Stone Town

After our three nights of luxury on the eastern side of the island, we headed back towards Zanzibar’s main city, Stone Town, to get more of a feel for the “real” Zanzibar. Historically, Zanzibar was a main hub in the slave trade in and out of Africa. Due to its past, it has long been a mixing ground of different people, cultures, and traditions. Today it is a predominantly Muslim population (~90%), however there is an undeniable Indian influence and the local East African culture is prevalent as well.

Stone Town

Waterfront Park

Though we were back to roughing it backpacker style, and though our place was kind of a dump, we were centrally located in the middle of the old city. There are hundreds of different winding alleyways and narrow streets to wander around. Sometimes you would turn a corner and see Muslim women in their burqas or kids walking to school in their school uniforms. Other times you’d find men sitting in their shops gathered around a TV smoking cigarettes, while others would play soccer in the street. Meanwhile there are people zipping around corners on mopeds and bicycles navigating these same obstacles. It was a magical place for people watching and though we normally had no idea where we were going, you eventually end up back at the water so it is impossible to get lost.

Stone Town's alleys

Life in Stone Town

Our most memorable meal was down at a waterfront park where dozens of food stalls serve up fresh catches from the day, Zanzibari pizzas and desserts. As you might imagine, the salesmen are quite good at their pitch and everyone wants you to eat at their stall. We finally picked a couple winners and squished in amongst the locals to eat our delicious seafood dinner.

Seafood Market

Zanzibar pizza prep

As we were finishing up, two young men sat down on either side of us and started chatting. After 6+ months of travel, we were welcoming but apprehensive because a ‘friendly’ conversation often turns into a sales pitch (for a taxi ride, a guided tour, etc.). However, this was not the case at all. They were simply talking to us just to practice and improve their English. The guy I was talking to was just about to finish up school and ultimately wanted to be in the tourism industry as a guide. He knew he would need to improve upon his English so he often visited the nightly market in hopes of finding people to talk to. How cool is that? Though I definitely didn’t catch everything he said, we did have a great conversation. He played me some Rihanna from his cell phone and I introduced him to YouTube and we talked about our families. All in all a great night and a wonderful way to wrap-up a visit to the fabulous island of Zanzibar.

Stone Town sunset

Traditional dhow boat at sunset

East Side

After an amazingly fast couple months in Southern Africa, our trip is taking us north to East Africa. Tanzania has a reputation of being a rockstar destination on the continent and we are looking forward to seeing what all the fuss is about.

After a quick night in the busy, hot and humid, dirty, traffic-filled, over-crowded capital of Dar es Salaam, we took a ferry boat over to the island of Zanzibar. Zanzibar has always been one of those magical, exotic, far-away places that I wasn’t sure really existed. I can now confirm that it is indeed real, and we indeed loved it.

Dar Es Salaam from the ferry to Zanzibar

Arrival to Zanzibar's coastline - we're gonna like this place...

In connection with Adventures Within Reach (AWR), Ted and I headed over to the east side of Zanzibar Island to do some site research on the various hotels that they send guests to, which resulted in extravagant (and deeply discounted) stays for us! The east side is known for its quiet pace of life, nearly empty white-sand beaches, and high-end resorts. We got to stay a total of 3 nights at three different neighboring properties and have never felt so spoiled and pampered in our lives. Going from a cement block of a room in Dar to gorgeous sea-side bungalows, with manicured grounds, sapphire blue swimming pools, freshly prepared seafood, and the Indian Ocean at our doorstep was quite a treat. Two of the three places we stayed even had private plunge pools adjoining our rooms, and one had complimentary everything – ‘Why yes, we’d love the cocktail-of-the-day served to us while relaxing in our plunge pool overlooking the property gardens and a massage tomorrow by the Thai masseurs.’ :) Ted did some windsurfing, I did some oceanside reading and we both took runs on the beach (last minute training for Kili!)

Enjoying the coastal breeze

Best seafood of the trip (so far)

Private plunge pool, complete with complimentary champagne!

