At 11 A.M.we looked out the fast ferry window as we docked in Stonetown. What I saw wasn’t the image of Zanzibar that springs to mind. Heavy rain pouring down outside. Dark, windy and wet. This is, after all, THE Spice Island. Steeped in Swahili history and we couldn’t wait to explore. Unguja is the Swahili name for the main island in the Zanzibar Archipelago to differentiate it from the other 50 or so islands. The island itself is largely known as Zanzibar.

We arranged a trip out to a spice farm for a morning. Fresh Nutmeg, Mace, Ginger, Pepper, Lemon Grass, Cardamom, Cinnamon, Vanilla and a variety of citrus all in abundance. Our guide took us on a walk that was an assault on the nostrils and taste buds. It was amazing to see how the various spices were grown and prepared. Cinnamon by far being the most delicious. A bloody good reason to lick a tree! Naturally, we purchased a selection of Zanzibar spices for shipment home.

After a few days we headed out to the east coast to Pongwe. Isolated, remote and very quiet. We were the only people staying at the Queen of Sheba Hotel. The manager, who had an uncanny resemblance to a chipmunk, liked to sing “Hakuna Matata” every twenty minutes. We christened him “Squirreller”. It was really nice to be on our OWN beach in Zanzibar. Just us and our singing Squirrel!!! This was where we met Luca.

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A few days later we headed up north to Kendwa Beach. A good bit more touristy but increased bars and a good chance of a decent meal. This place is about as close to the quintessential white sands, turquoise water, tropical paradise you can get. We drank frosty ones, ate and slumbered well. Every day out on the beach roasting ourselves pink, floating to cool off and watching the most amazing colour intense sunsets. This is our seventh island to stay on before heading for Mozambique. They have islands too, many of them… I wonder how they’ll measure up.

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We also managed to head out to Prison Island. Just thirty minutes by small boat from Stonetown. In the very early 1900’s some English chappie built a prison and, for reasons I cannot remember, was never actually utilised as so. Instead it was used as a standby quarantine hospital for sea going folk on their way to the archipelago as bubonic plague was rife at the time. The main reason for going was the Giant Tortoises. Akin to those on the Galapagos Islands. Originally a gift from the Seychelles they are now protected. No longer stolen or eaten. Over 100 in all and the oldest at a staggering 185 years. It was truly a wonderful experience to sit with these, somewhat smelly and flatulent, tank-like behemoths.

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muni

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