The magic of Zanzibar, Tanzania

Zanzibar was the only place I’d researched ahead of our East Africa trip. So needless to say I was beyond excited for the blinding turquoise blue water, traditional architecture and history of the old town.

After our safari we flew from Arusha to Dar Es Salaam (we spotted Kilimanjaro out the plane window!) on the coast. We stayed the night with a friend and then got a ferry to Zanzibar. We didn’t book ahead so had to buy ‘first class’ tickets for $USD50 (only $15 more than regular tickets) and then squeeze our way through hoards of porters and people selling cashews to get to the dock.

This was the view when we arrived:


Two of my greatest travel loves: blue water and incredible movie-set style buildings in one destination. Zanzibar was like a far more touristy Lamu, a very similar Swahili settlement island in Kenya that Persian, Indian, and Arab traders used as a base for voyages between the Middle East.

My sister Sarah and I

Just like in Lamu, Zanzibar has the (far more pristine) waterfront…

There’s the ornate carved doors…

Love them

And the bustling, twisting alleyways. These ones bursting at the seams with souvenir shops instead of local butchers and women selling fruit. My sister and I bought sarong muumuus for exclusive wear on the island.

Andy and I bought a chapati from this little stand and locals kept commenting on it as we walked and ate?!

We spent our first evening in Stone Town and went for sundowners on the rooftop terrace of the Maru Maru Hotel.


It was happy hour and I tried my first dawa, an East African cocktail with Tanzanian konyagi (kind of like gin), of the trip.

Sisters with dawas

The following day we got a taxi from Stone Town to Bwejuu beach. We stayed at Mustapha’s Place, 50 metres from this:

Not bad!

Aforementioned muumuu

Sarah models her muumuu

The best thing about our accommodation was probably the pool:

Someone was a little heavy handed with the chlorine though and after a day of floating and splashing I noticed my hair had turned slightly green!!

It took a few treatments of tomato sauce, a bottle of which my sister swiped from the bar, to get it back to normal. I was amazed it worked!

Dawas in the pool

We wandered south along the sand to Paje beach.

That water!

Sarah and Andy

The tide was coming in which made for some climbing and detours.

Detouring along this sea wall.

After ripping my shorts in a climbing incident and cracking the sads (true story- my sister will tell you!) I cheered up with a dip.

Devotin’ full time to floatin’

We wandered further and stopped for a delicious lunch at Mr Kahawa, followed by reading and snoozing.

A local kitty joined us

For our final day, Andy and I took a snorkelling trip to near Mnemba Island. It’s privately owned so you can’t touch it without paying! The snorkelling was very average but we saw dolphins and it was worth it just to be out on the water.

Such dags in our hats

On our last night we went to Zanzibar’s must-see restaurant The Rock for a few drinks. It’s insanely popular due to its amazing location and you can’t get a table without booking ahead.

The Rock

At high tide you have to take a small boat attached to a rope to get to the restaurant.

View from The Rock

It was pretty cool but the service wasn’t great, it was definitely the kind of place you feel like you have to go to.

After Zanzibar it was finally time to fly to Rwanda for my sister’s wedding!

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Safari final day: Ngorongoro Crater

The night before our final day on safari we stayed in camping ground I’ll never forget. It was a big open field on a slight hill and all the other tents were on one side at the top and we were on the other. When it got dark a group of about 30 zebras stood in the field (presumably about to sleep?) and as we walked across their tiny, beady eyes glowed green and just stared at us. Then one of them would spook and they’d run in random directions. It was so creepy! I had visions of our tent being crumpled by a stampede in the night. But it didn’t happen, as it turns out I’m not typing this from beyond the grave.

Anyhoo, our final day on safari was in Ngorongoro Crater which according to Wikipedia is the world’s largest inactive, intact and unfilled volcanic caldera.

Looking into the crater

Team safari! Us with our guide Hans

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Safari in the Serengeti National Park

Sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti… Naturally I had Toto’s Africa stuck in my head as we drove through dust towards the entrance to Serengeti National Park. In fact we actually made our safari guide Hans blast it through the stereo as we sang along at the top of our lungs, trying to hit Toto’s signature high notes. So predictably lame! When we made it to the gate the dust was unlike anything I’d ever experienced. So bad I didn’t even get out of the car to take a proper front-on photo of the sign:

This will do!

The Masai people are completely unfazed by the dustbowl conditions:

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Safari day 1: Tarangire National Park

I wouldn’t say I dreamt of going on safari but I always hoped and expected I would one day. It exceeded my expectations in every possible way. There is nothing better than seeing such an amazing array of creatures doing their thing in the wild. Because they actually do things, a opposed to lazing around, bored and unstimulated in a zoo enclosure. They hunt, mate, eat, look after their young, yawn, preen, take in their surroundings and impress Jeep-loads of tourists ogling them.

We did a three-day safari in Tanzania through the Maisha Arts Hostel. Depending on your budget there are many safari options in Tanzania, ranging from a camping safari (like we did) to staying at the Four Seasons for $US1000 per person per night and taking a small private plane from national park to national park. Fancy! Our safari, which was actually four days(?!) turned out to be about $US200 a day each including park fees and permits, meals, accommodation and a driver/guide. It was amazingly good value.

