Do you know which brain chemicals are responsible for being attracted to the opposite extremes? If you do, let me know, because I feel my chemicals really misbehave, play tricks, leave me confused. It’s time to teach them a lesson. When I chose to go to Zanzibar I had two things in mind: diving deep and flying high. A toxic combination, almost begging for decompression sickness. It’s hard to combine both extremes in a short period of time, but impossible is i’m possible, and everything can happen. Within couple of days I managed to get an Advanced Open Water diving qualification and organise a scenic flight around the island. In Zanzibar getting things done on a tight schedule is not an easy task, so I felt proud. For a short time. I wasn’t proud anymore, when I ended up in a fight with local hotel management, who confiscated my luggage and used physical force to make me stay within their property. Africa is a slippery slope, when things get nasty, they get nasty pretty fast.
Pole, pole! Slowly, slowly! I heard as I stepped out of the plane on a beautiful island of Zanzibar. Me, rushing as quickly as possible to get out of the airport, versus the island’s reality, living in a slow motion mode. I’m sure there’s no word like ‘hurry up’ in Swahili. I saw an old, toothless man waving at me, trying hard to catch my attention. I looked at him impatiently, he smiled and repeated again: Pole, pole! Yea, I heard you. But to slow down? It’s not in my nature, if I could I would run even faster. However, there was something disarming in the way he spoke and his peacefulness was contagious. We exchanged smiles, I did slow down and he seemed content.
My first destination in Zanzibar was Nungwi, a small but appealing village in the North of the island. You can get there by dala-dala (something like taxi-brousse in Madagascar), backpackers’ beloved mean of transportation, but I didn’t have time for that. The two-hour taxi ride was about 40$ and took me straight to the diving paradise. Nungwi is a popular village, well-known for an excellent scuba diving conditions. It is a good place to upscale your skills.
It was a quite season when I went there, just after an acid attack on two British girls, when tourists were still reluctant to visit Zanzibar. I felt that continuously: empty restaurants, empty hotels, very few people around. That chilling emptiness put me in trouble at the end. When I checked in for 3 nights at the guesthouse, I had no idea what I was signing for. Already my first night was rather scary, when I heard drunk men having party outside and someone trying to get into my room in the middle of the night. At 4am I had enough. In a blink of an eye I decided to leave the place the next morning and none could make me change my mind. Nevertheless the hotel owner did not share my concerns and did almost everything to keep me within his premises. It was a hair-rising experience fighting with that big, local guy, who already locked my luggage in a storage room and refused to let me go. I kept a cool head and miraculously managed to solve the situation, but really the moments like that make me think twice, how safe traveling solo really is.
A beautiful, palm-covered beach together with a coconut very-alcoholic cocktail turned me back into a happy, lighthearted girl and I forgot quickly about the unpleasant incident. Reading a diving manual, soaking Sex on the Beach was exactly what I needed during that short holiday.
Diving in Zanzibar, especially near Mnemba Island is pretty impressive. Turtles, dolphines, many fish species combined with a warm water temperature make diving very enjoyable. I did my license with Spanish Dancer Divers school and I was happy about the service received. My instructor Chris was very knowledgable and helped me spotting juvenile yellow box fish — my favourite, the most extravagant fish ever — very efficiently.
FLYING OVER ZANZIBAR
As organising scuba diving in Zanzibar is a piece of cake, getting in touch with people responsible for the scenic flights is a little nightmare. There’s a place called ZRP, a flight school with an official website, which offers different trips over the islands and lagoons of Zanzibar. It supposed to be easy to receive what I was looking for (one hour ride), but it was not. Fortunately, after million of phone calls and arrangements, I managed to set a ‘date’ with a pilot. Aerial view of Zanzibar is truly breathtaking and it was worth going through all the hassle for the pleasure of being up in the air. I got a boarding pass ‘Personal discovery flight in Microlight Aircraft’ and I was already in heaven. I have never flown in a such a tiny plane before, so it added an extra value to the whole experience. I paid a lot of money, but the trip didn’t disappoint. During our journey there were many excellent vistas, however the most stunning and exceptionally attractive point was Mnemba Island — a private and exclusive tropical paradise accessible only by super rich (one night costs up to $1 600 per person). I’m sure past guests — Bill Gates, Tom Cruise or Naomi Cambell — must have enjoyed their stay. For me I enjoyed looking at it from the microlight aircraft and it made me equally happy.
Little plane up in the sky, won’t you teach me how to fly?
Why do all good things come to an end so fast? It’s hard to say good-bye to Zanzibar, its white sand beaches, swaying palms, adrenaline adventures and historical patchwork. Magical and mysterious reputation definitely lives up to travellers expectations. That’s my perception of Zanzibar, what about yours? Till next time. Bon chic, bon voyage x