Snorkeling, Eating and Snorkeling
6/23/08 - 7/2/08
Stonetown’s modern history can be traced back to the Sultan of Oman, who shifted his capital to Stonetwn from Muscat in 1832. Sadly, a lot of the island’s wealth in the 19th century came from the slave trade. Most of the slaves shipped from east Africa passed through Zanzibar enroute to far away lands. We did not spend much time in Stonetown, but we did visit the site of the former slave market. A church now stands on the site, built soon after the abolition of slavery. They kept the underground slave chambers as a memory of the Island’s tragic past. It was eerily dark in the chamber and the shackles used to hold the prisoners are still present.
Suspicious of overpriced tourist food, we ventured to eat at a popular local place under the town’s ancient baobab tree. We had French fries and delicious beef skewers for 10 cents each. Donnaven alone ate at least 15 beef skewers.
While in Stonetown, we also ventured out to do a spice tour of the island. For hundreds of years ,Zanzibar has depended on the spice trade for it’s wealth. Today, spices are just as important a source of income as tourism. It was fascinating to see just how exactly many of the spices that we see in final form are grown and processed.
For lunch we were taken to a local home, where we had a local coconut rice dish made with some of Zanzibar's delicious spices.
Our most memorable time in Zanzibar was spent on the northern end of the island, in a town called Nungwi. It is known as the party capital, but it has much more to offer. We avoided the bars and still had a blast, as did our eight year old nephew, Donnaven. In fact, we went out of our way to find a local place. The place wasn't much to look at, but the food was tasty.
The amazing snorkeling, was one of the main draws of Nungwi. Multiple touts offered us expensive snorkeling excursions in remote reefs, but the snorkeling was so good off-shore, that we always turned them down. You just have to know where the reef is and be willing to swim a couple hundred feet from the beach. The fins came in handy for this.
Edward gave Donnaven some basic snorkeling lessons. Donnaven used Francis snorkel gear, good thing she has a small face. However, because the gear was still slightly big for him and because he didn't yet know how to use it, he ended up looking like pork on water.
The variety of sea life just offshore was impressive. More than anything, Edward was taken aback by the variety of colorful starfish that covered the bottom of the reef.
In one of his snorkeling excursions, Edward ran into a large octopus. Edward observed the octopus for at least half and hour and found it to be a shy (rightly so, people eat them after all), but curious creature.
Zanzibar's reefs also have a nice variety of tropical fish and other sea life.
Zanzibar is an extremely scenic place. Watching the dhows go out to sea in the afternoon and the sun setting into the Indian ocean were some of our favorite activities.