The views expressed on this website are entirely my own and do not reflect any position of the U.S. Government or the Peace Corps.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Paradise Lost

For the past week, I was in Zanzibar, an island off the coast of Tanzania. Initially, I wasn’t really sure what to expect except fun in the sun. Little did I know, I would enter a world of not only sun and sand, but giant turtles, coral reef, various fish, dolphins, and hilarious Tanzanians (or Zanzibarians, since they are fighting to get independence from Tanzania apparently).

The first day in Zanzibar was mainly to visit Prison Island. So, the history of this island is as follows:
A prison was built on the island but it was never used as a prison. After completion, it was used as a cholera quarantine facility for tradesmen coming in from highly endemic areas (Egypt and India mostly). After that, it was used as a general health inspection island for immigration. After another bit of time, a hotel was built and the prison was renovated into a restaurant and hotel. During that time, the Seychelles, another set of islands off the coast of Africa, gave giant sea turtles (second only to those found in the Galapagos Islands) to Prison Island (where they are still present). Let me just say, when they call them ‘giant’, they are not kidding. I’m fairly certain that there are a handful that were at least 4 times the weight of me. I was quite afraid to go near them since I heard they tend to snap at people’s fingers. At one point I was attempting to go near one and it started to charge me (and when I say charge I mean it just started moving in my general direction). This caused me to panic and almost step on a smaller turtle that was crossing the pavement. The prison was interesting to see. The view from the prison was amazing, making me think I wouldn’t mind spending a life sentence in that prison.

The beaches on Zanzibar are beautiful. I’m talking crystal blue water…like the adverts for Sandals resorts (but IT’S REAL). We went snorkeling the next day and saw so many different fish from Finding Nemo, it was like I was in the movie (minus the shark chase scene). We also saw so many different coral, it was amazing! Most of the coral you could see without even getting in the water, the water was so clear! We even got to see dolphins. It was funny, all the snorkelers decided they wanted to try and follow the dolphins so whenever they were spotted, they jumped out of their boats in heard. We also made it to an island off the main Zanzibar Island where we got to walk out onto a sandbar in the middle of the water. It was pretty cool. Unfortunately, all the time in the sun caused me to get burned over most of my body.

The next few days were spent relaxing and just hanging out on the beach. We caught some epic sunrises and during low tide we’d walk out to the sandbar in the middle of the ocean. Unfortunately, we were always met with a minefield of sea urchins with spikey stingers so we didn’t make it to the sandbar successfully.

We also sneaked into a high class resort to use their pool which was in a shaded area. That was refreshing since the ocean was hot. Not warm…HOT. I’m telling you, it was like being on the sun, minus the whole melting literally aspect.

The last day we went on a Spice Tour which was cool. We got to see the different plants and guess what spices they were. I, of course, guessed the curry leaves (brown-power). We also went on a tour of an old slave chamber/slave market. It was pretty creepy because they kept the slaves in a cellar underground. I was almost too freaked out to go in. They have a monument now with stone carved humans chained up to represent the slaves. It was a little saddening, but overall the trip was awesome.

Some funny things that happened on the trip…every street vendor sang songs to us trying to sell CDs. The song always went ‘Jambo Bwana, Abare Jani, Mzuri Sana’. It was hilarious and by the end of the week I was singing it. Also, we had a cab driver called Mr. Jumba Jumba and whenever we’d go around the town he’d just randomly start laughing or he’s say ‘THANK YOU MR. JUMBA JUMBA’ and go on to explain some time. Also, there was a huge street food market (it was like the Zanzibarian version of a food truck bazaar) where you could get ridiculous amounts of food, from meet to veggies to fruit to PIZZA! It was awesome. 

Overall it was a good vacation. It was good to get away from Uganda and see different things and just overall recharge myself. I even ventured out and tried calamari (it was actually good). I think I’m now reset for another 8 months in Uganda (though I hope to leave again on vacation before heading to the U.S. for good).