Snorkeling the Reef

Today, Michano (my driver) picked me up early from my hotel and we headed to a town just South of Stone Town for a full day snorkeling trip, with seafood lunch on an secluded Island. The tour started off as we were assigned a captain and dhow. We walked half a km in knee deep water before climbing aboard our dhow called “The Lydia”.

On our way out to the reef, we got to enjoy fresh coconut water and pineapple which was one of the sweetest I’ve ever tasted. As we go to this beautiful reef we jumped in and explored it, surrounded by colorful tropical fish. The water was warm and clear with almost no current, the perfect place for snorkeling. We stopped at 2 different spots as we headed to a private island where staff had prepared a beautiful seafood lunch with lobster and other local dishes. There was a local band that performed African song and dance while we were spoiled with this delicious meal and fresh island fruit for dessert. We were served pineapple, watermelon, oranges (they are green here), mangoes, passion fruit, bananas and my favorite red banana, which is sweeter than the regular yellow kind. After trying all this delicious fruit, we departed to the island lagoon for a swim. It was like stepping into bath water of calm clear turquoise blue. Very picturesque. With the wind in our sail, we continued back to the drop off point where I met Michano and transferred to Essque Zalu, located on the northern tip of Zanzibar.

Jazani Forest

Today we drove to the Jazani Forest, home to several animals including the Red Colobus monkey which is only found in Zanzibar. We walked through the jungle seeing holes which were home to crabs and Speik Monkeys. After half an hour of trekking, the Colobus monkey showed itself, jumping from tree to tree. They didn’t look like what I had in my mind as I was expecting long, hairy monkeys like the Black and White Colobus you find on mainland Tanzania. After watching the monkeys for a while we decided to move on as the guide said they are known for urinating on people who hang around too long.

We continued to the Southeast Coast to visit The Residence Resort, White Sand Villas, Kisiwa and Breezes, where I would spend the night. All were beautiful accommodations with stunning white powder beaches. This time of year is kite surfing season and people come from around the world to master the sport.

 

Stone Town

Continuing through Stone Town we visited the Old Slave market, one of the world’s last slave markets. Though the history of the trade was interesting, it is sad to think how people were treated. We left to visit to the Fish market, though a little smelly, it was buzzing with life as the day’s fresh catch was auctioned off. The bigger catches and more sought after fish were left until last, bids were going back and forth on a 6 foot meaty marlin. We continued on to the produce and meat market where the stalls were so close together you could hardly fit your shoulders between. The chicken market was something completely unreal to me as there were prepared chickens hanging in the front window and live ones in behind. Those customers looking for a live chicken would take their pick, grab them by the feet and walk out as if they were grocery bags, hanging upside down by their ankles.

The rest of the day was spend walking through old Stone Town, down streets with no names, where you would get lost without a guide. Something I found very interesting was the old doors along each block and their meaning. If the door had a square top, Arabic people lived there while if they had a rounded top Indian people lived there. Each of the doors were symbolically carved specific to the family living inside. Carvings of fish meant they were fishermen or a pineapple meant they were farmers. Many doors were build with heavy, strong materials and had large metal spikes. This idea was brought from India where elephants would knock down doors. Though elephants are not a problem in Zanzibar the spikes were still used.

To finish up the day, I boarded a traditional dhow for a sunset cruise along the coastline with a Kilimanjaro Beer. A nice way to end the day!

Arrival in Zanzibar & the Spice Market

24 hours after departing, I landed in hot and humid Zanzibar (even at 2am), a nice change from what I left in Calgary. I stayed overnight here at an old Sultan’s Palace (a Heritage Site) located right on the Ocean and awoke to the sound of crashing waves, what a great way to start my day!

This morning I met my guide Joseph and we were on our way out of town towards the spice plantations. The drive was beautiful and we stopped at the Maruhubi Palace, which dated back to the late 1800s. The Palace once belonged to the 3rd Arab Sultan of Zanzibar and was the home of his secondary wives and where he hosted visitors from far away lands.

We continued on to the highest plantation in all of Zanzibar (120m above sea level). We tried a number of local spices including nutmeg, cloves (Zanzibar was once the largest clove producer in the world), cinnamon, turmeric and ginger, as well as many different types of tropical fruit. The herbs are grown for cooking but each also has their own medicinal use. Did you know cinnamon root is used in products like Vick’s Vapour Rub?

 

Packing for Bush and Beach

When it comes to packing for a trip I usually wait until the last minute to throw everything I need into a bag just before heading off to the airport. This usually leads to forgetting something. This time, I chose to do something different and pack several days prior. The experience has been great and I actually have time to buy items I am missing like travel size toothpaste, bug spray and sun screen!

When choosing what clothes to pack, I stick to versatile items that hide the dirt, dry quickly, are multi-purpose (zip off pants), and are warm for those cool mornings. This particular trip has the diversity of the white sand beaches of Zanzibar and the lush forests of Uganda so I packed some specific items such as a snorkel and work gloves to protect my hands from the jungle thistles.

A few of my favorite items: Tripod, Canon 7D with Tarmin 16 – 300 lens, GoPro Hero 5, Selfie stick, binoculars, and noise cancelling headphones (essential for the long haul flights)

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How it all began

This trip all began when my beautiful wife was looking at volunteering at a hospital in Uganda. As I started planning I decided while there I had to add one of my bucket list items…gorilla trekking. Having been to Africa ten times I still haven’t witnessed the gorilla families in the wild. With Uganda literally being around the world we thought it best to add on some beach time in Zanzibar to get the most out of the trip. However, my itinerary in Zanzibar is no snooze on the beach as I will be inspecting over 21 different properties around the island, searching for the best of the best. It has been a long time planning and now I’m finally heading out on another adventure!

Whale Shark Diving

This morning we departed the ship, some guests were departing for home and others, like me, were going swimming with whale sharks in La Paz. We had a captain and spotter on board but with a very calm day the fish were easy to spot. We saw 8 different sharks throughout the outing. Seeing them for the first time was an amazing experience. I could not believe how big these animals where. They were very tame and comfortable around us. To keep up you had to work hard, kicking furiously and when you were taking a break you could hear the others breathing hard just to keep up. After several times jumping in with the different sharks we had our final swim, the best sighting of the day for sure as the whale shark was not swimming but skimming the surface so you could just float and watch it. As we were watching the one all of a sudden another whale shark swam by so close that I found myself in between them. If I had spread my arms I could’ve touched them both. VERY cool but scary at the same time as they are massive creatures. Two hours of swimming was plenty as you get tired from trying to keep up. On the way back we enjoyed a beer and snacks with many smiles! We’ll stay in El Encanto overnight as we depart for home tomorrow. Overall a great trip to the Baja!

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Dolphins Galore!

Today was a great day! We left port this morning with an open schedule in hopes to see great marine life. It started with seeing common dolphins from the sea bird as well as sea turtles. After lunch we were surprised, the zodiacs were in the water and we were going to get up close to the dolphins! Driving through the pack was just amazing as they were really playful and showing off their skills of jumping and swimming. There must have been 200-300 of them ripping around. That afternoon we saw a huge blow which we thought was a blue whale until we got a little closer and saw it was a humpback. We lost it for a while but the next time we spotted him he was on the bow of the boat and all I could see from the second deck were his nostrils, while people on the first deck were covered in whale snot… very cool. Check back tomorrow when we’ll be swimming with whale sharks!