Just twenty minutes of flying time transfers you from the hustle and bustle of Dar Es Salaam to the idyllic island of Zanzibar. Used as a major trade port for decades Zanzibar is rich in history, incredible architecture and ancient culture. We landed later than expected (the typical African motto of arriving in time as opposed to on time rang truest that day) and drove the one and a half hours to Matemwe village on the East. We passed through the open fields on the islands interior and every so often we caught glimpses of the beautiful Indian ocean and shrieked with excitement. We were shattered when we finally arrived and so after a delicious Swahili style dinner we fell asleep to the sound of the ocean waves lapping the coral at the edge of our verandah.
As we had arrived in the dark the night before we woke to a very special site. Matemwe’s guest rooms are so close to the edge of the reef that you almost feel as though you are floating in the sea itself! The sun rose spectacularly across the open water, greeting the early morning fisherman and illuminating the oceans golden hues.
We started off at Breezes hotel on the island’s lower Eastern edge and explored The Zanzibar Collection’s three very different beach side properties: Breezes, The Palms and Baraza. And then, sensing a break in the weather we made a mad dash for the near by Rock Restaurant. We had heard so much about it so we were quite excited to visit. We passed through what seemed to be a very battered old village and started wondering what the heck kind of mess we had gotten ourselves into. But the tiny, sandy streets opened out onto the ocean and floating in the middle was indeed the little restaurant on the rock – it was exactly as we had imagined it. Of course we took about twenty minutes standing at the base of it looking up in wonder and taking photo after photo, and then finally climbed the sandy steps to the top.
After lunch we headed North to Ras Nungwi where we discovered what must be Zanzibar’s best beach. It was that exquisite white colour that you only really see in movies and the ocean was turquoise, like a scene from a movie. The hotel itself was curled comfortably on a slope down to the beach with a warm, friendly air about the place and as an extra bonus: diving and dive training on site!It was quite late in the day and the temptation to roll into a beach side hammock, order a cocktail and stay there forever was incredibly tempting. Talk about the icing on the cake!
Another early morning for us as we boarded our little boat bound for the coral reefs of the Mnemba Atoll. The boat ride out was about thirty minutes and our driver took great care edging us around the reef breaker and away from the big waves. We were in the water before you could say “snorkel” and the reef revealed all kinds of little treasures – certainly some of the best snorkeling in East Africa! To top it all off a call came from our boat captain and we saw sets of little fins gliding through the water. Dolphins! They swam all around us and passed below us leaving us silly humans all a little awestruck.
Once we were back on dry ground and down from our dolphin induced high we had a quick lunch and then were whisked off to Stone Town for a short tour with our new friend, Ben. Stone Town is an architectural gem, but we must admit that being two little bush women we did not manage too well in the big city! We wandered the markets and filled our shopping bags before enjoying a sun-downers on the roof of Emerson Spice Hotel and demanding we be taken back to the wide open spaces of Matemwe for the beach barbecue. It was a chaotic and beautiful afternoon that wont be forgotten anytime soon and we recommend at least a visit to this fascinating town for all our guests, even the country bumpkins.
We left early in the morning to catch our flight back to Nairobi and sat in stony silence in the taxi on the way to the airport. Matemwe had found its way into our hearts!
A big thank you to the wonderful folks at Matemwe for putting up with us for three nights – you were all superb!
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