We arrived to Zanzibar’s Stone Town with our taxi by noon, and dropped our bags in Maru Maru hotel which we had chosen as our base. We were very happy with the pick – not only was the staff very friendly, but the rooms were beautiful and the hotel was perfectly located for our planned strolls. So we headed straight out for lunch and had a first taste of the town, which immediately became a favourite. Colourful, friendly, interesting to walk, full of art and very interesting – perfect for the way we like to explore cities. The city is made up of mazes of streets, full of little shops and beautiful doors that I couldn’t stop photographing.
In the evening we went to the Forodhani Gardens which were just around the corner from Maru Maru, where we stood for a while watching young men jumping into the sea, and then enjoyed the evening food market – where one among street food such as fruits and meats can choose from Mr. Banana Pizza, Mr. Superman Pizza, Mr. Nutella Pizza and dozens of other little tables with delicious sweet pizza options. We settled for, simply, Mr. Zanzibar Pizza – and shared a chocolate, banana, peanut butter option which was absolutely delicious.
Later on, in the Old Fort art market, I found two paintings that I immediately liked – they were thrown into a storage corner and were going to be discarded. Unlike other tinga tinga art (which I find quite messy), these had one colour as the base and then focused on ONE animal each, and were much more minimalist in their style while still being fun and vivid. The sales person didn’t like them, but I did – so I brought them home.
On our way back from Paje, we stopped by the Jozani forest where we took a tour to see the endangered Colobus monkeys, the mangrove, and a spice tour. A great pit-stop on the way.
We got to see the friendly Colobus monkeys – a species that only can be found on Zanzibar – up-close, hear the stories of how important cloves historically have been for the economy of Zanzibar, but also smell, touch and taste different spices, and maybe most importantly – buy quite a bit of really delicious Zanzibar cardamom.
After a couple of days of rough travelling, and my own months of a pretty intense Red Cross contract (immediately after my Belize contract) – I was more than excited for some relaxing beach time on Zanzibar. Our safari driver dropped us off by the ferry terminal in Dar es Salaam, and after the 2h boat ride we hopped straight into a cab by the ferry terminal. Be careful with the prices as they are trying hard to rip people off, there are even laminated “Government price lists” which are almost 4x the actual price. I had called our Zanzibar hotel the day before and asked what a cab should cost so we had a bargaining goal which we were able to hit.
The driver took us to Paje beach on the other side of the Island, where we checked in at Dhow Inn and had a good night’s sleep after having spent another entire day travelling. What we did next was my favourite of activities – absolutely nothing! We chilled on the beach, read books, walked around, painted our nails, had nice dinners, went to nearby Pingwe to the hyped restaurant The Rock which indeed was very cool – and spent the entire afternoon just chilling at Upendo, a chilled bar where we had fruit cocktails while a dj was spinning Fela Kuti tracks. We stayed until the mosquitoes came out.
Paje was a quiet and calm town with crispy white beaches, low tide and palm trees, friendly Masaai men selling handicrafts without being too pushy, and kite surfers with long hair spending their entire days on their boards. It was low season so there weren’t a lot of people around and it would probably have gotten rather boring to spend another day there – but to really get a proper break and some quiet time, Paje was absolutely perfect.
Next morning, we took off after an early breakfast and headed straight to the gates of the Selous Game Reserve again, where we spent the day first walking and then driving around, learning about the plants, insects and animals that the wilderness of Tanzania wanted to show us.
Finding the lions was not an easy task, but suddenly we saw them – and just as we did, our jeep got stuck in the mud. The driver wanted to get out of the car to manually shift the wheels to 4×4, so he revved the engine and opened the door to get out, but the lioness was just looking straight at him, from the other side of the hood, just a couple of feet away from where he needed to reach to hit the switch. He decided to close the door and get back into the car.
We closed the windows but our roof was pretty much open. I took some photos of the lioness that seemed rather uninterested, but judging from how our guide started sweating and looking rather uneasy, we sat down quietly and looked at her and her cubs in awe through the window. As the tension in the air slowly rose and I started wondering how long we would be sitting there and calculating how long the water would last us for – another jeep with a Japanese film crew pulled over, and their guide helped us out of the mud.
A similar thing happened with the elephants, as we had been looking around for them the entire day. I love elephants so I was excited to show my mom their grandeur, but the elephants in Selous were very different from the ones I had seen in Swaziland and Botswana before – Selous is apparently also a quite busy hunting ground, and elephants are intelligent animals – let’s just say they were not excited about seeing our jeep, and did everything to scare us off. And that elephants are big, scary and very dangerous.
All in all, it was a very enriching and exciting experience, but we basically survived both death-by-lion and death-by-elephant just so I can show you these photos, so do enjoy.
And yes – there were zebras too, and giraffes of course – ever so gracious.
After our second night in Dar es Salaam, we got packed and ready for adventure – and were picked up at 7.30 in the morning by the tour company we had booked a tour with – Waterbuck Safaris. We drove for almost six hours to the Selous Game Reserve, where we were going to spend two nights at the Zarafa Tented camp, and were greeted by the very nice manager, Henrick, with popcorn and orange juice. After checking in and dropping bags, we headed straight to the Rufiji river, where the captain took us for a cruise to see the sunset, some birds, crocodiles and hippos.
A very nice evening after a quite tiresome drive. And a gorgeous sunset.
As per tradition, my mom and I went for a trip in August. This time we went to Tanzania for two weeks which were to consist of walking, eating and exploring. We landed in Dar es Salaam, where we stayed in the middle of downtown and spent the first two days just walking around town and exploring. As always, we headed for the markets (The Kivukoni fish market and the Kariakoo market), spoke with people and tried a lot of street food. And on the second day we went to the more touristy Slipway Shopping Center in Masaki district where we sat in a bar by the sea and had a well deserved break, and I had a Savanna Dry cider! Hadn’t had those since Mozambique and was very happy to finally officially introduce my mother to the refreshing taste and a glimpse of what my life in Mozambique had been.
We were so excited to be in Tanzania and start another adventure, and this one had all the good things in store.
Went to see the acclaimed Cirque du Soleil show Joyà in Playa del Carmen on December 30th. A wonderful addition to a schedule already packed with impressions and highlights – and my first ever full Cirque du Soleil experience. It was amazing! The 250USD tickets (for two people) included a bottle of champagne and small bites of salty and sweet deliciousness (with edible spoons, yum!), and we were lucky to get some of the best seats in our price category, with a great view of the entire stage and all the little surprises happening around it. So very worth it. The stage isn’t huge like in other venues so it’s a very intimate setting and you’re literally part of the show at some points with things happening all around. The show itself was based on a simple adventure story, family friendly and entertaining – and blended a mix of languages, humour, dancing, acrobatics and of course great music into what became a rather magical night.
We had some time to have a drink and some starters in the restaurant Nektar just before the show, and were positively surprised by the low prices and really fast and great service considering the amount of people around and the absolutely stunning venue. All in all, a very positive experience, highly recommended if you’re in Playa!