My actual destination was the autonomous spices island Zanzibar, but my flight made a stopover at Kilimandjaro airport. Unfortunately I could not see the legendary mountain behind the clouds, but the Masai steppes looked stunning. The island of Zanzibar is called a paradise island, where the beaches are flushed with waves from the turquoise blue ocean. If you use the historical Stonetown as your base camp, you cannot find such beaches within walking distance, since they either belong to private hotels or are difficult to reach. Quite often the beach is a bit dirty too. An alternative is to go to a beach with a trip arranger, either by boat or a dhow.
Stonetown is a bit worn out, but it has an old-fashioned charm, which also reminds you of its gruesome past as a center for slave trade. The locals know their value and tourists need to constantly say “no thanks” to all kinds of services that locals approach you with. The Tanzanians have a special “don’t worry”-attitude, hakuna matata, which means that travelers should be relaxed enough to take in all kind of marketing.
Already in the hotel you are able to taste Tanzanian specialities: for breakfast I had for example masai meat skewers, but also in other menus throughout the town you can have game from the mainland steppes. The specialities of Zanzibar are of course grilled or fried fish or seafood, which are often served with Indian flavors such as with masala or coconut sauce. The street food “Zanzibar pizza” is in fact crepes stuffed with meat and spices.
If you walk a bit away from Stonetown, you reach a clove factory, where there are fabulous scents of cloves: a bit lighter but still more intensive than the spices you have in your kitchen. Generally speaking it feels as tourism already has corrupted the island’s fame as a beautiful paradise, and it just might be a bit too small for big tourist crowds. Or then resources are just too small for all the tourists that are expected there in order to have it all roll smoothly. One day the island will be a ruin from tourism the same way it was a ruin after the fall of slave trade. When the heavy mid-day rains make the old town alley flood, it is obvious that a minor re-building starts every day in order for Stonetown to embrace the next day’s tourists and the next day’s new heavy rains.