Experience the world with us

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

My First Zanzibar Encounter

By Candis Poley

Day 1: 
An early start…waking up at 03:30 am was not cool…I arrived at the airport all syced and over the moon as I’ve never been to Zanzibar before. 
We finally boarded the plane at around 07:00 am and this is when I started getting nervous as the thought of a third World African country put visions of panic in my mind.  After a 4 hour flight we arrived in Zanzibar – what a contrast from freezing Johannesburg South Africa to hot and humid Zanzibar…I was amazed at the Airport;  how can an Airport of this size contain so many people.  I was impressed by the way their systems ran. Customs and immigrations ran smoothly even though Zanzibar Airport is not equipped with World class technology like O.R Tambo.

Our ground handler Exotic Tours who met us at the Airport were excellent!!!!  I always envisioned a slow laid back (never on time feel)   - I was so wrong Exotic tours were right on time;  super professional and ultra friendly.

We arrived in Stone Town – I felt like I was in a totally different era – ancient yet filled with mysterious magic.  Almost felt like I was trapped in the animation of Aladdin in the middle of Africa (Zanzibar).  The sights left an impression of a little town steeped in ancient history of Arabic influence.

We did two hotel inspections in Stonetown namely the Serena Inn and Dhow Palace.  Serena Inn has a Westernized influence while Dhow Palace is more Authentic.

We then went to the famous Mercury’s Restaurant and Bar – one of the must do’s in Stonetown.  Typical pub feel near the harbour in Zanzibar with wooden bar furniture and a very chilled laid back atmosphere – the pizza’s here are delicious!  This is where I learned that the Kili (Kilimanjaro) beer is almost equivalent to our proudly South African Castle – a must try for the beer lovers.

We ended the day at Karafuu located on the South East coast – an absolutely breathtaking sunset topped with exceptional service.  On this evening I learned about the flavour filled drink called Tangawizi – only to discover that it’s Stoney (Ginger beer) apparently this is a local favorite. 

I must admit that going to bed I was a bit weary as I’ve heard many scary mosquito tales.  I was worried for nothing I was not bitten once.

Day 2:
What a glorious morning this was – I had breakfast overlooking the pool and Ocean – Couldn’t help but think “this is la good life; I sure can get use to this”.  After breakfast we headed out to Dongwe Ocean View.  Two words “Gorgeous” and “Beautiful”  I couldn’t get enough of this small yet exclusive looking place.  The beaches are breathtaking – picture perfect to be exact.  I never wanted to leave but the show had to continue.  Back on the bus with exotic tours in the sweltering heat – but alas we never felt it as the vehicle had air conditioning and Exotic prepared cooler boxes for us with soft drinks and water.  We had a series of hotel inspections that all ran smoothly.  My highlight on this day was Ngalawa Beach Village. 
As we approached Ngalawa Beach Village I was slightly put off by the entrance as it looked like a bumpy little road with nothing but trees and stones.  When we approached the hotel itself I was very impressed.  But a lovely building can impress anybody. The one thing that stood out was the personalized, friendly and highly professional service received from staff and management.  

We had a “5 star” 3 course lunch at Ngalawa Beach and having the owners wife being a chef by profession sure showed in the level and standard of food.  Our plates offered an intense fusion of pleasant smells and tastes that left your taste buds wanting more.

We ended the day at BlueBay.  With pre-dinner cocktails and lively entertainment by local Masai Warriors – man those guys can jump! 

Lets just say this day was filled with food….food glorious food as the food at BlueBay was beyond expectations. 

We greeted the end of the evening with drinks at the bar in BlueBay and interesting conversation….

Day 3:

I woke up totally excited as we had a spice tour scheduled as well as snorkeling at Azanzi which is on the North coast.  Lush vegetation and exotic spices was the order that morning.  Not only was the scenery aw-inspiring but we learned a lot too.  The highlight was the lipstick tree … amazing how a seed can be turned into lipstick in an instant. 

On the Spice Farm we also had the opportunity to try fruits native to the Island like the Jack fruit and Custard Apple. 

Today we head North – the beaches here bring images of  “Paradise” at it’s purest.  Powdery white sands and Azure Blue waters.   All geared and ready for snorkeling at Azanzi but mother nature had other plans…unfortunately the weather was against us; non the less I ended the day with a chilled sundowner viewing a magnificent Sunset from the bar which over looks the Ocean…STUNNING!

Day 4:

Exclusivity meets solitary….Double Tree by Hilton.  Here we were met by the chanting of Masai Warriors and the coolness and serenity of a World class 5 star hotel. 

Finally we had some leisure time…Spent the afternoon shopping in Stonetown.  “My feet are killing me but the show must go on!” were my thoughts at this stage of the trip. 

This is where my bargaining skills were put to the test.  The local shop owners are really helpful and eager to make “that sale”.  I was very chaffed with my purchases. 

When we arrived back at the hotel (Royal Zanzibar) it was time to transform into a pirate. 

“ARR me maties!” was the name of the game that evening.  All our agents were dressed ready to sail!  We had an evening filled with entertainment.  Great conversation and memorable laughs.

Myself and Lucrezia (Esteemed colleague) felt incredibly brave all in the role of our “Pirate” name sake; decided to go for a midnight swim in the infinity pool at Royal Zanzibar.  The water was cold but it never stopped us we still had the swim under the starlit skies of Zanzibar.

A surprise awaited us back in our hotel room.  A huge leech hung from the cupboard.  Lucrezia and I were suddenly wide away and no longer feeling sleepy….Eventually we decided to just go to bed.  At least we know that Zanzibar also has creatures great and small alike.

Day 5:

Goodbyes are never easy…
The smell of pancakes at Royal Zanzibar left an inviting scent to the breakfast table that morning.  After breakfast we had a brief sight inspection of the property and it finally hit me.  We have to leave this beautiful piece of paradise.

As always Exotic tours were right on time to pick us up for our transfer to the Airport.  We arrived at the Airport on time.  I was a bit panic stricken as I thought we never going to make it through the boarding gates as the queue for check in looked like an endless human train… but alas Exotic tours came to the rescue gathered all our passports and assisted us with a group check in.  We were through the gates in no time to board 1Time and well on our way to Johannesburg South Africa. 

Just when I thought that’s the end of all the breathtaking scenery.  I noticed how beautiful the Island looked from the plane window.  I cannot find the words to explain the awesome wonder;  picture an aerial view of powder white beaches  meeting blue azure waters with lush green forests to complete it all.

Zanzibar – Friendly warm and welcoming.  Beautiful sights and sounds;  where the ancient magic of Stone Town meets solitary beaches.

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