Crazy Hostels and New Years in Nungwi

The first saga of my trip with the family has now come to an end and I’ve left the nest to head up the Zanzibar coast to a beach resort town, called Nungwi. The beaches there are incredible with miles of sand when the tide is low and hours of swimming in clear blue water when the tide is in.

I arrived in Nungwi on January 28 via a daladala (tiny covered trucks that serve as buses and generally cost under $1 per hour to ride, though there’s a good chance you will either have a child or a chicken [or both] sitting on your lap for at least part of the ride) at around 4PM. Upon arrival, I expected to find a small village on the beach with some hotels and more winding alleyways, like in Stonetown. This was not the case and, as I jumped out of the back of the truck, with one backpack on each shoulder, onto a dusty road with no stores or hostels in sight, I had a brief moment of panic. But it was too late to turn back and, as I stood in the hot sun, uncertain of where to go next, I realized I had broken the number 1 rule of traveling alone: never appear lost.

Within 30 seconds, a man pulled up in an old, rundown SUV and asked if I had a place to stay or needed any help as he had recently started a “crazy” new hostel and had a few spaces left. I didn’t have much of a┬áchoice and, while I had no way of knowing if he was actually telling the truth, I made up my mind, threw my bag into his trunk, and off we sped to his crazy new hostel. Before you get too worried, everything ended up checking out, but I did start to get pretty nervous as we turned off the main road and onto a windy dirt trail, away from the beach, and pulled up to what looked like a giant, cement-walled, iron-gated, make-shift barracks out of a Mad Max movie. Sure enough, it was actually a hostel, but, to cut the story short, he ended up taking me to a different hostel, called James’ guesthouse, that I had actually read about online and seemed a bit safer. Unfortunately for me, it turns out that all hostels, hotels, and guesthouses in Nungwi get booked months in advance for New Years so James had no space and I ended up sleeping in a tent for 3 nights at Mamafatuma’s guesthouse, a neighboring hostel.

Zanzibar, Nungwi beach
Mamafatuma’s ended up being an idyllic place to spend New Years and I met many amazing people from the US, Chile, Germany, and Zanzibar. The owners/staff/friends there were much more interested in hanging out with us than maintaining the guesthouses, but, as long as you didn’t care about a clean or lit communal bathroom/shower or electricity for more than 4 hours per day, the price was right and there were always people to talk to or grab a beer with on the beach. The morning after I arrived, I did a little exploring to get my barrings, bought some mangoes, bananas, and pineapple, and made my way to the beach. That was pretty much the extent of my days in Nungwi: pickup fruit for lunch in the village, find a hammock on the beach, wander home at night to sleep, rinse, and repeat.

Except for one day when I spent 3 hours swimming with sea turtles at the Baraka sea turtle park.

Zanzibar, Nungwi turtles