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GEEKS. Zanzibar, (Tanzania) Tembo House Hotel, Stone Town. Saturday 2 January 2016. Week 34, day 259.

There are a few choices of getting to Zanzibar from the northern Tanzanian coast (i.e. north of Dar es Salaam). Our first objective was to avoid Dar, we had had enough of busy and chaotic African cities and we had received countless warnings about driving conditions in Dar, expected to be worse over the festive season. I am a little sorry that we did not take the most adventurous choice of crossing by dhow. Anne is prone to sea sickness but on the few dhow trips we had whilst on Zanzibar she has not fluttered an eyelid. Peponi Beach Resort can make all the arrangements and organize a direct transfer to the northwest of the island. Further travelling once on Zanzibar is easy to organize by taxi and even at peak periods, as in Dec to Feb, accommodation does not need to be booked. This option would be the cheapest but I cannot give an accurate estimate. Dhow trips are apparently possible from elsewhere on the coast, even Kenya, but I would be a little wary of the more informal ones.

Option 2 would be the speed boat transfer from Pangani to the northwest of Zanzibar previously mentioned. If there are 6 or more passengers this comes in at US$64 pp, one way. This takes only 20-30min and is also to the north-west of the island. Option 3 was to fly in from nearby Tanga and this we arranged with Auric Air at a cost of US$ pp return. This is not cheap but had the advantage of being quick, convenient and allowed us to optimize our time on Zanzibar, lest it be forgotten that we had a long drive ahead of us if we were to reach South Africa and home by the end of Jan. We allowed ourselves 3 nights in Stone Town (Zanzibar Town) and 3 at Nungwi at the north of the island, a little way down the west coast.

As mentioned in an earlier post we rather haplessly sought a travel agency in Tanga town, only 45min max from Peponi Beach. Here we eventually found the “tourist association building cluster” and here Mwinyi of Tanga Wonders Adventure Tours and Travel was able to put us into touch with Abdillah R. Salum (Abdul), the General Manager of FURAHIA TOURS & SAFARIS based in Zanzibar Town. We have received such fantastic and friendly service from Abdul (and to a lesser degree, his partner Ame) that I would like to give their full details. They run a tour guide and booking service and have long experience as guides, but only opened their own business a few years ago. They both are indigenous Zanzibarians and speak excellent English and have extensive local contacts. It is good to know that the profits are remaining within Zanzibar and not disappearing somewhere offshore. Abdul is a most friendly, unassuming and obliging little fellow, his manners and consideration are impeccable. He is a most informative guide without giving you information overload by nattering on all the time. Interestingly enough his initial career was sponsored by a Spanish man, in the throes of building a large hotel, when he suddenly died. Fortunately before his death he had already paid for Abdul to do a full tourism diploma in Cape Town. We thus had plenty in common with our guide.

Contact details for Furahia Tours: Mobile:+255776130466 or +255773338263. Email: info@furahiatours.com Website: www.furahiatours.com It would really make us feel good if people supported them based on this blog. We really felt they could not do enough to make our stay in Zanzibar enjoyable. They were prompt and have their own air conditioned vehicle in very good condition which was used for all the fetching and carrying. Each service provided was priced by them individually beforehand and as far as we can tell their prices were very competitive. Other than booking our accommodation they advised on, booked and accompanied us on all the excursions in Zanzibar Town. They fetched us from the airport, drove us to the tour starting points, drove us to Nungwi in the north and picked us up and took us to the airport at the end of our stay. At no time did we feel we were being overcharged and there were no hidden charges or haggling. Some of the prices being offered by the beach touts were a little lower but even our hotel warned us of poor service and hidden costs. Abdul charged us US$20 to pick us up at the airport and to check us in at the Tembo House Hotel in Stone Town. If we were unhappy with the recommended hotels he was happy to transport us elsewhere at no extra charge. To drive us north to Nungwi and then fetch us was US$30 for the 2 of us. We paid him directly for the tours.

