Dolphins, Monkeys and Queen


This blog entry about the events of Saturday, May 15, 2004 was originally posted on May 20, 2004.

DAY 210:  A German ex-pat named Thomas living and doing PhD. research in the other main Zanzibar island of Pemba was sitting in the back seat of a minivan.  With him was only his visiting friend Volker from their hometown of Heidelburg, until I arrived.  The three of us had signed up for the Dolphin Tour from different tour agencies, but it being the low season, we had been pooled together for efficiency.  Our driver and guide drove us to the south east of Unguja Island for the beginning of a day full of Dolphins, Monkeys and Queen.

Our destination was the shore town of Kizimkazi, where local boat captains took the passengers of minivans from the city on their vessels around the bay to search for dolphins so that clients could jump in and swim in with them and re-enact their favorite scenes of Flipper.  After the 90-minute drive, Thomas, Volker and I rented snorkeling gear from local boys for about three bucks and then walked out to the ocean, wading the shallow waters alongside fishermen and little children, wary of sea urchin spines on the ocean bed.  We boarded a motor-powered wooden boat, which someone had cleverly handwritten “Jumbo Jet 747,” and took off passed the dhows.

I don’t quite remember the name of our boat guide.  All I do remember was that he was a friendly guy who had elephantiasis in his right leg and foot.  (How could you forget that?)  It didn’t inhibit him from steering the boat around the bay, and we were in good hands at least.  He told us that it could take anywhere from fifteen minutes to an hour before we’d find any dolphins.  Half an hour went by and there was nothing — nothing but other similar wooden boats looking for the same thing.  Another half hour went by and a sighting of dorsal fins had been found by one of the other boats, causing our boat and the four others to go rush over.

Keeping track of the school of eight dolphins was hard to do because this particular one wasn’t as playful as the ones you might have seen at Sea World.  These wild dolphins just swam about their own business, the business of diving for food and coming up for air in a slow but rhythmic pattern.  They really didn’t interact with the boats or its passengers, probably because the novelty of seeing them wore off years ago when the Dolphin Tour was popularized.

“Go there, there are right there!” The Friendly Elephantitis Man told us.  Thomas, Volker and I put on our snorkels, masks and flippers and jumped in to see the other “flippers.”  There were ten other snorkelers from the other boats swimming towards the school (picture above).

Ascend.  Breathe.  Descend.  Ascend.  Breathe.  The pattern went on and on for the marine mammals, although it was hard to follow their actual path when they were submerged for minutes at a time.  After one breathe sighting, they’d disappear and then reappear in a different location like a Whack-A-Mole game.  And when they did appear, they were far faster than any swimmer.

“It’s impossible to keep up with them,” one guy said. 

No one person could keep up with the dolphins’ undulating pattern, but everyone, including myself, at least got to swim behind them as they came up for air and above them as they were submerged.  From near the surface, the shadows of the eight creatures looked like a squadron of fighter planes without wings.

AFTER LUNCH BACK ON SHORE, our driver took us to the Jozani Forest, a national park on the way back to Stone Town.  Although not a part of the Dolphin Tour, drivers stop here for anyone wishing to pay the TSh 8000 park fee to see the rainforest’s main attraction:  the rare red colobus monkey.  All three of us with our cameras plunked down the TSh 24,000 and a park ranger guide took us around.

I don’t quite remember the name of our forest guide.  And he didn’t have elephantiasis either.  He led us on the main trail through the Jozani Forest, a relatively new forest with trees only about fifty years old since it had been planted after the area had been once cleared for a village.  The forest now inhabits the land with a variety of species of palm and ficus trees, and it is the young leaves of these trees that attract the big groups of feisty red colobus monkeys that weren’t hard to find at all.  Our guide took us to one section of the trail where the rustling of leaves was heard almost as soon as we arrived.  Suddenly, one by one, red colobus monkeys jumped from tree to tree like little 18-inch trapeeze artists.  One monkey even looked like he was doing a countdown in his head:  “Okay, you can do this.  One… Two… Three.. JUMP!” 

We spent a good half hour with the monkeys as they jumped from branch to branch around us, climbing up and down trees to feed on the leaves.  After a while it got to be a little tiresome — even with the female with the saggy nipples — and we went off to see the mangroves on the other side of the forest.  Our guide showed us the slender seeds of mangrove trees, which had a strikingly similar shape to saggy colobus nipples, and planted them into the swampy water for another generation to be born.

I FELL ASLEEP in the van.  When I woke up we were back at my stop in Stone Town and I groggily walked back to the Jambo Guesthouse.  When I got my bearing, I wandered to the other side of town meet Thomas and Volker for cocktails and bumped into Willie on the main tourist alley.  He was on his way home from work, but I asked him if I could book a Spice Tour the next day anyway, which he was happy to do.  No longer would I wait for Yvonne (from Nkhata Bay, Malawi and Arusha) or Philippa and Alyson (from Moshi) to arrive in Stone Town; I had e-mailed them all before to see if they were interested in the toor, only I hadn’t gotten a reply, nor knew when exactly their party was to arrive in Stone Town. 

