Travel Experience: By Hassan Isilow
After resting for two weeks in Uganda, we decided it was time to return to the mother city. We loaded our bags into the car and were ready to hit the road this; time through the Island of Zanzibar and the popular Rio Azul Lodge in Mozambique. We all knew this would be a memorable journey and a fantastic holiday.
We drove to the shores of Lake Victoria, approximately 10 kilometers from the Kampala city centre. Here our vehicle was loaded on to a ship enroute to Mwanza in Tanzania. There were many people travelling on the ship which made it exciting. We went to the top deck and started taking pictures but out of the blue one of our friends begun vomiting. He claimed he didn’t like the smell of lake water, we calmed him down. I told myself he probably had a water phobia.
A few hours later, we started seeing multiple lights from a distance, an indication we had approach the port town of Mwanza. By 7pm, our ship docked at the shores of Lake Victoria and our passports were quickly stamped by a friendly Tanzanian immigration official. Sounds of blaring Swahili music blended with Congolese jingles welcomed us. We were excited since this was the first we were visiting Mwanza.
As we drove through the town looking for a guest house, some vendors were still trading at their stalls. Some of them used candles and other kerosene lamps to generate light so their merchandise could be seen. We stopped by the side of the road and asked a woman roasting maize, where could we find a guest house. She gladly gave us directions.
We booked in and wanted to have some rest when our friend, Patrick, insisted we should move around the town and feel its night life. We agreed and took to the streets on foot. Mwanza is somewhat lively and parts of the town are surrounded by Lake Victoria, which gives it a lovely ambience. We got back to the guest house by 1pm.
The next day at noon, we started our journey to Dares Salam where we arrived the following day. Fondly known as Dar or Bongo by its local inhabitants, there was nothing fond about the weather conditions we walked into – way too hot for us. We went to the port and booked tickets to board the ferry to Zanzibar, which is one of Africa’s main tourist destinations.
The next morning we were on the overloaded ferry. With us were many ordinary people from Zanzibar who had either visited family in Dar and were returning back home and vice versa. As we approached Zanzibar hundreds of palm trees welcomed us. This prompted our friend, Dr Michael, to say: “The problem with us Africans is that we don’t explore paradise holiday destinations and natural tourism sites that our continent offers.” He could not be more right, because most well to do Africans – prefer to go on holiday overseas, ignoring our own.
I discovered that most foreign tourists travelling to Zanzibar either used air transport or hired special speed boats to transport them between Dar and Zanzibar. However, we were lucky to have mixed with the local people. Our ferry docked safely and we went to our booked accommodation. We moved on the streets drinking cheap Arabica –Swahili coffee that’s sold on the open street corners.
Unlike other tourists, we didn’t take guided tours. We knew the Swahili language and would ask locals for directions. This put us in another league. I remember us standing outside the House of Wonders museum in the centre of Stone Town, the capital of Zanzibar. That night we danced to a local band playing Tarab and other songs. We only woke up the next day at noon and visited a few sites.
On the other hand, I noticed that Zanzibar is a Muslim country. One of the people I interacted with on the island told me that during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan most restaurants are closed. The source also told me, trade in spices was once the main foreign exchange earner on the island, but now tourism has became the biggest industry in Zanzibar.
After three days of having fun on the island, we boarded a ship and returned to Dar Salam. From there we drove to Napula border in Mozambique. After several hours of driving, finally we made it to the Inhambane Province where the Rio Azul Lodge is located. What makes Azul exceptional is that it is located on the banks of the Guvoru River’s Estuary near Vilanculos and the Bazaruto Islands.
The luxury lodge offers guests the best of a beach lodge, river lodge, fishing lodge and a family holiday lodge. Though it’s a bit costly, we enjoyed our holiday at Azul.We went for deep sea fishing and the next day hit the road to Johannesburg and finally Cape Town.
This travel piece is aimed at promoting tourism in Africa. It was first published on a Cape Town website: