Hukuna matata is not just a Disney lyric; it’s a way of life on an island where cloves, cinnamon and cardamom are born. Bump into an artist while he’s adding life to what looks like a recycled sail, hukuna matata; accidentally cause an ox to run away with its owner’s cart, hukuna matata; don’t want to pay a vendor’s price, hukuna matata. No worries: obstacles are merely opportunities.
Of all the gifts and beautiful photos I brought back from Zanzibar, one of the Spice Islands off the coast of Tanzania, hukuna matata is what I hope to imbed most of all into my life. Although it might be difficult to remember “no worries” when the beauty of the island’s beaches, forests and people does not surround me.
My friends and I stayed at a resort on the eastern shore of the island, on the beach of Kiwenga, surrounded by village huts and shops. I was worried that vendors constantly trying to sell their wares would interrupt our beach time, but instead I found myself intrigued by them. When I wanted to be left alone to just stare at the waters, I was. When I wanted to shop it was game on, which also included stories about our lives. I loved learning about their language, their customs, and I feel like they enjoyed learning about mine. So, Asante-sana, which means ‘thank you very much’, to the locals for sharing their world with me.
Things get a bit more aggressive when you leave the resort and head off to stone town, a world heritage site where Arabic, European and African designs blend to create a sun-bleached city of narrow alleyways, decoratively carved mahogany doors and buildings made of coral stone. It’s a bustling city where craftsmen, livestock, and peddlers of all sorts get on with their day. Everyone is trying to sell you something, and yes it can get a bit overwhelming, but it is totally worth it once you remember hukuna matata and another local saying ‘pole, pole’, which means to ‘go slowly’. Merchants there also appreciate a good chat and laugh when you have fun with them and not stress over buying this or that.
A worthwhile day trip from Stone Town is a boat ride to Prison Island, which sadly was once a place where slaves were punished. Today, it is a secluded paradise where tortoises and peacocks roam freely. Its beaches are beautiful, and while we didn’t go underwater, we were told the diving there is amazing.
We also visited Jozani Natural Forest Reserve where Red Colobus monkeys, which only exist in Zanzibar, play and pose for tourists. We weren’t allowed to touch them, but they were so close to us we wanted to, especially the babies, who loved to sprint right above our heads. Our guide also walked us through the mangrove forest and taught us about the wonders of these trees. They are great at protecting the island from tsunamis.
There was plenty more to discover, but we had only four days. That’s Okay because the next time I’m in that part of the world I plan on visiting Tanzania and then coming back to Zanzibar to lounge on another one of its beaches. I hear Nungwi is also an awesome area to stay. If you haven’t visited Zanzibar yet, you should definitely add it to the list of places to visit!
All photos provided by Bettina Bennett
By Bettina Bennett
Bettina is currently a Cycle two and three educator here in the UAE.