Prior to arriving in Zanzibar, I didn’t really know what to expect. My tour itinerary only said: “A ferry from Dar es Salaam takes us to the ‘Spice Island’, where we spend the next few nights.”
As a born and bred Sydney girl, I had images of a Sydney ferry taking us to a slightly more equatorial version of Manly, full of tourists and souvenir shops.
How wrong I was.
I arrived in Zanzibar in a short downpour of rain, so a taxi quickly whisked me from the ferry port to my hotel, right in the heart of Stone Town.
My first plan of attack – a tour of Stone Town with a local guide.
Calling himself Ali G, our guide managed to not only take us all over town, but also out to a Spice plantation where we sampled the local spices and fruits.
The city-slicker in me learned that pineapples grow on bushes and I even got to try the most amazing pineapple I have ever tasted in my entire life.
When I was handed a truly delicious passionfruit, something I haven’t eaten since I first came to England, I would have sold my soul to the devil for this fruit to be magically transported to my local Sainsbury’s store.
The rest of my time in Stone Town was spent snorkelling the clear blue waters, finding not only Nemo but also quite a few of his co-stars, including the wild tortoise population on Prison Island.
In fact, I become a little enamoured of these slow, slightly stoned looking creatures, who love nothing more than eating some fresh greens out of the hands of the tourists who come to this tiny island just to see them.
My evenings were spent at the local night markets, where mouth-watering fresh seafood is sold by the piece and haggling is considered a team sport.
After two fabulous days exploring Stone Town, I headed for north Nungwi, a fishing village on the tip of Zanzibar. And there I found paradise.
Picture this:- a beach of the finest, whitest sand you have ever seen, framed only by tropical palm trees and (bizarrely) a bar with no walls but only a door leading from the beach so you can make your grand entrance.
As you walk from the beach to the ocean you are greeted by a glasslike sheet of pure turquoise water, which only intensifies in colour as your eyes reach towards the horizon.
The crystal water is only occasionally dotted with the hulking frames of wooden dhows, the traditional fishing boats, still handmade by locals only about 10 minutes down the beach.
But the most intense colour is encountered once your eyes reach the horizon. The blue sky is unbroken by cloud or plane. It’s the colour that was called ‘azure blue’ in your Derwent coloured pencils tin.
You almost expect to see Katriona Rowntree sauntering along in a bikini telling you fun facts about Zanzibar.
So obviously I did what any self respecting Australian girl, who has spent several years in London without really seeing the sun, would do in the circumstances… I donned my bikini and made new best friends with the beach.
Over my several days in Nungwi I lept and frolicked, swan and sun bathed, saw turtles, jellyfish, coral, Dory fish, and even a palm leaf which looked, to the untrained eye, like a surface-dwelling great white shark.
On a related note, almost hyperventilating when underwater will not endear you to your scuba dive instructor. It is neither quirky nor kooky. Rather, they will think you are some sort of hysterical psycho and look at you strangely in future. Or so I’m told.
But most importantly, I reacquainted myself with my old friend the sun.
And as I returned to Stone Town to board the ferry back to Dar es Salaam with its pumping Michael Bolton and Celine Dion mega-mix, I did so knowing my glorious tan was proof of my fabulous time in Zanzibar.