Ted's first ocean windsurfing

Unbelievable. I’m not sure what we did to deserve this good fortune, but Zanzibar is forever etched in our minds as a little slice of heaven.  Thanks AWR!!

Picture of the Week

Zanzibar’s white sand beaches and turquoise waters – this place is as cool as it sounds.

The white-sand beachs of Zanzibar's east coast

Ted wants to learn how to kite surf...in Zanzibar

Southern Africa Wrap-up

We visited a total of 6 countries in Southern Africa – Zambia, Botswana, South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, and Mozambique – but some for only a matter of days, and some for only a matter of hours! That being said, we’ve decided to combine them all together for a regional wrap-up. Below, in no particular order, are our Top 10 Highlights, Bottom 5 Bummers, as well as Favorite Food/Drink and Animal Sightings (new category for Africa!) of our two months in Southern Africa. You can also check out our Best of Southern Africa photo album for some more visual highlights (and don’t forget the African Mega-Fauna album for our top animal sightings).

Top 10

  1. Mokoro Ride

    Victoria Falls – What can we say? They are one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World and they are some incredibly impressive falls.

  2. Remoteness of the Botswana bush – A safari in Botswana is a unique experience. You are hundreds of miles into the wilderness away from cities, towns, and other people. There are no power lines or fences or signs of civilization. The only way in and out is via bush plane. It’s just you and the animals in the bush.
  3. Small plane flights between safari lodges – Due to the remoteness of the safari camps in Botswana and seasonal weather conditions, several times our transport between camps was by small plane. One flight was a total of 8 minutes and Ted got to sit shotgun with the pilot.
  4. Mokoro ride – Our safari group in Botswana got treated to traditional Mokoro rides, which are similar to dug-out canoes. Powered only by a long pole, you are gliding just inches above the water and kinda feel like you’re flying.
  5. Family-filled January – How incredible is it that both sets of our parents came all the way across the ocean from the Northern United States to Southern Africa to visit us?!
  6. View from Table Mountain – Nothing quite like it and I think we appreciated it even more due to the energy we expended to get up there!
  7. Morning at Clifton Beaches – Just around the corner from Cape Town’s city center are the most beautiful, tucked-away beaches. We went with the Graces on a weekday and nearly had the place to ourselves.
  8. Cheetah!

    Animal Sighting Good Luck Charms – The Martens saw it all in the animal department – including the much talked about Big 5 (elephants, leopards, rhinos, buffalo and lions) plus cheetahs and lots of other good stuff in a matter of days. Ted and I had not seen a rhino or a cheetah before their visit and we’d been on nearly 30 game drives before they came.

  9. Bush to Beach to Bush – I wrote about this day in a previous post, and it was really quite awesome. Seeing big animals and swimming in the ocean makes for an incredible day.
  10. SCUBA Diving in Moz – We both love being underwater and I wish we got to do it more often. We were very impressed with the coral and the variety of fish in Mozambique.

Bottom 5

  1. Lame NYE – We’d love to have a memorable, exciting story to share about our New Year’s Eve on the trip, but low and behold, we were asleep before midnight.
  2. Theft – At the lodge we stayed at in Cape Town with my parents, we had an issue with some sticky-fingered housekeepers. Wily Ted was able to prove their misdeed. The manager was appalled and immediately and appropriately addressed the situation, including reimbursing us for the small amount taken.
  3. Bad Bus Ride

    Bus to Tofo BeachWe’re wimps. We didn’t take a whole lots of public transportation in Africa, and I’m using this fairly uncomfortable bus ride as justification of why we didn’t do so.

  4. Visa debaclesLet’s just say that in Johannesburg we went to the India Embassy three times (to get a visa), the Mozambique Embassy four times (to get a visa), and the U.S. Embassy once (to get more pages in my passport).
  5. Failing to visit NamibiaWhen we left the US for our trip, we were 100% positive we were going to Namibia. Ted has a travel industry friend and contact living there with his family and we were planning to pay them a visit. Sadly, it didn’t happen.

