I was almost shaken out of my hammock. We were running late and the tide was heading out. Buya shook me awake frantically. I hopped out, unstrung my bed and watched as the others went about their duties. Along with Ana the Spanish girl based in Lamu who had sailed down with the dhow, Casper and Barney had joined us for the trip to Nungwi, the northern tip of Zanzibar.
Once we were under way and the single sail was up, we were cruising. I sat grinning, staring at the crystal turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean, old lovers reunited.
“We don’t sail at night,” Useless Yousef explained. “We anchor somewhere and sleep.”
And so was the case that evening when we pulled into a beach where a South African and his Italian partner welcomed us. We built a bonfire and we jammed some tunes, Yes Rasta and Yousef on the drums, everyone else on vocals, although Captain Omar wasn’t much for singing he had a wide enough grin to express his contempt.
I strung up my hammock on the balcony of the gazebo and slept peacefully, without a swing. In the morning we headed out. Our first stop was Mnemba Atoll, a marine reserve where most of the scuba diving courses in Zanzibar are done and some great snorkeling to be had.
Entry to the island isn’t allowed.Unless you were of that ridiculous uppity, snobby and nauseating class of the rich and famous, willing to spend $1,500-a-night on the only lodge on the shores.
The last time I snorkeled was in Chagos Archipelago. That was the 2014 New Year’s. We anchored and I jumped in with my mask and fins and promptly swam towards the reef. I love being underwater. It’s a second home for me. I feel as comfortable in the wet as I do on land, sometimes moreso in the blue. I was greeted by an abundance of colourful fish, the standard of most reefs: Angelfish, clownfish, parrotfish, unidentified fish, coral, sea urchins and a cliffside wall that dropped to unimaginable depths.
I noticed the scuba divers at about ten meters below me (visibility was at 15 meters). I dived down and surprised them. Here they were, weighed down with weight belts, a fire hydrant of oxygen, mask, hoses, wetsuits and booties, and here I was, like a reef fish, swimming between them with a huge grin on my face.
Sure, they didn’t need to surface after two minutes to continue to live but it just seems so cumbersome. When I’m in the water I want minimal gear. That’s why kiteboarding has never attracted me. Laying out lines, pumping air into the kite, getting someone to help you launch. Gimme a surfboard and a wettie and I’ll be wiping out on five waves before the kiter has even touched the wet.
And then I discovered underwater heaven. I swam above the divers and their bubbles encased my body, exploding like Aero chocolate, tingling all over, making me giggle underwater. I dived down into the stream of the rising suds, slapping at the huge bubbles that exploded into a million smaller ones.
Forget the reef and fish, this was the new underwater sport.
After a few hours of splashing about we headed up to Nungwi, lunch being cooked and served on the way. The wind was down so we motored out and anchored just past Kendwa, south of Nungwi. The beaches were a disgusting, overdeveloped sight of resort after monstrous resort.
I was going to have a tough time enjoying this place but it was the sacrifice I would have to endure for my passage to Kenya.