Zanzibar Feature

From Zanzibar: Tales of an Introvert

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Words by Dalene Heck / Photography by Dalene & Pete Heck

If there is any question as to whether or not social media is an effective medium for encouraging travel decisions, then I offer you this (the results of a quick search on Pinterest for Zanzibar).That is what did us in, and the primary reason we chose the Road to Zanzibar tour (although the safaris in northern Tanzania certainly held their own draw). There is just something about Zanzibar that made it a must-see – besides the beguiling images – the name itself might as well translate to exotic in all the languages. We began with Stone Town and its attraction as a historic and mystical waypoint of treasure hunters from around the globe. Then we took in a tour of the spice farms that still make up a big part of the economy.

Following that, it was all about the beaches.

Dream Island

Tropical locales are not our first choice for a destination, but damn, they are a real treat every once in awhile. And in our eternal avoidance of any weather that is too hot for us to handle, we timed it such that we would be in Zanzibar during the southern hemisphere’s winter.

Our first stop was the northern beach of Kendwa, where we ventured from bar to beach and back again, getting in the last few conversations with the dozen tour mates we would be saying goodbye to shortly. Group travel is not the norm for us (this was our first in several years) and as fond as I was of our new friends and reliving the tremendous experiences we had just shared, I had to steal away a few solo hours on a lounger. I needed to nurture my introversion and did so under a giant wavering palm. I read, spied on the fisherman, played some quiet travel games with Pete, caught up on Game of Thrones (that’s a proper beach activity, right?), and also dozed to the sound of rushing waves. After the whirlwind of Nairobi to the Serengeti to the Usambara mountains to Stone Town to here, I needed downtime. I stole away every moment I could and hopefully didn’t appear too rude. The weather tried to chase me from my beach chair, but I held fast.

Intrepid Zanzibar Crew
I miss these crazies.
Beach Time
Beach Fisherman
Fishing Boat

We finally bade a sad farewell to our intrepid crew and moved onto the east coast, having booked ourselves on the island for another week of beachside bliss.

And while our hotel left much to be desired (never fun to have to chase the owners to get towels or have our laundry finally returned after four days), the environment did not. Crystalline white sand was the only thing to separate us from the warm Indian Ocean as we were in a far less touristy space than whence we had came. We were content to plant ourselves on beach chairs and not move for the week.

Lounge Chairs Zanzibar

It was a perfect escape to provide me with all the reclusion I longed for.

(I suspect that it may come as a surprise for many of you – given that we seem to be *out there* all the time – that meeting new people and being in the constant presence of others is so entirely draining on me. I don’t believe I’ve always been this way, but travel has inadvertently fuelled my introversion. By moving from place to place, I have no firm community that may harbour expectations of engagement. I can make myself as invisible as I need to.)

And so for that week in Zanzibar, I wanted to lose myself on Uroa beach. I planned to limit my conversation with others and even at times cut off my lovely (but sometimes excruciatingly talkative) husband. That was the plan.

But then the Polish arrived.

Na Zdrowie

I’m not sure if the Polish have a certain affinity for this idyllic spot in Africa but it did seem a bit odd that six of them showed up at the same hotel. There was one couple on their honeymoon accompanied by two friends, and another couple who now lived in Munich – the latter of whom may just be the dearest pair of people we ever have spent time with. Magda was all smiles and high pitched giggles, Piotr was so clearly enamoured with every single thing she did. They brought a rush of love and energy to the otherwise serene hotel, and as much as my inner introvert raged at me for more quiet, I was also completely drawn to them.

As such we decided to share the Pinterest obsession that brought us here in the first place, and we jointly split a taxi to take us to The Rock.

The Rock Zanzibar
Zanzibar Jetty
Polish Friends

We will admit that a large part of our desire to visit Africa was based solely around dining at this one restaurant, but the whole day turned out to be an event onto itself. The food was as delicious as the view (with an elevated price to match of course), but we didn’t stop there. We charged our taxi driver with taking us to his favourite beaches in the area so we could decide for ourselves which was best. We entertained Piotr’s many questions about Canada and relived some of our favourite stops in Poland. Dance music rippled through our conversations and we spent most of the day in pure laughter.

