Zanzibar: day 2
Pictured above: some super sweet and gentle turtles that we got to feed at the turtle sanctuary near Nungwi.
Hi! It is time for the second installment of my Zanzibar travel diary. If there’s one thing I’d like to go back to Zanzibar and do, its explore more of the island besides our hotel and the surrounding hotels. We walked from the Warere Hotel to Mnarani Marine Turtle sanctuary (linked in the italicized photo description) and that was a 20-25 minute walk via the beach or the main dirt/gravel road, but that was the extent of our exploring. That was actually quite an adventure in itself that involved trusting total stranger who we met while wandering (lost) to show us the way, but if I have learned anything over the years it is that people are generally kind and want to help. But, I’d love to have a car to circle the island or book a tour to one of the spice farms on another trip.
Since all of our meals were eaten at the hotel, I don’t really want to elaborate on them. They were tasty, it was a local fusion menu, thus, a mix of seafood, Kenyan, Indian, etc. The hotel’s website calls it a modern Swahili fusion menu. Everything was tasty and fresh. When we departed for the airport, since we had to leave before breakfast, the staff packed us breakfasts to go and let us eat them on the way to the airport. So we had boiled eggs, fruit, some kind of breakfast cookies, a lot of other things. It was very kind of them and a great representation of the local hospitality.
Our second day, we woke up in Nungwi, ate breakfast in our pj’s downstairs on the restaurant terrace, then headed back upstairs for showers and getting dressed to walk to the turtle sanctuary. The Mnarani Turtle sanctuary is just what you’d expect, a local outfit that rescues turtles, rehabs them for re-release or keeps them at the sanctuary for life if they’re not capable of reintegrating with wildlife, and organizes a variety of beach cleanup and conservation efforts. We learned a lot about the turtles in the area and all over the world - most of the sanctuary turtles are Green Turtles. We also learned about this sad and eerie event from 2006. It was really fun to feed the turtles, learn about them, and see the various stages of their growth and care. I think we each paid about $18-$20 USD maximum to visit. Whatever the cost, I felt it was worth it. I don’t know how much the employees are paid but it seemed like such a small fee to see so much and considering how many people worked there.
After our turtle-feeding and petting morning, we walked back to Warere to change into swimsuits and be beach bums the rest of the day. We read books by the infinity pool, drank umbrella drinks and more Safari lagers, and went for walks on the beach. It was relaxing but after those two days, it was time to go do something, and we were all glad that we’d budgeted those two days of relaxation that were a 2 hour or less flight from Kilimanjaro and Nairobi (our next destination). After all day at the pool, we had dinner at our hotel and then went to bed fairly early. I think we were all still physically tired from the climb. We were up early to see the sunrise though.
A bit about the drive back in the early morning on our way out of town because it was early enough that all of the locals were getting their days started. We saw so many children on their way to school in colorful outfits. I believe our driver told us each school had a color. We also saw children carrying little homemade brooms, and we were told that Wednesday is the day schools are cleaned and the children help. They do it in rotations and it was nice to see both the boys and girls carrying brooms to sweep. Another thing we saw that most most notable was women carrying large empty jugs on the way to collect water for the day. That is what stopped me in my tracks. I have been to Mexico, but I was in Tulum town and stayed in a hostel, and while it was not a wealthy place, it was probably one of the more wealthy areas of Mexico thanks to tourism dollars. Zanzibar is the poorest place I’ve been. I’ve never visited anywhere that people used ox-drawn carts, women collect water for the entire day, there is no infrastructure for trash collection, etc. I do regret that on my first visit to the island, we were kind of like typical Westerners when visiting a developing country: we got picked up at the airport and swept off to our resort and then stayed on property and left the same way we arrived. We didn’t really know what to expect, I had done my research but was not exactly sure what to expect. I am very happy that we left the hotel property, wandered around the “town” of Nungwi, walked through some other hotels, talked to some locals, and visited Mnarani to support the turtles and local economy.
When we arrived at the airport, (that’s an accurate representation) we were greeted with VERY LONG LINE for security. Our flight to Nairobi on Kenya Airways was leaving around the same time as a KLM flight to Amsterdam and an Alitalia flight to Rome or Milan. The airport was packed and our driver had a friend at the airport who grabbed our luggage threw it on a trolley and started speedwalking. Thus, we scurried along after him as he marched us past hundreds of Dutch and Italians who did not look super happy. I was first behind the airport employee and turned around to look at Karlie and Zoe with the expression of disbelief and that I hoped one us had cash - Tanzanian Schillings or US Dollars - to pay this guy off. We ended up paying another person to jump a line at another counter and I think were were out $40 for the day, but honestly, those people needed it more than we did.
Once inside of that tiny terminal, we really could not move. There were hundreds of people in that space meant for 100 but it was holding 3 times that amount. We eventually boarded our flight and Zoe and I were seated in a row together and the woman across the aisle from us was from South Africa and asked us how we liked our stay, as she had been coming to the island for 20+ years. She pointed to an abandoned concrete block building and told us that was the new airport terminal construction had begun in 2007 and then abruptly ran out of money - I’m guessing during the global financial crisis of 2008. I’m not able to find a lot of info with that date, so I wonder if her memory about it was a little fuzzy. Here’s a link to the article from 2015 when construction was to begin again. Here’s updated info from May 2018, as you can see, its an ongoing project and semi-crisis. Tanzania kind of treats the island like an annoyance too, from what I’ve gathered. Maybe the financing will happen and construction will be completed this time since it is from a Chinese lender and company? Either way, the construction and jobs provided by the expanded airport will be good for the island.
And that’s it for Zanzibar! On to Nairobi next, where we spent 2 very full days and saw a lot of stuff in a short period of time and were a little bit overwhelmed by the sprawl of the city.