Funny Story

July 13, 2012 § Leave a comment

On my last day in Zanzibar I had the day to myself and nothing planned. I hadn’t really been swimming much, so I decided to rent a boat (and captain) to take me out snorkeling at Prison Island. Prison Island is part of the Zanzibar archipelago and was originally intended to be used as a prison but ended up being used by the British as a hospital for people in quarantine instead. Now the island is home to a beautiful resort, 110 tortoises and a coral reef.


The boat captain took me out to this isolated spot of reef with no one else in sight. I jumped out and started swimming around by myself. While awesome in theory, it was quite boring in practice because there were no fish and all there was to see were tons of terrifying sea urchins and ugly brown coral. I was swimming around pretending to be interested to get my money’s worth of swim time, when I noticed another lonely snorkeler who was also kind of half-assing it.

I swam over and discovered that it was a friendly English dude from Brighton named James. He’s a chef, but he’s taking a break to take a trip around the world. He started in Kenya and is going to Asia and then the US. He was very funny and I liked him immediately. I invited him for dinner later which was fun because we were in the middle of the ocean. It’s not like anybody had a pen. He gave me the name of his hotel (1001 Nights — awesome name) and I promised to call and leave a message.

After our swim I returned to my captain and he took me to see the Prison Island tortoise sanctuary. Apparently somebody have somebody a tortoise as a gift a long time ago and now there are over 100 tortoise living on this random tiny island. The oldest is, I think, 185 years old.


The sanctuary was pretty cool in that it wasn’t like American zoos where you admire animals from a distance. I was allowed to walk up and pet them. They really like having their necks slapped. You stick your hand in their shell and start slapping and they stretch their necks out and stand up. It’s pretty hilarious. Tortoise necks feel pretty weird and I kept petting them and thinking, “This is just like caressing a dinosaur.”


After the tortoises, I returned back to the hotel to find my friend Jackie and call James.

An hour or two later, not sure because I spent it napping, James showed up and James, Jackie and this sweet Finnish girl Jackie adopted named Evelyn, and I went out to dinner.

Jackie and Evelyn wanted to eat street food at Forodhani (a nice place but I’m maxed out on street food) so just James and I went to this Arab restaurant where we sat on pillows and listened to Taarab music. Dinner was wonderful and after we met Jackie and Evelyn for chocolate milkshakes and then beers at Mercury Bar, a bar originally owned by Freddie Mercury.

The whole day and night was wonderful and I’m so glad I met James. He was such a delight and it really made my last day in Zanzibar special. Who knew that the Indian ocean was such a great place to make friends?!




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