‘Pole Pole’ life in Michamvi – Backpacking East Zanzibar

‘Pole Pole’ life in Michamvi – Backpacking East Zanzibar

We didn’t want to leave the Kidoti Gardens, in North Zanzibar, but after a heartfelt farewell to our host Sarp and Mwamba we knew it was time to head to the east coast of Zanzibar which we’d heard so many good things about.

TRAVELING TO MICHAMVI

A little shocked at how our rucksacks had grown overnight and daunted by the prospect of an hour-long dirt track walk to the dala dala stop  – we crumbled and booked a taxi.

We later discovered this was our second lesson. Avoid overpriced taxis – our ride ended at $65 (!) for the journey. We clearly weren’t quite ready to adapt to the backpacker life just yet. Feeling lighter in the pocket, we did, however, manage to sort a local SIM card, a grocery shop at the local market and enjoyed a very beautiful, monkey spotting journey through Jozani Forest, en route to our new destination Michamvi.

Michamvi sunset dhow

Michamvi palm trees

And what a great decision we made! We really did enter an untouched tropical paradise. If you want white powdery sand, crystal clear waters, miles of deserted beach and sky-high palm trees then this is the place for you. Here are our suggestions for your time in Michamvi.

WHERE TO STAY AT MICHAMVI

After making our way up and down the beach roads of Michamvi a couple of times we stumbled across our accommodation at Peku Peku. Our host Andrew welcomed us with a beaming smile. He was very impressed with all the food we’d brought giving us two thumbs ups, knowing there were limited places to buy produce in this part of the island.

The apartment was just what we were looking for. A good sized double bed, a kitchen with a full accomplishment of utensils and most importantly hot water for the shower! Something to be regarded as a real treat when available in Zanzibar or indeed all of East Africa.

Once we’d settled in it was time to explore the local area starting with the incredible exotic garden we found ourselves in. Maybe it was the heavy backpacks but walking in we didn’t quite appreciate what a tropical paradise our new home was. We were surrounded by aloe vera plants, palm trees, geckos and exotic birds. 

THE PEOPLE OF MICHAMVI

We later learned that alongside our host Andrew, his sidekick Juma was the reason for this. Juma was the security guard, groundsman, and gardener all in one. Diligently going about his business each day (including a slingshot to keep crows away from the smaller tropical birds) ensured the garden was always pristine.

We had a great time getting to know Juma. He would teach us Swahili whilst we would teach him English. This was mostly through sand drawings and acting things out but it worked a treat. Juma would also show us how he prepared a lot of local dishes over an open fire. Whilst we passed on the much duller but important tip to put milk on top of your Weetabix with a bit of sugar.

Juma also had a real knack for spotting bush babies at night (when they come out to eat) so with his help, we would be able to catch 1 or 2 each evening after returning home in the dark. We grew very fond of Juma. He was incredibly enthusiastic, grateful and had a strong work ethic. A friend we will always remember.

END YOUR DAY WITH A SUNDOWNER ON MICHAMVI BEACH

With Michamvi you get the combination of the more liberal and relaxed feel of the east coast of Zanzibar. But because the coast arches round to face west it means the sun sets over the sea. Something you can’t find anywhere else on the east coast of Zanzibar or the beaches that run along the east facing Tanzania and Kenya.

Michamvi beach sunset

Outside of the Peku Peku grounds, there were more palm trees than you could shake a stick at, dwarfing over you as you take a short stroll to the beach hoping a coconut doesn’t drop on your head.  Once at the beach, it was total calm and serenity, many spots to settle down with hundreds of meters of beach all to yourself.

And it was the Michamvi beach we would find ourselves stuck for the next 7 days, lulled in by the peacefulness of it all and where for the first time in our travels we felt like we’d totally bought into the ‘pole, pole’ (slowly, slowly) lifestyle and had completely unwound.

All the stresses and sacrifices to leave everything behind back home seemed a distant memory and we were ready for what was to come. Each evening the sun would start to draw in at about 5:45 and for the next 30 minutes we’d find ourselves on pause, feeling completely present, watching the African sunset over the Indian ocean as the local dhow’s sailed by.

Michamvi beach couple

SNORKEL WITH DHOW AT THE BLUE LAGOON

The Michamvi beach wouldn’t always remain quiet. Once or twice a day it would spring into life. The charismatic Captain J would take a stroll along the beach – having a dance and shimmy to the bongo flava that was playing through his headphones as he approached holidayers and travelers alike for local excursions.

Such was the charisma of Captain J and how much we grew to love him. We, in turn, booked an excursion ourselves.

Captain J had been battled hardened from his time strolling the beaches of Nungwi. But now much wiser in his older age had the entrepreneurship and foresight to start his own excursion business. He decided to reside in the up and coming Michamvi where he was the only provider. This meant he didn’t have to pester us and would still get plenty of business through the week. And for 50,000 TZS ($21) we both went on a snorkeling trip to the blue lagoon which didn’t disappoint…

Blue Lagoon fish

Snorkelling in Zanzibar

ENTER A RELAXED ZANZIBAR STATE AT MIELE LODGE

After our stay in Peku Peku we spent a few days at Milele Lodge. Another rasta lodge which fitted effortlessly into its tropical surroundings. Miele Lodge had everything you needed to unwind. Hammocks, hanging beds and a team of diligent staff to help you with anything you needed.

Breakfast was included too with our highlight being the passion fruit and avocado smoothie they would make each morning. We have since made this ourselves every time there’s a smoothie maker available.

We weren’t so good at spotting the bush babies without Juma. But we did hear what felt like a full-size chimpanzee swooping above us one night which made Milele resident pause. A moment of worry and intrigue. All in all, we had a great stay here too and would definitely recommend Milele for solo travelers.

OTHER MICHAMVI TIPS

  • Get a local SIM card before traveling to this part of the island. We used Halotel local sim card – 5000 TZS for unlimited weekly internet ($2.40) . It’s worth changing the menu options to English and it’s easy to navigate the best packages for you. Top up your credit with Halotel vouchers from local vendors.
  • Get familiar with the local artists and bongo flava music. You can find both Diamond Platinumz and Harmonize on Spotify!
  • Use local transport! It costs a fraction of the price of taxis, albeit it can get a little cramped. However, the experience is fun nonetheless
  • Make sure to take food or snacks with you from the nearby town – Paje – for those late night munchies. Or maybe you have better willpower than us two.

Michamvi sunset couple

PEACE OUT. x

2 Comments

  1. October 23, 2018 / 12:32 am

    Lovely post, beautiful photos!

  2. Jessica Valiente Tejedor
    November 7, 2018 / 3:05 pm

    Wooooow! What an amazing place. Thank you so much for telling us the story and bringing us right there… Love the post!!!

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