Monday, January 14, 2008

Diving Zanzibar Town

Early morning start and down to the dive centre. I chat with a Aussie chap called Martin who I am buddied up with. Cheri is leading the dive. We walk down to the boat

Some heavy divers were expected

and head out to the first dive site. The water is crystal clear, turquoise, and there are islands and sand-banks dotted about.

We pull up, have our briefing, kit up and head in to the water. I’m wearing a short wet-suit so potentially don’t need so much weight but I stick to my usual 6kg anyway.

Dive: Aquarium, Stonetown, Zanzibar
This dive, about 30 minutes gentle boat ride out from Stonetown, near some sand banks, wasn’t a bad dive. Maximum depth of 18m, and visibility 12-15m. Water temperature 27C. As the name implies, it’s supposed to be like an aquarium, and yes, the reef isn’t bad and there are plenty of small reef fish about. We saw a couple of pipe fish, a couple of rays –a stingray and a ribbon-tail ray, and a fair few nudibranches.

Lunch was provided before the second dive, in the form of a variety of pastries, savoury, some with meat or fish in, some samosas or spring rolls. All quite tasty. Plus chapatti bread and a coconut sauce.

Dive: Murogo Reef, Stonetown, Zanzibar
Not far from the first site, Murogo is presumably named after the sand banks nearby bearing the same name. Slightly better visibility this time, but much of the same in terms of scenery. We did see a couple of lion fish, trumpet fish, a yellow tiger cowry.

Overall I’m slightly disappointed by both dives. Neither the reef nor what’s available to see are particularly impressive, and you can see almost the same stuff snorkelling. Then again, the best diving is supposed to be on the other side of the island, which is where I’m going next! Malebogo, in case you’re reading this, I’m still thinking of you guys and where is best to do your Open Water! I’m working on it, girl!

Kids enjoying themselves on the beach

Back on land, I’ve decided I need dollars for Zanzibar, and anyway, they’re always useful to have around. I out to the main branch of Barclays Bank, which is away from Stone Town, past Livingstone House, where the famous Dr Livingstone resided for some time before setting off on his last expedition into the African interior.

They don’t charge me commission for changing the money, but I bet they charge me a transaction fee for using their ATM. Anyway, it’s air-conditioned, so a nice place to hang out in the hottest hours of the day.

Back in town I visit Archipelago café, upstairs and overlooking the water. I order one of their specials, Sweet Chilli Baby Squid.

The waiter seems displeased that I’ve only ordered something small, and is surly towards me for the rest of the time I was there. Don’t go there. On the way home I pop in to Amore Mio for a cappuccino and my home-made gelato, this time chocolate and vanilla flavours.

Then, in the absence of anything else to do, a bit of Tilman and a siesta, before in the evening, having a nice fish curry at Sunrise Restaurant, where I meet a girl, Kath, from Burundi. Do you know where Burundi is? I certainly didn’t, to my shame. She pointed it out on my map. The capital is Bujumbura.

St. Joseph’s Cathedral

Another day, another breakfast of omelette, dry chewy baguette and fruit, then shower and out to internet, leaving my pack at Flamingo. As I leave I bash my head on a window-frame. Ouch. The "mop" does not provide as much padding as one would expect! Then I head to the transport stand via the market. This is where one takes Daladalas, the main form of public transport in Zanzibar. These are open-backed small trucks, with a bench down each side and a very low roof which is used for cargo, i.e. chickens, sacks of rice, fruit and my backpack.

I look for the one to Nungwi, where I want to go. A strange chap latches on to me and shows me where to go. I’m strongly against him showing me, but he insists, telling me Hakuna Matata he doesn’t want any money. Of course he does. When we find 116, I throw my bag up on top, then a chap asks me for the fare before I get on. 3,000s. I was told it should never be more than 1,500s. I’m suspicious, but he’s standing in front of everyone else on the bus.

Handing the money over and jumping on, I suddenly feel stupid. Who was the guy I gave money to, where is he, what proof do I have I gave anything to him, and would I recognise him again? I’ve been scammed, I’m sure! Damn… I watch everyone else pay on the bus, and wait to be asked for money. There are many police checks on the way, it seems like the main focus of police is to find over-loaded daladalas. All that happens though is that we all squeeze up unbearably for the time it takes to pass the check-point, then unsqueeze once we’re past. I also bash my head on the roof as we bump over a speed bump, exactly the same point I hit earlier. Ouch!

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