The morning dhow cruise had been the perfect way to start a day. It had been around six in the morning and the air had been refreshingly cool, without the heavy saltiness of the daytime. The calm sea had made the port hum with activity and fishing boats had unloaded huge amounts of fruits of the sea. All kinds of fishes, crabs, squids, octopuses, oysters, mussels and sponges had dripped sea water from their glistening wet bodies and sea gulls, cats and little boys had swarmed around for discarded leftovers. Our dhow had waited for us amidst the morning bustle and it had been an old fashioned wooden beauty with huge, white sails. The crew had included the captain and a helper, who had also doubled up as a cook and they had already been busy getting our breakfast in place. We had fallen in love with the barnacle encrusted boat at first sight and had claimed our spots after immediately trooping in.

The wooden deck which had been polished soft by thousands of footsteps had been big enough for sunning and a small open cabin had hammocks for noon siestas. A sturdy ladder had lead to the roof the cabin where we had all enjoyed the sun after a cool morning dip in the sea. Our sail off had started with a soft sunrise, which had quickly turned into a deep blue day and we had snorkeled at some of east Africa’s most famous coral reefs. The marine life had been rich and thriving and the ocean had spread around us in different shades of blue. Somewhere in the horizon the sky had melted in it too and with a full bloomed day, the panorama had turned into one huge sheet of cerulean. Our breakfast had been a simple one of bread, condiments, boiled and exotic tropical fruits and we had counted fluffy white sails on passing dhows while enjoying slices of ruby red watermelons.

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Welcome to Zanzibar

It had been a morning of sailing and sea, with a brief stop at Prison Island, which had housed a super expensive resort along with the giant Aldabra tortoise rehabilitation center. One of the largest tortoises in the world, aldabras had been real giants with individuals often reaching over one meter in length. Once a thriving species belonging to the Indian Ocean, these gentle giants had nearly become extinct in recent times and the Prison Island had been one such haven created to save them from disappearing from the face on the earth. The island too had been a slice of paradise, and though once home to an infamous prison, the beautiful isolated resort had come complete with peacocks, mangrove forests and bejeweled birds. Some bush babies too had apparently called it home and silence had reigned supreme there. Only the rushing waves had filled the tropical air with whispers and sometimes bickering peacocks and mating tortoises could be heard over the ocean.

We had headed for the shore soon after the Prison Island visit and after a quick lunch, had been on our way to Nungwi beach. Located at the northern tip of Zanzibar, Nungwi had been a charming fishing village and it had boasted of some of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen. Sugar white with lovely coral outcrops, the ocean had been warm, clear and gentle there and the village itself had been quite an intrepid one. Though, small with only one daily fish market, couple of grocery stores, a small mosque/school/clinic and beach restaurants, Nungwi had been quite popular and its cheap souvenir stores and a rustic discotheque had hummed with tourists. Henna painters, massage shops and dive bars had lined the village and cozy huts had been shaded under swaying emerald palms. The beach had been of the softest sand of dazzling white and it had been the perfect place to unwind before continuing with the rest of our overlanding trip.

Our last few days at Zanzibar’s Nungwi Beach had been tropically idyllic. Swim, snorkel, sun and lazy meals had been interspersed only with beach volleyballs and siestas and the Indian Ocean had never stopped being beautiful. A far cry from the exotic Stone Town, Nungwi had been a beach paradise and it had been with some willingness that we had left its sandy shores. The gorgeous Indian Ocean had been unusually calm on our way back to the mainland and at Dar-es-Salaam we had greeted our faithful truck with renewed vigour. Our grand journey had resumed as per itinerary after that and though we had spent many nights at beautiful places across Africa, Zanzibar had continued to haunt me with its unique charm. Somehow, she had bewitched me for life with her clear blue water, red sunsets and ancient secrets and deep in my heart I know that someday I will return to this exotic sinful paradise.

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A magical island of sugar white sand

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Cerulean clear water

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And awesome golden sunsets

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Prison Island had been awesome

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With its resident peacocks

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And aldabra tortoises

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The sunrise dhow cruise

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And some snorkeling

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Had been a refreshing way

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To start a day

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But it had been Nungwi

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With its sugar white beaches

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Relaxed pace and

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And magnificent sunsets

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Which had stolen

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Stolen my heart forever

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Needless to say

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That I had fallen in love with

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The beautiful island of Zanzibar

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