A few months ago there was an error fare where flights from Abu Dhabi to Dar Es Salaam were $201 USD. Naturally, being the Frugal McDougal I am, I jumped on it. For Spring Break, I had visions of a week in Tanzania and 19 hours in the Seychelles. It was to be a luxurious, peaceful, relaxing, solo island vacation… And then I started missing Mr. Glitter something fierce, so I let go of that independent woman solo traveler business and
strong-armed invited him to join me. My solo trip turned into my first international #baecation and I regret absolutely nothing! Actually, that’s a lie. I regret that we didn’t get more time together. Y’all already know by now how much I love me some him.
I ended up canceling the error fare and purchasing a new ticket so I could meet my love sooner. We planned to meet in the Doha airport before our connecting flight to Dar. Once I landed, Mr. G texted me a meetup location.
Mr. G: Meet me at the big yellow bear.
Me: Ummm? What bear? Where is it?
*45 seconds later*
Me: Oh! Never mind.
This thing is… memorable. Apparently, this sculpture by Urs Fischer was purchased by a member of the Qatar royal family for the tune of $6.8 MILLION USD at an auction. It was previously on exhibition for 5 months in NYC before making its way to the Departures Hall at Hamad International Airport. Once you ignore the creep factor of a giant disfigured teddy bear being impaled by a functioning lamp, it’s kind of cool. Not sure where to meet a loved one? Go to the bear. Can’t seem to get your bearings (see what I did there?)? Go to the bear. Want to know where the lounge, spa, pool, gym, or hotel are located in the airport? Go to the back of the bear and walk to the right.
We had a long layover and decided to make the most of it by staying in the airport. We wasted time and money at the Oryx Lounge. For $40 USD a person, I was disappointed that they only had soup, salads, and sandwiches.
But the seats were comfy, the drinks were strong, and the facilities were impeccable. We explored the huge Duty Free mall a bit before going to another restaurant for proper drinks.
And then we were off to Africa.
Once we landed in Dar Es Salaam the fun began. Our flight arrived an hour late, so our leisurely almost 2 hour connection time between flights from Dar to Zanzibar was cut down to 40 minutes. I had a major attitude and was convinced we were going to miss our connecting flight. Thank goodness Mr. Glitter has a better outlook on life than I do. “We’ll make it. Think positively.” It’s funny now, but I wanted to deck him in the throat soon after he said it. Why? All I kept thinking about was that we still had to get visas installed on our passports, go through customs, pray that no one asked Mr. G to show proof of a yellow fever vaccination that he didn’t have, pick up our checked bags, and find our way from the international to domestic terminals.
Type A Timah had the foresight to print out and complete our visa applications before we left to speed up the process. We handed our forms over to the immigration official and she told us, “Oh. We don’t use those any more. Fill out these cards.” I’m glad that lovely woman couldn’t read my mind. My Book of Cuss was silently being read inside. Once the visas were given and we cleared customs, I had a mini freak out because I couldn’t find my bag. Where is my bag? Why isn’t it here? Was I supposed to pick it up in Doha? I don’t see it. Shit! About a minute into my panic attack I resolved that I would buy whatever I needed and worry about the missing bag later. I didn’t care. We were going to make that flight that day as there was a beach with my name on it. Fortunately, none of that had to happen. If I’m honest I’ll admit that I bought a new bag a few days before we left and forgot what it looked like. It was there the entire time. 🙂
Speaking of this bag… The only reason I purchased a duffel bag was because we were flying to Zanzibar via Coastal Aviation. Their website stated that in addition to being within their allotted size and weight allowance, checked baggage should also be soft sided. Mr. G’s bag was an 18″ upright roller and mine was a 20″ duffel. If I did it again, I would have realized that soft-sided meant I could have traveled with my faithful 20″ upright all-wheel spinner as well. For his part, Mr. G was a saint. He never complained (aloud) and made sure I never had to lift my bag. You see why I love him?
Anyway, we made it out the airport and had some trouble finding our pre-arranged (free) transport to the domestic terminal. A 5 minute and $5 USD taxi ride later and we made it. The kind folks at Coastal greeted us with a smile and knew exactly who we were. “Hakuna matata. We held the plane for you,” said the gorgeous young lady who printed our tickets. It was at that moment when I realized I had to change my attitude ASAPtually. I was so wrapped up in my issues and anxiety that I was missing it. I was missing how kind people were from the moment we arrived in Tanzania. I was missing how nothing moved lightning fast so my typical lack of punctuality was no longer a big deal. We made the flight and that’s all that matters. (Sidenote: Therapy and being loved on by Mr. G and my family and friends is doing wonders for my mental health.)
As we flew away from DAR and over the ocean I knew this trip was going to be special.
A 20 minute flight on the smallest plane I’ve ever been on in life and we had arrived on the Spice Island.
We breezed through Zanzibar’s customs area and were greeted by our driverS. That’s right. There were 2 men holding up signs with our names on it. I was contacted by a transport company soon after my hotel booking was confirmed, but hadn’t heard back from him when I gave flight information. So, I emailed the hotel directly and confirmed our transport arrangements. Turns out only one of the guys had the correct name of the hotel we had booked on it. I felt so bad for the other guy… But that quickly faded. Our driver, Mr. Juma, reminded me of a great-uncle or grandfather.
He had a soft voice, kind face, and never pressed us to do more than we wanted. He offered the option of pre-packaged tours, but created bespoke packages to suit our needs and budget. If you’re ever on Zanzibar, I highly recommend him (or his other driver Omary). He can be reached at +255 777 432 605.
We stayed our first few nights at the Tembo House Hotel in Stonetown. The view from our room, the King Suite in # 27, was breathtaking.
From there, we went to the Doubletree on Nungwi where we hung out with some cool people, battled “Fly-mageddon” and spent 2 romantic nights nursing the bubble guts. That’s an unfortunate, yet hilarious story I’ll share in an upcoming post.
Our last 2 nights were spent at the Melia Resort where we were treated like superstars thanks to a lovely hotelier friend, called Russell, we made while in Stonetown.
I planned the perfect vacation, if I do say so myself. We had reservations to see and do so many cool things during the first 72 hours. I even printed out an itinerary for each day. Go ahead and laugh. My Type A personality couldn’t help herself from making one before she left. Fortunately, Vacation Timah is much more relaxed and she had the good sense to to abandon most of that itinerary after Day 1. Mr. G was a great sport and let me run the show – and swiftly reigned me back in when needed. I’m so glad he’s a part of my life. We make a great team. The distance has been especially hard on me lately, so being able to reconnect was very much needed.
Here are some of the highlights of our trip. I’ll post more detailed entries on the following soon:
Sunset dinners at Emerson Spice Teahouse and Emerson on Hurumzi Teahouse
A spice farm tour
The Rock Restaurant
Prison Island (Changuu)
The Melia Resort
We had a great time and I’m still sorting through tons of pictures and video footage. If you have any questions about Zanzibar, feel free to hit me up in the comments.