Minor bumps aside, we left our weeklong safari tour in great spirits, having seen more than we had ever hoped, and met and spent time with people who we liked enough to hug good-bye when we went on our own way. On the last day, while most of the group continued back to Nairobi where our tour had originated, we remained in Tanzania to continue our exploration. Our next stop was Zanzibar, an archipelago off the eastern coast of Tanzania and presumably, a beach paradise.
Zanzibar, while considered part of Tanzania, prides itself as being separate and distinct, with its own flag and government. Upon arrival, we noticed the differences immediately. Zanzibar is over 95% Muslim (as compared to 35% on the mainland) and thus, a conservative society where most women don headscarves and mosques are in abundance. Ethnic diversity in the area is far more apparent than other areas that we visited, with a sizable population of Indian and Pakistani descent.
When J initially suggested we go to the beach, I felt conflicted. Africa is so culturally different from any place we’ve ever been, and after years of pondering we were finally making the trip. I didn’t want to waste time just sitting on a beach, quarantined in a tourist enclave. But as much as I wanted to make the most out of every moment, I also had to admit that we could use a few days rest, sitting on a beach, sipping a cool drink with an umbrella stuck in it. We compromised by deciding to go to Jambiani on the east coast which, while still a tourist destination, was considered less developed than the beach areas to the north.
We need not have worried about missing out on culture.
We chose to stay at the Red Monkey Lodge at the southern tip of the village because, in addition to being ranked number one on Trip Advisor for best B&B/Inn in Jambiani, it’s also uniquely positioned right next to a small forest, home to a family of red colobus monkeys. The lodge also had a great bar and restaurant with some of the best food we had during our entire trip.
The lodge complexOur home for the weekOur laundry, hung out to dry. When in
Rome Jambiani..Entertainment during breakfast
But the tourist attractions pretty much started and ended at the lodge. I don’t think we quite knew just how off the beaten path Jambiani was, but we had a rude awakening when we arrived and found out that everything had to be paid for in cash and that the nearest ATM was in Stone Town, a good hour and a half ride back on the other side of the island. So the next morning, we took a van to Stone Town and withdrew enough money to sustain ourselves for a few days, a nerve-wracking stack to carry around: This is what extreme inflation looks like. 1 million shillings in 10,000 shilling bills, or approximately $630 USD.
We’ve been to plenty of places where the tourist areas were separate and distinct from the local areas, but this could not have been farther from the truth in Jambiani. When we arrived in the early afternoon, we were surprised to find that unlike many other beach destinations that feel a world apart from the rest of the country, our lodge was situated right in the tiny village.. we were practically vacationing in their backyard.
Throughout the next few days our beach vacation evolved into an opportunity to experience a bit of local life as we took walks down the main road, exploring what few local establishments existed, greeting and being greeted by people sitting in front of their homes.
A dala dala shared taxi driving through town, picking up passengersInteresting flowers I’d never seen beforeA courtesy for tourists, no doubtA tiny restaurant where we ate a couple of meals. There were just three tables. Since local establishments don’t buy, store or prepare a lot of food in advance, it was common for us to wait over an hour an a half for our meals after ordering. So we’d take reading materials and enjoy a nice drink and a breeze while we waited.Vegetables with chapati breadFish with ugali, a starch staple made out of maize flour (it reminded me of a dense, solid mound of grits). And also, my giant forehead.Coconut palm leaves woven for use as roofs or wallsPost office slash dive shop slash tourist officeMailing postcards and making friends
And as for the beach itself?Well.. it wasn’t exactly what we expected. More on that in the next post- stay tuned! Happy weekend, all!