Coming to Zanzibar was relatively easy and smooth. A (considerably) small Precision Airways flight conveyed me and a number of other passengers travelling from Nairobi to Zanzibar and Dar es Salaam and in less than 2 hours, the plane had touched down in Zanzibar International Airport (enroute to Dar es Salaam).
Do not be fooled by the International part of the name. The airport in Zanzibar is pretty small and is of the same standard as many local airports in Nigeria. The immigration process was very fast though and the immigration officials were pleasant. In less so than 10 minutes, I was done with the immigration processes and on my way to find my pre-arranged taxi driver.
The drive through the ‘new’ town en route to Paje, showed no difference from a small Nigerian town. There were portions of the road that were bad; people walking on the streets; the usual sights and sounds I would have seen in Nigeria and there was nothing worth whipping out my camera for. I was pretty knackered and the drive to Paje was an opportunity to get the much needed sleep. My short nap was interrupted when my taxi was stopped by a policeman, whom, surprise, surprise, took a bribe from him for not having some sticker on his windscreen ( are policemen in Africa all the same?!)
I’m not exactly sure how long the drive to Paje took, as I was asleep for the greater part of it. As we drove through the village to find the hotel, I remembered my uncle’s description of the arid North-Eastern part of Nigeria. There were ‘no roads’. Everywhere where there were no houses seemed to be road. I was disappointed with the little I saw of the village as we drove looking for the hotel. In my sleepy haze, I wondered if the trip was worth my while.
After a couple of wrong turns, we found the hotel, Villa Huruma. The hotel was very pretty but smaller than I had imagined. The owners were also very good looking and way younger than I had expected. Also, I discovered that the beach was way closer to my hotel than I had thought.
Now the beach is where the magic is! With my experience of beaches being limited to a few in Nigeria and England, Paje Beach was everything the pictures showed and more. Turquoise water; fine white sand; kite surfers; seaweeds; sea shells; the whole beach magic experience. The first site of the beach was nothing short of magical to me. It was like the beach was not part of the village. The beauty I saw in the beach ahead of me was a sharp contrast to the poverty I saw in the village behind me. The village was not squalid but the poverty was obvious.
Walking on the beach over the next three days became one of my favourite past times (the only thing I could do on the beach, since I was not kite surfing or swimming ) as I planned in my head how I’d return on another visit with my husband and we would try out every beach activity Paje offered. As a lone woman walking on Paje beach, I (suspect) I was a worthy prey for beach boys selling tours and parties; and Massai men selling souvenirs.
I was in Paje to eat and pray. With the beauty of the beach shoreline and the restaurants along the beach, it was impossible not to do both.
By Wynyfred Egbuson