On your way from Stone Town toward the northern part of the island you will pass a small village called Bububu. It got its name from the sound of the steam train: bububu – bububu – bubkubu. Seriously. Zanzibar was the first country in East Africa to introduce the steam locomotive. First, Sultan Bargash bin Said had a seven mile railway constructed from his palace in Stone Town to Chukwani (close to Stone Town airport) in 1879. The railway stayed in service until the Sultan died in 1888 when the track and locomotive were scrapped.
In 1905 an American company built a seven mile line from Zanzibar Town to a village – yes, you guessed right, which was then given the name Bububu. It was notorious for its ability to set fire to property and the surrounding country side but it ran for twenty-five years until it was closed in 1930, when roads improved and motor vehicles on the island increased.
After that, with the improvement of the port, the railway was used for the haulage of stone which was used to reclaim the seafront. Today much of the old track bed has been built on however train enthusiasts can still see the remains of the railway’s bridges and embankments close to the main road to Bububu.
To get to the spice farms, turn right at the Bububu police station. Please read age “Discover Zanzibar east of Stone Town”. You will find Kidichi Spice Farm on that road, or you can carry on a bit further till you get to an intersection, turn right toward Mwera. On that road you will find Tangawizi spice farm.
A spice farm tour is highly recommended. You will walk through the spice farm with a guide who points out the plants, shrubs and trees of cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, turmeric, black pepper, vanilla, nutmeg, lemon grass and all kinds of natural flavors and scents that everyone adores! You must try out the lipstick fruit, see photo below.
IN GENERAL: If you book with a tour operator you will be told that everything is included in the price, such as entrance fee, tour guides, transport, and possibly traditional lunch. I heard from different tour guides that it is quite common that the tour operator “forgets” to pay the tour guides, even when the tour guides remind them that they need to get their well earned money! That’s why they have to ask for a tip hoping to at least get some money. The tour guides are freelance, they are not employed by the spice farm. The tour takes about 2 hours, one hour longer if you booked a lunch. Often the tour guides go home after a long day’s work with no earnings at all because the tourists of course believe that they already paid for their service.
You easily can organize your own spice tour trip, it will work out cheaper too. Just negotiate with a local taxi driver the fee for bringing you to the spice farm and back. Even better if you rented a car. From Stone Town it is only a 15 km drive. From other areas check google maps to get an idea of the distance.
The entrance fee to the spice farm is usually $10 per person. The tour guide should get $8-10. The assistants (one guy climbs up a palm tree to get coconuts, 2nd guy brings fruit and berries of plants, makes hats etc of palm leaves, provides fruit to taste) should get $3-5 each. Do your maths and then decide what’s the best option for you.
Then you should vsit ZAASO, the only animal treatment centre on the island with a qualified vet, which is funded entirely through donations, they don’t get any support from the government. ZAASO is on the same road as Tangawizi spice farm, a bit closer toward Mwera, look out for the ZAASO sign on the roadside.
They now also offer an exciting forest horse ride. Trips are taken in the mornings and afternoons when it isn’t that hot. The horse riding trip takes an hour or so and costs US$ 45 per person. You will be guided by a professional who knows the horses and the area like the back of her hand. All gear is available.
The most important thing: You will have a great time AND support their amazing work: All proceeds go directly to Zaaso which will benefit all the animals in need of treatment and care.
For directions and bookings: firstname.lastname@example.org or whatsapp/call +255 68 608 6696
To get to the NORTH COAST you can either drive back to Bububu and turn right there, or follow the tar road past Tangawizi spice farm towards north till you get back to the main road to the north coast.
Before you get to Nungwi, check out the beaches of Kendwa, look out for the sign about 10-15 km before Nungwi. Please be aware that you need to navigate down a very steep rocky hill – this is even more daunting uphill on the way back. Kendwa has the most beautiful beaches on the island (closely followed by the south east coast beaches) and you can swim in the ocean even at low tide. It is very touristy though, Nungwi is even worse.
You might want to spend some time at Mnarani Marine Turtles Conservation Pond, Nungwi http://www.facebook.com/turtleconservation
Hawksbill turtles have traditionally been hunted around Zanzibar for their attractive shells, and green turtles for their meat. 20 years ago, Mnarani Natural Aquarium was created by a group of dedicated marine biologists, the local community and with the assistance from various conservation bodies.
The aquarium was created around a large, natural, tidal pool in the coral rock behind the beach. Originally set up to rehabilitate and study turtles that had been caught in fishing nets, the aquarium project expanded to ensure that local baby turtles were also protected. Turtles frequently nest on Nungwi Beach, and village volunteers now mark and monitor new nests. The resulting hatchlings are carried to plastic basins and small concrete tanks at the aquarium where they remain for ten months until they have grown to ten inches and their chances of survival at sea are dramatically increased. All except one of these turtles are released into the sea, along with the largest turtle from the aquarium pool. The one remaining baby turtle is then added to the pool ensuring a static population of 17 turtles. It is fascinating to see the turtles at close quarters. Furthermore, the money raised secures the project’s future, and goes towards local community schemes – in a bid to demonstrate the tangible value of turtle conservation to the local population. With luck, this will lessen the trade in souvenir shell products and ensure the species’ survival.
Open daily from 09h00 – 18h00.
The Lighthouse at Ras Nungwi is still in operation, although it is not open to visitors. As it is a designated strategic point, photographing the lighthouse is officially not allowed either, as the marines on guard may point out.
Tazari Natural Caves, Nungwi
If you’re looking for some adventure, Tazari caves is a must visit. These underground caves are said to be the biggest and most extensive caves in Zanzibar and among the largest limestone caves in Tanzania. The caves are believed to have been formed many centuries ago. The heights of the cave vary from 5ft to 30ft. The magnificent caves are located a few miles from the ocean shores; you can have a beautiful view of the ocean coastline from the peak of the caves.The Tazari caves have magnificent carbonate and sulfate rocks – limestone and dolomite with decorative dripstones (speleotherms) that are believed to have taken thousands of years to form! Also, the caves are believed to have been used as hiding places for slaves during the Sultan regime in pre-colonial Zanzibar era of the Arab slave trade. Evidence of broken chains are believed to be hundreds of years old.
The caves interior is composed of large cone-shaped stalactites (that hang down from the ceiling) and stalagmites (that grow upward from the floor of the cave) as a result of water dripping from the stalactites. The cave passages are composed of sand, clay and stratified gravel.
The caves are home to huge African bats. You can watch them at sunset flying out of the cave entrance.
Location: Nungwi, Tazari village. 300m from the main road at the corner before reaching the Fire Brigade Offices on your way from Stone Town – make a right turn at Kwa Juma Rama, you’ll see their signpost by the roadside.