Monday, September 28, 2009

19 - 23 Sept: Matemwe Beach Village, Zanzibar

We started our trip with a very very early morning, to be at the airport 2 hours before our 07h35 flight to Zanzibar. We were checked-in and thru customs in a blink of an eye, and sitting around duty-free before any of the shops opened. No, that's not quite true. Oddly a Specsavers was open before the Newscafe was open. You'd think at 6am people have a greater need for coffee and breakfast than new glasses? Our flight was uneventful. It takes a mere 3.5 hours to get to Zanzibar, direct on 1Time.

Arriving in Zanzibar is quite an experience. I don't think they can handle more than one plane arriving or leaving at a time. Literally, their International airport is that tiny! We waited at a hole in the wall while bags were manually brought thru and placed along a knee-high counter one-by-one. My bag never came thru that hole in the wall. It is not a great feeling in the most efficient of airports, here it is quite terrifying. So, after they checked the plane again and assured me my bag really had not arrived on the flight with me, we wandered off to their lost luggage room. I can't fault the Zanzibari's, they were very helpful. The only real concern I had was that they wouldn't deliver the bag to me, when it arrived I'd have to come all the way back to the airport to fetch it "Once the bag gets here, our job is done" I was told. Well it wasn't an ideal start to my holiday, but soon we were driving out of Stone Town and off to Matemwe in the North-East of the island, about an hour's drive away.

Matemwe Beach Village is lovely and on arrival we set about relaxing ... Varen even let me borrow his swimming shorts and a TShirt so that I could go for a swim (boys costumes are horribly uncomfortable, but it may be because it was also a few sizes too large for me!). After that we had some lunch (we were so spoilt with food this holiday!!), and I investigated the meagre pickings at Matemwe's "Boutique". I manage to get myself a toothbrush and one of those UV protection swim-shirts for swimming in. I was not especially happy, and pretty much lived in Varen's kikoy for the first 2 days of my trip (which wasn't *too* bad ;) ) Luckily Matemwe provides 2 kikoys and 2 straw sun-hats in each bungalow for use while you're there. My wardrobe was growing ;)

I will say that we did pretty much nothing on our first day & a half ... we lazed around on the gorgeous area outside our room reading our books. I didn't really want to go and hang out by the pool since my swimming gear was now a pair of Varen's shorty-shorts underwear and the swim-shirt ... I was feeling a little self-conscious. But as I said, they bungalows are built with lovely relaxing outside areas.

On Sunday we heard (after getting my Mom in Cape Town to chase down Joburg airport! Hamls Mom, I couldn't have survived the first few days without you!) that they'd finally found my bag ... still in Joburg. Apparently the tag they attach to the bag at check-in had come off and they had no idea where the bag was supposed to be headed. On top of that because I'd decided just to use my little gym bag (don't really need too much clothing for a beach holiday, it was mostly swimming costumes & kikoys anyway!), it didn't have my name & contact details on it either (I won't be making that mistake ever again!). Anyhoo, so apparently they'd get it onto a flight via Nairobi and it should arrive in Zanzibar on Sunday evening. Yay, I could go and fetch it on Monday and be ready for our day of diving on Tuesday (we'd originally planned to do 2 days of diving, but a) they were fully booked till Tuesday, our last full day there, and b) my diving card was in my luggage!!).

All was still well in the land of the holiday. Monday, however was filled with highs and lows. I heard the bag had arrived in Nairobi at 8am and should be in Zanzibar by 10am. So Varen and I took the opportunity to wander out to the reef since it was low-tide and I was in dire need of some distraction.

What fun! I can't tell you how far from the beach the "second beach" at the reef is, but it's quite a way. During low tide you can wear sandals (thanks again to Varen for letting me borrow his over-sized ones and using his takkies instead), because there are a multitude of sea-urchins, and pretty much wade out thru knee-to-thigh-high water, all the way to the reef surrounding the coast.

Obviously I didn't take the camera along (it wouldn't have survived!) but I'm super glad we took Varen's mask & snorkel (mine were in my bag :( ). We saw some lion fish and even saw an eel and loads of general reef fish. It made my morning :)

The other super interesting thing about the coast at Matemwe is that they farm seaweed along it. It took us a while to figure out what the hell they were doing, ut once you walk out and see the strings growing seaweed between two poles, it makes some more sense (here's one Farmville should add - hee hee!). You'd also be amazed at what the seaweed is used for, apparently it's a thickening agent and is used in medicines and cosmetics as well as in the preservation of food and beer!

When we got back, we were sure I'd have a message from the Zanzibar airport saying my bag was ready for collection, but sadly I hadn't heard a word! When we went to have some lunch, the hotel kindly contacted the airport for me, only to tell me that my bag was still in Joburg. I was devastated. I was about sick of not having a swimming costume and no snorkelling gear let alone the possibility of not being able to dive at all while in Zanzibar! I quickly contacted Mom who eventually let me know that my bag was in fact sitting at Zanzibar airport. We phoned again. Oh yes, it's there. Great, now to organise a taxi to drive us all the way there and then back again (am hoping my travel insurance will cover the 70USD that little trip cost me!!). And then when I got there we had to wait because they were all at prayer. Eventually I got my bag. The relief was incredible, it was still in one piece and the cable ties still intact. And then the idiot who'd told us earlier that day that the bag was still in Joburg proceeds to say "Why did you come all the way here to fetch it yourself?" Erm, because that's what the other guy said I'd have to do!?! You moron. When I'm phoning almost twice a day to see if my bag has arrived, surely the polite thing to do when you tell me that it has is offer me options of delivery that might be available to me so that I don't have to take 2 hours out of my week-long holiday to drive to the airport & back. Grrr. But how angry could I be really, I just wanted to be done dealing with this hassle and get back to my holiday, which was infinitely improved by the arrival of my stuffs! Thanks again to Mr Jobs from Zanzibar Unique, you were a fabulous driver :)

After that, we headed down to the pool area and enjoyed a swim! And the next day we took their boat out to Mnemba Atoll for a day of diving with One Ocean. It was freaking awesome because Varen and I were the only divers on the boat, the rest were snorkelling.

Initially it looked like it could've been the best dive of our lives because they spotted a humpback whale spraying and we took the little speedboat and tried our damndest to reach it. Unfortunately the whale was not hanging around and the further away from Mnemba we headed to try and reach it, the further it swam. And those things can move! So sadly we did not get to dive with a whale :( But we did see a turtle and dolphins amongst many many other things! It was a great day of diving and we spent time at Wattabomi and the Small Wall. It was a lovely day of diving and the perfect way to end our stay at Matemwe.

On Wednesday morning, we left Matemwe after breakfast and headed back to Stone Town.


Tamara said...

That would drive me mad about the bag. Had a similar thing happen in Upington once.

At least they found it and got it to you in the end. And the dive sounds awesome!

Wenchy said...

It sounds like a great place... besides the bag getting lost off course.

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