From the comfort of our loungers on soft, silky, white sands fringed with palm trees, we watched the dhows with their distinctive lateen sails slowly drift past on the gentle warm turquoise waters of Nungwi at the northern tip of Zanzibar. This was heaven, the lazy was strong, and it was good!
But one can only laze in paradise for so long, and as we spent a delightful afternoon exploring Nungwi, we discovered that there’s more to this rustic and charming fishing village than tropical island perfection.
We meandered along exquisite beaches, heading east towards the lighthouse and away from the resorts.
The Dhow Builders Yard
For centuries, the dhows of Zanzibar have traded along the East African coast on the monsoon winds. Ranging as far afield as the Arabian and Indian peninsulas. We watched in awe as these highly skilled craftsmen turned straight planks of wood into sturdy ocean-going vessels using the simplest of tools as generations of dhow builders have done before them in the shade of the palms trees lining Nungwi beach.
The dhow builders are generally indifferent to your presence, but do be respectful and keep out of the way as you walk around the yard looking at dhows under various stages of construction … and always ask for permission before you take their photos.
Then, it’s just a short stroll across the cove to the base of the lighthouse to visit a local community initiative, the Mnarani Marine Turtle Conservation Pond.
The Mnarani Marine Turtle Conservation Pond of Zanzibar
A natural tidal rock pool set into the coral rocks provides a safe but temporary haven for injured turtles, many of which are critically endangered Hawksbill and Green Turtles. This community-driven initiative by the fishermen of Zanzibar rehabilitates turtles caught in the fishermen’s nets. And gives turtle hatchlings born on the beaches of Nungwi a fighting chance of survival. Each year, towards the end of February, the turtles are released into the ocean with much jubilation and fanfare by the villagers.
Whilst Mnarani is little more than a glorified rock pool, it’s fascinating to see the turtles up close and to learn more about them from the knowledgeable staff, most of whom are local villagers. But most importantly, the entrance fee (US$ 5) goes to securing this worthwhile community projects’ future.
The Dhow Harbour
We headed back to the Dhow Harbour in the late afternoon to watch the local fishermen set sail in their dhows on the high tide. It’s an incredible sight to watch as each dhow raises its sail, catches the wind, and races out to sea to its overnight fishing spot. Sipping on ice-cold local beer at Gerry’s Beach Bar is the perfect place to watch this daily event from.
The sun was setting and by now, we had walked up a healthy appetite. Taking advice from the locals at Gerry’s Beach Bar, we sat down (with much skepticism) at one of the ‘pop-up’ fish restaurants on the beach. It had just two tables, a drum braai (barbeque), fresh fish, and a cooler box. But despite the simplicity of it all, including the meal itself, it has to be one of the best fish dinners ever!
Memories of this deliciously simple food, enjoyed with our toes in the sand as the sun set below the horizon and the waves gently lapped on the shore will stay with us forever.
Yes, we nodded, Zanzibar’s Nungwi was tropical island perfection … and so much more.
Have you been to Zanzibar? and to Ras Nungwi? I would love to hear about your experiences…
Before you go, ladies, this is a very tolerant Muslim community but do be respectful and don’t stroll down the beach in your bikini – a sarong or shorts and a t-shirt is fine.
DISCLOSURE: I have no commercial relationship with any of the places that I have mentioned in this blog or any of their affiliates. All photographs, experiences and opinions expressed in this blog post are my own.
First published by the amazing team at What She Said.