We left Jambiani and grabbed a taxi from the son of one of the chefs at the local restaurant. They said they could offer us it for $30USD and the lodge was offering for $40USD so it seemed like a good deal. The journey took over 1 hour and I was so car sick as it was over 30 degrees, bumpy and windy the entire way…it was horrible. Backtracking slightly for budget purposes, for 4 nights in Jambiani in our beach front bungalow with breakfast, 2 nights dinner in the lodge, drinks and 2 nights at local restaurants it cost us $600NZD which is incredibly reasonable considering the time of the year and the location, so we were pretty pleased overall.
Now, back to my incredible car sickness – it was horrid, but we arrived in Stone town safely and were dropped at a car park nearby the main centre of town. Being a UNESCO world heritage site, you can’t drive in the CBD. 1 because there are no roads and 2 because the small pavement type streets they have are filled with vendors, children playing, small fruit stalls and motorbikes trying to plow you down (very similar to Marrakech)
We finally navigated our way to our Hotel – Spice Palace’ and it was like walking from a disaster into a kingdom! The streets there are narrow with a lot of harassing vendors always willing to ‘help’ you but for a price and when we walked through the doors of Spice palace, instantly the sweat started to evaporate and the hot sweaty mess that I had become slowly disappeared. Treated to an ice-cold hibiscus juice and welcomed by 3 lovely staff we knew we had picked the right place. Not cheap mind you at $80NZD a night but was it worth it to be comfortable and safe? Yes.
So, Stone Town is the oldest part of Zanzibar City. It is also known as Mij Mkongwe, which is Swahili for ‘Old Town Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000. it is known for its rich cultural heritage of Arab, Persian, Indian, and European elements and from what I had read online, looked like a cool place for a couple of nights to end our Zanzibar experience.
Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t great for us while here and it rained a lot, but we still managed to explore as much as we could in the patches of nice weather (while trying not to melt in the 37 degree heat with 90% humidity – Yikes, I literally sweated through clothes)
A few things we have done over the past 2 days is eat and drink in some questionable restaurants but also 1 great spot where we stopped to try the spiced coffee (a traditional coffee here made with cardamom, cinnamon and ginger – delicious). We chilled by the pool a lot and I worked out a heap as we are starting Kilimanjaro in just a couple of days! I am gradually getting more and more apprehensive!
If you ever find yourself in Jambiani we have a few things we would highly recommend. First one is, try and eat out in a traditional restaurant off the strip in the village. Last night we ventured to ‘Fadhil restaurant’ which is a couple of km’s along the beach and into the village. It is essentially the home of a beautiful soul Fadhil who is a chef and he has converted his living area into a sand pit with a few plastic tables. IT IS NOTHING FANCY décor wise, in fact a little daunting to enter but after reading glowing reviews we had to give it a chance.
Upon arriving we were greeted by Fadhil’s wife who presented us a note pad with a few dishes written on it. From there we chose, and 2 young boys sped off to go and buy the catch of the day and calamari – that’s how fresh we are talking.
I ordered the coconut calamari and Leo the catch of the day with a tomato and avo salad. We had read that there is normally a big wait, so we grabbed some beers and watched the new series on Netflix on our phones. We were the only ones there so it was perfect, quiet and every so often a local child would pop in to say ‘Jambo’ (hello) or a family of goats would hurry past, it was quite the experience. Anyway, the food was out of this world good and even though the portions were HUGE we were offered free dessert which we politely agreed to! Fried banana and dark chocolate sauce – delightful! Take a look – so delicious!
We also did a half day trip to the Jozani forest today which is about 30 minutes away and a $30USD taxi journey return. I mainly wanted to go to try and get a glimpse of the Red Columbus monkeys which are endemic to Zanzibar with only 5000 remaining. Great news is that we managed to see them – bad news is IT IS NOT WORTH IT.
I’ll explain why. When you get there, you are charged $10USD entry, which is fine and then assigned a local guide to walk you through the forest and search for monkeys and then head over to the Mangrove forest. The whole trip takes about 2 hours and we didn’t realise we would have a guide which already put a dampener on the day. We can’t stand guided tours.
We woke up at 8am to a very hot and humid Christmas morning. It was 29 degrees by 7am so by the time we wok up we had to get a wriggle on to get out our bungalow. Our one little fan there wasn’t doing the trick in the slightest.
Now, we don’t do presents so when you read through this hoping that I will write about what we each bought each other. It was nothing. We have treated ourselves to a round the world 12-month trip and don’t have time more energy to buy gifts. Instead we treated ourselves to a beautiful early morning walk as far as the eye could see into the lagoon which was on low tide. We saw an array of starfish, urchins and wished all the locals Merry Christmas, despite them all being Muslim, so they don’t celebrate it.
Here we are, on December 23rd we flew from Cape Town to Zanzibar (with a 9 hour stop over in Jo’Berg...but we don’t need to go into that) and I am now writing this from the comfort of our beautiful beach Bungalow in the idyllic town of Jambiani. Jambiani on the South East coast of Zanzibar is a long, narrow coastal village that hug’s one of the islands most pristine beaches. With only 8,000 people it is home to lush forest, crystal clear waters and ‘Blue Reef lodge’ where we are calling home for the next 4 nights.
Upon arrival at the Airport, after being delayed as the baggage handlers didn’t turn up for work, we went through immigration, which is quite a process so make sure you have your Visa BEFORE entering the country. We did and it was still a process with a lot of finger print taking and questions – not how we wanted to start our trip but can’t complain too much as we had arrived in paradise. We arranged an Airport transfer as Jambiani is 1 hours drive from the Airport and main town but our driver Mufasa was brilliant. We saw him in the car park holding a well named sign for ‘Ally Mcferliene’ (close enough) and he greeted us with a warm welcome before we hopped in his van and headed off on our adventures.
The drive was pretty ropey with the roads un-paved and very bumpy, filled with potholes and people, cows, chickens and random trucks on the wrong side of the road constantly being in our way. Mufasa told us that the roads have never been repaved in the 25 years of his life, so he knows them like the back of his hand albeit terrible as they are. We arrived eventually and were shown to our bungalow which couldn’t be in a better spot. It’s right on the beach and has everything we need. After a welcome drink and settling in I hopped straight into the crystal-clear water and splashed about like the happiest girl in the world. Tomorrow is Christmas, the 4th year I will spend with Leo and we are in bloody Zanzibar, I mean Jesus Christ – ZANZIBAR! What a moment to be alive!