The Bucket List Blog – Chapter 3: Zanzibar

Four years went by before we travelled again in August 2010. We bought a house and carried on partying in the beautiful surrounds of Cape Town.  However, when it became known that a trance festival was being organised on Mafia Island, just off the coast of Tanzania (so just around the corner really) our ears perked up.  The party was organised months in advance and was so far along in the preparation – so far along that people we knew had been living on the island for a few months, building the set and the rig for the party.  Tickets to the party were bought and tickets to the island were bought, leave from work was scheduled; we were amped and ready.

Then everything fell through.  The party organisers could not get the correct permissions from the government despite trying every possible avenue – and the party was shut down.  I can’t remember how close to the date of the party this all happened, but it was pretty close.  So all of a sudden there was a crew of a couple of hundred people from Cape Town who had tickets to this party and to the island but no party to go to.  The travel agent who was doing the bookings for all the party goers managed to change our bookings so that instead of going to Mafia Island we would go to Zanzibar.  Over a couple of days she managed to book our accommodation on Zanzibar instead.  And in hindsight, again, if we had just gone to Mafia Island (which is a tiny island where nothing much happens) all we would have seen was a tiny bit of a tiny island and a great big party.

In the end Zanzibar turned out to be more of a party than an actual party would have been I think.  We spent our days on the beach, playing frisbee, drinking margaritas, chatting and laughing.  I will never forget the time we were lying on the beach in our lounge chairs at around 11am and we ordered Margaritas from the waiter.  A while later he came back with Margarita pizzas!  I guess at 11 in the morning one should specify what kind of Margarita one wants! 😉  In the end we ate the Margaritas to line our stomachs and specified that the next few rounds needed to be drinks!

I can’t say for sure that this was the day of the margharita pizzas because we pretty much did this every day we were there!

That holiday epitomised for me what a holiday should be.  The Turkish holiday was amazing on so many levels but was also hard work.  This holiday, first and foremost, was enjoyed with my closest friends in the world.  The only grey part of it was that ex-husband No. 2 and I were already not seeing eye to eye on things and the excessive partying was not conducive to things moving along in a respectful and calm manner.  We also lost our camera to the tides that holiday.  We left all of our belongings on a sandbank that was completely dry and took a very short walk only to come back to see that the tide had turned and where once there was sand, were now waves.  Everything was lost including all our photos. 😦  So all photos here courtesy of best friend Tania.

Fun and lots of laughs with these crazy chicks!

As mentioned in my Bazaruto Island post there is another diving story to tell and that happened on this trip.  To be honest, I cannot rightly say why I thought it was a good idea to dive again but I guess it was because we were in Zanzibar, one of the most beautiful places in the world to dive.  Remember I said that after not diving for a while one needs to do a refresher course.  So we duly went about doing this.  It entailed diving in the shallows – literally – we were on our stomachs and could feel the sand beneath, breathing underwater with our tanks for about 10 minutes and the dive master said that was refresher course training done.

I will never forget how nervous I was going out on the boat that day.  I had not dived in five years and so was technically a severely nervous, neurotic novice.  The day was grey and not really a good day for diving but I seem to recall it was the only day we could do it – it was probably the only day we were half sober enough to do it more than likely.  Trying to remember the event is quite hazy – I think its because my brain has tried to block it out of my memory as it was pretty traumatic.  Anyway, eventually our guide chose a place to anchor the boat.  He said that we would need to go down and then swim towards the pretty part – again I’m not entirely sure why.  So when we went down it was literally just sea and sand.  There was nothing pretty to see at all.  When you dive, you have to always have a buddy so that if anything goes wrong they can help you.  I was buddied up with the dive master or maybe I chose to be with him because I didn’t want to slow anyone else up.  Anyway, we went really far down, I want to say 18 m but maybe it wasn’t that far – however, if you looked up, you could not see the surface, that’s how far down we were.  I started lagging behind and all of a sudden I was alone in the water.  Everyone had swum ahead and I was all alone!!  Thanks buddy!  I was losing air so fast because I was hyperventilating and started panicking that I would run out of air all the way down there and then proceeded to have a full blown panic attack, the first and last one I’ve ever had!

So, I did the only thing I could think of and swam for the surface!  Anyone who knows anything about diving knows that if you are so far down you cannot just swim to the surface as you get the benz because it doesn’t give your body enough time to acclimatise to the change in pressure.  I knew this and I thought about this at the time but I didn’t care.  My life literally flashed before my eyes. I saw my kids, I saw my life, all in quick snapshot motion.  That was the only time in my life where I really did think that I might die.  Scary stuff!!!  That swim to the top felt like it took 5 minutes but was probably 30 seconds.  When I emerged at the top I was pretty far from the boat and was in complete panic mode.  Luckily the dive master was obviously not as far away from me as I thought as he came up quite quickly after me to find out how I was.  So in hindsight I’m wondering if because we had not been down under for very long, that was what allowed us to surface so quickly with no ill effects.   He helped me back to the boat and I spent the next hour in the boat, very cold and very traumatised lying in the fetal position waiting for the others to complete the dive.

Luckily the next day we went on a boat trip and we FINALLY snorkelled and it was amazing!  I doubt very much that I will ever don a wet-suit and diving gear in my life again.

Look how happy I am that we are going snorkelling 🙂

For the snorkelling trip we were taken by dhow to this little island, it was amazing!
A dhow from afar – pretty much the only mode of sea transport in Zanzibar.

We went into Stone Town on one of the days which is a must do – again, to get a feel for the culture and people of the place you are visiting.  Like most African cities, Stone Town is busy and vibrant and colourful and cheap.  We hired a scooter to get around the town which was amazing and we picked up some awesome crafted wooden photo frames.  (Because that was all we could fit in our suitcases).  The craftsmanship there is second to none and very reasonably priced.

Funny sign saying Good Deals for a Fassel Free trip!!  Hope it’s hassle free too!

We did also spend a couple of nights on Mafia Island but like I said before, it’s a tiny little island with not much happening. But again, in the spirit of seeing as much as we could we were happy to be there.  We also spent a night in the capital of Tanzania, Dar-es-Salaam.  Not a good place to spend the night if you want to drink alcohol.  There was none, anywhere!  Not sure if things have changed since then but there was literally not a drop to be found, not even in the nice hotel we were staying at.  We were not impressed!!!

If living in South Africa, Zanzibar is a relatively cheap holiday destination.  Pretty much ALL the places to stay are right on the beach and you can get really good, cheap accommodation.  You can see from the photos just how close we were to the beach – we were literally ON the beach and it didn’t cost us an arm and a leg.


Our villa
Our view from the villa

Me 7 years ago and 7 kgs lighter! 😉

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