Thursday, September 30, 2010

Zanzibar turtles

While on a recent trip to Zanzibar my wife and I had been told about a turtle project that could be found near Paje where we were staying. Although I have been up close and personal” with these creatures while diving, my wife had only even seen them in an aquarium. So it was part of our plan to visit this sanctuary while on our visit. We arrived too late for the regular feeding times but our driver who knew the caretaker found him cycling down the road and was able to convince him to return to open the sanctuary for us. I suppose that “tourist dollars” are always welcome, but perhaps I am being cynical and he was actually proud to show of his turtles to us.
The turtles are caught when small and are brought to this sanctuary in order to actually survive the first few years of life (about 1 in 100 turtle hatchling actually survive their first year!) Once big enough to fend for themselves they are released back into the wild. As they are of different ages when caught there is a constant flow of turtles coming and going. We were able to hand feed the turtles and get close enough to see the difference between the Green Turtle and the Hawksbill Turtle. The farmers who run this initiative are using compensation money they receive from the government for crops destroyed by the Colobus monkeys. Although the sanctuary is situated off the main road a visit is well worth it…and your $3.00 is going to a worthy cause.
Guests to Zanzibar can hire scooters or bicycles but driving on these narrow roads is NOT for the faint hearted. Even as I passenger my heart was in my mouth on several occasions as we missed other road users by what seemed like millimeters!
After all this driving around, I took some time off to enjoy a scuba dive. I had found a dive shop about 200m from Arabian Nights Buccaneer Divers which offered not only dives but “holiday courses” as well. Situated on the same property is a kite boarding school should you want to try your hand at skimming along the water like a stone.
They offer several dive sites both inside the lagoon as well as outside for the more adventurous divers. Remember to check in with them when you arrive in Paje to find out what dives are on offer (dive sites are tide and wind dependent)
They do have gear for hire but I took my own regulator, dive computer and mask along.
Our last day on Zanzibar was spent doing what sane people should just before going home…NOTHING. Both of us had spent all our energy running around in 100 %+ humidity that we decided to give ourselves a well earned break and relax before re-entering the rat race that Johannesburg has become.
We can certainly see why Zanzibar is rated as one of the most romantic destinations, but we would both recommend that you steer clear of the more built up areas and get to know the locals in and around Paje.
Our tour package was put together by Dream World Adventures and Dawie was a pleasure to deal with.

Contact details:
Dream World Tours
Phone: 012 331 6730

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