Travel notes and photos - Nungwe, north tip of Unguja Island of
Zanzibar, January 2005
Mon Jan 31, 2005 4:10 pm
Apologies for an interruption. I was away
for a few nights in Nungwe (north tip of Zanzibar - Unguja Island).
I stayed at a self-contained room for US dollars 15 per night. It
was basic but clean with running water and electricity. The hotel
was owned by a Muslim Arab man and so there was no alcohol on the
hotel premises. This hotel is for sale - contact me if anyone is
interested (around US dollars 250,000)
The hotel is on a slope facing the sea, cannot sea sunset from this
point but can see sunrise from the corner. At night I slept to the
roar of sea waves, they crashed on the beach on high tide. At low
tide, a friend and I walked all the way to the reef, avoiding the
sea urchins (black ball with brittle spikes). Saw many star fish of
various colours, coral of many types and a few other creatures.
Fishermen with wooden spear-shaped sticks were hunting for octopus,
squid and moray eel that hide under the rocks. Many fishermen put
fish traps made of palm leaves, triangular shape with a small
opening for the fish to get in. They caught changu (snapper), red
snapper, coli coli, sardines and others.
I had a straw hat on since the sun was very strong. Must put coconut
oil in the hair to prevent it drying up.
It was low tide
between 9 a.m. in the morning and 1 p.m in the afternoon. At low
tide many sand banks of fine powdery white sand were above water
level. In the shallow water at the edge of a sand bank I took the
opportunity to lie horizontally as if I was in a bath tub, and the
water was so hot too. Just heavenly.
Sand banks as in
cigarette break while doing the hard work of wading a mile out to
the reef at low tide,
avoiding sea-urchins. Ah such a tough
Star fish in water at low tide. I saw red ones, grey, blue,
yellow and green ones too.
Camera got soaked and so no more
I carried my camera and took a few amazing photos while walking to
the reef - the land then drops to about 600 meters after the reef.
Unfortunately, I lost my balance and fell into the water. My camera
was in plastic bag. My hand hit a rock, the plastic bag ruptured and
the camera got water. My smallest finger on the left hand got a
dozen spikes of the sea urchin. I removed several of the big spikes
by hand but the small ones had to be removed later at the hotel by
the waiter - he did it with a sewing needle. It did not hurt and has
healed very well. At least now I can say I have experienced the
The day before, a European woman doing a similar walk to the reef at
low tide was stung by a sting-ray fish. She must have stepped on it
to be stung. She was carried out by four persons, poor thing. There
is a risk but then what is life worth by taking no risk?
We went to Nungwe tourist village to see sunset and have a nice meal
at one of the several waterside restaurants. "Big Fish" restaurant
is run by an Ismaili chap called Sadru, who used to live in Canada
for a while. I had a long chat with him in Kutchi.
One evening, my friend and I went to "Ras Nungwe Hotel", only about
five minutes walk away. Sat by the swimming pool at the middle level
on the slope. We witnessed the most glorious moon-rise soon after
the sun had set. Then came the a corridor of shimmering moonlight
reflecting on the sea water, across two bobbing boats and a sun
umbrella on the beach providing shade for those who sit on the beach
during day time. The moon rose slowly higher. Enchanting sight. On
our way out, we saw about hundreds of hermit crabs underneath shells
on the steps - they scuttled away to make way for us. Wow.
Next day we took a taxi to Mwtambwe. Stayed at a flintstones style
little hotel. The bungalows (one room, shower and W.C. and verandah
and breakfast) for US dollars 10 per night. How affordable. The
garden was white soft sand with a few tropical shrubs. There were
hardly any flies or mosquitoes. The beach was a little bit busy with
cultivation of sea weed which was visible at lowest tide. The
village was a quarter of a mile away and the auction of the fish
catch coming in from individual fishing boats was a delight to see.
