I don’t know why, but I never thought of myself as an Island person, the thought of sitting on a sandy beach all day in the hot sun just does not appeal to me (yes, crazy I know!). I’m just more of a mild weather kind of person and I overheat quickly and being hot, hot, hot, just isn’t my cup of tea. I also love history, something with historical significance is like a drug to me. I want to know the stories that make a country unique and I want to see something vastly different from my own country when travelling.
When I was looking for a place to relax after my tour of Europe I was really thinking somewhere local just to rest, rejuvenate and relax but my Sure Travel agent had something more exotic in mind. The minute Doriane mentioned Zanzibar, an island just off the coast of Tanzania, and knowing me well enough to mention it’s history, culture and things to do but also plenty of time to just ‘be’ and rest, well I was hooked! I was about to be converted….
So much about this place appealed to me, there was much to see and do OR I could just do nothing, it is also a quick three hour flight from South Africa and you are in paradise. I must admit that the All Inclusive package I took was also appealing and in my opinion is a must do/take. You literally have to worry about nothing. Ok, I digress, let’s give you something to look at before you lose interest…
The photo’s below were taken from the Mango flight to Zanzibar – just look at how blue the ocean is, rare in South Africa and ever rarer for a resident of the land locked city of Johannesburg.
Soon after the above photo, we landed in Zanzibar. The first thing you notice on landing is the oppressive heat, it literally smacks you off your feet as soon as you step out of the plane. I must admit, my first thought was, “Oh gosh, what have I done? This heat is going to kill me!”. It was a misplaced thought, but still the heat is something else.
Now, on arrival in Zanzibar the last thing you need to expect is to see a large international airport like the one’s I’m now used to in Europe. Zanzibar airport is, well, quaint to be fair. Everything is basically done by hand, baggage claim is a slab of granite on which your suitcase is unceremoniously dumped and you basically climb over everyone else’s baggage once you spot your suitcase to go get it yourself. It has arrived off the plane by a couple of men dragging the cage they put it in to where you are waiting at the ‘baggage claim’. Quite an experience and one which had me in stitches, it’s all part of the fun. In their defense, everything is much quicker that in those larger airports. It took less than 30 minutes to get through everything and be out of the airport.
One thing I need to mention here, there are guys who will insist on assisting you with your luggage to your hotel transfer and will negotiate a fee, try and get that as low as possible or perhaps not pay at all. They are actually not allowed to request a fee (signs all over) and the hotel transfer is literally about 20 steps away! Yes I, sadly, got caught at this as I was not aware of this arrangement BUT I did argue him down from $20 to $5 which for a South African is a lot of money to push my wheeled suitcase 20 steps! I felt much better knowing I didn’t get duped out of $20! Anyway, again part of the experience.
Also when leaving Zanzibar, you will queue with quite a lot of people to scan you luggage, most of whom are South Africans. Flights are Tuesdays and Saturdays in and out of Zanzibar from South Africa on Mango Airlines. There is only one scanner and all your luggage has to go through it, be it carry on or your large suitcase. The airport is also not air-conditioned, made of glass and hotter than a pie in an oven! My suggestion is to go to the gift shop and stay there until you have to board, they have great stuff to buy and best of all, it is air conditioned and cool. The snack bar is also very expensive as you are literally buying stuff imported from South Africa at imported prices. I really had to laugh at that one, oh and it’s all in US$. Yes, yes, part of the experience…..
Boarding passes are handwritten, the seat you get on the plane is a lucky dip and not the one you booked and paid for but yes, yes, all part of the experience. You are also required to get on a bus to board the plane, it only drives for about 20 seconds and then deposits you some distance from the plane anyway. I cant understand that part but hey, when in Zanzibar…….
Oh don’t get me wrong, I loved every second of this. When I travel I am carefree, whether it be missing connecting flights in Munich, Germany or being ripped off by a local in Zanzibar, for me it’s all a joy, all part of the experience!
When I arrived at my hotel transfer, my luggage was shoved through the back window of the mini-van where it would be stored for our trip to the hotel. They hand you an ice cold bottle of water, free of charge, and the mini-van is heavily air-conditioned, what bliss!
I stayed at the Double Tree Hilton Zanzibar which is about an hour’s drive from the airport, long I know, but I loved it as it gives you a chance to see the island and the people that live there. Also since the mini-van is air-conditioned, the drive is cool and pleasant.
They mostly use US$ in Zanzibar but I suspect we are paying a lot more for things this way. I would suggest you try and convert your $ to Tanzanian Shillings as soon as possible but US$ are accepted everywhere.
Anyway, I realize that this posting of my Zanzibar trip is becoming long winded, so I will have to split it into separate blogs.
I hope this blog has helped a little and given you a taste of what to expect when going to Zanzibar. It is paradise but it is also Africa but my advice is don’t sweat the little things, the heat will take care of the sweating for you!
I leave you with a little taster below….
I’m off for about a week, going to have some fun, rest, relax etc. in a little town in the mountains called Clarens in the eastern Free State, South Africa which I love, so no blog next week.
I’ll tell you more about Zanzibar in my next blog, till then…..
“To travel, to experience and learn: that is to live” – Tenzing Norgay