My first stop was Zanzibar. Stone Town. The capital of the Spice Islands. Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous part of Tanzania, although the proud local residents would have you believe they are fully autonomous. I took a small puddle jumper from
Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar, along with two other young, giggling girls, which was an adventure in itself.
After finally finding someone who was able to understand my butchered pronunciation of the name of my hotel, I found my way from the airport to the Mauwani (‘ma-WA-knee’) Inn in Stone Town to find that the power was out. That was unfortunate because I made an amateur mistake and had neglected to withdraw any Tanzanian Shillings before I arrived, and had spent the remainder of my US dollars on the taxi from the airport (should’ve taken a dala-dala, but then again I didn’t have any shillings). I know better than this, and I didn’t expect anyone to take cards, but then again, it’s these type of adventures that make traveling fun. The only option is to pull out cash at one of about two ATMs in town, and that would have to wait until power was restored.
Abdul at Mauwani Inn was kind enough to let me go ahead and check in, and he also took the time to give a few suggestions of things to explore around town. I mentioned that I was interested in doing a spice tour and asked where I could find some tourist offices, but rather than point me to an official tourist office, he offered to call a buddy who supposedly gives tours. I obliged. He called a guy named Ahmed, who promptly showed up at the hotel excited to talk to me about a spice tour. He had a nice map and started rattling off ideas of things to do. He certainly seemed informed and provided lots of options, but I started to suspect something fishy about his tour when he quoted me a price of $110. He eventually came down to $70, with a less than persuasive “just for you” offer.
Be a little weary of setting up a tour through touts, or if anyone tries to set you up with a tour from a friend; there’s a lot of deals going on in the tourism black market, and unfortunately in a lot of cases they’re more interested in getting as much money from you as they can rather than setting you up on a good tour. I ended up going with Jojoba Tours – located just down the street from the hotel – for about 5 times less than Ahmed’s offer.