Thinking fondly of Zanzibar

mindfulness

Looking at pleasant and relaxing imagery can relieve stress and may be considered as a form of mindfulness meditation that helps activate the parasympathetic system – the part of the nervous system that helps our body enter a state of relaxation by slowing our heart and breathing rates, lowering blood pressure and promoting digestion. Once activated, it will “quiet the areas of the brain that are involved in fear and anxiety” according to Sandra Sgoutas-Emch, a psychological sciences professor at the University of San Diego.

With that in mind, let’s take a slow mental vacation to Zanzibar Island. 

Be still for a moment. 

In your mind’s eye, see yourself at the ocean. Begin to take slow, deep breaths of the cool, clear air. Slowly visualize the sun reflecting on the waters and feel the gentle breeze coming in with the waves. Imagine walking along the white sand beaches, wading into the cool aquamarine waters while basking in the glorious sunshine of the Tanzanian skies. Standing still, you feel your feet sinking into the soft seabed. Feeling the calm, nudging rhythm of the waves gently washing over you, you pause to breathe and savor the purity of this moment. 

beach footprints

Slowly retreating, you step out of the water and on to the damp sand, leaving footprints along the shore. As salty water trickles down your sun-kissed skin, you gather your belongings and look for a quiet, isolated reading spot. Settling under a large, glorious palm tree, you open the book you’ve been meaning to read for so long. You’re getting comfortably lost between its pages however faintly aware of the gentle waves washing up the shore and palm fronds swaying softly in the trees. A couple of hours pass. You begin wrapping up to leave your little haven feeling completely relaxed. 

under the palm trees

With the sun now hanging a little lower in the sky, you make your way back to your hotel room. Leaving a little sand in the shower, fragrance lingering in the air, you head out for sundowners overlooking a glorious sunset, followed by a scrumptious dinner (alfresco). 

sunset sailing

La sobremesa!

After-dinner conversation pleasantly continues a little longer than expected. Feeling a little sleepy, you retire to your room, slipping into fresh, white linen, closing your eyes as your head sinks into the soft, luxurious pillow.

On to a new day!

You’re ready to head out and traverse the land along rugged routes. Looking out the side window of the white SUV, you notice the scenery changing from dhows and catamarans setting sail to lush greenery, many many palm trees and stalls along the road with fruit in abundance. Further along, you see farmers tending to their rice fields and spice plantations in the countryside.

Finally, you arrive in Stone Town. In this magical city of labyrinths, you meander between locals and foreigners alike, marveling at the ancient buildings adorned with zinc palisades, wooden balconies and exquisitely carved doors. In stillness, with mind’s eye, rays of sunlight fall gently against the worn architecture that starts to fade as you slowly drift back to the here and now.

Welcome back!

Hoping you’ve enjoyed this little escape and possibly, encouraged to take an actual trip to Zanzibar someday.

When to go: 

From June to October, during the archipelago’s long dry season with only moderate humidity.

Where to stay: 

Hotel Diamonds La Gemma dell’ Est (opt for the villa/ocean suite); Rui Palace Zanzibar (with an ocean view) and/or Park Hyatt Zanzibar. On the wishlist: Xanadu Luxury Villas & Retreat and The Residence, Zanzibar.

Things to do: 

Dolphin Tour & Snorkeling; Cheetah’s Rock (an open space sanctuary for rescued animals); Stone Town walking tour (including the Heritage Centre – Old Slave Market/Anglican Cathedral); Spice Tour; Baraka Natural Aquarium, Nungwi and a sunset dhow cruise or two along the coast.

Official languages: 

Swahili, Arabic and English. In urban areas and tourist centers, you’ll be able to get by fine with English. In rural areas however, knowledge of basic Swahili phrases will make your travels easier and more fun. You’ll hear the standard greeting ‘Jambo’ ever so often, Swahili for ’hello’. Further to Jambo! is Hujambo, meaning ‘how are you?’ And the courteous response being ‘Sijambo’ – ‘I am fine / no worries’.

Cautionary tale: 

Expect long waits at Zanzibar’s International Airport i.e. Abeid Amani Karume International Airport, Kisauni (AAKIA) also referred to as Zanzibar Kisauni Airport or Zanzibar Intl. On the upside, the old airport is being renovated with a new, modern and much more functional international Terminal and said to officially open to international travelers by the summer of 2022. 

On a final note, it is worth mentioning that this attractive island with its natural beauty and ancient architecture is complemented by unassuming natives. The locals are worth their weight in gold: down-to-earth, amicable and content. No wonder Zanzibar has been voted second best in Condé Nast Traveler’s best island in Africa & The Indian Ocean in its 34th annual Reader’s Choice Awards survey.

Sending love and light, with beautiful thoughts!

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