Saturday, April 5, 2014

Off to Zanzibar!

Hi friends and family! I am actually back in the states!!! I had some major internet issues the last two months that we were in Ethiopia so I'm going to be posting the last few weeks of Ethiopia in the next few days and then I will be posting our homecoming post.

We chose to spend the second half of our vacation on the island of Zanzibar. I have been excited about visiting Zanzibar since we discovered that we were moving to Africa 3 years ago. There are two ways to reach the island, you can fly or you can take the ferry. We opted to take the ferry. We woke early dressed, finished packing and then headed down to breakfast. After breakfast we piled into two taxi's and headed to the port. The taxi's in Tanzania are not as terrifying as the taxis the taxis in Addis, they even have seat belts!!

We arrived at the port and it was INSANE! There were people everywhere, we had to push our way through the throng. I'm not saying this figuratively, I was literally pushing people out of my way because if I didn't they would have cut right in front of me or knocked my kids over, who knows what would have happened! This was surprising. In Ethiopia if you are traveling, especially with kids people move out of your way and help you to get where you are going. NOT the case in Tanzania!

We finally got to the gate where they take your tickets and found a place to sit and wait for the boat to be loaded. We purchased first class tickets and so we waited in the First Class area. It wasn't much nicer than the coach area but it was located closer to the dock.

Waiting for the boat

First Class

Everyone else

So the boat arrived and it was time to board. One would assume that paying more for the first class tickets would mean that you would board first, not the case. The gates were opened and it was a free for all. Pushing, shoving, yelling, it was utter insanity. As we were making our way up the stairs onto the boat some crazy lady tried to cut in front of James. I lost it and shoved her away from us and told her to back off. I've become a bit more aggressive while living here. Finally as we moved on to the deck I saw the first class entry and 'busted a move' to the door. The man at the door asked for my ticket, I wasn't holding it, the Hubs had all of the tickets. I began yelling and pointing to Jake incoherently and then back in the direction of the Hubs. I am sure that I looked like I was having some sort of neurological fit but the guy let me in. Once we stepped inside it was like another world. It was quiet and calm and there was no pushing!  

First Class Seating

Just happy that they made it!

Karibu means welcome in Swahili 

The boat ride was about an hour and a half of peace and quiet. When we arrived in Zanzibar we had to go through all that craziness again. We didn't rush out of the boat though, we let most of the people exit the boat before we headed out. We didn't want to wait too long because we had about eight pieces of luggage down in the cargo hold that we didn't want stolen. The funny thing about Zanzibar is that we had to go through customs AGAIN! Zanzibar is part of Tanzania, we thought that it would be easy upon arrival, not so! There was more yelling and pushing and shoving until we made it to the customs line where we waited for what seemed like an eternity. We finally got through customs and called the company that we rented cars through. They told us which direction to walk in and said that they would meet us. We met in a parking lot where 2 cars were waiting. Zanzibar is a HOT place, as the Hubs settled the rental of the vehicles the kids and I piled into the van and turned it on, blasting the air conditioner. The van became more comfortable and we contentedly wait for the Hubs to finish up with the negotiations, that is until the car ran out of gas and shut off! That is right. This dude brought us the car with so little gasoline that we couldn't even let it idle for 10 minutes with out it dying!

Furious, I stomped over to the Hubs and shouted that the car had run out gas. The Hubs stormed over the the car followed closely by the man from the rental company. They had a heated discussion about customer service and that the vehicle should arrive with at least enough petrol to drive to the station! The man from the company agreed to put a few liters into the car for us, what a guy! It took a good two hours before we were able to begin searching for our resort. Part of the reason for the delay (besides that lack of fuel) was that the vehicle that was rented for the other family didn't have air conditioning! It is WAY too hot outside to not have AC, so we had to go to a garage and have the AC serviced.

Finally, we headed in the direction of our hotel. We were able to find the resort fairly easily with only a few wrong turns. When we arrived at the resort we were blown away with the beauty of the place!

Our beautiful room!

Our private back yard!

Low tide

Beach Bar

Outdoor relaxation

The view from the pool

I forgot to mention that the day that we travelled to Zanzibar was also Jake's birthday! The big Number thee! What a cool way to spend your birthday! We were so excited to get on the beach and have some fun.

Looking for sea creatures

James is having a blast!

A friend that we met on the beach. We named him Bruno.

So, we had tons of fun until….

Jacob found something bright blue on the beach. It was such a bright blue that the Hubs thought that it was a piece of trash and didn't think too much about it, until Jake began screaming in pain. The Hubs rushed to Jacob and discovered that what he believed was a harmless piece of plastic was in fact a jelly fish that now had its extremely long tentacles wrapped all around Jacob's hand and arm! The Hubs quickly ripped the jelly off of Jake and threw it (violently) into the sea. We rushed him up to the resort. Jake was inconsolable and still screaming in pain even after the long walk back to the hotel. I had some Benadryl in the room that I quickly administered to Jake before heading to the desk to ask for some help.  The people at the desk said that we should put vinegar on the sting. I had heard of doing that as well and so we covered Jakes arm in vinegar, it didn't help. In the end I wrapped him in a towel and held him until he fell asleep. What a rotten birthday! We discovered that what we thought was just a jelly fish turned out to be a Portuguese Man of War! Oh and vinegar, DOESN'T work on those!

