On Tuesday 27th September a group of seven strangers met at Heathrows Terminal 4. Once introductions had been made, bags checked in and supplies of sweets and trashy magazines replenished the seven boarded their flight.
The destination was the exotic spice island of Zanzibar but the journey was not without adversity, by the time they’d fought through the chaos of Immigration at Zanzibar airport and reached the calm oasis of Serena Inn only a cold drink and hot shower would make them feel human again.
Once refreshed their exploration of Unguja could begin. With the incredibly knowledgeable Selemani from Gallery Tours guiding them they headed to the Spice Farm and all were soon absorbed in the smells and tastes of the tropical fruits and spices for which the island is so famous. Cloves, cinnamon, lemon grass, star fruit, custard fruit, nutmeg, cardamom, black pepper, vanilla and ginger were all there and the girls in the group were given woven baskets to keep their samples in. The seven left the plantation adorned in crowns and jewellery all woven from palm leaves.
The next stop was Mangapwani Beach, Serena’s exclusive beach hideaway where they were served a lunch of sumptuous seafood and barbecued meat fitting their newly crowned royal status. After a paddle on the deserted beach they boarded a dhow and sailed back to Stone Town.
The motion of the boat, the long hours of travelling, their full stomachs and the local Kilimanjaro beer (if you can’t climb it drink it) all combined on the journey and their eyes began to droop and sleepy heads began to drop before snapping back up then slowly dropping again. So once back at Serena Inn after an early dinner in the hotels Baharia Restaurant the exhausted group retired to their rooms and net draped carved beds.
The next day after a hearty breakfast Selemani took them on a tour of historical Stone Town, the heart of Zanzibar, and much the same today as it was 200 years ago, with its narrow lanes and intricately carved doors. They visited The Africa House Hotel (once the British Club), the house of notorious slave-trader Tippu-Tip, the slave pit, the Church of Christ Cathedral which stands over the central whipping block of the slave market, the House of Wonders (the former palace of Sultan Barghash built in 1883) and the house where Freddy Mercury lived as a child.
After a quick dip in the hotel’s pool and a tasty lunch it was off to Jozani Forest and an encounter with the rare red colobus monkeys. The wild monkeys were totally oblivious to the group and allowed them to get within touching distance which made for some great photos, one tail did accidently get trodden on in the thick undergrowth but no damage was done.
The final night in Zanzibar ended with a lavish dinner beside the Serena Inn pool and as the wine flowed the seven were no longer strangers but the girl who eats no fruit whatsoever and the guy who had to chew every mouthful of food fifty times were a bit strange.