Beyond Rye: The Bumpy Road to Zanzibar

Well, here we are again, off to Zanzibar. The trouble is, you can’t easily get there from here. After seven hours to London, three and a half hours in Heathrow, eight and a half hours to Nairobi, two hours sleep in a Nairobi hotel, and a two-hour puddle-jumper, you arrive in Zanzibar.

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Published May 29, 2012 7:48 PM
4 min read

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20Well, here we are again, off to Zanzibar. The trouble is, you can’t easily get there from here. After seven hours to London, three and a half hours in Heathrow, eight and a half hours to Nairobi, two hours sleep in a Nairobi hotel, and a two-hour puddle-jumper, you arrive in Zanzibar.


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By David Magee

 

Well, here we are again, off to Zanzibar. The trouble is, you can’t easily get there from here. After seven hours to London, three and a half hours in Heathrow, eight and a half hours to Nairobi, two hours sleep in a Nairobi hotel, and a two-hour puddle-jumper, you arrive in Zanzibar.

 

Thanks to thousands of frequent flyer mileage credits, my wife Franny and I flew First or Business Class on all the legs of our trip, which made for comfortable, uneventful flying – until we reached Kcnya. We did not arrive in Nairobi until about 10 p.m., and then had to stand in line for an hour to get a visa to enter Kenya for just one night. We went to bed around midnight, only to wake up two hours later so severe was our jet lag. We then headed back to the airport for the flight to Zanzibar.

 

Our route took us directly over the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, seemingly so close one could almost touch it. Despite all the global warming stories suggesting the snow cover at Kilimanjaro has disappeared, the summit appeared to be solid snow.

 

On the ground, checking into our hotel in Zanzibar, we discovered we had someone else’s bag; and one of ours was missing. After frantic discussions with the front desk, we learned that our bag was still at the airport and that somebody had gone to fetch it. It arrived at long last, and all was well.

 

The trip began in earnest with a stop at the Jozani Forest to see the red

 

Colobus monkey, and frisky little fellows they are. By that evening, we embarked on our ship, Clipper Odyssey. Though south of pirate territory, our ship was surrounded by bales of barbed wire and secretly guarded by four tall Royal Marines packing heat.

 

The following day we visited Pemba Island, primarily to see the endemic Pemba flying fox. This creature is not a fox at all, but a bat, which is perfectly capable of flying 50 kilometers to the mainland, but has never been known to do so.

 

We spent the next day, relaxing at sea, with optional lectures all day long.

 

Our first stop in Mozambique was Ibo Island. I am not quite sure why we went to Ibo. As Gertrude Stein once said about Oakland, California, “There is no there there.”

 

For the next few days we stopped at various islands and the mainland of Mozambique. We went snorkeling several times, but the locals are so poor that they have taken many of the tropical fish for food.

 

One of the highlights of this trip was an opportunity to swim with whale sharks. These creatures can be up to 39 feet long and weigh up to 39 tons, but they are totally harmless to humans. Alas, after several hours of searching, no whale sharks were to be found.

 

When we ran aground on a sand bar, the staff frantically tried to figure out what to do with us passengers. Even though we were about 12 miles offshore, it was decided to farm us out to several beach clubs on the mainland, where we spent a day, eating, drinking, swimming, and napping. We were finally taken back to the ship, still aground, in time for dinner, but warned to take only brief showers. Most of us went to bed early, as it had been a rather trying day. About 9:30 p.m., the announcement came that we were free of the sandbar and on our way to our next stop.

 

In Maputo, (still in Mozambique), which was modeled after the Portuguese harbor city of Lisbon, we spent time at the city’s most important landmark, the 1787 Fort of Nossa Senhora da Conceição, the nucleus of the original settlement. We also saw the beautiful central railway station designed by Gustave Eiffel (of Tower fame).

 

As our voyage wound down, we went on a mini-safari through the wetland park of St. Lucia and a boat ride around nearby Cape Viral, where we saw rhinos and crocs.

 

We spent our last day at the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi (it’s easier to pronounce than spell) Game Reserve, driving around in Land Rovers in hopes of seeing as many wild animals as possible. We were disappointed to spot only two of the “Big Five” (lion, leopard, black rhino, elephant, and cape buffalo). We saw rhinos, as well as giraffes, close up and the buffalos at a distance. The park, covering some 240,000 acres, is in the heart of Zululand.

 

We left the ship for the last time and got on the bus for a drive around Durban before flying home. We visited a huge open market, bought a few souvenirs, went to the beautiful botanical gardens, and finally had lunch at a seaside restaurant.

 

Despite some mishaps, it was a wonderful trip, especially for Franny, the bird watcher in the family. 

 

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