A seafood lover’s trip to Zanzibar

An aerial view of Zanzibar. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG
An aerial view of Zanzibar. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG 

The inaugural Safarilink direct flight to Zanzibar leaves the Wilson Airport in Nairobi at 9.30am on Saturday morning. This flight makes international travel easy and fairly comfortable.

Inflight, the air hostesses Joan and Lilian give us compliments with a smile and remember our names, which is even more pleasant than the legroom.

Another pleasant matter was while at the cruising altitude of 20,000 feet, Mt. Kilimanjaro majestically rises like a fist out of the earth punching the air.

The mountain doesn’t even need the pilot to ask us to look out of the window. It’s a sight to behold.

Do you say a mountain sits? Well it was just there looking confident even though not as snow-capped. Makes you take climate change seriously. We need snow on our mountains, let’s plant trees.

An hour and 45 minutes later, the Dash 8/300 wheels touch down at Abeid Karume International Airport.

As the aircraft readies for landing, be sure to look out of the portholes. You’ll see a breathtaking scenery of the powder-white coral sands and palm trees that line the shores of the blue Indian Ocean off the Zanzibar archipelago.

From merchant ships to traditional dhows with a sail, the view from the top is a sight to behold and one you must add on your bucket list.

From the airport, named after the Tanzania’s semi-autonomous region’s first president, to the heart of history on the spice island, is roughly 15 minutes, but I’d say less.

It was Saturday and there was little traffic. And speaking of Zanzibari roads, there’s a Kenyatta Road there.

Right off Shangani Street, the address to possibly the swankiest Unesco World Heritage Site.

From the classic fort style architecture housing the Zanzibar Serena with its welcoming Arab inspired foyer and a water fountain on a checkered tile, to the Mambo Msiige site where the modern Arabic-styled Park Hyatt Zanzibar sits, adjacent to a 200-year-old mango tree.

Bluebay Resort

Zanzibar, was derived from the Arab phrase, “Zinj El Barr” meaning land of black people. These black people are the beautiful Swahili.

They are predominantly Muslim and this shows even on the ride out of the centre of town where mosques line the road side, as do the dukawallah style shops and the odd boat-making enterprise.

Makuti roofs atop square houses with wooden windows on the two-way road to Bluebay Beach Resort and Spa in Kiwengwa will be the first of many you will see.

They cry for your attention as soon as you leave Mji Mkongwe (Stone Town), a treasure trove of history for the connoisseurs of our collective past. Everywhere you look there’s a story, an ancient history waiting to be unmasked.

Like someone in the trip’s party said: “Here, everywhere you look it’s like a Fort Jesus”. There is just so much to learn. 

The land there is fertile and you will see lots of farms growing rice, a staple there, for their fantastic biriyani.

Speaking of biriyani, doesn’t that just make you hungry? It’s not the only food they eat. Their meat tastes like it’s marinated for days before being grilled on a charcoal fire with tomatoes and coloured peppers. It’s a seafood lover’s paradise.

Zanzibar is definitely home to good food and the Forodhani gardens night food market in Stone Town will be the highlight of any food lover.

Kiwengwa Beach

Zanzibar will offer you the quintessential Indian Ocean experience. The beach at Bluebay, a resort in existence for 20 years set on 45 acres adjacent to the beach, with rich flora and fauna is an effervescent reminder of Kenya’s south coast, Diani to be specific.

Bluebay Beach front in Kiwengwa, Zanzibar. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

Bluebay Beach front in Kiwengwa, Zanzibar. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

The Kiwengwa beach front is really breathtaking, with 180 degrees of pure and unadulterated sea and sand, offering a great sunrise for the nature lovers.

The wet sand reflecting the sky’s shift of colour from dark to blue to pink and orange hues from the sun, as the odd jogger sets on his way on the beach and Maasai warriors off to work, showing their culture alongside the centuries old Swahili culture inspired by the Portuguese, Persians, Arabs and English.

Zanzibaris are pleasant and warm and it’s infectious. You cannot be there and not want to smile back. There’s also the fact that they have interesting names.

There was Witness, a waitress at Bluebay hotel, her supervisor Kalonjo and a Swahili boy named Mwarabu.

Zanzibar is a charming island for lovers, it’s not the kind of place you go alone. It reeks of romance.

It’s beautifully heartbreaking and wonderful to stare at. You can’t get enough of the scenery, rich food, ocean life, or the deep Swahili culture everywhere you look. 

The spice island is definitely deserving of repeat visits.