We woke up at 5am, showered got ready and checked out of the hotel for the last time! We managed to get them to store our bigger luggage for the weekend to save us from having to lug it around all weekend. We grabbed a very quick breakfast and headed toward the harbour where the Kilimanjaro II was waiting for us. We were given some advice to make our way to the ferry a good half hour early to ensure we got on and got decent seats. It probably took us about 5 minutes to make our way down to the ferry and about 15 minutes to get through all of the checkpoints.
We boarded the boat and decided to find a seat up front on the deck for the view and to keep everyone feeling as good as possible. I spotted a spot right up front right away, but it was one of those things where I was wondering what was wrong with it since no one was sitting there; turned out it was soaking wet. Luckily, I like to pack anything that I think might be useful like a towel and we ended up with the best seats in the house!
The scenery right from the harbour, to the fish market, to the little islands along the way were beautiful and definite postcard material. We were all pretty tired, so we were all pretty quiet and I think the girls might have slept a bit but I was too excited to sleep. I put in my headphones blared some dance music and just enjoyed the view.
We got to Stone Town in about an hour and a bit and since Zanzibar considers itself independent (but not really) from Tanzania we had to go through their customs. They checked our passports, yellow fever certificates and asked us all the normal kinds of border questions. It probably took us about 15 minutes to get through it and make our way into the city.
The Zenji hotel is where we stayed, it was about a 2 minute walk from the harbour and we got to stay together in a room called “Sense of Jasmine.” It was a really nice open concept room that had a double and single bed with a saloon door for the bathroom. What the hotel lacked in room views made up for it through its roof top café and the outdoor café out on the main street. I hadn’t had real coffee in just over a month and my first order of business was to get a coffee with a side of espresso!
Once we were all checked in and ready to get about our day we had to make some last minute excursion game plans. We decided to do one called the spice tour for that afternoon and a tour of Prison Island tomorrow; which gives us time to explore a bit on Monday before we take off back to Dar es Salaam. We came in a bit late so we had to take the private tour, but honestly it made it that much more special and memorable.
We got picked up by our driver and he took us to a spice plantation which was built specifically for tourists. There are examples of all of the different kinds of plants that they grow in large plantations elsewhere. This plantation is run by a community that makes most of its income from tourists and their crops. Our tour guide was very good and introduced us to all of the fruit and spices and along the way we were given a leaf cup to hold all of the spices. We got to see and smell different spices like cardamom, iodine, vanilla bean, pepper, cloves, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg (my favorite!!) and a few others. We also got to see how different fruit and produce grow like star fruit, clementines, coco bean, jack fruit, lipstick fruit, aloe vera, custard apple and more. We got to do a lot of cool stuff like trying a bunch of the fruit, drinking fresh coconut water, watching someone climb a coconut tree and getting hand made things made of leaves and flowers. After all of this they supplied us with a picnic for lunch, it was probably the best pilau I have ever had in my entire life! There were so many spices, some baked potato, fish and an amazing masala sauce! I could eat that every day and never get sick of it.
Once we were finished eating, our driver came back and picked us up for the second half of our trip which was an afternoon at the beach. When we got to a clearing down a little dirt road, we were asked if we wanted a tour of the coral cave. For 2,000Tsh we didn’t see a problem with that and headed over to the cave opening with our tour guide. I’ve never been educated on the slave trade, past the underground railway and what I’ve seen in movies; it was an eye opening experience to learn, on-site, how things got so out of hand. This cave was used to hide slaves at night from the British navy once this practice was exposed as a human rights violation. The cave didn’t used to have stairs so slaves were expected to climb down a rope and to go into the deepest part of the cave to sleep. When the slaves were bought and sold they were sneaked out a passage that leads close to the Indian Ocean where they would get shipped.
I learned a lot about how slaves were caught and brought to Zanzibar for the slave trade, I didn’t realize that it was such an intricate procedure with so much support behind it in those times. Warring tribes would sell the opposing tribe, people were kidnapped and tribe chiefs would sell their people for a certain price. The people buying and kidnapping them were from Arabian countries and were the middle men in this whole thing. Their strategy was to capture and buy individuals who were all from different backgrounds so that they couldn’t speak to each other and potentially escape.
The atmosphere in the cave is comparable to the atmosphere and feelings that I got while visiting Dachau (a German concentration camp). It just feels like there is a lingering energy of sadness and stillness. Having learned everything that I did in about a half hour and trying to sort through my feelings about this whole situation was difficult but I’m glad that I have a deeper understanding of this history.
After our cave exploring and history lesson we made our way down a little path toward the beach. This path turned into gigantic steps leading down to the beach; it was a workout in itself. We spent about an hour wading in the warm water, talking about the cave and what literature we should all look into to learn more.
On the way back to the hotel I was so tired I just fell asleep and woke up when we got back. The dangerous driving is still the same as on the mainland but the scenery is nothing but tall and healthy palm trees, plantations and greenery. We were all starving and decided to head over to “The Mercury Restaurant” which is named after Freddy Mercury from Queen. The view from the deck was absolutely gorgeous; we were there right in time for the sunset over the harbour. It was an expensive place to go but the view and the mood is worth it. I ate a lot, laughed a lot and talked a lot so needless to say as soon as I was finished my meal I was more than ready for bed!