The safari started from Arusha, Tanzania. We got there via bus from Nairobi, Kenya. We spent the night at Maisha Arts before setting off the next morning with our guide Hans. Our first stop was Tarangire National Park.

The first animal we saw upon driving in!

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African animals in Naivasha, Kenya

After Lamu our next stop in Kenya was Naivasha, a town next to a lake about two hours north west of Nairobi. Naivasha’s main industry is floriculture and they export flowers to countries all over the world. Our trusty driver Patrick drove us to our AirBnb, which was in a slightly weird location in the middle of nowhere between some flower farms. On the way there we spotted our first zebras of the trip!

Those white structures behind them are flower greenhouses

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Lamu Island: part 2

On our second day in Lamu we took a traditional dhow boat trip to neighbouring Manda island. As a tourist, you are offered boat trips approximately every 2 minutes as you walk along the Lamu foreshore so eventually we cracked. The boat operators were pretty desperate given the huge lack of tourists because of the impending election.

Despite lots of competition we ended up with a pretty lacklustre crew, I seem to have bad luck with boat trips! We were overcharged at the end of the trip and had to wait around at the start of the day for them to be ready, standard stuff. It was still a fun day though and it was pretty magical to be sailing between small Kenyan islands.

Waiting on the foreshore for our crew to (finally) be ready to go

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The new way I pack for travelling

On a rooftop in Lamu, Kenya

Black jeans, black & white striped t shirts and converse trainers. This was pretty much the uniform for my last big trip. I had obsessed so much over packing a monotone wardrobe so everything went together that I completely forgot about that thing called ‘colour’. Then somewhere on the road between Montana and new Mexico, I realised that dressing exclusively in dreary tones was doing nothing for my mood, let alone my travel snaps.

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Lamu Island: part 1

My sister booked our entire East Africa trip. I want to get it out there early that I can take exactly zero credit for the great time we had! Andy and I literally just turned up and enjoyed the heck out of our five week vacation. So while I had an idea of what the safari and some of our destinations might be like, many places were a complete surprise.

The first big surprise was the island of Lamu in Kenya. Lamu Old Town is one of the oldest Swahili settlements in East Africa. The old port there was founded by Arab traders around the 14th century and so the place looks like something out of Aladdin.

We stayed in the most incredible AirBnb. It was all white washed walls, ornately carved wooden doors, heavy carpets (the non magical kind), traditional Swahili furniture and lush plants. To get there we had to wind through tiny alleyways, passing donkeys, women selling fruit, cats and kids playing in tiny courtyards. I don’t think I’ve ever been so enchanted by a place and I’m frustrated the photos don’t seem to do it justice.

Looking up from the courtyard in our AirBnb

The view from our bed into the room

The sitting room at our AirBnb

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Nairobi, Kenya

Nairobi was the first stop on our five week East African adventure. We flew with Qatar Airways from Melbourne to Doha and then Doha to Nairobi. Before leaving I had researched whether or not you can obtain the East African visa (for Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda) on arrival and couldn’t find any reliable information. So I’d like to state that at September 16, 2017 you CAN get the EAC visa on arrival! It costs $US100 and you need cash. Just in case you ever need that information!

After getting our visas we purchased pre paid SIM cards at the airport, ordered an Uber and drove through reasonable traffic to Beth and Grant’s apartment in Westlands. Beth and Grant are friend’s of my sister’s. My sister lives in Rwanda and has many lovely (conventiently located!) mates across East Africa. After over 24 hours of travel it was lovely to arrive in their beautiful apartment, shower, be fed delicious risotto and hop into bed!

The next morning Beth and Grant were delivering a huge bundle of bread donated from a fancy bakery to a facility for homeless boys, so we joined them. A lot of the boys left home and came to Nairobi looking for work or to be less of a burden on their families. They were all very sweet and introduced themselves in between lining up for loaves of artisanal sourdough and french pastries. One kid did an adorable happy dance after receiving a chocolate eclair. They welcomed us into their dormitory which was an eye opening and important experience. It was very rough but I was glad these guys had a place to sleep. After hanging out for a bit and patting cute stray puppies we left.

After having a very grounding, check-your-privilege kind of experience it was a bit jarring to head straight to a tourist hot spot. But off we went to the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage where young, sick, injured and orphaned elephants are looked after and rehabilitated. It was pretty damn cute!

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Packing for my holiday

I’ve got sunscreen, mosquito repellent, a rain coat, a swimsuit, and a Panama hat that will inevitably end up squished. I’ve got leg coverings in all forms including long leggings, short leggings, shorts, culottes and trousers. I’ve got white tops and I’ve got black tops. Do I need two kinds of runners and hiking boots? Do I need more dresses? Is six pairs of novelty oversized earrings too many?

These are the questions I’ve been asking myself all week as I pack for my East African adventure. We fly out on Friday! How do you decide what to pack for vacations?

Check out my 8 essential items for long term travel and 10 tips for looking good while travelling.

Illustration by Mari Andrew

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