We traveled long and far, over 16 hours and 5 airports, to reach a little island off the East coast of Tanzania! When we arrived at the Zanzibar Airport, the humidity hit us like a soggy heat wave! It was blasting hot. Rob and I were both in pants. The minute we set foot on the island, we were drenched with sweat. Like every other passenger who walks off of a plane or train or bus into a new country, tired and fatigued after hours of travel, we were a bit disoriented. The airport was very small and chaotic. They are in the process of building a new airport, which we saw from the runway and looks very nice, but due to lack of funding I assume, construction has completely stopped with no indication of when it will begin again.
We filled out the necessary paperwork and paid for the required tourist Visas by credit card. The Visas were $100 per person and they are good for 1 year. We hadn’t taken out any cash prior to arrival on Zanzibar, which was a mistake, so we needed cash right away. The only two ATM’s at the airport were closed. Go figure – TIA (This is Africa). It wasn’t until the fourth ATM we found, we were finally able to pull out some Tanzanian shillings. Phew! You can’t go too far in any country without the monies!
There was no air conditioning in the taxi. Rob zonked out pretty quick. I was too intrigued with the scenery and the hustle and bustle of everything going on around us to sleep. I rolled my window down and absorbed everything I could on the 2 hour drive. This was my first time having a remote tropical island experience, so I was not about to miss a thing!
Very quickly I learned that the people live very simply and do not have a lot of material possessions. Most of the houses were made of concrete bricks and the roofs were either tin or palm tree leaves. There were cars, tiny trucks (adorable little trucks if you ask me), buses, vans, and a ton of scooters on the road. Those who didn’t have a vehicle rode bicycles. There were tons and tons of people on bicycles! Many people were walking as well; carrying anything from a bundle of sticks to 25 lb. bags of rice on their heads. I also saw quite a few chickens, cows, and some goats. The cows had a big lump on their necks/backs and were really boney and looked malnourished to me. I saw a duck get run over by a passing minibus taxi. As we passed I saw the poor little duck lying on its back kicking its legs, unable to get up. It was so sad. 🙁
The island was so green! The roads were lined with beautiful tall trees and lush vegetation. The drive was gorgeous! The road to Nungwi was paved and was wide enough for two lanes of traffic for almost the entire drive. The pavement ended and the last 15 minutes were on a narrow dirt road that meandered through the village. A few times I thought we might get eaten alive by one of the massive potholes!
The 2 hours it took us to get to Nungwi, on the Northern-most part of the island was absolutely worth it! Looking back, our only regret was the price we paid for the Taxi. We paid 100,000 shillings. Sounds like we’re rich huh!? 😉 That’s about $44.86 US dollars, so not horrendous (other people have paid much more), but we found much cheaper methods of getting around the island after that ride.
Upon arrival at our hotel, we were served a cold glass of juice and a warm cookie. Heck YES! They sure know the key to these hot and hungry travelers hearts…FOOD. Always FOOD! The staff were very friendly. They made us feel right at home. The open bungalow-style lobby was tropical and inviting too. We felt so welcome!
Our hotel was literally a stones throw away from the Indian Ocean. Yes yes! The Indian Ocean! It was surreal! When we arrived it was high tide, so 8 to 10 foot deep water came right up to the wall of the hotel grounds. There was a staircase into the ocean! Yes I’m serious! We walked along the seashore to get a feel for the area. The water was beautiful. There were not too many tourists. It felt like an undiscovered African paradise!
Early in the evening Rob had a call to make for work. I slipped into my bathing suit and went a swim under the starts. I was the only person in the pool. It was so relaxing and peaceful. The stillness of the night, the cool refreshing water, along with the twinkling starts above – it was magical! It was one of those moments that was better than your dreams. It was beyond anything I could have imagined. After a very long day of traveling I felt rejuvenated.
After Rob’s call, we went out in search of food. The village is quite small, so there aren’t too many restaurant options, but location was prime. We have been to some incredible places and experienced some very romantic locations, but our experience that evening in Nungwi blows any of our previous ideas of romantic dinners out of the water purely because of location! Imagine a candle lit dinner just a few feet from the Ocean; the stars glistening in the sky; a live band playing; the sound of the gentle ocean waves caressing the shore; fresh coconut ice cream and a romantic walk down the beach with a full moon lighting your path down the white sandy shore. Rob and I breathed deeply and swallowed up every moment of that evening. It was some kind of wonderful; straight out of a storybook.