Monday, 9 January 2012

On a very African Snorkelling Trip and Magic Hands: Zanzibar 22 December - 1st January

So there we all were trying to have breakfast at 7 30am to be ready prompt for the boat which was leaving at 8am.  However the kitchen could not cope with the rush of preparing fruit and panacakes for all of us all at once and poor Ibwana became very stressed!  We managed to rush our breakfast only to find that Bob Marley appeared about 8 15am to say that the captain of the boat’s relative had unexpectedly died and so he had to attend a funeral.  Bob was making more and more frantic loud phonecalls on his mobile, his stutter getting worse with each call.  At about 9am we walked down the beach to another boat and stood there whilst the boatmen kept hopefully pulling the starter motor – it would splutter to life for a few short seconds and then die out.  After about 20 mins of this Bob said “ boat no good” !!  By this time it was 10 am so we went and sat in Nyota, the guest house Bob was attached to where the boys annoyed everyone by swinging wildly on the hanging chairs.    Apparently we were now waiting for some cars to take us across the island to a different boat.  So we sat and sat and sat and I dreamed of being asleep still… Then at about 10.30am a 7 seater taxi and a car arrived so we all piled in and began a most uncomfortable bouncing journey over dirt roads and winding tracks across the island.  We arrived at a beautiful bay overlooking Mnemba Atol and this time the 4 seater car with the girls was not there and surprise surprise there was no boat either!  About 20 mins later the others arrived having taken a completely different route and we kept looking out to sea more and more hopefully.  Bob kept saying “the boat is coming” and waving vaguely out to sea.

Where is the boat????

Zac found a friend on the beach

At 11.30am Hannah said very quietly to Bob “ If the boat does not come soon I think some of us might want to go home” at which point Bob waved even more vaguely but vigourously out to sea saying “boat coming very soon” and at 11.45 am a boat did arrive.  Bearing in mind we had been trying to go snorkelling now for almost 4 hours.  So we climbed into the boat and looked around but there didn’t seem to be any snorkelling equipment at all and more worryingly no life jackets for the boys.  I asked poor Bob who kept up his frantic phone calls and said “equipment is coming” and waved out to sea again.  Next came a hilarious boat ride zipping across the sea to any boats that we could see to ask them for their spare snorkelling gear which was then thrown into the boat whilst we were still moving.  We must have gone round about 4 boats in this fashion and finally some life-jackets were thrown in too for the boys.  We ended up with a motley collection of snorkelling gear which made a bit of a mockery of us all carefully writing down our shoe sizes the night before!  Between us we all had part of the snorkelling equipment – Aaron and Josh had no flippers and Hannah had no snorkel  but by this time we were all just desperate to jump in the water.  We were pretty hot and pretty disgruntled by this stage but as soon as we jumped into the sea and opened our eyes it was absolutely AMAZING!!!  Right under our noses was a huge coral reef with multi-coloured fish zipping their way around – we saw little zebra fish swimming round tiny coral columns, angel fish which were blue and yellow, harelquin fish, a whole shoal of long nosed spear fish, groups of grouper and so many more.  Zac was zipping about really well and Josh was brilliant and could snorkel although he hadn’t worked out that if he jumped off the boat then his snorkel would fill with water so he wouldn’t be able to breathe!

Do I look good in my snorkelling gear?

Captain Josh driving the boat

Josh with Talia

Josh with Olivier the 6 foot 8 French gentle giant working for MSF in Kenya

The next site was even more incredible as we moored off Mnemba Atoll.  This is probably the best snorkelling site in Zanzibar and has a single private lodge on the island that you can stay in if you are very rich and want to be very remote. As soon as we jumped into the water and looked down there was a coral spiral directly below swarming with technicolour fish that looked straight out of ‘Finding Nemo’.  I saw one of those little fish cleaning a bigger fish’s gills and we were surrounded by huge zebra fish who swam all around this strange multi-coloured collection of clumsy mazungus.  I think it was the best snorkelling I have done in many years and Josh loved it even if he would jump in doggy paddle around for a few minutes, get out and then want to start the whole process again.

Mnemba Attol - a peaceful retreat for a few very rich people

We had a fantastic couple of hours snorkelling and even the nausea making road trip back couldn’t dampen the greatness of the trip.  It seemed to reflect so much about Africa – you wait and wait and wonder what if anything will actually happen and then when it does it surpasses all expectations….

The boys playing on our beach on our return
Back on the beach we discovered Sabrina, a graceful woman who wants to be a lawyer and if her results are good hopefully she will get a place to study law.  She has truly magic strong hands and gives the best massages I have ever had.  Imagine lying on a sunbed next to the Indian ocean having a massage listening to the waves crashing on the shore and every time you open your eyes  the view is waving palm fronds against a background of azure blue skies…………..

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