I Love You
That's where I went today.
To ~ "I Love You."
Sounds odd... but nothing could be further from the truth. Today, I was at Nakupenda... which is a sandbar in the middle of the Indian Ocean...
Anyway - Nakupenda means "I love you" in Swahili.
Look it up.
Love was definitely in the air, because this could truly be one of the most stunningly beautiful places I have ever been to. Prime picturesque.
The whole trip was planned on a whim. I knew the trip existed, because I had seen it multiple times on Viator and Trip Advisor, but I wasn't entirely sure I was going to do it. Fadhil had brought up the possibility the day before, on our walking tour of Stonetown, and I figured, I might as well. After all, I am here for a week, and intent on filling my days.
I'd also read it was advisable to only spend 2-3 days in Stonetown, but brilliant me opted for an entire week. So, as far as I am concerned, bring on the activities! I've already exhausted every winding alley... and have no idea how I will fill my days. I had already come to the conclusion that Fadhil wasn't exactly the person I wanted to spend my entire day with, but he mentioned others would be joining the tour, so I figured I would ride along, if only for some potentially new friends and stimulating conversation.
Fadhil picked me up at the hotel at 9am sharp and from here, we walked to the small boat launch. There was a myriad of rickety old wooden boats lining the shore; crew loading up the equipment and supplies needed for the day, women preparing the lunchtime feasts and guests mulling around, playing the waiting game, as I was... for over an hour. Of course, the entire area was inundated with vendors, desperate to cash in on the abundance of tourists. Sarongs, cashews, flip-flops, football jerseys... they had it all and in their hands, you were never in need of anything.
Our journey finally found us all on our way to Prison Island... or Changuu Island, as it is more formally known.
In 1806, this island was originally slated to become a prison for the rebellious slaves. No prison institutions were actually ever built, but instead, it ended up becoming a quarantine station for yellow fever cases. Following that pandemic, it turned into a retreat for the British elite.
Fadhil and I wandered the grounds in silence. He barely spoke because "he told me everything about Prison Island yesterday."
To me, that was code for "I don't have any more information."
The island's remaining structures were quite run down, and it was devastating to see what years of neglect had done to these elegant buildings. The photo opportunities and the absolute potential were phenomenal, but devastating to see the ruin of such luxurious design.
In addition to Prison Island being a prison, a yellow fever quarantine and a posh retreat, it is also home to the Aldabra Tortoise. The giant Aldabra is the only remaining species, out of 18 former species, that once flourished on the islands of the Indian Ocean. Poor things were hunted to extinction. These incredible beasts have the ability to live up to 150 years, but have declined in numbers due to years of human poaching, which still goes on today. Humans sucks.
I never know exactly how to feel when I am in a position where I am suddenly in an area where animals are kept in captivity. Believe me, I am all for rehabilitation and wildlife protection, but it's a bizarre sensitivity. Prison island was quite spacious, for a small island, and it was an extremely lush and treed sanctuary. The area that the turtles were in was completely fenced off.
Was it to keep the poachers out? Or the turtles in?
The ramshackle chicken-wire fencing was low standing, flimsy and could easy be cut or knocked down. Fabhil told me that it was so they didn't go to the sea? The Aldabra tortoises are terrestrial, but they can swim.
... no answer.
This guy was a real wealth of information.
Fadhil really didn't have much interest in telling me more about Prison Island or the tortoises that lived there. He was, however, intent on extracting information from me about what our government does for the Canadian "eskimos" that live in the snow. Try having THAT conversation in broken, basic English.
It was bizarre, to say the least.
A few times, I made an attempt to veer him away from using the word "Eskimo," but he was holding strong to what he knew. Each time I tried to change the subject, he pulled it right back. Here I was, in the moment, preoccupied with the lives of an endangered species... and Fadhil wanted a crash course in the Government of Canada's Indigenous Peoples Act.
Back to my tortoises.