Our early communications were by email and Abdul was efficiently able to organize hotel bookings according to our budget and specifications. He was even able to negotiate some discounts, accommodation on Zanzibar is not cheap in peak season. We had already made flight bookings with the Auric Air office personally at their location at Tanga airport, we were also impressed with their efficiency. A return flight on one of their Cessna Caravan light aircraft cost us US220 pp. They were about 30% cheaper than coastal air and at that time of year have a twice daily flight to Zanzibar Town airport. We dealt with Catherine who runs the office at Tanga airport. [email: reservations@auricair.com; Call Center Number 255 (783) 233 334]. Despite the fact that Zanzibar is part of Tanzania, remember to take your passports and yellow fever inoculation certificates.

In discussion with Abdul we decided on the following tours for the 2 full days we would be in Stone Town. On the first morning he would accompany us on a Spice Tour (US434pp all-inclusive of lunch), one of the real must-dos in Zanzibar. Starting at 16H00 that afternoon he would do the walk through Stone Town (US$39pp) with us. On the following day he arranged the full day dhow trip commonly known as Safari Blue, except that this was with Johari Tours (US$ 79pp including lunch, drinks, transport), preferred by Abdul as they were local (and not Swedish-owned) and he felt their catering was a lot better. He also suggested the best places to go for drinks and which restaurants would best fulfil our needs after filling him in what we were looking for. His advice was spot-on.

The hotel we settled on was chosen because of its location (and of course mid-range price). The Tembo House Hotel is midrange in price at US$145 for a double room per night, including breakfast. It is an older establishment furnished quite beautifully in Zanzibarian antiques. It is a restored 19th century building. It has been kept in good condition and although there is no elevator and climbing the fairly steep stairs to our second floor room was a bit of a schlep in the heat, we were very happy with our choice. The rooms are effectively air conditioned with a fan as well. The room had a balcony and from it we had a reasonable sea view from the side, the wooden balcony appeared to still have its original Zanzibar style wooden trellis-work. This hotel has a very authentic Zanzibar feel to it unlike its neighbours from the far more upmarket Hyat and Serena hotel groups. It is also right on the front row, in possibly the best site in Stone Town, only a few steps from the beach. It is only a couple of hundred meters from the famous Forodhani Gardens and for situation it cannot be bettered. This was high season and prices are expensive so I cannot really say that we saw value for money here but on the whole we were pleased with our choice. I don’t think you will get better at that price in Stone Town. Other hotels in the same or cheaper price range were not as well situated. Breakfast was a little less enjoyable than one might expect but was just adequate enough, though monotonous. They have a swimming pool which we did not get round to using. The hotel is Moslem owned so sells no alcohol, but this is not a problem as drinks are available from the Livingstone Bar right next door, where you sit with your toes dabbling in the sand. This building was the old British Consulate and is very historic being the place where David Livingstone’s body was kept after being transported from Bagamoya and then being shipped to Westminster Abby. We had now come full circle in tracing some of Livingstone’s travels in Africa. British explorers such as Speke and Burton also stayed here.

There are a large number of tours available from a variety of sources in and around Stone Town. These can be arranged through your hotel who incidentally warned us about the risks of arranging these via street touts at seemingly discounted rates. On no account for obvious reasons, give them a deposit, which some will ask for. These cheap street offerings will often be with poor guides or will have hidden costs etc. We discussed with Abdul the various offerings available and he agreed with our choices and made arrangements to pick us up at our hotel at 8H30 the next morning. He had a printed out list of what they charged for the various tours and doing them with, or organizing them through your guide has many advantages. The package included transport in their vehicle to and from the venue and Abdul accompanied us personally on the tours and often had as much or more information to add than the resident guide at the venues. Their prices were very competitive. We were already enjoying Abdul’s company, Anne describes him as “very sweet” and he indeed had a most engaging and caring personality. He very soon picked up on your interests and depth of background knowledge and we quickly became very compatible.

TOURS and RATES from Furahia Tours,

I gather that the fees will be increased slightly for 2016.

Transfer from harbor or airport to hotel in Stone Town – US$20. (For the 2 of us).

Transfer from Stone Town to the north eg Nungwi – US$60.

Spice Tour, all inclusive including lunch there, US$34 each.

Stone Town tour on foot with Abdul, 3hrs for the 2 of us US$39 each.

Safari Johari (same as Ocean Blue), full day including seafood lunch and drinks US$79 each.

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