Zanzibar: Rainforests and Giant Tortoises

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So we went on a roadtrip!

Since it is pretty much impossible to travel all around the island with public transport, we hired a driver for a day – unusually polite young man called Mahmed. Sure you can take dalla-dallas to some major parts of the island, but that would mean a 2-3 hour drive for a distance of only 50 km, essentially sitting in the back of the truck with 10 people and possibly some smaller farm animals loaded on 2 square meters in a 30 degree heat. Sure it’s an experience, but very uncomfortable, tiring and tough experience. In addition, the jungle is located in the middle of the island and most of the roads towards there are really one of a kind (if you know what I mean). Thus you need to either rent a car or rent a driver with a car.

This is the Dalla-Dalla to the island capital, people sitting in the back 

The journey to the jungle was an interesting one – we drove through some rural villages with incredibly bad living conditions and roads that only allowed us to drive with 15 km/h. But more importantly, every 10 km or so, police stopped us. Yes, there were patrols on the roads, many officers, taking down all the vehicles and then checking their licences and all sorts of things. But truthfully, they were just trying to find a way to screw you over and get some money in their pocket (their, not the government’s). One time our driver was so unlucky, that an extremely scary and rude looking officer took his licence and went to stand in the other side of the road. So our driver Mahmed had to take some cash with him and go outside. With an exchange of money for licence, we were out of there soon. But this happened at least 5 times during a 1h journey. Mahmed cursed the police. And I would too. You can’t trust the police, they are simply so corrupted. And then I wonder why Europeans curse our officers. Katry said it well that when in Estonia you feel safe when a police officer is nearby, then here we felt scared when the officer stopped us again. We met some Germans who had had to pay bribes multiple times. The police simply lies about your speed – they make up some numbers, sometimes only “measure“ the speed with their eyes and you have no option than to negotiate the number of the bribe.

Arriving at Jozani rainforest 

Anyways, we finally made to the Jozani rainforest. It’s the largest indigenous forest left on Zanzibar. With an extremely apathetic guide showing us around, we followed a lush nature trail, viewing famous endangered Red Colombus monkeys and Skyes monkeys climbing on the trees above us. Some of the monkeys had their babies with them, who were extremely cute. We also saw many trees, such as eucalyptus trees and palm oil trees. After, we continued our walk through the wild mangroves forest – trees that essentially live in salt water, in symbiosis with crabs whose nest holes let the trees breathe. In return, the tree feeds the crabs with its seeds and leaves. Excluding the horrible heat, it was quite a cool experience.


After the rainforest, we continued our journey towards the capital of the island, Zanzibar Town, to catch a boat to Prison Island. Our driver just dropped us off at the port and some random guy was supposed to guide us to the boat and then to the island. The boat was very small, we shared it with an Saudi Arabian and Belgian couple (I got to practice my French a bit again, yay). From stepping on the boat we knew this will be a shaky ride. And it was. In the end of the 30 minute boat trip me and Katry were covered in salt water and I was slightly seasick. The boatmen found it hilarious that these two girls in the front, aka me and Katry, were constantly splashed with water. And we did not mind, at least it helped us cool off a bit.

The island is small, about the size of 800×200 meters. It was supposed to become a prison, but it never happened. Instead, it was a huge port for slave trade and later used as a quarantine station for sick people. Either way, the place does not have a very pretty history. However, in the beginning of 20th century, a large family of giant tortoises were brought on the island from Seychelles as a gift. The tortoise sanctuary is now luring guests from all over the world. And it was awesome! The tortoises are just roaming around free. I almost stumbled upon one when I first entered their park. One started ‘chasing’ me for food (I was holding a salad leaf) but luckily they are extremely slow. We got to feed them and pet them. There were smaller and larger ones and the oldest tortoise in the sanctuary is 192 years old. He seemed kinda fed up though, having this constant ‘Grumpy Cat’ look on his face.

After the tortoises we chilled out on the beach a bit – gosh it is beautiful here – and then found our way back to Zanzibar town. We went for a quick lunch in Stone Town. Mahmed showed us to a really cheap place – it was a canteen like place with questionable hygine, but the food was really good. We had rice with spinach, beans and some spicy sauce and, including the fresh juice, it only cost us about 2 euros.

The much-needed lunch break was followed by a quick stop at the market where we bought some passionfruit, mango and bananas to go. About 5 passionfruit and 5 smaller mangos cost us a bit over 2 euros. But yum, it’s good too! The last stop before home was an ATM because it is impossible to pay by card and even if you can, it might not be a good idea since there are many scams and they can charge you A LOT which you will only figure out later. The exchange rates are ridiculous – we are pretty much millionaires here. Their largest bill is 10 000 Tanzanian Shillings which is worth just a bit over 4€. So you literally withdraw hundreds of thousands of schillings at the time and walk around with a HUGE chunk of money in your bag.

We have got a bit sick with Katry with some food bacteria. Our hostess said that the restaurant we visited (although no1 on Tripadvisor) is dodgy and many people have got food poisoning there. The issue is that even if you leave the tomato out for a couple of minutes and a dirty fly lands on it – you are screwed. Also, all the fish can’t be left out for more than an hour because it goes bad instantly. Even a fridge is not enough, they have to freeze it. So we got some antibiotics from the local pharmacy and hope to feel better soon. I am also seriously dehydrated (I just really hate drinking water) so that just makes me feel more sick. The hostess and Katry keep an eye on me now so I would drink at least 5 liters of water per day. So far I have drank 2 liters of water and some juice in 5 and a half days.

Next time I will write about the local African village life – so very different to the village life in Europe.




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