Our favorite experiences in Zanzibar. Or, suntans will fade, but scars always remain.
Since June 2016, Zanzibar has been my home. More specifically the South East part of the island, consisting of the villages Bwejuu, Paje, and Jambiani. Ottilia joined late September, and we have been able to share some amazing experiences together. After eight months it’s time to start our next adventure, and reminisce over all the great times we have had, the bruises we’ve made and the battle scars to prove it.
Here’s our favorite experiences from Zanzibar:
The reason I came to zanzibar – surf! Zanzibar might not offer world class waves, but it does offer some fun right hand peelers, fairly consistently! Southerly swells, whipped up during the winter offer the best surf, between June and September we received doses and doses of stoke!
I was prepared for the beautiful boat rides out to the surf every day, but what I wasn’t prepared for was how amazing the sunrise over the Indian Ocean could be, especially when views from said boat, whilst traveling to potentially awesome waves. On the beach, in almost complete darkness, with the sense of a slight offshore breeze only adds to the excitement! Once on the boat the destination is to get to the break, but the journey done many times before, suddenly becomes the main attraction if only for a few minutes. Suddenly the clouds break and shards of light scatter towards the sea. A fiery orange ember reflecting off the water, eyes squinting just to take it all in.
Once at the break, on the good days, the offshore winds will still be blowing, and the excitement to get in the water can be unbearable, but when you have woken up so early and witnessed such an amazing site, even if the waves are less than what you expected, the experience will embed itself deep into your memory.
Contact Brad, or Steffi at Aquaholics Zanzibar if you want to experience this for yourself.
Wild nights out
Zanzibar, or atleast the vicinity around the South East seems to have a set day or night for each bar to throw their party. On any given day of the week there will be one bar that has its turn to shine, drawing the biggest crowds just for that night. While you can go anywhere on any night, arriving at a bar on “its” night is always more fun!
Our favorites are those that play good music, serve good drinks, and have a fun and intimate crowd.
Coral Rock is known for its stunning location, and amazing rooms, but it also throws some of the wildest parties! Saturday’s are when Coral, as its affectionately labeled by both locals and regulars, really lights up!
Arrive before sunset, to be blown away by the venue and scenery, then absorb the BBQ Buffet while listening to live music, once the cocktails hit the table, the sun hits the sheets and the dj hits the decks, the slow lounge pace and the dinner guests retire. The seating area inside is cleared, replaced with laser lights, smoke machines and funky-house tunes.
Once you have met the eclectic and boisterous owner; Neil, be prepared for a night filled with good stories, crazy banter and some of the strongest and largest cocktails you have ever seen. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Watch out for the “Black Hole of Almost Certain Doom”, part of the awe inspiring swimming pool, located as you enter the pool area, what was designed as a run-off for the pool, has become a black hole, with an unimaginable gravitational pull, luring its victims in with a seemingly innocuous set of stairs, only to be lead into the great, dark abyss.
B4 – BURGERS, BEATS, BAR & BEACH
The name says it all! Expect the juiciest burgers, my favorite being the “Vegi Thank You”. (You can thank me Later!) And the smoothest techno this side of the equator! DJ Leo Holland, the resident DJ and a host of other DJ’s brought onto the island by the label WHAT I PLAY are sure to get you grooving! B4 parties hard on Tuesdays (movie night) and Fridays!
We love to arrive just before the sun goes down, to get a chance to watch the kiters stretching their session into the night, and get an early start to on the great drink specials like; Buy 2 get 3! Leo normally starts just after dark, and the party really starts picking up at around 22:30!
With a sand bottomed, Tenticle Tent covered dance floor one really feels the island vibe here! It’s small and intimate enough to make some new friends but also has the space to really let loose!
Try to resist the urge to hang from the tent rafters, even if the last ten Jagermeister shots convince you otherwise.
Sunset Cruises in Chwaka Bay
Being on the South East coast, we get to see the sun rise over the ocean, and watch it drift and set over the land. But traveling to Michamvi, a little further north affords you the opportunity to watch the sun set seemingly across the ocean, and again, watching the sun rise or fall from a boat makes it that much more enduring!
Add to that a few friends, some alcoholic beverages, and a boat that looks like it could sink even if it was berthed on dry land, creates a perfect recipe for fun and adventure! The boat is surprisingly hydrodynamic, cutting efficiently through the chop, silently plowing its way deeper into Chwaka Bay, then tacking back towards the beach front, on its way to the Mangroves.
Once dark, and your jolly adventurers ready, it’s time to sail back, but rather stop at one of the bars along the way, my favorite was a bar and restuarant, that I never knew the name of, we would drink, and eat locally caught fish, lobster, calamari or octopus, all while sitting around a bonfire, sharing stories of our past lives.
