Skip to main content

#TravelAfrica - Zanzibar...So Much More Than The Beach

With material from a media release:

Zanzibar...So Much More Than The Beach
Matemwe Beach Guesthouse - Unguja Island
Aiyana Resort - Pemba Island

Can you take the dream beach vacation of a lifetime AND have a positive impact on the destination and its people? Sounds almost too ideal, but you can have it both ways at the Matemwe Beach Guesthouse and The Aiyana Beach Resort in Zanzibar.

About Zanzibar
Zanzibar, birthplace of Freddy Mercury, is actually an archipelago in the Indian Ocean, about 50km off the coast of Tanzania in East Africa. It consists of two islands, Unguja, the capital - aka Zanzibar - and Pemba Island. A wonderful trip on its own, it's also an easy add-on to a trip to South Africa. Its population numbers just under 160,000 and the main island covers 2,461 km².

Hot Tip: The best time to travel is during the relatively cool spring - between June and September.

Zanzibar's past
It is believed that human civilization dates back about 20,000 years in the archipelago. It is mentioned in ancient Greek and Roman documents by around the 3rd century AD. The tides of time and human civilizations have washed across Zanzibar over the centuries, and its current day incarnation bears the influence of both Swahili and Islamic culture. Zanzibar has been ruled by the Portuguese, the Omanis and the British. It has been influenced by Swahili and Chinese traders. Zanzibar's history has been shaped by both the spice trade and the slave trade. It has seen wars - including the One Day War, the world's shortest war that happened without a single gunshot - colonization and political annexures.

Spirit lore
Local legends speak of the spirits who have protected Zanzibar through its trials over the ages - and those who still wander the islands angry for revenge. It's not hard to trace the link between Zanzibar's often turbulent history and the stories of troubled, even vengeful spirits.

Some of that dark history isn't all that far in the past. Zanzibar won its independence from the British after the revolution of 1964. Four weeks later, John Okello, a migrant labourer from Uganda, led a second revolution against the Zanzabari ruling class, who were largely Arab and Indian. Many people were killed and many also fled the country, including the sultan - Zanzibar's last - Jamshid bin Abdullah.

Many say the spirits of the slain still haunt the area. If you are interested in the spirit worlds, witch doctors are available for consultation throughout the area.

Unguja Island
Unguja features a preserved historic centre called Stone Town in the heart of the capital, a designated Unesco World Heritage site with perfectly preserved cobbled streets. In Zanzibar City, you'll wander through lanes that meander through the minarets and streets lined with heavy, beautifully carved wooden doorways, a unique feature of Zanzibar's native architecture. The House of Wonders, a 19th century sultan's palace, offers a glimpse into the relatively recent past.

Along with the expansive blue ocean, most Zanzibari beaches have super fine, white sand with a beautifully silky texture, along with palm trees and other greenery to provide shade if you need it. The north shore of Unguja is renowned for its glorious, pristine beaches and the diving opportunities offered in the turquoise waters. Watersport opportunities abound in the area, with just about anything you can dream up available, including scuba diving and snorkeling in world renowned coral reefs, deep sea fishing, kayaking, windsurfing and waterskiing. Mnemba Atoll is considered by many to offer the best opportunities to spot colourful fish, turtles and more. There are many hotels to choose from near the north coast villages of Nungwi and Kendwa.

Hot tip: Watch out for mischievous monkeys in areas near the forests - they like to steal hats, bags, sunglasses and other assorted items of tourists who are beguiled by the beach and not paying attention.

Other places of interest include the slave museum, which served as a real slave trading post centuries ago and the colourful, noisy night market at Forodhani Gardens, located in front of the Old Fort. It opens at about 7pm and it's a hotspot for enjoying local cuisine.

Local cuisine
Fresh prawns and shrimp are local delicacies. Other local specialties include seafood kebabs, sugar cane juice and Indian fare with a Zanzibari twist like chepatis filled with Nutella. Uroja soup is a thick and delicious mixture of ginger and pureed mango with various additions such as egg, meat, or potato boulettes. A Zanzibar pizza is actually something like a thin pancake or crêpe filled with meat, eggs and other fillings. Also called Zanzibar pancakes, the thin pancakes made with rice flour may also have a sweet filling.

