Monday, April 4, 2016

Zanzi Resort

Geckos carved in the wall

Painting on our wall
Zanzibar is a small island off the coast on Tanzania. It includes a number of small islands and two larger ones, and often called the Spice Islands because of its large spice plantations – and one of its main sources of income. Sadly it is a very impoverished country, with those spices and tourists being the main sources of income. 

They do work to spread the wealth as much as possible: drivers are only drivers and they connect you to the tour guide who works in his area. The spice tour guide only conducted the tour and there was a different man who climbed the trees to show us spices, as well as one who shared fruits with us, and yet another to sell us spices. Seems like a lot of people but it did work to give more people an income. Sadly, the average daily wage is still less than $1 a day and there’s something along the lines of 50% unemployment.

Our personal swimming pool!

We stayed at a wonderful resort called the Zanzi Resort. It was located on the ocean with both ocean villas as well as new Eco villas available. We had one on the ocean, complete with our very own swimming pool and access to the small beach. Loved the interior decorations – they simply painted pictures on the walls! The food was absolutely divine, with locally procured produce and various ethnic and chef created meals. He was an outstanding chef – I honestly think he should create a cookbook.

The setting was also absolutely gorgeous and so relaxing. We took walks out to the pier, walks at sunset, kayaking, the outside gym (a daily haunt of mine), as well as evening dining at the end of the pier! Nice to be pampered!

Stone Town - Zanzibar

Door from one of the sultan's homes

We headed out the first day to Stone Town, the main city on the island as one of the most historic. It was once the capital of the sultanate (when Oman ruled the area) as well as the center of both the spice and slave trade in the area. The architecture is an interesting blend of African, Persian, Arab, Indian and European influence. The old doorways are elaborately carved, giving hints of who the original owners were and their involvement in

Note the chain pattern
the slave trade or other sources of income. The chain pattern indicates slave traders. Others designs show family connections - or just beautiful carving work.

Sadly, some of the well-known tourist spots were not open or available when we were there. There is a famous cathedral there, located next to the area that was once the largest slave market on Zanzibar, however, it was Easter Sunday so the area was closed to tourists. We also discovered that a couple of the buildings, such as the House of Wonders (once the sultan’s palace) and the Palace Museum had fallen into disrepair and were currently closed to tourists (one building had actually collapsed on one end). We did, however, explore the old fort and wandered the streets and markets the city is also famous for. We sat in one of the plaza areas where a man sold coffee and other men sat around, talked, shared local news, and generally visited. An interesting piece of culture.
View over the harbor

We dined in a great Indian restaurant, complete with a view of the harbor. Turns out the main shipping harbor is around the corner from there – and so small that only a single cargo ship can come in at a time. It sure didn’t stop the cruise lines from anchoring offshore, bringing in smaller boat loads of people to explore Stone Town.

Spice Plantation

The following day we headed out to one of the spice plantations. It was amazing to see the wide variety of spices grown on the island and to have first hand access to many of them. They had developed a “tourist area” where they planted all the different spices they cultivated in the plantation so that you could see the variety
Kapok...from the tree!

Pop these open for natural lipstick!

without traipsing over miles of land to get to each one.

OK…I have to admit…I had heard of kapok but I honestly thought it was a manufactured substance from…something. I had no idea that it actually grew on a tree! The amazing things you learn. We explored common spices: cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, as well as henna, galangal, and zingifuri, a plant where the flower is used as lipstick for the ladies!

Vanilla beans
This was also the place to learn all about the medicinal value, application and uses of so many of the plats grown there. The entire island primarily relies upon the natural medicines found there. While western medicine is available, the local remedies are far more accessible for these people. Would love to explore all the options and used for these marvelous plants.

Cheetah's Rock - Zanzibar

For such a small, impoverished, area, I was impressed with the number of areas where people where actively working to protect the environment. One place we visited was Cheetah’s Rock. This is a fascinating animal rescue operation with a twist. All of the animals were rescued from various situations, or were animals born in

Ring-tailed Lemur
captivity, meaning that they are not candidates for being released back into the wild. Jenny, the trainer who works with them, has an amazing way with the animals, building trust with them that is not normally seen with wild animals. It was amazing to hear her tales of living with some of the animals in her home – including the lion cub, Aslan (no longer a cub and no longer in the house!). She has worked to provide them with large enclosures and numerous options for enrichment to keep them active – as well as the hands on shows for the people who come to visit!

We did get to get up and close with a number of the animals, including the bush babies who frolicked around anyone who had a bit of food, as well as the ring tailed lemurs who spent their time racing through the trees to the next handout!

Turtle and Tortoise Sanctuaries - Zanzibar

We traveled up the coast to head out to the southern tip to a green sea turtle rescue aquarium. The area was once rich with turtles but sadly they have been captured over the year for food as well as their shells. Various groups have worked together to create sanctuaries for the animals. They monitor the nesting grounds and when the babies hatch, they bring the tiny turtles to the sanctuary where they stay for approximately their first

Baby green sea turtle in "rest" position
Looking for food!

year of life. This allows them to be large enough to not be food for too many predators and gives them a good start in life. The aquarium monitors them for any ailments (there’s a fungus that seems to plague the animals) and isolates and treats any turtle that is afflicted. Once released, they will eventually return to the island where they were born to lay their own eggs in the future.

We did get a chance to feed some of the larger turtles that for various reasons could not be released. They certainly do clamor for attention, with the larger ones, of course, wanting the majority of the food and attention!

Prisoner Island seemed to have been misnamed. The prison built on it was supposed to hold rebellious slaves but it actually was never used for that. It did function as a quarantine station for yellow fever and also saw use as a quarantine location for people migrating to the islands. This place also included a tortoise sanctuary for the Aldabra giant tortoises. These are not native to the area but were actually a gift from the governor of the Seychelles. Sadly, once again, these animals were hunted for their meat and shells! They are protected now, although they still have to guard against poachers that regularly try to steal the animals. Babies are always kept in a locked cage to protect them through their early life.