Starfish and Snorkelling

Dolphin near Ras Fumba
Camera: OLYMPUS CORPORATION TG-6 | Date: 17-12-2023 15:40 | Resolution: 1189 x 1585 | ISO: 200 | Exp. bias: -0.3 EV | Exp. Time: 1/160s | Aperture: 18.0 | Focal Length: 18.0mm (~100.0mm) | Location: Ras Fumba | State/Province: Ziwani, Zanzibar Urban/West | See map

Several of us tacked a few days onto the end of the tour, primarily for a lie in the sun next to the Indian Ocean. For that the Z Hotel was perfect, with a beautiful pool literally on the edge of the beach. Some of the group were keen and insisted on hiking up to the fish market every morning, but between a touch of gout and tummy trouble I was content to take it easy and just soak up the rays.

The beach at Nungwi shelves very slowly, with high tide almost reaching the hotel steps, but low tide allowing you to walk out 100 yards, maybe twice that if you don’t mind getting wet up to your knees. It’s also famous for its starfish, which are regularly swept around the shallow reefs within walking distance. You don’t need specialist equipment to photograph these – a phone will do nicely if it’s rated for the odd short immersion. I had the TG6 and my snorkel, so I could go out with the tide a bit higher and get them in slightly deeper water which removed any issue with reflections from the surface.

Sea star off Nungwi Beach (Show Details)

I was also hoping to get two additional side-trips into the last few days: a deep sea fishing trip, and a catamaran cruise. I have done each many times in the Caribbean, you just ring up, book your place, turn up and pay. Often they even provide a taxi from your hotel. Not in Zanzibar. You can’t walk 100 yards down the beach without someone pestering you about a fishing trip, but it’s a completely different commercial model. They will happily charter you a boat, for anywhere between $400 and $1000, but it’s then your job to fill it. There’s no such thing as a "shared" trip where they do that work, apart from the dhow cruises which I’d already experienced. Sadly none of the others on Lee’s trip were keen, so the week came and went without fishing or a catamaran trip.

Happily I fared better on snorkelling, although there were some "administrative complexities"… Two of our group, Richard and Laura, had come out to Zanzibar early to do a dive, and they’d also been on a snorkelling trip with Safari Blue which they highly recommended. The only trouble was that the trip was based out of Fumba, some distance south of Stonetown and 1-2 hours’ drive from Nungwi, not ideal for a day trip. However I was also looking at the problem of a very late flight back, which would potentially mean paying the hotel for another day’s use of the room, and we came up with a cunning plan.

On the way to snorkelling near Kwale Island (Show Details)

I got in touch with the very helpful Khamis at Safari Blue, who organised the whole thing. For an extra $65 I would get a driver for the whole of my final day, who would pick me up from my hotel and drive me down to Fumba for the trip. My luggage would stay in his vehicle under his watch. After the trip I could get a shower and meal at the Kayak Club in Fumba, change into my travel gear, and then the driver would drive me straight to the airport. The total for the driver and the trip actually worked out less than the hotel would charge for a day room and an airport transfer, so the snorkelling trip even saved me money! And it worked like a dream. I did have to talk the driver and the people at the Kayak Club through the arrangements, but once they understood they were all very helpful, and I ended up at the airport fed, luggage intact and fresh for the flight.

The trip itself was excellent. "Captain Morgan" (a stage name, I suspect) welcomed about 15 of us onto a medium-sized wooden sailing boat and took us first to a small sand-bar to see some seabirds, then out to the shallow reefs for snorkelling. This was easily the best snorkelling I had done in 20 years, splendid colourful coral and numerous entertaining fish, some of whom were actively curious coming up to the camera to be photographed. Lunch was taken on a small island with a fish BBQ followed by a "fruit tasting" with Captain Morgan. After lunch we routed back to Fumba beach via an area frequented by dolphins, and were privileged to see a number swimming round and breaking the water. I got very lucky with one grab shot of one of the dolphins breaching clear of the water – pretty much my last shot of the trip, but what a last shot. A bit blurry due to the distance, but who cares. Job done.

Snorkelling near Kwale Island (Show Details)

Snorkelling near Kwale Island (Show Details)

Snorkelling near Kwale Island (Show Details)
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