Alternate accommodations - Matemwe Beach Guesthouse:
Nowadays you'll find major international hotel chains like the Park Hyatt in Zanzibar City and elsewhere, but there are alternatives that are much more budget friendly. The Matemwe Beach guesthouse offers an alternative to the hotel scene about 45 minutes from Stone Town. From their website:

Our aim is a simple one: to provide authentic, stylish and comfortable accommodation, in an atmosphere of relaxed hospitality and friendliness, while services are provided effectively and efficiently. We live in peaceful co-existence with the villagers who conduct their lives amongst us.

Not a hotel and not a resort and we regard this as a matter of pride!

Pemba Island
Pemba Island is located to the north and remains the world's largest producer of cloves - a savoury scent that carries on the ever present breeze. Life in the archipelago generally follows the slow and deliberate rhythms of the incessant waves that splash at the sandy shores. With water temperatures at a balmy average 26ºC and visibility of 30-40 meters, snorkeling is naturally one of the most popular activities on the Island. Even more inexperienced divers will find a world of wonders beneath the waves.

Pemba Island also includes Misali Island, surrounded by a coral reef. In the 17th century, this was once of the hideouts of the infamous Captain Kidd the pirate - and some still believe there's buried treasure to be found on the ocean floor. On the western side of Pemba Island, you'll find traces of Zanzibar's darker history in the Pango ya Watoro’ or ‘the cave of the fugitives' - those who hid from the slave traders.
The Aiyana Resort, Pemba Island (Zanzibar)
Aiyana Resort
The Aiyana resort is blessed with a secluded location on the north shore of Pemba Island. It includes 30 white villas with an airy decor that features local and traditional artwork, including intricately carved woodwork. Villas were designed to integrate into the landscape without marring or harming the natural environment. The resort's owners used local resources and materials wherever possible such as mangrove and coconut woods, coral stones - even manpower from the local villagers, who helped to shape the final version of the design.

Inside and outside merge seamlessly, including the ocean-facing villas that open onto the fine sand of the beach and a serene garden on the grounds. Even the showers open up to the sky.

The resort is surrounded by a dense forest. It is part of the Ngezi Rainforest on the northernmost point of Pemba Island. The protected rainforest represents the last vestiges of the original native forests of Zanzibar.
  • Cool fact: The Ngezi Rainforest is home to the Pemba Flying Fox, a type of bat native to the island.
  • Cool fact #2: The Rainforest is also home to the bright blue vervet monkey.
The resort offers guests a variety of activities, including the opportunity to experience the waters in a dhow, the traditional watercraft of the island. Meals are private and set up wherever you decide to eat, from the formal dining room to the beach, in the garden or anywhere else you desire.

More than a resort...
The owners of the Aiyana resort are very committed to improving local conditions and they've set up projects in the local village to provide income, education and other essentials while respecting local traditions. Guests are encouraged to participate in a variety of projects fostered by the resort that contribute directly to the life of the villagers and preservation of the natural surroundings.


What Else Is Hot This Week?

Esmeralda Enrique Spanish Dance Company Spring 2013 Toronto Performances

From a media release:

The new season brings
Esmeralda Enrique Spanish Dance Company
to new heights and new audiences

March 20-24, 2013 - A Night in Madrid
April 25-28, 2013 - Annual Toronto Season - World Premiere of Portales

TORONTO : Following on the heels of Esmeralda Enrique Spanish Dance Company's (EESDC) 30th anniversary year where its production Aguas/Waters was named one of the top five dance shows of 2012 by NOW Magazine, the early months of 2013 are full of excitement and possibility for Esmeralda and the company, which brings the finest flamenco and Spanish Classical Dance to Toronto stages.

