Although it was very sad to end my safari, I know that the many amazing things I saw and experienced are now permanently burned into my memory… assuming I never suffer from some degenerative brain disease in my dotage. Plus I was looking forward to my first dives in the Indian Ocean and just relaxing for a few days. As fun as it was, my safari days were long, often 10 hours of driving, or rather riding, on very bumpy roads. On Zanzibar, I planned to dive the first two mornings, and then have my third full day free to just chill. And then the long flight home (5 flights, 48 hours travel time total).
The drive from, the Zanzibar airport to my hotel, the Riu Palace Zanzibar, was both beautiful and eye-opening. This is definitely a 3rd world country. The shops and apartment buildings along the side of the road look dilapidated and very poor. Every now and then, though, is an opulent palace… like the resort in which I stayed.
Some street side scenes:
The Riu Palace Zanzibar:
I considered the dives as an underwater safari, as I hoped to encounter some cool animals, which I did… but as I have over 5,000 dives under my belt, most of the life that I saw under water were things with which I was already intimately familiar, with some exceptions of course. I did not have an underwater camera, so I do not have any pictures… yet. My brilliant dive guide, Barbara at Scuba Caribe at the Riu Palace Zanzibar, took pictures on the second day and said she would email them to me. When/if I get them, I will update this post.
On my first days of diving, Barbara informed me that due to overfishing, with the locals even using dynamite to catch fish, there is very little large life in the reefs off the shores of Zanzibar, and she was right. However the reef was in very good shape and was quite pretty. We did see lots of lionfish, leaf scorpionfish and other scorpion fish including a rare blue scorpion fish, cleaner shrimps, mantis shrimp, cuttlefish, nudibranchs, and lots of other cool macro life. For big fish, we did see a Napoleon wrasse (rare) and some mid-sized grouper, but that was about it.
One afternoon I did go on a snorkel excursion where we got to swim with 3 pods of dolphin, which of course was awesome. There were no crowds at all. I was the only diver, so Barbara was my private guide for the dives, and there were only two other people for the snorkel trip, a very nice couple from South Africa who were completely awed by their first ever swim with dolphins. They offered to email me their GoPro footage, and if/when I get that, I will update this post. Although I have swam with dolphins on numerous occasions, every time feels like the first time. And we were surrounded by them, so it was absolutely awesome.
UPDATE: Got a few dive pictures. Shown are me with a clown fish and starfish, and the blue scorpionfish, mantis shrimp, leaf scorpionfish, and clown fish.
On my last full day in Africa, I visited the famous Darajani Marketplace in Stone Town. Although the market caters to both locals and tourists, as a tourist expect to get hounded by merchants of all sorts, people who want to direct you to merchants, and people just plain begging. To be honest, it was not a very pleasant experience as no one will take no for an answer, especially from a white man. I was looking to buy some African fabric for a friend, and a local did ask me if I was looking for something particular, and when I told him, he took me to the area for local fabrics, so that did work out and I let him keep the change, a few thousand Tanzanian schillings… or a couple of bucks, for his assistance. I also picked up some spices for my wife, Rosa, the chef. Saffron was cheap there, and I bought some from a couple of different vendors because they hound you and won’t take no for an answer. After the second spice purchase, I just started ignoring everyone and got out of there. I was only at Darajani for 45 minutes as that was all I could take. And while waiting for my ride, I divested my self of all my remaining schillings to a few would be salespeople turned beggars (they try to sell you something first, and if you say no, they just ask you for money straight up) and a couple of outright beggars. It reminded me of my days in New York in that while you feel bad for all of these people living in abject poverty, I alone cannot afford to lift them out of poverty and my small donations ultimately do nothing to change their lot long term.
I will close this last post out with a picture of a couple of pied crows that had breakfast with me at the airport while waiting to check in for the first of 5 flights home.