Although I embarked on this two month journey to Africa as part of a group volunteering program, by the time I left Ghana, I was pretty much doing everything on my own. Including going on weekend excursions like safaris and even got to take a quick weekend getaway to beautiful Zanzibar.
Before leaving for my Africa trip, I knew I absolutely had to see Zanzibar. Known for its gorgeous white sandy beaches, Zanzibar is a top honeymoon destination. But who says you have to go with your honey? Better yet, who says I couldn't go alone, let my hair down and have the time of my life? That's exactly what I did.
I woke up early on Thursday morning and left the volunteer house with one of our drivers and headed to Arusha's airport. The airport was tiny - the smallest I've ever been in. The plane to Zanzibar was also the smallest I've ever been in. A one hour flight later, I landed at the Zanzibar Airport.
One thing I love about Air Bnb is the opportunity it gives you to connect with local people. If it weren't for my Air Bnb host, I think I would have had a much different experience. Although I didn't interact much with him, he was able to provide me with recommendations for guides to show me around - all of which were close friends of his.
Once I got settled into my accommodation, I wasted zero time. First, I took a tour of the town with a tour guide. He provided me with information about the history of Zanzibar, and more specifically, Stone Town. I found it interesting and beneficial mostly because I had a local with me while I shopped - and I definitely shopped. You just can't resist in Stone Town. There is literally a shop or stand everywhere you go. Shops filled with souvenirs and clothes and gifts. But aside from that, I didn't really find the tour to be worth the money to be honest.
Still, my guide was a great young guy and it was cool to walk through the busy market where I saw lots of different spices and bought some beautifully smelling "Zanzibar Jasmin" essential oil. I also saw some interesting architecture. We passed the slave market, but I opted to skip it this time around.
The next day, my host linked me up with one of his friends who took me on a tour to Prison Island. Prison Island was once a prison for enslaved people as well as a quarantine station for anyone deemed sick or "diseased" in Zanzibar or on the mainland. Despite the landmark having rich history, there isn't really much to see in regards to this history. The only thing I saw that was a token of it's dark past was a shackle on the floor of one of the restrooms. The shackle was incorporated into the restroom design as a stark reminder of what once was. I touched the shack as I came out of the stall and tried to imagine the wrists and ankles it once held.
The not so grim side of Prison Island though, is the fact that you get to feed these really cool giant tortoises. And when I say giant, I mean GIANT! These "babies" are old. I'm talking over 100 years old, with the oldest one I saw that day being 158, but apparently they can live to be 200 years old or older! I thought that was pretty amazing. Now I'm not one for zoos or anything that entails wild animals being held in captivity, but it appeared that these creatures were being taken care of and there were strict rules for anyone who entered the sanctuary. My tour guide informed me that these tortoises are not native to Zanzibar. They actually originated from the island of Seychelles. In 1919, four of them were sent as gifts from the British. Several decades later, that number inevitably multiplied into the hundreds. At one point, that number began to diminish due to poachers and such. However, conservationists have worked diligently to protect these majestic animals - so much so that they even have 10 of their own personal guards at night to ward off potential poachers. These gentle giants really loved being massaged on the neck and I loved taking pictures of them.
After visiting the turtles, my guide and I took a 20 minute boat ride over to Nakupenda Island where he would be teaching me how to snorkel for the first time (*bucket list item*). But first, he offered to be my personal photographer on the way back to the boat.
I may have went overboard with the pictures, but hey, it's not everyday someone will snap a gazillion photos of you while you prance around paradise.
As I said, the boat ride to the next island was only about 20-25 minutes but I was in awe the entire time. The water was an aquamarine color and it glittered underneath the Tanzanian sun. The views were spectacular. I was honestly in paradise.
When we reached the island, I was beyond excited to snorkel. The water was even clearer and prettier than before. I was ready! And it was amazing! I am not a strong swimmer, but once I relaxed, I was able to take the life jacket off eventually and I learned how to tread water that day, something I didn't even know I could do. I even swam back to shore from our boat.
After snorkeling, I spent some time wandering the island and taking more photos. I had never been on such a small and secluded island before. It was incredible.
As it neared evening, we headed back. We walked along the beach and I continued to take in my surroundings. People and families were out playing ball, doing Capoeira, jogging, and just enjoying the moment.
As the day drew to an end, I gazed at the arresting sunset and felt a moment of nostalgia for a moment that I was still presently in. It was a day well spent in paradise, and a day I will not forget.