
Tomorrow we are probably heading to Arusha to watch the Rwanda War Crime Tribunal. This is where they are literally prosecuting those who were involved in the massacre in 1994. I say probably because this depends on the UN if there are any trials. We won’t know until we get there. It should be fascinating though.
And on Friday me and another friend are heading to the island of Zanzibar for some R&R.
Well, that is all for now…

Safari Gone Wrong

This post was originally from January 27, 2008

Hujambo!
I am just sitting here at the internet cafe enjoying my day. African music is playing and the chair that I am sitting in falling apart! Hah!

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My ‘rafiki’s Nichole and Maryanne

So yesterday we woke up bright and early to go on a walking/canoe safari at Arusha National Park. We were ready at 8am but sat around waiting for our guide for a full hour. That is ok, I don’t mind…people go by TFT Tanzanian Flex Time over here. So 7 of us piled into the vehicle even though the guide only remembered booking 6. That is ok…we straightened that one out. When we stopped at the gates of the park our guide 1923679_22027455433_1259_ndisappeared. Hmmm…an hour later we found him. He had troubles paying for our park pass because the park did not take cash. That is ok…sitting in a vehicle in the burning heat is not so bad…we are in Africa right?! So by now we are completely thirsty. We ask the guide if he has the water for us. (we were told that all safari tours supplied water and food). He didn’t have water. There was no way we were going to last a full day walking in the heat without water so we then had to wait for him to go to a shop to buy water. That is ok…we are in Africa. So finally, finally we get started. We are handed over to a ranger who is all dressed in a fatigue like green uniform with a massive rifle. And off we go. Walking with the animals was fantastic. We couldn’t get too close to the water buffalo because they are aggressive (one of the Big 5)-but at one point a whole group of them turned on us and started moving forward. Our ranger was on guard with his rifle (don’t worry he told us he would only shoot into the air to frighten them). We got away safely. We stepped through all sorts of shit. There was no way getting around it. Every animal dung you could possibly imagine was now sticking to the sole of my shoe. Then we hit the mother ship!!! Giraffes…heaps and heaps of giraffes!!! We were like stalkers following them around where ever they went. It was so cool. They are so beautiful and their spots are amazing. They would just sit there and chew their food and stare at us. Then all of a sudden we heard a rustle in the bush and KABANG this warthog came screeching out of the bush and ran past us at full speed. It ran straight towards one of the ladies with us and she nearly wet herself right there. It was the funniest thing ever. But because of the warthog screeching and the lady screaming we now had a herd of scared giraffes!  Three of them bolted and ran away from us at full speed. You could literally feel the ground shake when they ran. It was so cool!

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We saw many of the same animals as last week, but from afar. And for lunch we hiked to another waterfall. It wasn’t nearly as difficult as the one on Wednesday but when we got there it was unreal. At that point we were sweating our pants off so sitting in the mist from the water was so relaxing. It was one of those moments that I wanted to last forever.
Finally we had to hike back to our first guide so that we could go canoe with the hippos. Yah, I know that hippos are supposedly one of the most dangerous animals…but we are in Africa right?!1934097_22027370433_4284_n
As we made our way to the lake in the vehicle we came across so many more giraffe. We wanted to just sit there and observe, but our guide told us we had to go canoe so off we went. When we got to the lake there was nobody there to take us, so we were told to wait. Because we were late the guides took off with another group. At this point we had already finished our rationed water and there was no place to take cover from the sun. We ended up huddled on this dock that literally was cracking beneath our weight. Just picture a bunch of ‘mazungu’s (white people) perched on the edge of a rickety dock (so that we wouldn’t break it).  We waited…and waited…and waited… Eventually we no longer could wait. We were burning and thirsty as all hell. So we got in the vehicle and headed home. Hopefully we can get some of our money back…the other ladies are trying to figure that out.
Even though many things went wrong…it was totally worth it to see those giraffes. Unfreakingbelievable!
Today is a free day. I got to sleep in for the first time since I have been here. This afternoon a few of us are going back to the orphanage to play with the kids.

Week 2 is almost over…

This post was originally from January 24, 2008

I can’t believe how fast time flies when you are having fun! Crap! I don’t want to go home.

