Gone are the days when you say your vows, dance with the family and hop onto a plane for weeks of island bliss as a honeymoon. Sure, that sounds about right, but we did it differently. We had two weddings right after each other; on the 22nd of December was our “white” wedding, we then had a full isZulu wedding the day after, so you can imagine how hectic that was, beautiful nonetheless!
Not all newlyweds have time for a two-week excursion to the nearest island paradise. Enter the mini moon – a vacation compromise in which couples schedule a shortened or “miniature” honeymoon of several days just after the wedding while saving their lengthy vacation for a later date. This has become a major matrimonial trend, and can serve as a wonderful way to ease into your marriage while saving your longer trip for a later date. Our ideal trip was going to Italy but getting married in December meant it would be a COLD honeymoon so we opted for a few mini moons and our honeymoon later and so we opted for Zanzibar.
If you are short on time, or just want to make the most of your time on the islands, flying to Zanzibar is a great option especially if you’re flying from South Africa, it’s just a short 4hour flight.
Of course, the beaches in Zanzibar are ravishing, but this UNESCO World Heritage Site in Zanzibar City, once a flourishing trading hub, utterly captivated me: the history and melting pot of African, Arab, Indian and European cultures; the vivid shades of every colour imaginable; the textures; the vibrant energy of the seafront and markets; and the locals who greeted me with “jambo!” (hello) and “karibu” (welcome) every day.
Stone Town can easily be explored on foot. Watch it come alive with historical, multi-story buildings, bright textiles, giggling schoolchildren scurrying across courtyards, and social activity on baraza benches where locals gather throughout the day. If you find yourself lost, the locals won’t hesitate to guide you. We usually asked for directions to the seafront since we always knew how to return to our hotel from there.
The buildings, most of which date back to the nineteenth century, have stories to tell. They are a feast for the eyes, despite their deteriorating condition, it’s hard not to see the urban decay as part of the town’s charm.
You won’t find these giant wooden masterpieces anywhere else in the world. Elaborately carved with astonishing detail, the heavy doors in Stone Town are quintessentially Zanzibar, and served as a valuable glimpse into the homeowner’s place of origin, profession and economic status. The Gujarati doors were crafted by skilled Indian tradesmen out of imported teak. The large brass studs have their origins in India, where they were once used as a defence against charging war elephants. In Stone Town, however, they were used only as decorative pieces and symbolic markers of wealth.
Zanzibar has a more sinister claim to fame; the archipelago was a main slave-trading port in East Africa. For a deeper understanding of this dark chapter in its history, don’t miss the location of the world’s last open slave market, a deeply significant site where the Anglican Cathedral now stands as a symbolic triumph over inhumanity.
Started by the Portuguese, the slave trade in Zanzibar reached its zenith with the Omani sultanate until it was outlawed by the British in 1873, thanks to the anti-slavery campaign led by the famous Scottish explorer, David Livingstone, who stayed in Zanzibar before his final expedition. Slaves from the African interior were transported here, where they were whipped and sold, then shipped off to the Middle East and as far as North America.
The entrance fee is 7000 TSh. You’ll also find guides waiting at the door — pay them a tip in exchange for a brief tour. It’s worth it.
The streets are lined with shopkeepers and vendors selling everything from spices and t-shirts to solid-wood carvings and chests. For women, Aladdin pants, dresses, sarongs and jewellery are popular items. Hone your haggling skills.
Okay now back to the sea life!
Dhows, traditional wooden sailing vessels, were used by Arab traders over centuries as they travelled across the Indian Ocean to the Swahili Coast in East Africa. They can be small, one-man fishing boats with makeshift sails, or larger, two-level boats for foreigners. It’s a tourist trap, sure, but I can’t think of a better way to take in the Zanzibari sunset than on one of these timeless boats under a white sail.
Zanzibar is more than one island, but the nation’s dhow sailboats line all its coastlines. I jumped at the chance to ride on one with Safari Blue. This tiny island was just a stopping point along their tour. At high tide, it vanishes.
This little haven for sea turtles is designed to allow injured sea turtles (which are protected in Zanzibar) to recover before going back to sea. For a small fee, visitors can swim with and/or feed these turtles and the local fish that are in the naturally occurring grotto they call home. During our visit there were 12 turtles in recovery and as soon as we set foot into the water, they immediately swam up and awaited their feast. Fantastic experience, to say the least.
All in all this was an amazing trip and we can’t wait to go back