There ended up being no clear winner for best beach (as usually is the case in such quests). The differences among them were barely distinguishable and cemented the fact that this little archipelago truly is a piece of paradise.

Beach Time Zanzibar
Masai on Zanzibar
Zanzibar Beaches

But for as heavenly as it was, having lived up to all expectations, my time in Zanzibar will not be remembered for that. It will be for the sweet friends that we made and the personal reflection it enabled, causing me to consider the boundaries that I feel I need to push. There is nothing wrong with being an introvert (don’t get me wrong), but I wonder if I don’t sometimes use it as an excuse. Or maybe I just haven’t found the right balance yet.

And I wonder what I may have already missed out on because of it.

Loving Zanzibar

how to do it

For the majority of our time on Zanzibar, we stayed at the Moonshine Hotel on Uroa Beach. The views were divine but the service was lacking. As it is under new ownership I expect that they are just finding their way. We sincerely hope that it improves as it really is a fantastic location and facility.We arrived to Zanzibar by ferry from Dar Es Salaam (included in our Intrepid Travel tour), but returned to the mainland by our own accord. We decided to go by plane instead and were so glad we did. For only a few dollars more, we avoided a long ferry ride plus a cab to the airport. In fact, because the flight was so short (15 minutes only) and we left earlier than scheduled, we actually landed before we were scheduled to depart. First time we’ve ever been able to say that. 🙂

Our trip to Zanzibar (as far as our stay at Kendwa Beach) was courtesy of Intrepid Travel. All opinions, as always, are our own.

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  1. I too am somewhat of an introvert. After being around people for a while, I find I need to go to what I call my cave. Any place where I can be alone to recharge. What is funny is that people think I am a social butterfly! I love people but I also love my alone time.

  2. Looks like a fantastic time and the photos are great! Have been to Zambia and Malawi but Tanzania is a place I’ve never seen but would like to go.
    Isn’t meeting special people the greatest? I can see it in the photos. Piotr and Magda look like a nice couple and its so rare that we meet people that we both get along with when we travel. Really nice when it happens.
    Hey, we’re off to your favorite Romanian city in 2 weeks. Will be staying there at least a month and look forward to seeing the hills in the autumn. Thanks to you for introducing us to Brasov 🙂
    Frank (bbqboy)

    1. It’s funny how rare it actually happens to meet special people you really connect with, right? Well, even rarer for me I suppose because I do tend to shy away, but overall, it doesn’t happen as often as one might think.

      Enjoy Brasov!! I’m a wee bit jeals.

  3. I have wanted to go to Zanzibar for such a long time and your gorgeous photos made me want to leave immediately!!

    And I love how random events, like meeting wonderful people, can completely transform the journey.

    One question, if I may, do you think it’s safe to travel to Zanzibar as a solo female?

    1. The only place I would be slightly wary as a solo female traveler would be in Stone Town, but I am sure you would be fine as long as you respected the local customs (i.e. cover up)! On the beaches I think you would be absolutely fine. You might want to check in with Helen at who has done much of Africa as a solo female!

  4. I can relate a bit. As I am the slightly more introverted one and my gf is the easy outgoing talkative one. I can’t think of a better photo to sum of introversion on the road than the photo of the boat in the ocean with the looming weather.

    Pinterest is also addictive for trying to pick a place to go!

  5. Hello guys,
    thank you for this Sansibar report. We read it in metro just before going to work and we still are smiling and thinking about you guys. Our stay at Uroa was very good but the timing was even better. It was a pleasure to meet you. Now we can put our hands on our hearts and say: “yes, we love people from Canada….they are great” 🙂
    For us it is also very rare to meet people and just from the first minute feel a special connection. I (Piotr) still remember that I asked Pete where is Dalene, we want to talk with her. So guys, do something for us…don’t change yourself, you rock 🙂

    We are sure that our ways will cross again ………hahaha…(evil laugh) …. 🙂
    So be aware, we are already preparing a lot of new questions for you 🙂

    Best Regards from Bavarian, the land of leather shorts and good beer 🙂

    1. Aw, thanks so much for your comment!! Wish we would have been able to make it for this Oktoberfest…but don’t worry, we will make it happen someday! 🙂

  6. Beautiful pictures and story. Can totally understand that thing about the introvert, sounds a lot like me, I agree, finding balance is the key.

