Tanzania (Zanzibar) & Malawi
You’ve probably heard of the pristine white sands of the islands of Phi Phi and Phangan in Thailand, or the impossibly turquoise waters of Bora Bora, but far less featured at the top of beach bucketlists is the island of Zanzibar.
I have to be honest, I hadn’t even heard of Zanzibar before we booked this trip, but aside from being the birthplace of Freddie Mercury and having a beautifully preserved World Heritage site, Stone Town, it is home to some of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen.
We arrived, rather hectically, into Zanzibar having got the ferry from Dar es Salaam early afternoon and were picked up by a G Adventures minibus that took us to the town of Nungwi at the northernmost point of the island. Our hotel for the next two nights was Amaani Bungalows, a really beautiful hotel, with a bar & restaurant overlooking the pastel sunset every evening as it set over the sea. A perfect spot for cocktails!
As soon as we arrived the entire group bought lunch – and beers – at the hotel restaurant. The veggie options were pretty limited, but the curry was amazing.
That afternoon, a few of us wandered along down the beach or swam in the sea, before we all met up for cocktails and beers that evening…
I mean, I don’t think I really need to explain how the night went on from there. Only to say that a lot of dancing and late night swimming happened and it was all very fun. Especially when two of the drunker of us all decided it would be a really good idea to skinny dip in the ocean for absolutely no reason at all.
The next morning, I struggled with our 7am start as me and Em along with a few others had opted to go on a snorkelling trip. It was absolutely worth battling through the initial desire to stay in bed forever, though.
The six of us were joined by several others on ‘The Sea Brothers’ boat having picked up masks, snorkels and flippers from a kiosk on the beach.
The ‘Sea Brothers’ led us across the ocean from Nungwi beach to just off Mnemba Island (apparently owned by Bill Gates, and you’re not allowed to snorkel too close or “you’ll be arrested, fined, maybe put in jail, who knows what else..” JJ, who was leading the trip, warned us).
As we rode across the water, a perfect aquamarine splashed with patches that were almost transparent, a school of about five dolphins appeared right beside us! I have never seen dolphins so close before as they danced their way along, around and beneath the boat.
When we arrived at the destination, JJ and the crew anchored and we all jumped overboard to swim and snorkel and play around with Wally’s GoPro.
Once everyone was swam out, we sailed a short way over to shore where we stopped for lunch – fresh tuna, rice, vegetables and slices of watermelon, which was all absolutely incredible. We spent a bit of time on the beach there before hopping back on board and sailing back, where the crew kindly dropped everyone back off at their respective hotels.
Unsurprisingly that evening, once everyone had regrouped, we went to the bar.
On the morning of Day 9, we hopped back on the G minibus with our Zanzibar guide and headed back down to Stone Town where we would be spending the rest of that day and night.
Stone Town was really interesting, full of old buildings, twisting alleyways and ornate doors surprising you at every turn. It is also home to an old slave market, an old fort and a bustling market.
Our hotel for the night was Tausi Palace, a beautiful place hidden down a small street not far from the town centre. A few of us walked around alone a little, but I would not reccommend exploring too much if you are a group of just females. Though none of us had a bad experience with anyone, men were very persistent in following and trying to talk to you as you wandered the street. It was probably harmless, but still felt pretty threatening especially at night.
The next day ended our Zanzibar excursion, and once back in Dar es Salaam we rejoined Patrick and the Lando, whose battery was getting increasingly worse as the trip went on. It was always fun waiting to see if the Lando would actually start as Patrick tried it for the 14th time. It always did though!
The rest of the day was mostly driving. We stopped at a mall to do some shopping and fill the tank, had a fabulous en-route group rendition of The Lion King soundtrack and played ‘Two Truths and a Lie’ which was VERY revealing. One of us was a convicted felon, one of us has been caught having sex by police and one of us has drank their friend’s piss. 10/10 game for long journeys.
Days 11 and 12 consisted of a lot of driving too, though we were also very lucky with our campsites and their inclusion of pools/bars. One campsite we stayed in had the cutest bar that was just a large hut with a fridge, several wooden benches and a desk.
By day 12 we had made it to Malawi and it is absolutely true what they say about it being the Heart of Africa. Within seconds of crossing the border we were stopped by Malawian police, but they just welcomed us in with big waves and bigger smiles. Everyone we met there was so nice.
That night was spent camping at Chitimba Beach, where the next morning a few of us took a trip into the village. We saw a Witch Doctor, which honestly was total bullshit. I mean, we had a lot of fun but he made us dance with him before telling us (through someone else) about his potions and ‘reading our future’ – I mean, he basically told us all the same thing.
The best bit though was getting to hang out with the kids from the village. They were so sweet and loved having their picture taken and dancing with Taylor and one little boy would not stop high-fiving me.
After that we headed to the much hyped up Kande Beach, right on Lake Malawi, after buying supplies for Patrick’s fruit punch – which later that night proved to be absolutely fucking deadly.
I mean, I don’t know what happened that night. There was fruit punch pong which I wasn’t very good at and Jen got very competetive about, there was a lot of silliness and I do know that I sobered up enough to really appreciate the incredible meteor shower that happened as those of us remaining lay on the beach and watched the night sky. I have never seen shooting stars like that – it was like out of a movie.
The next day a lot of us were VERY hungover, but there was the option of going on a village tour which Emily – who remained sober the whole of the previous night – went on.
They visited a local school and spoke to the teacher about how classes were run, as well as a hospital – where only two nurses worked full time, having to alternate day and night shifts between them! They also met two mothers with their newborn babies and learned about how the mothers were cared for during their ninth month of pregancy.
The rest of us recovered, mostly. We had the swim/not swim debate and I think most of us opted to Not Swim. If you weren’t aware, most doctors will warn you against swimming in Lake Malawi due to parasites that can be present in the water. Kande Beach was very insistent that these parasites were not in the water there, and to be fair a lot of other people went in. But I figured it was best not to risk it.
That evening was a really lovely night as we all went to Banjo’s house for a local meal, which was delicious – we all sat around on bamboo mats and ate traditional local food. And after that Banjo and what seemed like all of the kids from the village sang and danced for us. At one point they got us to get up and dance too which was so much fun!
Such a lovely night and I’m so thankful to Banjo and everyone else for making it so magical.
However, when we got back to Kande Beach we were met with something not so magical. Not magical at all.
Kande beach was amazing, and I would reccommend it to anyone wanting to visit Lake Malawi. HOWEVER. Once a month all these flies who have laid their eggs on the lake hatch and then they swarm to the shore like a buzzing cloud straight from the pits of hell. And it just so happened that that one time of the month, was that very night.
And when I say swarmed fuck, I mean swarmed. The walls, the floors, anywhere with any kind of light source was just covered in them. They’d get in your hair, your clothes and I don’t even want to know how many I inhaled.
But honestly, despite the fly hell we had such a good time in Malawi. Such a beautiful country with such beautiful people.
If you have been to Zanzibar or Malawi, let me know, I love to hear about your trips!! Or if you would like to go, feel free to hit me up with any questions you may have!