Sorting out the tour delayed me from my meeting with the Germans at the Africa House terrace at sunset, but I managed to find him upstairs at the restaurant, where I joined them for dinner; the food wasn’t as expensive as I thought it would be.  Afterwards we decided to have drinks at the haunt of most travelers and every die hard Queen fan in the world:  Mercury’s, named after lead singer Freddie Mercury who had been born and raised in Zanzibar until about the age of nine.  Mercury’s was fairly empty since it was the low season; only a handful of people were sitting scattered across the establishment on an outdoor deck near the ferry port.  The Germans and I sat at a table overlooking the candles someone had laid out on the beach nearby and drank under the stars and talked about travely things.  On the speakers, it was all Queen, all the time and I could have sang along if I felt like it — but I think the still vivid image of elephantiasis of the leg was occupying my mind.

Next entry: Spice Island

Previous entry: Street Boys

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Comments for “Dolphins, Monkeys and Queen”

  • as the germans would say….erste!!

    wow freddy mercury was from zanzibar?  i learned something new today!  your blog is making my pre-lunch routine go by real fast!  thanks erik

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/20  at  04:55 PM

  • I never knew Freddie Mercury was from Zanzibar either. 
    The monkey eating leaves looks like he has a chain around his neck :(  Is it just my imagination?

    Posted by Liz  on  05/20  at  05:25 PM

  • how come the water is so blue? did they put a blue dye in the water?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/20  at  08:36 PM

  • yeah, does the monkey have a id collar on or something? they get the water so blue by using those 2000 flushes discs…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/20  at  08:58 PM

  • Love the “Shore” pic!!!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/20  at  10:07 PM

  • Oh lucky you! I dream of Zanzibar to this day and I was there exactly 20 years ago. Saw only one dolphin then, that was in the days before organised tours…

    You were very lucky to get that close. There are a lot of boats around and the dolphins will avoid them if they are harrassed. I’m concerned that they are chased by so many boats and snorklers while foraging.

    I hope you have a great trip still ahead, your blog is great!

    Posted by Denni (whale-watcher)  on  05/21  at  02:54 PM

  • DENNI:  Thanks, and welcome aboard!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/21  at  04:35 PM

  • I want to be snorkeling in warm water - do you know the temp? I’m so jealous!! And if you get to go diving, I’ll be even MORE jealous. Just in case you were wondering. What color are the sea urchins there?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/22  at  09:16 AM

  • Oh, and the Shore pic is wonderful - thanks!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/22  at  09:16 AM

  • NOELLE:  Water temp in the upper 80s…  Sea urchins almost black with a hint of red I believe…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/22  at  09:49 AM

  • Warm water - I’m now jealous even more - if it’s possible!!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/23  at  10:07 AM

  • speaking of elephantiasis…you gotta come back and see Wild Boys on MTV when steve-o licks these elephantiasis feet of this guy in india…that episode was hilarious!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/23  at  09:57 PM

  • markyt: dood…i saw that and i think i looked away in disgust. He even threw up. I keep telling my wife that Wild Boys is one of the funniest sh*t on tv!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/24  at  12:01 AM

  • while we’re on the subject of tv: WB Superstars USA is 10x better than American Idol!!!

    Nuff Said!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/24  at  12:03 AM

  • LP - watched the episode tonite…it’s just wrong….but i love it…

    nina diva is going down!!!! the judges are hilarious….

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/24  at  05:08 AM

  • my bet is on Frank from edison, nj or mario, the william hung of WB Superstars.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/24  at  05:30 AM

  • I love the WB superstar show!  Hillarious.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/24  at  06:14 PM

  • After last night’s unbelievable performances .. I’m going out on a limb & crowning Mario! theFrog’s SUPERSTAR !!!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/25  at  04:11 PM

  • SIM - yeah i’m definitely cheering for Mario!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/25  at  04:44 PM

  • ugh. stoopid american idol. i missed WB Superstars USA!

    *sniff* goodbye Ross!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/25  at  04:49 PM

  • well, I am glad that you Manage to visit my restaurant and enjoyed your conversation on the beach. Its great to have such a great musician born in Zanzibar. Its sad that he passed away and never made it back to his birthplace, but we still love him and honour him as he really represents Zanzibar in terms of our culture.His music is exceptional with quality and feelings.
    WHAT A FUSION ey..hope you enjoy the rest of your trip..

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/30  at  08:10 PM

  • OMG!! The WB is so cruel for putting the people up to that…

    You’re awful…awfully GOOD!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/30  at  09:09 PM

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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

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Next entry:
Spice Island

Previous entry:
Street Boys


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