Swimming with the fishes….and mammals

Swimming with the fishes….and mammals

Snorkeling, actually. We were paired up with some scuba divers who had left the boat to dive and when the crew saw the dolphins they went all out to catch up to the dolphins. We caught up with a pod of 7 Bottle-nose dolphins and immediately jumped in with snorkel, mask and fins. The dolphins were cruising slowly so I was able to keep up with them for about 100-150 yards. Swimming directly under me about 20 feet just above the ocean floor, I saw one of them turn on its side and look right up at me. That was really cool!

Every afternoon a stiff breeze picks up. The kite-boarder above was catching big air.

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Chillaxin’ in Zanzibar

Chillaxin’ in Zanzibar

We had planned on heading east to hike in the Usambara mountains but after reading that it was recommended to bring an armed hiking guide, we got a couple of plane tickets to Zanzibar, spent one more night in Arusha and off we flew. We’ve been using the Lonely Planet guide books and found them to be about 75-80% accurate, but when you’re talking armed guards for hiking, well, it just didn’t seem worth it.

Our timing has been impeccable. We left Egypt as the first petitions to oust Morsi were being handed out, we got to Istanbul a few days before the start of a hiatus in the protests, even visiting Taksim square. Then, we left Istanbul a day before the protesters and police clashed again. To top it all off, while sitting in a travel agent’s office in Arusha getting ourplane tickets to Zanzibar, we read about a grenade that had been tossed a month earlier somewhere in Arusha killing 4 people; the FBI were investigating, too, because (Obama had visited Tanzania and) the police are suspects.

So, after very good fortune, several days road-riding, lots of one-nighters, and touring the heck out of Turkey and safari’s in Tanzania, we’re taking some beach time in Zanzibar just off the coast of mainland Tanzania! Zanzibar is a possible future breakaway from Tanzania. Tanzania was formed in 1964 as a union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar Island but there is unrest as more than a few Zanzibarans would prefer to form their own government. Things move slowly in Africa, so if there’s a revolution I’m sure it will wait….at least until just after we leave.

Chillaxin' at it's finest

Chillaxin’ at it’s finest

We’re staying at the Baby Bush Lodge (thanks for the recommendation, Bruce!) which is a small, funky hotel/restaurant a few meters right off of a fine white sand beach that has regular basic hotel rooms and two dormitories that can house a total of 48 backpackers.

We quickly added some new Swahili words to our vocabulary:
Jambo- Hello!
Asante – Thank you.
Hacuna Matata – No problem. (Made famous from the animated movie, “The Lion King”)
……and the all essential tout-busting,
Hapana Seetaki- No. I don’t want it.

As in mainland Tanzania, there are touts, or as they are called locally, “beach boys”. As we walk down the beach we can count on being approached by them with a big fat, “Jambo”, trying to strike up a conversation with “Where are you from?” or “Where are you staying?”, etc… trying to sell artwork, a tour or to get us to visit their store, “free to look”. We even met Coco Chanel who has a store 200 yards from where we’re staying! Armani and Gucci are also very close by.

These touts, or “ticks” as they’re referred to in the Lonely Planet guide, are plentiful but have nothing on their counter parts in Egypt. They’re plentiful but relatively easy to shake. Still, it would be nice to walk down the beach without the hassle.

View from our balcony at Baby Bush

View from our balcony at Baby Bush

Surprisingly, there are Maasai on Zanzibar. Generally tall, lanky and lithe, they are natives of the mainland but made their way here and dress traditionally in robes with stick/spear and a long knife/sword.

Maasai in da 'hood

Maasai in da ‘hood