Favorite Meals and Treats

  1. Sundowners – The idea of having a cocktail while watching the sun go down is a good one. We enjoyed our sundowners on the Zambezi River in Zambia, in the Botswana bush, with city views in Cape Town, throughout the greater Kruger Park area, and the list goes on.
  2. Ostrich Fillet - Mmmmmmm

    Stuffed Crabs – Mmmm. We discovered these stuffed treats in Mozambique and ate them all week.

  3. Unique Game – Never before had we eaten ostrich or impala – and we quite liked it. Other game options included crocodile, kudu (a type of antelope), and warthog!
  4. Ocean Basket – OB is a South African chain restaurant that serves fresh seafood, fish and chips, and sushi. They are everywhere and we ate there many a time including with both sets of parents.
  5. NatHab Safari Meals – When we were on safari in Botswana, we ate entirely too much amazing food. How they got such fabulous fresh food out into the middle of the bush in order to feed us so well is beyond me.

Animal Sighting Highlights

  1. Wild Dog

    Wild Dog – Our one and only sighting of wild dogs was in Botswana. They are endangered and extremely rare to see. Even the guides were excited, that is how we knew we were lucky.

  2. Pursuit of first leopard – Francis, our guide in Botswana, is the man. With his animal tracking know-how, his persistence and determination, his off-road driving and a little bit of luck we spotted our first leopards – a momma and two older cubs. You wouldn’t believe the amount of vegetation we got to drive over just to find them.
  3. Baby animals – Due to the time of year we were visiting, we got the opportunity to see lots of mommas and their babies. There isn’t anything much cuter than baby lions, elephants, and impala.
  4. Elephants – Ted’s favorite animal to see. We saw lots.
  5. Giraffes – Sarah’s favorite. Oh, and to see a giraffe running is incredible – it appears to be happening in slow motion.
  6. Rhinos

    Game drive with Ocean – Ocean was one of our guides with Ted’s parents and he kept things interesting. Within a couple hours we saw 4 of the Big 5 (elephants, lions, leopards, buffalo and rhinos) and evaded an aggressively charging male elephant!

  7. First rhinoceros – Finally! After our Botswana safari and several days in the Kruger Park area we were beginning to think they didn’t exist. But they do!
  8. Cheetah with it’s kill – What an amazing site to come upon. We didn’t realize it had just hunted until the little impala almost got away and the cheetah had to finish it off.
  9. Surprise night-time leopard sighting – Last night in the Kruger Park area and our way back to the lodge we magically came upon a leopard.
  10. Lotsa fish – Between snorkeling with the Martens and SCUBA diving in Moz, we got to see some great underwater animals as well!

Don’t forget to check out the Best Of photo albums here and here.

Tofo Beach

I’m not sure I have enough stories to fill a post about our time in the amazingly peaceful Tofo Beach (but I’ve definitely got enough pictures to make you jealous of our time there!). That’s not to say we didn’t have a great time, we had a fabulous time – what I mean is that we didn’t do a whole lot. We’d sleep until our little beach bungalow got too warm and then we’d throw on our swimsuits and go sit overlooking the beach. We would read, go for walks, talk to fun people staying at the hostel, wander into to town, go swimming, and watch the sun go down. We’d then clean up for dinner, gather a group together and check out one of the handful of eating establishments within walking distance.

Tofo Beach


Highlights and memories of the week include:

  • Top-notch SCUBA diving – we hadn’t been since May 2008 so we were long overdue for a dive. The quantity and variety of fish and critters was fantastic and the coral reefs were no more than a 10 minute boat ride from shore.
  • Aggressive salesmen in the form of 8 to 12-year old boys trying to sell you their hand-made beaded bracelets. I bought about 8 of them!
  • Caprinhas – Think crab cakes but served in the shell of a crab! Cheap, beautifully presented and irresistably good.
  • Staying awake for the sunrise – It’s been awhile since either of us had pulled an all-nighter but the night was perfect and our company was entertaining.
  • Ted identified a brush fire that was scarily close to our very flammable reed bungalow, and the staff was so grateful that they gave him free drinks all night long.
  • Swimming in the ocean every day! We’ve seen a lot of snow and climbed a lot of mountains on our trip, but we were still way behind in the ocean department. The current was VERY strong but waves were a lot of fun.

