THE AFRICA DIARIES: 10 DAYS IN TANZANIA
The turquoise water of the Indian Ocean as we approached Zanzibar almost made us regret flying. Almost. But then we remembered the 12+ hours of bussing that would have accompanied the short ferry.
We’ll get to go on plenty of long, overland buses. They can wait.
Oppressive heat and humidity greeted us in Stonetown, and we found sanctuary at Lost and Found Hostel and the powerful air conditioning offered in the dorms. With five nights to spend in Stonetown, we were extremely grateful for the escape. The staff were excellent, offering answers to anything you brought before them, including empty, growling stomachs and suggestions as to where to find good food.
After two weeks in Kenya, one of which on a budget safari, the food in Zanzibar was a surprise to our stomachs, offering us the best food on possibly our entire trip.
Places like Lukmaan’s, which gave us buffet style Zanzibar dining and so many choices it made your head spin. Maybe that was their plan, because we ordered way more food than was necessary for two adults, which says a lot considering the size of our stomachs.
Or at the night market on the streets of Forodhani Gardens, Mr. Mango prepared our first Zanzibar style pizza, made by mixing any ingredients and toppings with egg and Laughing Cow cheese and grilling it inside a folded pizza. At another vendor, selling kebabs, we sampled masala chicken as well as a somewhat-sketchy, massive octopus tentacle. Chewy, but good!
We even tried fine dining, enjoying every bite and view of our five course sunset dinner on the roof of Emerson Spice Hotel. The flavours (like pineapple, shrimp, and chilli sauce), though unexpected, proved to be our favourite meal in Zanzibar.
As for the reason Zanzibar offers so much flavourful food? The spices.
On a spice tour we got to explore a spice farm, set up to show why spices are Zanzibar’s top export and how they are grown and prepared. Taking cuttings from the trees, plants, and roots we were taught how each spice has different properties, some, like cinnamon, use the whole tree (roots, leaves, and bark), whereas others, like ginger, only use the root. Afterwards we were treated to a preparation of fragrances made from the spices, coconut water, and a selection of many fresh fruits.
A spice tour was necessary, but we also had heard great things about Safari Blue tours, who operate snorkelling tours in the Indian Ocean. We decided it was worth doing another snorkelling tour, if only for the delicious seafood buffets they offer.
Legitimately, the tuna is the best, and I don’t even like tuna.
Luckily, the snorkelling was also the best we have ever done.
Like out of a magazine, the water was clear and blue, the fish were colourful and plentiful, and the coral had life teeming around it. There were even anemone with fish poking out and ducking back in, though there were no Nemo’s to be seen.
After an active day, we opted to follow the advice of others online and visit the Africa House Hotel rooftop to watch the sun go down with drinks and dinner over Stonetown harbour.
We had pasta and it was delicious.
Why pasta? Well, on our wanderings of the city, we had stumbled across a couple of women who were promoting a half marathon for the Right to Movement. Since they also offered 5km and 10km options, we signed up. The race was the next morning, and we were about to run a 10km for the first time in a long time, so we figured we could use the extra energy.
It was humid. It was hot. We were slow.
But we finished! And not last.
Right before the finish line, we heard sirens and thought that surely somebody had passed out from the heat and exhaustion. We moved aside, and in the final 10 seconds were surprised to instead be passed not by ambulances, but by the winner of the half marathon and his police escort. WTF?
We left Stonetown, not from embarrassment, but to head to the most famous of National Parks for safari. The Serengeti.
On this trek to Arusha, we flew once again. It was a very cheap flight.
The low price was probably due to the fact that the plane was only about a 15 seater, and there were only 3 people flying. 4 if you include the crew.
The safety briefing amounted to “look at the safety cards in front of you”, and we could see everything the captain was doing as he operated the small aircraft.
It was awesome.
With only one night in Arusha, we went into town to a secondhand market, a food and spice market, and for some fresh banana smoothies and lemonade.
In the morning, our tour was to begin.
Initially we had confirmed we would be leaving at 6:00am, but late the night prior they changed it to 7:00am. The driver didn’t show until 8:00am. This is Africa though, right?
We still had more people to pick up, and more for the driver to do at the office. Then, after stops to pick up water and to pick up camping gear, which took away more and more time from our safari, we finally arrived in the Serengeti.
Once we had the roof of the vehicle open, we thought the rest would be history. We saw open landscapes, a cheetah napping, and a leopard overcrowded by vehicles. Ultimately, we were okay.
Then we got to the camp. They didn’t bring enough camping gear so we were forced to split up and sleep with strangers.
We ate an amazing dinner, but were told we wouldn’t get breakfast and instead would only have brunch and supper. If we wanted breakfast, the cook stated, we would be unable to go on our morning game drive. We unwillingly agreed.
The next morning we saw almost nothing, except the extremely dangerous Black Mamba, which startled our driver into slamming on the breaks. This had the simultaneous effect of breaking down our vehicle.
We spent the next hour getting the vehicle fixed, before continuing on to Ngorongoro Crater. After being told we wouldn’t get the game drive we had scheduled, we finally had to stand up for ourselves.
We knew it was a budget safari, but the one thing we were there for was the game drives. We were missing game drives, and the staff were doing nothing about it. So, up until that point we were willing to let things slide, but at that moment we asked to go back an evening early, and get money back for the final day. Others in our group asked to do the same.
After a lot of arguing, and a lot of bullshit from the staff, we finally arranged to go back the evening early and get the money we had paid for the final day back.
Luckily, the final day we spent in Ngorongoro, which we discovered to be our favourite park. While there a lion walked side by side with our vehicle, and we left because less than a kilometre away, a pride of fifteen lions were walking side by side the vehicles. It was a dream.
The experience itself was not what we were hoping for when comparing it to Kenya, but still ended on a better note than it had begun, and we left extremely glad we had got to see the incomparable Ngorongoro Crater.
We got dropped off in Arusha, and had to sleep for one more night before our flight out to Dar Es Salaam, the country’s capital. From there we were hoping to catch a passenger train that would take us to Zambia, the next destination on our travels.
Due to time constraint between our flight arrival and the train departure, we did not purchase food for the 50+ hour train. This was a mistake.
Time in Africa passes differently than time elsewhere, and we grew to loathe hearing the term “soon”, especially when it related to when the meals would arrive, or when the train would finally make it to Zambia.
At 2:00am, our passports were stamped and we now have officially left Tanzania. “Soon” we will be in Zambia and on to new adventures!