The Beach

February 1, 2008 - Zanzibar, Tanzania

We decided we would spend our last few days in Africa on a beach!  We were in need of some down time and wanted to rest up before we got to the hussle and bussle of India.  After many discussions and asking around on whether we should head to the North-East or North-West side of the island, we decided on the North-West.  We were told that the North-West side of the island would be less touristy and not as expensive.  Our travel agent and his driver picked up the four of us mid-afternoon.  We still wondered what the travel agent was getting out of this as he had not yet asked us for any money for helping us and he was now escorting us on the relatively long drive to the north.  We assumed he was receiving some sort of kick-back from the hotel.

It was a 45-minute ride to the North-West side.  The first hotel we visited was the "White Sands" hotel. Before committing to the hotel we asked to see the rooms and the beach front. The hotel was very close to the beach (hello blue waters!) and we were impressed by the number of restaurants on the beach. However, after one look at the room we decided this hotel was not for us.  The room seemed like one big box (painted white), with just a bed.  The room had no desks and the bathroom was a cube (no shower/bathtub or counter).  The next hotel we visited was "Sunset Bungalows".  This hotel was much better!   The hotel had bungalows on the beach as well as rooms a little further back from the beach on a hill.  We really wanted to stay in the bungalows but unfortunately they were all occupied.  We decided to stay at the hotel anyway as we were still very close to the beach (a 2-minute walk).  We checked in and thanked our travel agent.  Then just as we started to walk to our rooms, the travel agent said "there is one more thing".  We thought, here it comes, he's going to ask us for some money for organizing the hotel.  He then asked "can I go home now?".  We were relieved.  He was basically asking us for the $60 we had agreed to for the car ride to the beach.  We paid him and he and the driver headed back to Stone Town and we headed to our rooms.

Within 5 minutes of getting to our rooms we found out the plumbing in our rooms was not working.  No water!  You'd think reception would have informed us of this before we checked in!  Anyway, reception told us that it was a water main outside of their control but that it would be it fixed within the hour.  Mark and Terry did not want to take the chance so they decided to go to another hotel.  They called back the travel agent and ended up staying at a hotel on the North-East side of the island (nice but more expensive).  Dave and I stayed back and actually ended up staying at the hotel for 4 nights.  The water problem was fixed and after 1 night we were upgraded to one of the bungalows!  The hot water faucet was not working in our room and a bungalow happened to free up.

The plan for the next 5 days was to basically get some R&R..and that's exactly what we did!  We spent the days hanging on the beach, reading, eating and working on the journal (the journal was not exactly relaxing but it had to be done). Dave and I also went out onto the waters one day, I snorkled and he did a discovery dive (more to come later).

The beach was beautiful - blue water and white sands!  In the afternoons is would get quite hot.  Being an unexperienced sunbather, I forgot to put sunscreen on my back and actually got a sunburn (my first time...not fun!).  When it wasn't so hot (morning or evening) Dave and I tried to get in some exercise.  Yes, exercise.  We hadn't got in much cardio on the trip thus far and were starting to feel pretty bad about oursleves.  We both ran on the beach, not a lot, but we ran. We were happy with the restaurants on the beach.  The one attached to our hotel was one of the better ones.  It had a lot of variety and did a really good Zanzibar red curry that I had a couple of times :)  The restaurant was on the beach front and at night had a nice ambience.  The tables were set up on the beach with candles, and we would have dinner looking out into the dark abyss.

One of the nights we ventured to one of expensive hotels at the end of the strip to have dinner for Dave's birthday.  Yes we went for his birhtday dinner again!  This year Dave decided to divide his birth 'day' into hours since most of his actual birthday was spent travelling.  Therefore when Mark, Terry, Dave and I went out for dinner in Stone Town he only counted it for 2 hours.  Therefore he had 22 hours left.  Dave demanding?  Not at all :)  During the walk to the restaurant (approx. 15 minutes) we wore our headlamps so we could see where we were going. Bad idea.  Little did we know (or did I know) crabs would be out and all over.  I practically jumped and screamed the whole way there!  The walk was worth it though.  The restaurant to the hotel was right on the water, actually it was in the water.  The restaurant was on stilts so we had water all around us.  There were also lights in the water, so although it was night, we could still see the green water.  Very cool.  The meal was good too.  Dave enjoyed his tempura lobster - Dave: one of the best 10 things I've ever tasted.

Aside: This hotel had security guards around it on the beach front to prevent anyone from just walking in.  So everytime we went to the hotel (either to check it out, have dinner or use the spa (not Dave)) we needed to get a pass from one of the security guards.  The first and second time I went to the hotel, a couple of the security guards stopped me to chit chat and asked if I worked at the hotel.  I guess I looked like I worked there?  Then the last time I went to the hotel (day after Dave and I had dinner there), two different guards stopped and asked me where my husband was (referring to Dave).  I didn't bother explaining to them that he wasn't my husband.  And even then, one of the guards asked me for my phone number/email address and asked me to come back when he finished his shift!

On our second last day, Dave and I went out onto the waters.  I snorkled while Dave did a discovery dive.  The snorkelling could have been better.  The visibility was low but we still were able to see some fish and it was just nice to be out in the water (I tried to deep dive but wasn't very successful). For the snorkelling it was just me and one of the girls who's boyfriend was one of the dive instructors.  There was one other guy (from China) who was to snorkel with us but he got a little nervous (he didn't know how to swim) and went back into the boat.  When we first reached the snorkelling/diving area but before anyone went in, he had bursted out into song (opera-style in mandarin or cantonese) in celebration of the chinese new-year.  It was funny as it kind of came out of nowhere.

Dave (Scuba): The second day at the beach I talked to the Dive company about doing a discovery guide or working towards my certification. They needed to wait for the wind to lighten up ('tis the season) so the confined water - where I would be taught basic skills - would have decent visibility. In the meantime I watched the necessary videos and learned about the equipment. Finally on the second last day the conditions were favourable but that essentially ruled out getting my certification as it required additional dives. The skills were pretty basic but it was wierd getting used to breathing under water. I kept wanting to stand up after a couple of minutes. Once the instructor was happy with our performance we went back to the dive shop and joined others who were going on the dive. On a discovery dive the maximum depth I was allowed to go to was 12 meters. The rest of the divers were going to 18 meters. I had my own instructor which was good because I was finding it difficult to get my buoyancy correct - I was either going up or down! We went along a ridge and saw a fair bit. It was really cool being down so far for so long.



Our Bungalow on the Beach
View from Restaurant
View from Restaurant

1 Comment

Mark and Terry:
March 11, 2008
Buoyancy is tough at first. "Practice makes perfect" definitely applies. HAve fun diving in Thailand!
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