There are some very rare places that take your breath away, and Zanzibar was definitely that place for me. When my Mom told me she would be attending a work related conference there, I knew I HAD to figure out a way to go with her. Because, really, opportunities like this just don't come around often. I should probably mention that requesting a week's time off during your very first week at a job tends to be frowned upon. But YOLO, right?
If you plan to fly standby like I did, brace yourself. Getting to Zanzibar from Atlanta was quite the adventure in and of itself because I definitely took the scenic route. Atlanta/New York/Johannesburg/Nairobi/Zanzibar - and there was nothing glamorous about any of it. After over a day and a half of layovers, connecting flights, and baggage mishaps, I finally touched down at Abeid Amani Karume International airport and was welcomed by the most pleasant and friendly customs officers.
Where I stayed:
Like most other travelers my age, I normally stay in guesthouses or hostels during international trips. Lucky for me I traveled with Mom this time around, and got to stay at the Melia resort in Kiwengwa. WOW is all I can say. This luxurious resort was really what dreams are made of: amazing food, excellent customer service & amenities, spacious private villas with the coziest of beds, beautiful beaches, outdoor showers, and most importantly strong WiFi. This hotel remains the best I have ever had the good fortune of experiencing.
What I did:
The best advice I can give others that travel is to find a local to guide you around because it will enrich your experience tenfold. I was able to find a great and friendly local guy that showed me his version of Zanzibar along with the one sold to tourists in brochures.
Stone Town - with its narrow streets and markets, Stone Town was a great way to see what Zanzibar is like from a local's perceptive. The former Slave Market on the East side of Stone Town was also very surreal. Walking underground into the chambers where slaves were once held captive and seeing the heavy locks and chains still bound to concrete was extremely humbling. Though difficult to experience, it made a strong impact and was worth the visit.
Swam with wild dolphins. This is where having a local with insightful recommendations came in extremely handy. When I was told about this activity, it came with the disclaimer that I would be lucky if I saw any dolphins at all. Well, folks, luck was definitely on my side. Very early in the morning, we took a small motor boat out into the Indian Ocean with hopes that they would make an appearance. Not only did I eventually get to see these incredibly playful creatures swimming in their natural habitat, I was able to also jump into the ocean and swim alongside a few of them. This was by far my favorite moment from my time in Zanzibar.
Snorkel in Pemba Island. Pemba Island is probably the most beautiful place on earth, famous for its crisp white sand beaches and vivid coral reefs. Once again, we took a small boat out into the ocean and just jumped right in. As my first snorkeling experience, it was nothing short of amazing.
What countries have you been to that took your breath away?
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