Zanzibar – the Less Glamorous Side of Paradise

Zanzibar – the Less Glamorous Side of Paradise

Ah, Zanzibar…such a dreamy destination. When you hear the word all you think of is pearly-white sands, clear waters and exotic fruit, right? And it’s true, you can find all of those there, but there is another less glamorous side of paradise that has to be considered when planning a trip, and just in general when we talk about Zanzibar.

Going there thinking you’ll just spend your time in the resort, by the pool and everything will be perfect and you won’t have any contact with the real world is simply not realistic. You will be faced with the poverty, the bad roads, the unsanitary conditions the locals live in and, occasionally, a lizard or some type of weird flying bug will make its way to your room. All of that won’t kill you, and in the end, it will all be worth it, pinky promise!

Paje village

Our accommodation was situated in Paje village, one of the biggest villages of the island. Unfortunately, for various reasons, I didn’t get to go out and explore it, I only took some photos just outside the property and filmed a very shaky video from the car.

However, I can tell you this: life outside the tourist areas is not so paradisiac. This is the ugly side of Zanzibar and any other underdeveloped country probably. We go there and have a wonderful time and spend our time in resorts where there is running water and electricity and it all seems like paradise. But these people don’t live like that, most of them live on the edge of extreme poverty, in unsanitary conditions, without access to running water or electricity.

paje village
paje village
paje village

There’s a lot to debate on this topic and I’d probably never get to a conclusion, but while we’re at it I do want to open up a discussion about our attitude towards these people.

During one of the group trips that we took, we passed by a beautiful little girl just sitting on the steps of her house. She was so beautiful in her clean school uniform that for a moment I was tempted to take a picture, until I saw her scared little face. However, this did not stop two other ‘ladies’ from the group to stop and take selfies with her, as if she were some sort of a curiosity in a freak show.

I tried to limit the pictures I’ve taken of people from that moment on, just took a few for documentation purposes and only when it felt OK to do so. I’m not saying we shouldn’t take any pictures of people or the bad parts, but just to try to do it in a more considerate way. Be modest, be humble and treat them like human beings. Their appearance or way of life might seem strange or different for us, but it is what it is and diversity should be celebrated, not turned into a freak show.

Bugs and other animals

Another uncomfortable subject, I know, but I received a lot of questions so I though I’d go into a bit of detail. I talked about mosquitoes in my previous post, and I explained that there weren’t that many. However, this is still Africa. It’s bound to have some bugs here and there, some of them outside and yes, some of them will visit you in your room (the little guy pictured below did not visit our room, he was a good boy and stayed in that bush for the whole time:) ). We had lizards, cicadas and some type of flying bugs in our room and we pretty much were the delight of the maintenance guy who had to come and save us every time we came out of the room screaming our heads off.

On the beach, there were a lot of tiny albino crabs, very ugly if you ask me, but harmless. We once saw something resembling some sort of a water-snake in the water. All in all, it wasn’t too bad with the bugs. if you ask me – some of us were more scared than others, I’m not giving out names, but let’s just say it wasn’t me 😉

There are a lot of stray cats on the island, some of them seem to be well cared for, but some of them were in really bad condition, especially the ones in Stone Town. They come and beg for food at restaurants, but a lot of the time they just want to be pet and given some attention. Please don’t hit them, as I’ve seen many people do. If you don’t like them, just gently push them away, or better yet give them some food, servings are usually large enough to spare some.

There are a few dogs as well, but not that many as from what I understand Muslims think dogs are impure or something like that. Apart from that, there are some type of weird Zanzibari cows strolling around the beach sometimes. They are a lot smaller than a normal cow and have a hump on the back. The calves looked especially funny to me, they are something like a mix between a large dog and a wild boar.

spider in zanzibar
crab on the beach in zanzibar
cat in zanzibar
dog on the beach in zanzibar
zanzibari cows on the beach

I know some people don’t want to talk about any of the less positive aspects of travelling or about locations in particular, but I think it’s important to know what to expect so you can have a perfect vacation.

So, if you made it this far, congratulations! I promise the next article will be all about beaches, white sand and turquoise waters!

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