I haven’t spoken about Zanzibar nearly as much as I should have yet. After our trip in October I must admit I was a bit overwhelmed by it all. It’s kind of hard to write when you’re overwhelmed. You’ve got so much to say that you say nothing. But despite Zanzibar being a complete tourist mecca, I think visiting there might have been one of my more eye-opening experiences.
Yes, I travel because it is fun, but I also travel because I learn so much through it. It tickles my mind in a way that text books and documentary shows could never. It makes me a better person, I think. A more conscientious one, I hope.
Here are some of the reasons that I think you should make the effort to get yourself there:
1. The Flights are Cheap
If you don’t mind travelling with a notoriously unreliable airline, and you’re willing to be flexible with your dates, Fastjet will get you to Zanzibar from Johannesburg for less than four grand per person. And yes, the unreliable thing sounds bad, but if you can just count it as part of the experience and approach it all with a sense of humour you won’t be sorry.
2. Hotel Prices are Comparable
Ok, hotel prices in other places are cheaper. I know this because I spend my life on sites like Booking.com and AirBNB checking how much it costs to stay in cities all around the world. I have a budget (R500 per night) and I often find that I can come out WAY under that budget. So yes, you can stay in other places for cheaper than in Zanzibar. BUT: you can’t really stay in South Africa for cheaper than what it costs to stay in Zanzibar so it’s all good. Plus you’ve saved on airfare so you’ve come out ok.
3. The People
Guys… The people of Zanzibar are so friendly and kind. And every time you see a Zanzibarian you get to shout “Jambo!” which means hello and it’s awesome. And you get to say “hakuna matata” and no one thinks you’re just quoting a cartoon meercat.
4. The Beauty
You’ve seen the pictures. Those pictures aren’t lying to you. The island of Zanzibar really does have that blue water and it is beautiful. The snorkelling is lovely and it has that whole tropical island vibe that we all dream about when we think of exotic destinations.
5. The Africanness
The weirdest and most surprising thing about visiting Zanzibar as a South African is that it feels so familiar. Nothing about Zanzibar looks like home. At all. The Muslim culture is observed in Tanzania, so the women are all dressed in headscarves, even the children. Many of the women, if not all of them, wear saris. The whole place is very rural with bad roads. The vegetation is dense and tropical.
It doesn’t look like home at all.
But it feels like home.
I do very much love that this is not home at all feeling that you get from international travel. I crave it. It is addicting.
But finding that a completely strange place feels familiar? There’s something equally special about that. And I think what excites me the most is that I never considered that as Africans we might have an energy of sorts that connects us.
I do admit that this particular discovery makes the idea of xenophobia just that much more repulsive to me. If I can go to a country thousands of kilometres away from home and still feel like there is an element of belonging for me there, then I certainly hope that any African man or woman who graces our shores can feel the same.
I fear that might not be the case. But perhaps I can hope regardless.