Zanzibar Island is famous for its stunning beaches and white-sailed dhows on glittering turquoise waters, and deciding which shore to discover was a difficult decision. Bumbwini, Nungwi, Kiwengwa, Pongwe, Dongwe, or Kamikaze, the cheerful village names alone conjure joyous images. From the Darajani Market in Stone Town, we boarded a daladala, the islands shared-taxi. The hour and a half journey north, to the small village of Nungwi, was a bone-rattling adventure.We crammed in along the wooden seats that run lengthwise with the vehicle, our packs on top with the other passengers’ goods. The daladala stops here and there, en route, picking up and dropping off riders. And when we thought there was no more capacity, the driver would pull over, and others would squeeze into the bulging truck, adding to the top load palm trees, bamboo canes, stocks of bananas, and sacks of who knows what.
As we unfolded from the vehicle, spent and sweaty from the arduous drive, we collected our bags and took to the dusty road in search of the address scribbled on a piece of paper. The reality is nothing as it appears on Google map. What is perceived as a street is lacking in definition, but a gravel pathway hidden among the bramble. We had the good fortune of a friendly local pointing us in the right direction, and we found our accommodation.
Nungwi is a small fishing village at the northernmost point of the island, a popular destination for its spectacular beaches. All-inclusive resorts, affordable hotels, and small budget bungalows intermixed with bars, restaurants, and clubs line the seafront.We easily adapted to the beach-bum lifestyle, lounging in the sun, playing at the water’s edge, sipping cocktails at sundown, and dining on fresh grilled fish. Joining in on the water activities; snorkelling, diving, and deep-sea fishing, as well as dhow cruises, can easily be arranged with one of the vendors on the beach. Gordon did just that, and the next day we set out on the pristine Indian Ocean.
In a beautiful Swahili dhow, we sailed to the Mnemba Atoll. As soon as the captain dropped anchor, nearly everyone jumped in. Shrieks and yelps, mixed with laughter erupted. Unknown to us, he had pulled over a patch of translucent sea lice, or jellyfish larva and these babies emit tiny stings and pin-pricks, not so much painful, but irritating.
After repositioning the boat a distance away, we enjoyed pain-free snorkelling in the clear turquoise water followed by a tasty beach-buffet of baked fish, pilau rice, and tropical fruit.
We don’t have a waterproof camera, so we can’t offer you photos of the stunning undersea world. You’ll just have to take our word for it or visit yourself.
Although it is not necessary, we suggest bringing a thin layer to wear, such as a Lycra surfing shirt for protection.
“Sunshine on my shoulders makes
me us happy.”
~ John Denver
Never content to stay put, a few days later, we travelled south from Nungwi and this time in a hired private air-conditioned taxi, and were dropped off at the hotel door in Kiwengwa.
We found the palm-lined seaside calmer, with mostly five-star resorts and luxurious guesthouses from which guest don’t venture out of. Dining options are few, other than at the confines of your resort.
The East Coast of Zanzibar showcases pristine beaches, but access to the water depends on the extreme tides.
At low tide, the wide band of the seashore is active with locals fishing and cultivating, and you need to walk out 400 metres to swim in the deep water channel. It’s also the perfect time to explore the coastal ecosystem.Water shoes are recommended for walking in the sand while discovering the marine life of the reefs.
Women cultivate seaweed in the shallow intertidal areas, bringing much-needed income to the coastal communities. A high global demand has increased the seaweed aquaculture on Zanzibar island. The algae and plant extract are used in cosmetics, toothpaste, medicine, food, soap, and industrial products such as dyes, and gels. A seaweed garden at low tide.A humble village abuts on the seafront properties, where people live a simple way of life, many homes without running water or electricity. One thing is sure, an island get-away to the Zanzibar archipelago beaches will rejuvenate. Visit to soak up the sun on the powder-white sand, and harmonise with the laid-back attitude that moves to the rhythm of the tides.