Arriving At Paradise: Zanzibar Island

As we packed our things to leave Tanzania, along with no step by step plans of how, where and when, we headed out to discover the unknowns of Zanzibar in Africa. Down at the seaport, with no pre-booked ferry tickets and luggage galore we were prime targets for street touts, and we were soon ushered into the booking office of one particular ferry company who promised that they would get us onto the 10am ferry despite it being 9:58 am.

Needless to say, as we were speeding down towards the ferry terminal (I was actually running so quickly that I tripped myself up on my flip flops), the boat took off and there was nothing left to do but watch it sail away and then wait two hours for the next one.

Luckily, the waiting area was very plush indeed; there were comfy armchairs and even free English breakfast tea – quite the rarity in Tanzania, and it soon felt more like we were enjoying a Saturday morning in Starbucks than waiting at the port of Dar es Salaam! During the two hour wait we spotted more Western travellers than we’d seen the whole time we’d been in Tanzania and we began to wonder just how touristy Zanzibar would be.

Two hours later, on board the ferry, we sat outside on the top deck in the hope that fresh air would combat any potential sea sickness. My friend was particularly worried; he was quick to remind me that he’d only just gotten over having the stomach pain and couldn’t cope with sea sickness as well! I don’t think it helped much when one of the crew members handed us a little black bag with the misspelt words: “SICKS BAG” emblazoned across it in bright white lettering.

As it turned out, we only had a few bumps getting out of the bay and thereafter it was plain sailing. It was, however, exceptionally windy, and getting to the bathroom was a dire experience indeed: firstly, I was almost blown overboard the minute I got out of my chair (this, truly, is not an exaggeration), after I had recovered from this, I was immediately blown into the family sitting next to us…. what is it about bladders needing to empty at the most inappropriate of times?

Welcome to Zanzibar

As we edged closer to Zanzibar, I retrieved my camera in anticipation of arriving into Stone Town. The scene did not disappoint; bright blue water gave way to rusty sand which was backed by gloriously white washed buildings with terracotta tops.

I recalled Lonely Planet’s forewarning that we’d be “swamped” by street touts upon disembarking the ferry at Stone Town; however, it turned out that not one approached us, which was a welcome relief after the escapade we’d had at Arusha. At the tourist information desk directly beside the port we were quoted the ridiculous price of $65 USD for a taxi up to the Northern town of Nungwi. Knowing this was well above the average rate we managed to eventually haggle the price down to $25 USD.

We jumped in the cab and began our journey to Nungwi; we did have a small detour on the way out of Stone Town when our taxi driver stopped at his house to collect his 7 year old son who took a great deal of pleasure in peeking behind his seat at my friend and I, a game that he didn’t get bored of for the whole 1.5 hour journey!  



We arrived at Nungwi and were very surprised to discover that it was not at all the “party capital of Zanzibar” as had been described by our guidebook. Indeed, the roads were unsealed dirt tracks and most of the buildings we passed were old, half-finished buildings that lay barren and bare. We could hardly believe it when the taxi driver assured us that yes, this was Nungwi.
On the hunt for accommodation, we stopped and asked at one particular guesthouse for prices and were quoted $70 USD per night ($70 USD! You must be joking! Was our response). As this was clearly way off our backpackers’ budget, we asked the manager if he could recommend anywhere close by that would be cheaper. We were advised to check out a place called “James Guesthouse” which was just five minutes up the road.

James Guesthouse was located only a few minutes from the beach, and luckily for us, had prices that were far more backpacker friendly – we managed to haggle our room down to $25 USD per night. After we unpacked, we wandered down to Nungwi beach; stepping onto the crisp, white sand, my jaw fell open: it was, quite simply, the most beautiful beach that I had ever set eyes on. The travel brochure image of white sand meeting azure waters had well and truly come to life.


We enjoyed a drink in Mangi’s bar, a beautiful retreat situated right on the water front and watched the sun slide from a cloudless sky and fall beneath the perfect ocean, where fiery orange met a watery blue.

A travel blog post by Eva. I'm a Polish born traveler, travel photographer, writer and runner living in Montreal Canada. In the 10-plus years that I've been travelling, living and exploring various travel destinations, I've explored much of the America’s, Europe and the Caribbean Islands.


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