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Thursday, 6 September 2018

The turquoise of Zanzibar


I miss Africa. So… much! I can’t believe it’s been almost one year since I explored dots of its eastern part… and one of the last stops was Zanzibar.
Of course, we took advantage of the fact that no visas were required for Romanian citizens and flew in directly from Mombasa, on an itsy bitsy plane. Right from the air, we could spot the out-of-this-world colour of the ocean around the archipelago.
It was so hot, that the air-conditioned inside of the car that was taking us to Jambiani – a village on the south-eastern coast of the largest (and main) island of Unguja – felt like a necessity. When we did get out to shop – there are exquisite mangoes and it is the place for peanut and peanut butter lovers! –, it smelt of spices.
Low tide welcomed us, with a light so bright that we could barely keep our eyes open! In a couple of hours, the ocean was claiming its territory, in various shades of turquoise. And I couldn’t quite make up my mind—which did I actually like best?

Marcel and I took our snorkelling gear and got in! The temperature of the water was one of the highest I’d experienced and I could have said the same about the visibility; it was only that the echoes of the previous nights’ storms could be felt.
We enjoyed our evening walk and finally decided to have dinner at a restaurant on the beach, right next to our guesthouse. I went to sleep thinking that, yes, Zanzibar was paradise for all those in love with water.

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Next day’s breakfast was served facing the azure.
In minutes, we were about to set off to Matemwe, the perfect hub for a snorkelling trip to Mnemba Atoll. The good vibes of the drive would transfer to our boat ride and keep those smiles going in a very natural way. The half-hour trip out to ocean made us pass fierce waves and then return to the calmness of one of the best snorkelling sites in the world. We were in awe and didn’t even realise – while ‘chasing’ fish and dodging other fellow snorkelers – that our time had expired.

With our moods extremely high, we were chatting freely with our guides when… ‘Dolphins!’ just off the coast of Mnemba. We put on the gear as fast as we could and jumped into the water. There were two. They were friendly. And they swam inches away from us! From me! Wow… one of the most beautiful memories of my life.
As we approached the beach, which became my favourite of our entire trip through East Africa, I started gathering my thoughts and preparing the story for the ride to Kendwa, on the north-western tip of the island.

I had chosen this place to spend my birthday – we relaxed, we had lunch, then cocktails in hammocks, and ended up enjoying the sunset and an early dinner. The dolce far niente was really intoxicating. ‘It was a good day’ I had written on my Facebook timeline that late afternoon.

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Climbing down the steps to the beach bar hosting our [delicious] breakfast, I realised it was raining, raining on my birthday! :)
…it didn’t matter. A double seakayak was rented and the two crazy travellers from Romania started paddling the choppy waves. We had our snorkelling gear on us, so we tried to see a bit of Kendwa reef, but, sadly… articles online didn’t lie – it had been pretty much destroyed.
While heading back, the storm caught us and… remember Toto’s ‘I bless the rains down in Africa’?... Or one of the lines in ‘The Grand Inga Project’ – ‘When it rains, it pours’? It truly does.

It was raining so heavily that I needed to wipe my face every 10 seconds to be able to see where I was paddling. The best thing was that the colour of the Indian Ocean had turned electric. Surreal beauty. Before our very eyes.

‘You are… wet’ greeted us the German guy who had helped us rent the kayak.
Was there still a need to shower or would Stone Town have accepted us as we were? 
That is another story. :)

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