Once just after the high tide, when the bay was dark as coal, I ventured into the shallow waters, to my surprise I caught a glimpse of some bright flash as my feet waded through the water, and thinking it was just I reflection, I continued, and again another flash, I splashed the water to make sure I wasn’t going crazy, and discovered the shallow lagoon water was alive with bio-luminescence! Calling the rest of the crew to join, we danced and splashed lighting up the ground to match the sky! Unfortunately one two many stomps with my bare feet later, I hit a broken glass bottle, slicing the bottom of my foot! At the time I thought it was just a Sea Urchin, and didn’t think twice, only to discover a small blood trail on the floor once we were home. So if you ever discover the glowing plankton, and decide to aggregate it, rather wear slops or shoes!
Riding our scooter on the beach
One of the funnest, and sometimes a little bit dangerous activities or ways of simply getting around on the island. Catch the low tide and scoot your way from bar to bar! Watch out though, at night the exposed coral reef can be hard to see and has caused an accident or two! (I’ve learnt this first hand.)
Zipping along the beach with the wind in your hair, passing fellow travelers and waving at the Masai beach boys never gets boring! The beach becomes a highway used by the locals on bicycles, scooters, and motorcycles. So long as the tide is low enough you can explore almost the entire South East Coast, from Pingwe in the north, to Makunduchi in the south. The most navigable sections being from Dongwe, Bwejuu, Paje, ending with the start of Jambiani.
Scooters are cheap, around $10 to $20 dollars a day, with a 15.000TZS license permit (about $7), and really open up your options to explore the island!
What’s better than having a few drinks and piling 3 people on a Vespa and doing a bar crawl along the beach?
Kitesurfing in Jambiani
Kiting in Jambiani, offers less crowds and more advanced conditions. There are better waves to surf on the reefs (during winter, June to September) and a better, less developed beach vibe.
I always use Uhuru Lodge as my base, Leo, yes the same Leo who is the resident DJ at B4, runs the best kite school on the island, Uhuru Kite, and rents out gear and offers lessons to those less experienced or wanting to learn. What’s great about Uhuru is the great view from the restaurant, sheltered from the wind and overlooking the lagoon and ocean – a great spot to grab something to eat while you wait for the wind to pick up. Post kite, there is also a great little bar where you can share your experiences and soak up the last of the salty sun (or roll head first off a hammock while trying to act graceful)!
A word to the wise, there is a set of protruding rocks on the outer reef, the kind that eat kites for breakfast, lunch, and supper! Try not crash your kite (or the kite you are using from Leo) 10 meters up wind from them during a 2.5m swell. The chances of relaunching before impending doom are slim, however it can be done, but not without ball clenching difficulty and very nervous, and wide eyed onlookers.
Exploring Stone Town in the rain
Strolling through the streets of Stone Town, with the wail of the Mosques over their PA systems, lost in a labyrinth of historic buildings, while the sun ignites the crumbling walls at hard and acute angles conjures up feelings of ancient Persia, Alladin or any multitude of Arabesque history.
With out warning, the hot and stuffy streets can become heavily swathed, drenched in rain as the heavens above rip wide open, pouring themselves onto the city below. All too quickly the poor drainage and inherently flat landscape transform the the once bustling streets and alleys into knee deep murky rivers, swallowing up street stall vendors whole (just kidding) and causing havoc with those trying to flee by foot or by vehicle.
But oh how she hums! The energy is electric as the rain pours down, hammering against the make shift plastic bag roofing, gathering in the already heavily weighed down creases before exploding through a tear in the sheets, ripping a larger whole as more rain water follows. The screams and laughter from merchants and passers by huddled under this vicarious shelter resonate the sentiment of electric excitement.
Walking slowly through the flooded streets, barefoot and making sure not to fall into a drain hidden beneath every step is both exhilarating and dreadful. But the silence and solitude awarded to the few venturing out into the streets after the rain has cleared makes it all worth it. The muted colors on the walls, shimmering and seeping as the clouds roll high above seem more alive! Slowly the water subsides, trickling through clogged drain holes making its way towards the sea. The town seems even more magical, perhaps more authentic in a quieter, closer to its historic ways kind of way.
With so many memories and experiences, and even more coming to mind as I write, it’s always hard to pin point the very best, but looking back, every experience was a good experience, and every memory a great one!
Life is about living, and the best way towards truly living is to make experiences for yourself, get lost in an unknown city, become friends with people you don’t understand linguisticly, laugh, cry, and struggle, because in the end no experience or adventure can be as bad as watching life pass you by.