Eastern Africa Safaris     Southern Africa

East African Islands

1/6/07 - 1/31/07

After all our time chasing animals, we were in dire need of a vacation. Lucky for us, East Africa comes complete with a resort dotted coast and a few nearby islands ringed in white sand and crawling with crab. We started off in the heavily touristed Zanzibar and made our way slowly north to neighboring Pemba and then up the coast through Tanga, Mombasa, Malindi and finally to the oh-so-Swahili Lamutown on Lamu Island.

Zanzibar, Tanzania

My first impression of Zanzibar was that it is overhyped. It crawls with tacky tourists and loads of Italians heading for their all-inclusive resorts. But after two weeks, I have to admit it had grown on me. The northwest beaches of Kendwa and Nungwi are a stunning white sand and turquoise sea paradise. The fruit, fish and crab are a delight. And even the touristy Stonetown became our backyard. If you're in East Africa, Zanzibar is definitely a welcome distraction.

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Diving Zanzibar and Pemba

With sands this pure and water this warm, who could help but jump in. Zanzibar isn't really world-class diving, but it is refreshing, fun and there are a few things to see. It was relaxing diving with fairly low visibility (10-25m). We heard the diving on nearby Pemba Island was a bit more challenging and attracted bigger animals thanks to it's deeper waters, so off we flew. Pemba certainly has more exciting underwater geography with plenty of walls and channels, but the visibility was so bad (5-15m) that we only did a few dives. One dive caught us in a 4 to 6 knot current in a gap between two islands. Great fun and quite a workout! But the poor visibility really kept us from enjoying the diving here.

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Pemba, Tanzania

We went to Pemba primarily to dive, but there is a bit more to see. The island is ringed by mangroves with only a few distant beaches for the sunfaring crowd. Many of the smaller islands and spits that blanket Pemba's west side probabably have more useable beachfront. There is very little tourism here and that was much to our liking. The jackfruit and mango are great and just about free since there are no tourists to sell to!

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Lamu, Kenya

Tiny Lamu island sits in an archipelago of a handful of islands on the Kenyan coast just 50km south of Somalia. We had US Marine helicopters flyovers every day thanks to the current conflict in Mogadishu. Lamutown is everything Zanzibar is hyped to be. Narrow streets with a rich infusion of Arab culture. In town, only donkey carts can fit through the streets and most real work is done on the backs of men. What do you expect on an island that only has 2 cars: one for the mayor and another for the donkey rehabilitation group. We saw both. Down the waterfront is the more typical resort town of Shella with it's many new Swahili-style resorts dotting the beach. We stayed in a 400 year old home converted to a hotel (very similar to a Moroccan Riad) . One day we took a dhow out for some fishing and a beach bbq. That's my prize catch to the left.

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