The next day we went on the Zanzibar Spice Tour. We actually got some discount tickets from the crappy car rental agency that we used. At least we got something for all of that insanity!

Our guide; he was great but I can't remember his name.

The spices aren't grown in what one would consider a traditional garden. The spices are growing all around the forest and the harvesters/ gardeners just know where to find them. 

Star Fruit

This guy followed us around and wove grass jewelry for everyone, at the end of the tour he expected payment….I should have guessed. Oh and he was wearing a shirt that said "I Love Boobies". I wonder if he knew what he was wearing??

YUMMY bananas

Jack fruit anyone?

Vanilla Beans!

Vanilla needs a little love to grow properly.

Nutmeg! Did you know that you can get high on nutmeg? No? Me either but apparently you can and many Zanzibari women do when they want to seduce their husbands…at least that is what the guide said.

In east Africa the Oranges don't normally turn orange. We had noticed the same thing in Ethiopia.


Cutting the jack fruit down for us!

This is natural lipstick


Pepper corns

And now, we feast!

What a fun day that was! We ate and learned a lot about the different fruits and spices that people have introduced to Zanzibar. Unfortunately the vanilla wasn't in season yet so I was unable to buy any…

After the spice tour we visited a Persian bath house that was built by Sultan Seyyid Said in 1850 for his wife who was Persian. The baths are decorated in an ornamental stucco work that is in the Persian style. The baths were constructed on the highest point on the island and include toilets, heated baths, massage tables and dressing rooms. 

Ok funny story here, these are the toilets. They are basically a hole with two raised platforms on either side for your feet. Jacob realized that it was a toilet and immediately dropped trow to pee in the ancient potty. No really! Of course, I grabbed him and tried to tell him that this was not a functional potty, that this was a museum. As I'm explaining this to the three year old our guide shouts to me from across the yard, "If he want to use the toilet he can!" Wait, what? This is a museum! He can't just piss all over it! Really? Well Jake heard the go ahead and promptly peed down and all around that hole! Can you imagine visiting an old mansion in the southern USA and using the toilet? No, because no one would let you! Not in Africa, sure use it! No Problem! Hakuna Matata!!

They actually say Hakuna Matata in Tanzania/ Zanzibar!! I never thought in my life that I would visit a place where people actually use that phrase without conjuring images of Timon and Pumbaa.

After visiting the Baths we went to a slave cave. In this cave slavers would keep hundreds of slaves until it was time to put them on to boats to sail to the Middle East. I can't imagine being down in that hole for days or even weeks with hundreds of other scared and filthy people. Very sobering. The slavers utilized this cave after the practice of slavery became illegal.  They dug a tunnel from the cave out to the ocean where the slaves were then loaded up and shipped out.

Red Colobus Monkeys
These monkeys only live on the island of Zanzibar in the Jozani Forest and are extremely endangered oh and they have no thumbs!

We were also able to visit the mangrove tidal swamp. 

My son James loves dolphins, we thought that it would be fun to go swimming with some dolphins. We drove to the other side of the island and paid a fisherman to take us out on his boat to find some dolphins! 

We searched and searched but we were unable to find ANY dolphins! They were no where to be found. We had a lot of fun looking though!

Keeping Jake in the boat was a challenge.
 Finally we decided to give up on the dolphins and went snorkeling. It was really fun. I hadn't been snorkeling in about 14 years!!!

We were REALLY hungry!

After our adventure we were VERY hungry so we had some lunch back where we picked up the boat. 

View from lunch

The last day that we were in Zanzibar we visited Stone Town. We didn't hire a tour guide we just let the city guide us. We wandered through all of the twists and turns of Stone Town. It was awesome! 


The doors in Zanzibar are famous! 


Jake and Jackson having a blast

A market that is in an old fort

A club that Brenden bought.

Palace Museum

Inside of the Palace

Beautiful view from the top of the Palace 

Sultan grave yard

View from a roof top restaurant 

More of the famous Zanzibar doors

One thing that I am a little sad that we didn't do was to take a ride on a Dhow.

Our vacation was amazing. We had a few bumps a long the way. There were a few things that happened that I failed to mention in this post like when the Hubs refused to give his drivers license to an over zealous cop and ended up in a heated argument that I was sure would conclude with the Hubs being thrown in a Zanzibar jail somewhere. Or the time that James' pants exploded in the bathroom in the middle of the night. He attempted to clean it up himself and some how the explosion ended up everywhere including all over our bottle of tooth paste. The Hubs and I have been so africanized that it didn't occur to us to throw the tooth paste away and buy a new bottle. We simple boiled everything that was on the bathroom counter in the hotel room's coffee pot. My biggest question is HOW did it get on the counter?!?!?!?!!?! YUCK!

This vacation will go down in history as one of the most epic trips that this family has ever been on!
Until next time friends and family!

Tips for surviving Zanzibar

1) Be sure that you know about the deadly sea life that you will be sharing the ocean with.

2) Know how to treat the bites and stings of deadly sea life

3) Explain to the children that if they get sick they NEED to tell you and not attempt to clean it up themselves!

4) Bring your underwater camera

5) Don't fight with the cops!

6) Don't rush! See everything and ENJOY!