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The lure of pure azure
If you've decided that you want to come on holiday to Zanzibar, then it is likely that one of the features that has attracted your notice is the archipelago's location in the stunning Indian Ocean.
Most people visiting here choose to do some snorkelling, diving or boat excursions - but a great way to really get a feel for the glory of Zanzibar's sand and surf is by doing an organised one-day boat trip that gives you a taster of a few different experiences.
The 'grande dame' of the one-day sea safari trip is Safari Blue, set up by Eleanor Griplas, who has been in Zanzibar for 14 years. With eight safe and well-equipped African mahogany dhows, these trips set off from the village of Fumba and explore the protected Menai Bay conservation area, which has outstanding coral reefs as well as dolphins and even whales.
Most trips include some sailing, dolphin-spotting, relaxing on a sandbank, snorkelling and a seafood barbecue on a small island. They are suitable for adults and children, but might be a struggle for the older or infirm as at low tides there can be a fair walk across a rocky seabed to get to and fro from the boats.
The mangrove lagoon that you visit during the trip is a wonderful landscape of top-heavy, impossible looking little coral-rock islands dotted with natural arches. It's like swimming in a warm bath and feels somewhat primeval. The water is still and it's a safe place to bring in kids for a bit without worrying about being battered by waves. It's also a good place to test your snorkelling gear, if you come here first. The timetable can vary a bit according to tides and seasons to ensure that guests get the most out of the day.
Lunch includes fresh fish, calamari, octopus and slipper lobster, as well as a tropical fruit tasting with jackfruit, custard apple, balungi (large sweet grapefruit), passion fruit, different varieties of mango, as well as sugar-dusted baobab seeds and halua (like halwa, a sweetmeat eaten at celebrations such as weddings), washed down with liqueur coffee. Drinks are also included, such as tamarind and ginger juice, iced tea, sodas or cold beers.
The snorkelling is wonderful, with generally good visibility most of the year (although November and December is particularly still and clear), and a great variety of corals and fish, giant clams and most of the cast of Finding Nemo.
Later on we see dolphins (Safari Blue says that dolphins can be spotted on approximately 90% of their trips) - on this particular day they are the lighter-coloured humpback variety, who are genuinely wild and shy and tend to avoid human contact, but it's a delight to see them jump and twirl in pairs on the ocean surface. It's also possible to see bottlenosed dolphins, who are darker and tend to be more naturally sociable.
If you are on a budget, there are alternative trips on local boats that cover a similar itinerary. These leave from either Fumba or Kikungwi village to the east. Just make sure you know which trip you are being sold and that it is the right one for you. It's partly a balance between safety and price.
Take plenty of suncream, some reef shoes if you have them, and enjoy experiencing such a beautiful part of the world.
If you want to experience more of what a Safari Blue trip would be like, then check out Mambo magazine's photostory.