Deep turquoise waters confirmed our arrival in tropical paradise. Our room was cozily set within the confines of a collection of thatched-roof cottages and wooden lounge chairs, just 10 steps from the ocean. Before even taking a sip of my welcome cocktail I was neck deep in the salty waters, swimming against the current and basking in the afternoon sunshine that glinted across our view.
A fascinating amalgamation of Asian spices and Arabian architecture, European tourists and African local, dazzling palaces and decrepit ruins, Zanzibar's stone town is a clash of cultures. Dizzying alleyways connect brand new Hiltons and Hyatts with buildings that date back hundreds of years, when this island served as one of the first major trading ports in the Indian Ocean.
From one crested vantage point, Stefje and I paused and could count 20 different species of trees, with the knowledge that we were probably missing many more. The Eastern Arc mountain range consists of 13 unique and separate ecosystems, each one evolving parallel to the others. The natural result is that this small segment of Africa contains more species of trees than all of Europe and North America combined!
Although after three days on safari our eyes were feeling a little spoiled, I doubt anyone could become jaded enough to not appreciate what we saw next. Grazing on the side of the road was a herd of elephants: 3 adults, 2 adolescents, and a pair of youngsters not more than two months old. The babies were more interested in rough housing than placidly enjoying breakfast like their mothers. They explored the surroundings with their dextrous trunks, smacking each other playfully like a pair of human siblings.
Even lunch was a barbaric affair. As jeeps settled into a picnic spot, a proud baboon perched on a railing, exposing his impressive chest.A few minutes later he transformed from a calm observer to a wild beast. With reckless abandon and absolutely zero fear of humans, he catapulted over the railing, bounded onto a picnic table, scared the people away, and grabbed as much food as he could. By the time a guide came over to shush him away with a stick, he had a sandwich in his hand and a juice box in his mouth!