  7. Zanzibar has never been high on my list but this looks incredibly gorgeous! And probably the perfect way to relax after a safari.

    I’m pretty introverted myself, and I have found that I’ve gravitated more and more towards that end of the spectrum over the past few years. I think living in Germany, without many friends, means I’ve gotten so used to having my own space. I’ve also changed in many ways and I really can only handle hanging out with people I connect with in some way – the small talk stuff wears me out quickly. But I do need to hang out with people, have friends, be social more than I think I do. I’m working on it!

  8. Your photos are so stunning I have to say I am a little jealous! I’ve never considered going to Zanzibar, but now I’m thinking about adding it to my (ever-growing) list.

    I am an introvert too and when I finally realized that I found social situations draining, it changed my life and my relationship with my husband, who is a total extrovert and feeds off the energy of other people. Know, I know to make time for myself alone so that I actually have the energy to socialize when the time is right – instead of just hating every moment of it like I used to!


  9. I totally understand being inspired enough by a photo, comment or post to visit a place. This post already has me looking up when the best time to visit Zanzibar is! I also understand being an introvert,or valuing alone time as a full-time traveler. I think I am more of an introvert, or at least need more alone and quiet time now than I did 5 years ago, before starting to travel full time. I attributed it to no longer working at a regular job where I interacted with large groups of people for 8+ hours a day. As much of our life involves meeting new people, there is a large part of our life that involves being quietly alone together working, reading or just contemplating. It is always fun to get pulled out of that to enjoy a good time with new friends though!

  10. I haven’t had much of a desire to travel to Africa but your post and photos might be a game-changer for me! Thanks.

  11. Wow, that really is beautiful. I know what you mean about the Pinterest obsession. It’s been on my radar for a little while now. What do you think it would be like as a destination for a solo traveller?

  12. Hi Dalene,
    Thanks for this post. It brought back a lot of memories of our own trip there. Being on the road and meeting so many people can definitely be exhausting. I’m actually really extroverted but after backpacking, I’ve recognized that I need more time to myself to unwind, to step back, and to reflect. It’s so easy to get caught up in hearing about others adventures and not giving yourself enough self-time.

    Meditation helped me a lot in this aspect.I guess that’s what I’ll call my cave haha.

    Africa’s certainly hectic. We took public buses from Nairobi all the way down to Dar then took the ferry. We needed a lot of downtime after being robbed in Dar and found ourselves in a little resort about 100-200 meters from The Rock.

    We ended up not going back through Dar as we needed to go to Usambara and didn’t want to see that city ever again. We ended up flying as well and it was an amazing experience in itself.

    Our time in Zanizbar was a great reality check to how much of the world is. The beaches were amazing but the people we met (just like you mentioned) is what we valued the most. Some of them we’ve seen in other places around the world.

    Thanks for the post and rekindling some of the nostalgia.

    Mark and Camille

  13. When I finally make it to Africa, Zanzibar will definitely be on the itinerary!

    I am a total introvert, so I can very much relate! I just got back from a group trip, where I was solo, but one of 16. There were definitely times where I just needed to retreat into my tent with my Kindle…it is hard to not come across as rude, especially when extroverts totally don’t ‘get it’

  14. Oh, This makes me very happy. I just booked a trip to Zanzibar for februari and I just can not wait! Although, I can’t really decide if I’m going to stay on the east och west coast. Do you have any thoughts on that?

  15. On so many levels I can relate to that Inner Introvert calling out for a break. The photos look absolutely wonderful! And I really love your writing style, Dalene!

  16. I love that you use social media to choose your destinations. I haven’t really gotten into using pintrest myself but am now inspired to do so – thanks. Your photos are fantastic. Thanks for sharing.

  17. Zanzibar looks lovely!

    I love the photography and the space that you’ve carved for yourself. I’m an extrovert myself, but I guess Africa is large enough to feel an introverted sense of isolation, whilst making contact with anyone who makes it that far out, from time to time!

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