The babies were all kept in a very small isolated enclosure. Fadbil told me it was so that people didn't pick them up and run off with them. Hmmm.... I really hoped they were allowed some unrestricted movement throughout the day, away from selfies and the irritation of continual human touch. It must be aggravating and horrendously stressful for these majestic beasts, being surrounded by so many people on a daily basis. I could feel their misery. I declined the obligatory photo of me, up close and personal, and chose to stand back and give them the space and privacy they deserved. Camera zoom is a wonderful thing.
Then on to Nakupenda...
I didn't know about this place, so I had no idea where we were going and what to expect. Normally, when I book a trip, I will research it to death. I will read all the reviews, see all the photos and fully prepare myself for all the things! But considering this was so impromptu, I only knew our destination was Prison Island. I knew there was going to be a boat... and I knew there would be lunch.
A true Instagram dream, if I have ever seen one.
It was too much for the senses, actually.
The perfection was overwhelming.
The white coral beach.
The clear, clean turquoise water.
Had I worn the right bikini, I would have done ALL the social media shots.
Me near the water, looking at the water, sitting with my toes in the water, lying in the water, half way in the water, splashing the water, frolicking in the waves, gazing out at the horizon... hat on, hat off... it would have been a photo shoot to end all photo shoots.
But... I wasn't in the mood.
There was more than one girl lining the beach... bikini, boobs, butt, lips... the perfect pose... and 700 different angles and scenarios. One girl even offered to take a picture of me, but I patted my stomach like good old Saint Nick, smiled and politely refused. I have another 3 weeks of coral beach and beautiful waters for my beach beauty and stunning selfies.
Lunch was a feast of lobster, prawns, calamari, octopus and french fries! All bubbled to death in oil, right in front of us. Apparently the Indian Ocean is saltier than any other ocean, so no salt needed for the chips. Though a napkin would have been appreciated!
As soon as I finished eating and my plate had been taken away, Fadhil came over and sat down beside me on the beach mat.
Here we go... I knew something was coming...
He asked me if I was enjoying my day, and I nodded enthusiastically. I hoped that was the end of the conversation and allowed my gaze to stretch out to the horizon, as though I was enamoured with the landscape and consumed with my own deep thoughts.
Instead of elaborating on some of natural aspects of the islands or the history of the area, like most tour leaders might do, Fadhil started lecturing me about how Canadians have no idea what it is to think there's no tomorrow.
It was a buzz kill, to say the least.
I was pretty much held captive. The tide was coming in and the sandbar was disappearing. There was nowhere to go, except the water. Suddenly, a beach bikini model photo shoot was looking like a pretty good idea.
I found it difficult to escape his gloomy subject, and everything he said, he looked directly at me, as if it were on my shoulders to justify the world's inexcusable cruelty. I sympathize and I empathize with the impoverished, really I do, but it was a conversation much to dark for a sunny afternoon and not entirely fitting for a day's expense.
I nodded and agreed as much as I could, desperate for him to go away or change the subject. When he could obviously see he'd lost my attention entirely, he turned the conversation to me and why I don't cook; a misconception taken from me not wanting to buy spices in the market.
It was then I promptly got up, walked away and went for a swim.
Traveling alone definitely has the ability to bring the best and the worst of them forward. I could not wait to get back to shore and rid myself of Fadhil. I am not entirely sure exactly why he came, except for to collect the money. He contributed absolutely nothing to the day.
That evening I celebrated two exemplary achievements; a phenomenal afternoon (despite the occasional awkward conversation), and the ability to remain awake for the majority of the day. My triumph included a stunning Zanzibar sunset, sponsored by the fabulous hospitality of the Africa House Sunset Bar.
A lovely glass of rosé... a brownie smothered in bubbling chocolate sauce and ice cream? .... Don't mind if I do.
Diet postponed until tomorrow.
Guess my bikini photo shoot will have to wait until next week.