We went on a snorkeling trip on an "ungarao", a kiswahili word for a
long slim boat carved out of a single log of wood, and with a
triangular sail. The boat was operated by two fishermen in their
early twenties. They pushed the boat along the shallow water with
long wooden sticks thrust to the land below. Got to the open channel
facing Menba Island (has an exclusive hotel charging hundreds of
dollars per night, Bill Gates was there a few months ago). They put
the sail up and we travelled at a brisk speed. The water changed
colour from light blue to dark blue - the fisherman said it was 600
meters deep. I had to hold on to my straw hat due to the wind. Got
to the other side and did snorkeling. Such exotic fish, coral and
rocks. Walked on the outer edge of the reef, spotting various
creatures such as sea spider (five legs). We were out in the sun for
around eight hours. We got dark although we wore T-shirts part of
the time. The best thing was the boat used wind power i.e. no motor
We saw the outside of Matambwe Beach Bungalows hotel. It is a luxury
five star hotel with every mod con but expensive too. The man
sitting next to me on the plane yesterday had stayed there and
showed me photos and talked about it. But that is a different type
of tourism experience. Seeing Africa by staying at cheap hotels is
the real experience.
Next day we took a taxi to Stone Town, took the ferry to Dar es
Salaam. On arrival, the porters at the jetty tried to hassle us but
we had our bags on our backs and we walked briskly for a few minutes
to New Africa Hotel. I have perfected the art of travelling with
minimum luggage - got it down to 12 kilos of luggage. My bag has a
zipped compartment which you unzip to expose the shoulder straps to
put the bag on the back when desired.
My companion wanted to stay at another town hotel. A man glued on to
us walking on the street. He would not stop walking alongside us,
obviously to get a small commission from the hotel we went at since
he would claim he brought us there. So, we branched off to J.J.
Restaurant on Samora street. Had "dagga and ugali" and fried changu
fish and matokay (boiled green banana) and fresh passion fruit.
Fresh meal for 2,000 T sh per dish (about two US dollars). Dagga is
anchovies from Lake Tanganyika (west Tanganyika) sun dried and then
in a light curry sauce. We then walked onwards to the hotel and the
same man materialised and walked with us although I told him in
Kiswahili to leave us alone. These street hawkers are the human "inzee"
I found zambaraho (jamboora) - in Hindi "kala jamun" as the hotel
duty manager informed me. Also I got small but very sweet mangos and
also the red almond fruit. I had a problem. I had a 10,000 shillings
bank note. It was Saturday afternoon and banks were closed. I went
to the Internet shop, the bohri mithaiwalla (Indian sweet shop), a
snacks restaurant, a busy restaurant, other shops but no one would
give me change. I am sure they have change but I think it is their
attitude about not giving change. Anyway, a jeweller gave me two
5,000 notes. Then I went to madaf man to have three madafs at 150 T
sh each. Could barely drink two and a half of them. The madaf man
went to a nearby stall holder and got me change. Then I could buy
Walked back to the hotel. Washed and ate the fruit. Watched a debate
on BBC TV with Claire Short and three other speakers about Iraq
At 6.30 pm I went to the Ishna-Asheri mosque. It was Eid-Ghadeer
celebrations. The mosque was full up with men. I know a few people
and so took the opportunity to shake hands and talk. It was air
conditioned and rather cool as I was used to 33 degrees, breeze and
humidity. So, I felt a bit cold. After the namaaz (congregational
prayers), I went on the open air baraza along with others. Each
person got a plate with a cup of tea and seven different snacks
including mandazi, kachori, pakora, samosa, etc. Chatted more with
Three of us, a friend, myself and my long standing friend
Abdulhusein Akber Nathani (Takim's Holidays) drove off to my
favourite Indian food restaurant - Bali's. We got a lovely table
under a small makuti in the open small garden. The owner, Gulam, was
introduced to me. He asked if it is the same Jaffer Manek who writes
the travelogue? Wow, how wonderful to be a writer on EAcircle? He
said he had seen nothing for a few days on EAcircle. So I explained
I was in remote parts of Zanzibar where the Internet was not easily
available. He gave me permission to mention him and his restaurant
on EAcircle (I do not mention names unless I have permission). We
had crispy chicken - the secret recipe, crispy prawns, lamb chops,
kebabs, naan and fruit juices. Then we had my zambarahu fruit for
desert. Such wonderful food. If you go to Dar es Salaam you just
have to go to Bali's Restaurant.
Next day I got on the hotel's courtesy coach at 7 am. I checked out
and sat in the bus. The hotel staff ran up to me and gave me my ruby
ring. How nice of them to check my room and bring me my valuable I
had forgotten in the hotel room. I forgive the inzee types.
An uneventful 9.5 hours on British Airways and I am back in gray and
cool London at 10 degrees centigrade. Kwaheri lakini ta roodi tenna!