Persuasive Bracelet Vendors

Our beach bungalow - made out of reeds!

Party on the beach!

Sunrise after the party

And that’s about it. We did some variation of the above activities every day and we loved it! Moz, as it is affectionately called, was very good to us. I see why South Africans have been keeping it a secret!


After a week in Johannesburg taking care of a little admin (i.e. securing a visa for India and getting more pages in my passport), we got to take a vacation – from our vacation. We headed to Mozambique, an under-the-radar-destination for many international visitors, but a well-known and loved coastal destination for many South Africans.

The beach where we were headed after a 2-day bus journey

After our rather pleasant first bus ride in Africa, we arrived in Maputo, Mozambique’s capital city. We were told that Maputo is one of Africa’s most attractive capitals, but sadly we did not experience what earned them that title – the place was pretty run down. We met some great folks there though – an international group of safari-guides-in-training. On holiday from their studies, the future rangers were headed to the same beach town we were, and we became fast friends.

After a rather cruisy and comfortable first bus ride, our second bus ride was all Africa. Leaving the hostel, the mid-sized shuttle bus appeared nearly full with over 12 tourists plus all of our bags, a surfboard, etc. However, the driver didn’t think we were anywhere close to full. We drove to the local transit stop where the driver proceeded to pack the bus full to the brim – more seats unfolded and appeared out of nowhere; women piled on with several children on their laps and unbelievably large bags of produce, grain and/or textiles; men who had maybe showered in the last week yelled in their mobile phones – it was a full house. Leg room was non-existent and personal space was completely absent. It was an incredibly long 8 hours and we were relieved to know that the light at the end of the tunnel was a spectacular beach.

Maputo "Bus Station" - where we loaded up beyond capactiy

Our bus being bombarded by fruit sellers at a pit stop

Our new ranger friends. We thought this was the full bus. We were wrong...

The Elephant Coast (via Swaziland)

Swaziland is a teeny, tiny little country in Southern Africa that most people have never heard of – look on a map and you’ll see that it is nearly encompassed by South Africa. They have a much-loved King (with many wives), their own currency, and a lot of national pride. We didn’t get to experience much of what Swaziland has to offer but we did spend a night there and enjoyed the beautiful green hilly scenery from the car on our shortcut through the country to get from the Kruger Park area to South Africa’s Elephant Coast.

Swaziland's green rolling hills

Swaziland from the car

Spanning the northeastern seaboard, the Elephant Coast is a popular vacation destination for JoBurg folks looking to escape the big city. St. Lucia is the main hub around these parts and thanks to its location on the Indian Ocean (rather than the Atlantic), the water temperature is much more inviting for swimming than we’d experienced at the other beaches in South Africa.

Elephant Coast

Elephant Coast

One of our favorite days with Martens was a bush-to-beach-to bush experience. At the iSimangaliso Wetland National Park, you have the opportunity to self-drive your car through an incredibly beautiful and world-renowned wetland landscape, where you see everything from kudu, to zebra, to rhino, to hippos – only to end up on an amazing strip of white sand beach where you can swim, surf, and snorkel. We picnicked along the beach and then took turns swimming in the beautiful blue water and snorkeling along the small reef near shore. When we’d had enough sunshine for the day, we piled back in the car to look for more animals as we headed towards town.


Picnic on the beach

Cape Vidal

Bush to Beach to Bush

I can’t imagine there are too many places in the world where you can see a rhino in the morning, eat lunch with monkeys in the trees overlooking the beach, swim with fish, and then spot dozens of zebra and warthogs on your way home. What a day!

Family photo

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