I had planned to spend my birthday in Zanzibar in 2020. I was dead set on the idea but that was not what the universe had planned for me….or anyone else planning to travel THAT year. In my previous travel posts you can see me appreciating the Little Travels as I go around the Cape and South Africa re-telling my travel experiences from wine farms to the hilarious experiences in Limpopo.
2021 was undoubtedly a bad year for me. It was not one where I shone nor did I flourish on a personal capacity, but it was one I had to endure. Those types of years must come round in one’s life as they are the hard and difficult growing periods that prepare you for the next chapter. First, however, you must suffer.
After all the tumults of 2021, I was insistent to end the year off with a great note and decided to go to Zanzibar. The Omnicrom variant was rife and I hesitated big time. Yet, I pushed through. My flights, accommodation and transfers were all booked and I was doing my best to play it safe. It all failed.
Travelling during Covid
It wasn’t the first time I travelled during Covid. In 2020, I went to Limpopo just before the next lockdown and wave hit. By December 2021 most of us were vaccinated and I was one of those people. You can’t step on an aeroplane without proof of vaccination and a test just 48 hours before your flight to confirm that you are negative. I went for my test and was negative….but I actually wasn’t. I had picked up the virus here in the Cape before leaving and sadly I became positive the day I landed in Zanzibar. I also found out I was an asymptomatic carrier which mean nobody, not even I, knew I had it as I had no flu like symptoms at all.
I felt very weak and initially thought I had a stomach bug, but it got very bad and felt like I was going to pass out. I experienced nausea, fatigue and a headache. I went to the doctor in a nearby village from the beach we were visiting and he gave me some medication and dehydration salts. My heart rate was ridiculously high and blood pressure abnormally low. I pretty much passed out and slept until the next day.
I travelled with a group for the first time in my life
So many who know me, know that I am a solo and independent traveller at heart. I never book tour groups as I love being in control of my own itinerary. I decided to give group travel a whirl this time round. I liked their package and it appealed to me. Sadly, having Covid with an already set itinerary and others on board meant I could not postpone the activities unless I paid extra for my own transport.
Water activities was hard. I was always tired yet no cough, no sneeze and no congestion. A few others started to feel like they had the flu but thought it was due to all the aircon in the car. I only found out I had Covid when I had to take a test before catching my flight my home. My entire holiday was already compromised from what I thought was a bad tummy bug, but now I was stuck until I was clear. Sadly, others got ill with Covid from me.
We all thought it was a mistake but then I started to get a cough the day after and so I had to stay. There’s no way it would have been right to be around others if I knew I actually had it. My symptoms were very mild. I had a mild irritable cough for just 3 days then it went away. Congestion happened for one day for a few hours. After 3 days I felt fine. They said you need to isolate for 10 days but I decided to take the test just 3 days later and was negative.
My holiday might have been a total miss and fail, but above it all my experience with Covid was a breeze. I am healthy and alive. Take The Shot.
Let’s talk holiday in Zanzibar
I love sharing my experiences and my love for photography on my social media and on this blog. I might have had a disappointing holiday in paradise but at least my pictures did not show it. Zanzibar is beautiful. I wasn’t very ill aside from that first day, and could still enjoy swimming, exploring the town and doing some activities.
As I said before, I went with a group this time and most likely it will be the last time. Don’t get me wrong, the group of people and host I was with were all great but sadly my illness and stress of it will deter me from group travel for now. I was naturally irritable and felt pressure to go along with changes I was not into. Nobody forced me, but it loomed over me and I was so weak.
I also see it as a way of the universe telling me to keep travelling with an independent free spirit. I’m totally fine with that.
The Beaches in Zanzibar
Island holidays for me usually mean a different beach every day. We definitely got to see a few, but I wanted to see more. We were in Nungwi to the North that has everything in close proximity to a dreamy white sand beach. We even did a bit of horse riding in the water. I’d hoped to actually do dome actual riding along the beach but the big group wanting a million photos took up our time.
I stayed here at a really nice beach bungalow as I isolated. The group had stayed at a resort and I didn’t like that vibe at all. The beach was not ideal for swimming and more ideal for families who don’t want to leave the resort. I found resorts to be somewhat of a waste.
On the day I fell ill, we ventured down south to Upendo.
Upendo is frequented by many to snap up photos of the Rock Restaurant that is located on the reef. In low tide you can easily walk up to it and in high tide you can take a boat. We opted for lunch at Upendo Beach Club on the beach front.
We didn’t go to Memba Island but we spent a day in its waters watching dolphins, snorkelling in the reef and swimming. I managed to swim a bit with the dolphins before getting way too tired as this was the day after I was down.
Safari Blue – Femba
Safari Blue is a tour and experience that takes you to some of the most interesting beaches South of Stone Town. You spend the morning on an island that is literally a sand dune, snorkelling around its incredible reefs and exploring the Mangrove Lagoon. The lagoon is home to a variety of medicinal herbs and plants.
You end the day off on another island to enjoy a seafood braai/BBQ. It was so good.
Also known as Zanzibar Town, this is a tour you don’t want to miss out on. I’d actually opt to stay a few nights in the town as it is brimming with life and I loved the unique fusion of Middle East meets Africa. The architecture, the palms, the bustling alleys and the interiors were all a visual overload.
We went for lunch at the popular Emerson Hotel which housed a restaurant in a ruined façade brimming with lush vegetation. I can’t say if the food was great due to my poor appetite.
Most of Zanzibar’s villages and towns are conservative. While you can prance around in your swimwear on the beaches, you’ll need to dress more respectfully in the towns. Sleeveless tops and shorts are all fine as long as it’s not too revealing. You won’t get harassed as people are rather respectful, but you will get stared at as one of the ladies in the travel group said who wore a mini dress with a very low cut top.
Do wear comfortable shoes. The roads are narrow and the alleyways are busy, so a walking tour is your best option. I opted for a flowing dress and orthopaedic sandals. Best. Choice. Ever.
Zanzibar is too beautiful to not be amazing…even if you feel like death. I hope to return one day and do the holiday and experience it at its fullest. It did, however, inspire me to want to explore more of my own continent. Africa is complex, diverse and incredible and has so much to offer and more that we most probably do not even know about. I’m slightly obsessed. I’m looking into my next travel adventure and it’s definitely on this amazing continent. I’ll definitely be sharing it here and on my socials.
I really appreciated my time spent alone while in Zanzibar albeit under not so great circumstances. On testing negative and feeling better, I felt I could finally celebrate my birthday… a whole week later. I bought bubbly and opted for some fine dining at the Hilton Resort at Nungwi and ended it off with an evening swim and an incredible sunset. Probably my most perfect day on the holiday.
On a side note, if there’s a wave of a virus creeping up….listen to your gut instinct and postpone!