Today you are getting to see of the sights I saw when I visited Jozani Forest and the Butterfly Conservation project. As you can see from the photo above, Zanzibar is an incredibly green island. In fact a few times when I was being driven through rural areas felt a bit like I was back in Wales with the tall trees creating a lush green canopy over the road. It truly is beautiful.
First we are heading off to Jozani Forest Reserve which is a national park. It is located about 35 kilometres south-east of Stone Town. It was a lovely drive to get there as you can see from the picture above. Just travelling through a different part of Stone Town afforded some great sights like this
Glad that I didn’t need to squeeze into either those, as you can see they are full and last one on has to hold on and stand!
This is a market in the more modern section of Stone Town and it is where those who have very little can shop and get clothing and household items for their families.
Okay, back to Jozani Forest. It is the home of the rare to Zanzibar, Red Colobus Monkey which I really wanted to see and was not disappointed. About 10 years ago, the monkeys were considered to be in danger of extinction, but this trend has since reversed due to the conservation project. There are about 6000 red colobus monkey residing in Jozani Forest. The Rain Forest has also been expanded to include a Mangrove Forest which is an amazing ecosystem and worth walking through. Lucky you will get a taste of it through my pictures.
Here we go –
What you can’t see is that as I am taking the pictures of the mother and baby there are two other monkeys directly over my head watching me and throwing pieces of leaves down on us. By the time I switched the camera around to capture them they scurried off to swing on some branches too far away for me to photograph them. These monkeys are definitely not shy and very use to tourists tramping through their rain forest and taking pictures. And actually my guide warned me that it was best not to stand directly under them as they have been known to pee on visitors heads. I guess when you have to go, you have to go. I was fortunate enough not to be peed on!
Interestingly enough on our forest exploration, my guide showed me this piece of Zanzibar Coral right in the middle of the forest. Apparently at one time in history the entire rain forest had been under the sea and that is what makes it so incredibly fertile today.
Now we are venturing into the Mangrove, which is actually a swamp area with very complex root systems for the three types of mangrove trees. This mangrove forest is extremely crucial to Zanzibar’s ecosystems, providing a habitat for many lizards, snakes and birdlife as well as preventing the coastal erosion.
You walk on a boardwalk path around the tidal mangrove swamp to see these trees of critical importance to the island’s health as they help to protect Zanzibar from coastal erosion, purify its waters and provide nutrition for the outlying coral reefs, which in turn pay host to much of the archipelago’s marine life.
Sadly, mangrove poles make an excellent building material also, and were harvested for a long time before awareness of the importance of Zanzibar’s mangrove defences grew. But now these special trees are protected again and alternative timbers are being used in building projects.
It was utter tranquillity to stand here with no one else around and listen to the sounds of the forest. My guide was brilliant. He took me the opposite direction of all of the other tour groups so we got to be here all my ourselves. While we stood and listened, he also told me that he is studying to be a traditional doctor. No, not a witch doctor, there are lots of those in Tanzania. But a traditional doctor who knows how to use nature’s plenty to heal. He is studying with a local doctor and is now very learned in the use of herbs, tree barks and roots and other natural medicines. It was fascinating to listen to him talk about it. He was just another in a long list of interesting and wonderful men that I met on the island.
After spending several hours in the Forest, I was then off to the Butterfly Centre, which is a netted tropical garden containing butterflies nature to Zanzibar. The Centre, started by a Scottish man who was looking for a way to save the local environment particularly the trees which were being cut down for cooking fires, introduced butterfly breeding. The Centre pays approximately 15 local people who farm the butterflies.
After a blissful hour here it was back in the van and home to Stone Town. I had a date with my new friends, Saidi, MD and Maki to hang out and talk. But first I was dropped off by the waterfront so I could grab a bite to eat. It was about 2:30 and all of that walking made me hungry. Well, when I came up to the seaside cafe that I wanted to eat at I was greeted like a long lost friend. See my previous post “What did Cheryl Do Last Night”!
It seems that I had cemented my presence in Stone Town and all of the locals felt like they knew me. I am not sure what that says about me. Any-ways I order a Zanzibar pizza and was ushered to a waterside table shaded by an umbrella with the chef promising me a very special meal. As soon as I was settled and greeted at least three other guys who apparently had seen what I had been doing for the past couple of nights, another young man introduced himself.
Razak was on holiday for Christmas from his job in a restaurant and was eager to show me around town. He was young (about 27), intelligent, articulate and very knowledgeable about Zanzibar. He joined me at my table and talked to me while I was eating my lunch. Before I knew it I had a date for the next day. He promised to show me the sights that no one else had yet and take me where I could really enjoy the breeze off of the water and relax on a beach. Trust me, he didn’t disappoint but more about that later.
Leaving one handsome young man to join three others, I walked back up my street from the waterfront to a chorus of hellos and where have you been all day? Once I got close to our corner, I was greeted by a couple of men whose names I didn’t know but they knew me, of course. They wanted me to know that the gang was not there right now but they would go find them for me. How is that for service.
After assuring them that I needed to duck into my hotel for a quick change of clothes but would be back in half hour they were delighted to know that I would be back shortly. Arriving back at the Maru Maru I only had two men waiting for me. One was my guide who had not accompanied me on the day’s trip but was checking in to see if all was well, and I am sure hoping for more business. I was happy to inform him that I had no more need of services as I had a full consort of local men eager to tour me around for free.
So by the time that I was back out on our corner sunset was once again not long away. Saidi asked me if I would like to go watch the sunset from the terrace of the Africa House hotel. How could I say no to that? So after a too brief visit with MD and Maki, et al, off Saidi and I set for Africa House. The Africa House building dates back over 150 years. Its original owner was a wealthy slave trader from Oman, who shortly before his death handed the property over to the Sultan of Zanzibar. In 1888 the first English Club of East Africa opened in this former royal residence. The original interiors of the club included a bar, restaurant, library, billiard room and guest rooms. At a later stage a terrace was built, which is the present day’s Sunset Bar and a popular meeting place amongst tourist as well as locals. This is where we were headed to watch the sunset. So was just about every other white tourist in town!!!
Luckily Saidi is very efficient and was able to organize the placement of a small table and two stools almost right at the balcony so we had a specular view. You be the judge
The terrace was also the site of traditional music and dancing –
It turns out that Saidi and I were on the terrace from about 6:00 pm until he walked me home at 11:30! We sat there and talked for hours about topics like love, wishes and desire which I will happily write about in an upcoming blog post. What a great end to a perfect day!