Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Just Another Day in Paradise

At last! After 3 weeks of the mundane and ordinary (climbing Kili, going on Safari (both wildlife and inner city), trawling the weird and wonderful in Dar es Salaam), I was finally off to do something interesting: scuba diving! I had 2 days booked up at Kendwa, in the northwest of Zanzibar, and one of the main resorty areas of the island. I had been under the impression that Kendwa was the less resorty one of the two main villages up there, but was told on arrival that my guide book was out of date, and Kendwa was now more expensive if slightly less crowded.

This became evident in the many half built hotels sitting atop the cliffs at the north end of the beach like so many uninspiring candles on the most incredible birthday cake. If only someone could blow them out (and off), the pristine nature of the beach would be preserved, but maybe that is just selfish of me...maybe the locals prefer the thought of income from tourists to the peace, quiet and paradise of where they live. It is an interesting problem. I dread to think how this place will have changed in the next 5 years or so.

For now, though, it is still relatively unharmed - just a half dozen or so hotels on the beach front, relatively discreet, and not too crowded for mid-week. I gather the weekends really kick off into party mode, and even more so on a full moon, but I'd missed the last one of those, and the tourist numbers were low enough for me. My hotel was the last one before the cliffs, so was slightly further away from the main hubbub, allowing me to choose if I wanted to join in or not.

When I got to the dive shop at around half nine, I was told the morning dive was cancelled due to rough seas, but the afternoon one would be going ahead. I killed some time settling into my room, finding a cold fruit juice and lounging in a hammock. Its a tough life. Having lost one of my Teva sandals at Bububu beach on my fist day in Zanzibar, I was going barefoot in Kendwa, but I figured that if the biggest problem I had every day was to pick the shortest route across the burning sand to the cooler shady surfaces, life couldn't be all bad.

The afternoon dive was just me and the guide, so it was a really casual (apart from the safety briefings) dive, allowing me to re-familiarise myself with my rusty skills of diving. Things came back fast, and once under the water, I was quickly back into my favourite game of hide and seek with the fish. They always seem to win - the stakes being somewhat higher for them if they lose, as a rule - but every now and then I caught one out and was rewarded with a fantastic lionfish or a liquorice-like nudibranch and, of course, I found Nemo. He's always there if you look in the right places. So was Dory today, as well as moorish idols and various other things too, making it a satisfying refresher dive.

I spent the evening at the Kendwa Rocks Hotel bar/restaurant and, not having met anyone to hang out with as yet, had a couple of beers and chatted to the local bar staff. I treated myself to Sex on Zanzibar - the cocktail, not the act - figuring correctly that it would likely be the closest I came to that, and I rather think, in retrospect, that I may have made a poor choice.

The next day, though not hungover at all, I was feeling a little congested in the sinuses and that, combined with the tiny amounts of residual alcohol in my blood and a rougher sea than I'm normally used to, left me feeling somewhat queasy after my morning dive. It had been a better site than the day before, although my dive buddy struggled with getting the right amount of weight in his belt, meaning he was floating about a good 3 or 4 meters higher in the water than me. This left me spending almost as much time searching for him to make sure he was close as I did looking for fish, which left me somewhat annoyed by the end of the dive.

Back on shore, the queasiness wouldn't quit, so I reluctantly pulled out of the second dive for the day. I can't fully blame the beer and, as I write this back in NZ, I am suffering from a continued bunged nose and slight cold, so maybe I was actually coming down with something, so I guess it was the right call.

The free afternoon allowed me to get a blog or two up and, later in the day, when a cute brunette I'd smiled at in the computer room called out to me as I walked past on my way to the bar, I thought my luck was changing. Her and her two companions had been volunteering at a hospital near Dodoma for a few weeks and were enjoying a week in Zanzibar before heading home - one to England and the brunette and the other to Denmark. We talked for a while and ended up going to dinner as a group, where reality bit and it turned out she hadn't recognised me at all, just thought I'd been arranging to go on the same snorkeling trip as them the next day, and was being friendly. Being somewhat younger than me and not having to get up early to go to Stone Town in the morning, they eventually went off to go party in Nungwi, the next village up the coast, but we made arrangements to try and meet up over the weekend when they got to the music festival in Stone Town.

Kendwa was nearly over for me, but it has to be one of the most beautiful places I've been, and I have to say I did wonder somewhat ruefully what I was doing there on my own, rather than with that someone special. I guess maybe I'll have to come back someday and do it right. I only hope it doesn't lose too much of its charm in the meantime.

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