So let me tell you about a little girl named Rose. You see every morning all of the volunteers load into the CCS van and one by one we are dropped off at our placement. It is a great way to see the countryside and how people live. We usually see the same kids walking to school and the other day we saw little Rose walking alone on a long dusty road –  so our driver picked her up.  Rose has to walk miles to get to her school and her school is literally located inside the gates of a prison area.  We have to go through a checkpoint to get in and here are all these little ones walking alone. Men with huge rifles stand on guard all around while the prisoners in orange jumpsuits work their asses off in the heat. The grounds are immaculate though! I am not sure if I would call them all criminals though-you get 14 years in prison for being gay!!!!!!!  So the other day when we picked up Rose she sat on my lap and kissed my cheeks over and over, all the while stroking my hair. Oh what a little doll!1923679_22080205433_3941_n
Yesterday we had the day off placement so that the whole group of 30 could go on a ‘field trip’. We went to a batik home where we saw how they made the batik. Then to a place where the villagers go down this huge incline to get chunks of volcanic rocks. They put about 4 on their head at a time and hike up this incline in flipflops. From there they give it to their partner who hacks it up into bricks. Each brick is sold for 35 cents that they must share between the two of them. Some of the workers are women. The people in this area belong to the Chagga Tribe.1923679_22027445433_9535_n We got to go to a traditional Chagga house and also saw the caves that they used to hide in during the tribal wars. We also went to a market that the locals go to. There was a sea of people and bright colours lined the stalls from all the fruit and veggies!   There was so much chaos that it actually was a little overwhelming. And finally… we hiked our asses off to see Ndoro Falls.  There was a massively steep mountain that we went down. We all had walking sticks and it was slippery from the 10 minute rain fall. As we got further down the mountain, it turned into a rain forest with beautiful flowers and gorgeous scenery. And once at the bottom there was a huge waterfall. It was breathtaking and definitely worth the climb back up.  1923679_22027450433_411_n
Today at placement I didn’t teach the girls. Instead I went with my 81 year old fellow volunteer to see the small businesses that the ladies have started. This 81 year old climbed Mt Kili 6 years ago if you can believe! I visited a few shops that made clothes and also a lady who grew chickens to slaughter. The chicken one was a little nasty because there were dead chickens on the table in front of us. yum. To get back to town we had to take the local bus called the Daladala. This is not really a bus, but merely a minivan. Do you want to guess how many people were in there with me? No guess higher!!! The last I counted there were 26 people and then I could no longer see past the heads. I was all the way in the back so getting out was a bit of a challenge. But holy shit, was that an experience…maybe one that I wouldn’t suggest to you all. Just imagine the African heat and plenty of sweaty people. Again…yum.
I am teaching my girls at my placement how to type. A big shout out to Mrs. Sands – Typing 10 teacher! Holllaaaa!!  I can see a huge progress because last week they had never touched a computer before. For English I took out this book on the human body and let them read it. They were all crowded around me trying to look at the pictures. Remember these girls are ages 16-25 and they have never seen pictures of skeletons or teeth with roots before. Biology is taken in secondary school and these girls couldn’t afford to pay for it so they had to quit school. Unbelievable! It sure makes me thankful for my upbringing. 1923679_22027590433_8896_n
Tonight a bunch of us went to an orphanage called Kili Kids. We made sock puppets with them and decorated them with feathers, etc. It was a real hit. The children loved it. There are 18 children living there right now and 17 are sick. It is like if one gets sick, it sweeps through all of them. They were so happy though and it was a blast playing with them. There is a little 18 month old with HIV. His name is Parsley. He is so cute and would ‘pound’ knuckles with us when we said ‘tano’. So adorable. I nearly cried when leaving because another little cutie came up to me and said ‘thank you very much’ in his broken English.1934096_22078845433_9534_n
Oh and get this…today the lady who took us around town to see the businesses gave me a real offer. I was telling her how perhaps down the road I might want to adopt a child from Africa.  PERHAPS is the key word. And she said I could ‘take’ her granddaughter.  Um…what do you say to that. Hapana Asante-no thank you! Good god, you never know what to expect.

I will write after my walking/canoeing safari on Saturday.
Tutaonana