After staying the night at the rather glamorous Essque Zalu we arrived at Mnarani Beach Cottages– a humble cluster of rooms/huts literally next door to Essque Zalu in the town of Nungwi. Nungwi is known as being a hive of activity in Zanzibar. Home to lots of kite-surfing schools, snorkelling centres, big hotels and parties it is considered the place to be if you are looking for that gap-year vibe. I most certainly wasn’t but it would be silly to be a complete snob and neglect the chance to explore Nungwi at all!
When we arrived at The Mnarani Cottages we were greeted by a lovely gentleman who took his time in pointing out the library before giving us a little tour. Each hut was separated by little gardens through which bunny rabbits hopped and small birds (that looked like the African relatives of the partridge) strolled and darted between plants. To our surprise we were the only people staying at the cottages on our first night so we were given a sea-view room. In saying ‘sea-view’ I feel like I a not doing it justice though, because, unlike at most hotels where a sea-view constitutes being able to spy a slither of sand and identify a dot of sea through squinting and straining eyes, in the case of Mnarani a sea-view means you open your curtains and beyond a hammock the sea is right there in front of you…a vast stretch of blue!
A few steps down from the beach cottages was the beach. Not quite as magnificent as in Uroa, but beautiful nonetheless. (For a review of Uroa look no further and click here!)
As the sun began to slip down towards the horizon, the combination of low light and barmy evening air did its best at proving that perhaps Zanzibar is most beautiful not when its glorious sunshine but at dusk. With no one around to interrupt us gently swinging in a hammock to the metronome of the repetition of waves cresting and reclining, life felt good. I don’t know what it is, but being by the sea always seems to bring you back down to earth, put things into perspective and it brings a sense of peacefulness and contentment. The vastness of the ocean, its deepness and intensity in colour and its apparent infinity heal a bruised soul, rest a weary mind and bring a steadiness even the most stressed and agitated of us.
Dinner was simple and peaceful and made a nice change to the gastronomic fanciness of the previous evening. Unsure whether we would be relieved or disappointed by the fact that the hotel, bar ourselves, would be empty, the staff kindly offered that they would happily join us in the beach bar in the evening should we want company for watching the football. May I just point out that it was in fact the World Cup at the time of our holiday and we wouldn’t ordinarily feel the need to watch some football when half way round the world in paradise. But the Africans love football (they have more knowledge of the English teams, and more memorabilia, than most people I know!) and they do make good company. Even the Masai Mara we met on the beach had plastic laundry bags emblazoned with the faded faces of Michael Owen and footballers of the nineties….I can picture the scene of cows and beautifully hand-carved ornaments being traded for this tacky premier league merchandise, its value more akin to precious treasure. After the football we continued the ‘laddy’ culture and learnt how to gamble Zanzibari style. The game was called Boa and involved moving polished seeds or pebbles around a piece of wood with carved dips and grooves.
We were told that traditionally the game could last days and it had been known for men to still be playing the following day (if not longer!). Worryingly, it had also been known for men to gamble their girlfriends and wives in addition to all of their possessions when really getting into a gripping game of bao. Thank goodness I hadn’t been part of the stake as the lovely barman was a dab hand at the game and consumption of Kilimanjaro beer had not made for a focused mind on James’ part! The evening ended in high spirits, relationship in tact and a rather smug and smiley barman.
The evening drew to an end and we sloped back to our little cabin for snug night’s sleep and the comforting reminder that tomorrow we would awake to another day in paradise.