Wading Through Zanzibar in Search of Elusive Rare Monkeys

Day 96, 2024 Grand World Voyage

Monday, April 8, 2024; Zanzibar, Tanzania.

We’ve arrived in Africa! And let me just start out saying that Zanzibar is a great introduction to this vast continent. Yes, I’ve been to Africa before, but never Tanzania. It is in fact the 13th African country I’ve visited – all of them not surprisingly on the coast. Zanzibar is the name of a group of islands about 25 miles off the mainland and of the main city..

These islands and the neighboring coast are home to the Swahili people, who became known as merchants who facilitated deals for long-distance traders across the Indian Ocean. Portugal’s Vasco da Gama’s arrival in 1498 brought colonization, first by Portugal but later as part of the Sultanate of Oman. Zanzibar developed into a center of the East African slave trade. When Britain moved to abolish the slave trade in Zanzibar, it became a British protectorate until 1963 when it gained independence. The next year it merged with Tanganyika to become Tanzania, with Zanzibar as an autonomous region.

I will learn more about the city of Zanzibar and its place in the slave trade tomorrow. Today’s tour focuses on the natural history with a journey to Jozani Forest Reserve in the middle of the island. We went hunting for the rare red colobus monkey and found it to be quite a trek.

Making it a challenge was the rain. After three months of virtually no rain, our luck ran out. Some had the foresight to put plastic ponchos in their day packs. I only had an umbrella, but it worked pretty well in the open areas. By the time the rain tapered off, we were following jungle paths – that unfortunately don’t drain well.

At first, we could dodge the puddles, but eventually they became too big. I bit the bullet, so to speak, and plunged into the muddy standing water that came up well past my ankles. Shoulda’ worn my sturdy Keen water sandals. Once I emerged from the muddy puddles, brown water oozed from my sneakers.

Our diligence paid off as we saw a number of endangered red colobus monkeys overhead. They seemed undazed by the loud tourists traipsing through, watching us from their perches as the babies jumped from branch to branch. Among them were other species of monkeys.

Thank goodness we didn’t see any snakes, but a pretty snail rested by the pathway.

Later we discovered more monkeys in the trees next to the road to the national park. By then it was too late to spare the sneakers – I’m sure they will dry out some day.

Nearby is a mangrove swamp with a sturdy wooden footbridge circling through.

By the time we returned to the tender pier, we were ready to escape the heat and humidity to return to the ship. Rather than head ashore for dinner, we stayed on board to watch a special show featuring the Tanzanian Boys Circus. A ferry brought the group from Dar es Salaam, the largest city in Tanzania, so they stayed the night on board after their two shows.

I’m not sure I would call the performers “boys,” but the young men put on quite the gymnastics show of tumbles, acrobatics and lifts, almost hitting the high ceiling of the World Stage. I couldn’t bring myself to take any pictures of the contortionist – I hurt just watching him tie himself into knots.

Tomorrow we’ll explore Stone Town in old Zanzibar. Fingers crossed there won’t be any rain.