We arrived in Zanzibar without a concrete plan. We started off in Stone Town because being the capital, it was where the airport was and it was where the bulk of the music festival was. We booked our first night at a hotel and that fell through, so after securing lodging for the first few days, we became drifters, relying on the kindness of and tips from strangers.
We were not led astray. The people that we encountered, locals and ex-pats alike, were so friendly and super-accommodating.
While at dinner in Stone Town one day, we were approached by a South African man in town for the music festival. He joined our table, and happened to mention that he owned a beach front bungalow resort on the other side of the island. One thing led to another, and two days later, we were off to meet our new friend and stay on his resort to experience the ocean for a few days. We got a great discount and we were the only guests since it was off-peak season. It was wonderful.
While out at a bar, one night on the other side of the island, we connected with a friend of a friend of Shaka's who owned a kite-sailing business on yet another exclusive side of the island. One thing led to another and we were invited to stay with them for a few days. We were completely taken care of. He put us up in the spare bedrooms in his house, shared his pet dogs and monkeys with us, introduced us to his friends and took us out to his favorite bars and restaurants.
Had we followed a guidebook, we would not have had this experience. Guidebooks are great, don't get me wrong. I use them all of the time, but sometimes, you just need to follow your gut and soak up an experience.
In addition, while at the music festival, I met a dj from Kenya, Abdul, who also took the time out of his busy schedule to show us around Stone Town and introduce us to friends and family members of ours. We were able to gain an inside perspective on the culture, learn a few words in Swahili and got to see our new surroundings from a beautiful local perspective. The wonderful people you meet when you travel, can truly become some of your most respected friends.
Thank you to everyone who made our trip to Zanzibar a journey to remember.