March 20-24, 2013 - A Night in Madrid
Company dancers Esmeralda Enrique and Paloma Cortés perform Spanish Classical dance with the celebrated Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir for A Night in Madrid featuring the Iberian flavoured music of composer Luigi Boccherini who made his home in Spain. His work is infused with the sounds of Spanish and gypsy folk music.

March 20-24 …

Polina Semionova to Appear as Guest Artist with American Ballet Theatre

From a media release:


New York - Polina Semionova, a principal dancer with Berlin State Opera Ballet, will debut as a Guest Artist with American Ballet Theatre for the 2011 Metropolitan Opera House season, it was announced January 14, 2011 by Artistic Director Kevin McKenzie. With ABT, Semionova will perform Kitri in Don Quixote at the matinee on Saturday, May 21, opposite David Hallberg as Basilio, and the dual role of Odette/Odile in Swan Lake on Saturday evening, July 2, opposite Hallberg as Prince Siegfried.

Born in Moscow, Semionova studied at the Bolshoi Ballet School before joining the Berlin State Opera Ballet as the company’s youngest principal dancer. Her repertoire with Berlin State Opera Ballet includes Odette-Odile in Swan Lake, Nikiya in La Bayadère, Marie in The Nutcracker, Princess Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty, Swanilda in Coppélia, Kitri in Don Quixo…

So You Can't Go: Six Ways To Travel Virtually

So You Can't Go:
Six Ways To Travel VirtuallyTravel is limited for most of us in the world these days. For Canadians, it depends on the province you live in, but with the border to the US still closed, and other options limited at best, virtual travel from the couch can provide at least a view with a difference at a time when you may well need it most. Google Cardboard – VR On A BudgetYou don't need a lot of cash to get into travel via virtual reality. Google Cardboard is a line of VR viewers that are, well, made of cardboard, and are priced starting at $12CAD.If you check out this link, you'll find out how to download the software to your smartphone.At this link, you can get yourself an actual Google Cardboard for a hands-free VR experience. Google Cardboard apps offer a variety of ways to experience our beautiful planet, including Google Earth itself, which can take you anywhere, along with apps to view museums and cultural artifacts, and more.Ascape VRAscape has a huge l…

Harlem Stage Digital Event: A Drop Of Midnight October 13 & 15 2020

From a release:Harlem Stage Digital Event:
A Drop Of Midnight
October 13 & 15 2020A two-part conversation with Jason ‘Timbuktu’ Diakité and his creative team around the developmental process of creating his autobiographical theater project, A Drop of Midnight. In this conversation Jason will take us on his journey to becoming one of Sweden’s chart-topping hip-hop artists and a best-selling author. He’ll also share the story of how a mixtape from Brooklyn traveled across the waters to the tiny village of Lund, Sweden and altered the course of his life forever. We will examine the impact of hip hop music and culture on the globe. How has hip-hop united communities of color globally?  How do you translate a personal story into a universal truth? How do you build a creative team? How has the current climate of social justice informed your artistic practice? Jason will read excerpts from the play and share some of the music. October 13—Part IIn this conversation A Drop of Midnight author…

Blues/Rock: The Cole Patenaude Band - Are You Happy Now? (Independent / 24 July 2020)

The Cole Patenaude Band - Are You Happy Now?
(Independent / 24 July 2020) Buy the CD Big vocals and infectious grooves make up this release from The Cole Patenaude Band. It's modern blues with a classic sensibility, anchored by solid musicianship and upbeat songwriting. 
Keyboard player Dean Thiessen and Patenaude on guitar trade off solos and melodic lines to keep it interesting through a range of bluesy style, incorporating rock and country, with a pop song sheen on songs like For the Money. Would You Be Mine is more Elvis-esque rockabilly, while How To Love is an acoustic song with folky storytelling lyrics and feel. 
Compromise is a standout track, with a snarly guitar line and a churchy organ swelling underneath a nice bluesy beat. Horns aren't credited in the notes, but I swear I heard some on this and a couple of the other tracks. 
As a husband, father, and full-time mechanic based in Langley, British Columbia, finding the time to make his music was a challenge…