Talking about Zanzibar for us is always difficult. At this point, it’s no secret that we had chosen Zanzibar to do our second trash the dress photo shoot, thus having the African continent represented by Stone Town. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Stone Town is the perfect portrait of the ancient commercial towns of East Africa with its culture, its markets and its magic.
In November of 2016, anxious with the adventures we would have on Zanzibar’s idyllic beaches and enchanting villages, we got on the road to drive to Madrid and catch our flight to our final destinations. And it was right there that would misadventures began.
MISADVENTURE 1: A MISSED FLIGHT
Less than 15 minutes away from the Madrid airport, our car broke down right in the middle of the highway. In the beginning, we were hopeful. We still had 4 hours until our departure which would give us plenty of time to call the insurance and get to the airport in time.
Or so we thought. When we called our insurance, we quickly realized our problems had only just begun. From the scarce help they were willing to provide us with to passing on the wrong directions to our tow truck driver (who ended up on the other side of the highway), it took us hours before we could finally be on our way to the airport again.
When we finally arrived, it was too late. Our flight had left. And, as if that wasn’t bad enough, I was mugged at the entrance of the airport and my wallet was stolen.
So there we were: no car, no wallet, no flight to Zanzibar.
We weren’t going to give up though. We found our airline’s helpdesk (KLM) and they informed us that, for an extra payment, we could change the dates of our original flight and postpone it to another month. At that moment, stressed out from all the unexpected problems that had come up, we could only think of the vacation days we had booked the following year and decided to reschedule our trip to Apil of 2017. And so as to not waste the vacation days we had already taken, we booked a last minute trip to Austria where we ended up doing an absolutely magical trash the dress photo shoot.
MISADVENTURE 2: THE RAINY SEASON
Finally April of 2017 arrived and we were on our way to Madrid. This time, our car didn’t break down and everything went well until we got to the airport and boarded our flight. We only had one problem which we had already foreseen: it was the rainy season in Zanzibar. And, as we discovered once we landed, the rainy season in Zanzibar is terrible: the island becomes deserted, everything shuts down and there are no tourists anywhere.
We landed in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania and hundreds of porters approached us, pressuring us to take our bags and help us for a small tip. In a few minutes, we caught our ferry to Zanzibar but, as we arrived, we were devastated. All around us was just torrential rain. Everything was wet and we were almost the only ones on the island. At one point we even thought, What did we get ourselves into?
Not everything went wrong, of course. Since we were one of the few tourists, our hotel staff (who were already really kind) dedicated even more attention to our requests and we were able to enjoy the hotel’s amenities with more privacy and comfort.
MISADVENTURE 3: CANCELED PLANS
The rain, however, wouldn’t let up. It seems unbelievable but during the week that we were there, it rained every day. And, with the rain, all of ours tours and plans were canceled.
Right away, our trash the dress shoot had to be canceled. We were sad, because we had everything planned with our photographer but it ended up being impossible to take photos with that torrential rain.
Enjoying Zanzibar’s idyllic beaches also wound up being impossible – still, we tried to make the most of it by going for seaside runs every morning. Some three times, we tried to book a guided tour to Stone Town but all excursions wound up being canceled because of the rain. Prison Island had also been one of our destinations for this trip (we were excited to see tortoises and snorkel) but it ended up being impossible to visit due to the bad weather.
It’s tough when you spend your money and take days off work to be on vacation in an idyllic destination like Zanzibar and you end up spending hours locked in a hotel room. So, we made the most of our time to explore as much as possible!
One day, we rented a car and drove all around the island. In the north, we visited Nungwi, a charming village that’s best known for its beautiful beach and breath-taking sunsets. With its transparent waters, this is also one of the best spots on the island to go scuba diving. Further south, we also stopped in Jambiani to visit the beach and get to know the people of this fishing village. Walking through its markets, seeing the men fishing and the women collecting algae on the beach, eating delicious fruits on sale by the roadsides – it was really fun to get to know this side of Zanzibar!
It was a week without sun, with a lot of rain, but that allowed us to still get to know a lot of Zanzibar. Of course now we want to return, preferably at a time when it’s not pouring rain!
LESSONS FROM OUR MISADVENTURES
In the end, this whole experience in Zanzibar ended up being a huge lesson for us. We believe all trips are worthwhile and this one is no exception. Even though it wasn’t the trip we had dreamed of (by far!) it ended up being a huge learning moment for us, not just as a couple but as travelers too! Briefly, we learned three important lessons:
This one could seem obvious, but it clearly wasn’t obvious enough for us. So, we’ll repeat it as many times as necessary: be mindful of the dates you book your trips on. It can be beautiful sunny in Portugal in May, but that clearly wasn’t the right time to visit Zanzibar. Be specially mindful of rainy seasons, hurricane and tornado seasons and heat waves too!
TRAVEL INSURANCE IS A MUST
The truth is none of this would have happened if we had reserved a good travel insurance! The insurance we had in the car didn´t help us anything to solve the problem and afterwards we still lost more money having to re-book our trip and for a season that wasn´t at all ideal. If we had booked travel insurance we would have had all the support and certainly the result of this adventure would be another. We would have been reimbursed for the value of the flights (we booked the hotels without cancellation costs) and the cost of returning to our home would be fully covered. We counted an expense of about 900€ caused by this "accident", it was heavy but believe that it could´ve been much worse. From that moment, we decided to always travel with a travel insurance with IATI Seguros.
This example served to help many people who have been following us since the launch of the blog, reserve through our link and earn a 5% discount on travel insurance booking with IATI Seguros, the leading travel insurance in the Iberian Peninsula and that in which we have entrusted ourselves to our travels since we have gone through this misadventure. LINK: 5% discount travel insurance (it´s destined for the homepage but when placed the data about the trip prices come with a 5% discount).
WE WANT TO KEEP GOING
Finally, even with all of these misadventures, this trip to Zanzibar strengthened us as a couple. We overcame a difficult moment together, with a positive attitude and always relying on each other for support, and that only gave us more strength – not just to keep traveling but also to keep going with this project, always overcoming every obstacle and showing the world that traveling can be the greatest adventure of your life.