Tanzania Day 20 - Snorkeling on Mnemba Island

Today we are going snorkeling on the reefs outside of Mnemba Island, which is supposed to have some of the best snorkeling in Zanzibar.

Abuu told us to meet him at 8:15am. We got there 10 minutes early but still ended up waiting about 30 minutes for him. Then, he told us the boat doesn’t leave until 9:30. Ugh.

It was cloudy this morning and even drizzled a little bit. It didn’t drizzle for too long, and it was actually nice with the clouds because the sun didn’t beat down on us too hard.


To get to the boat, we had to wade a little bit in the water and then climb up a small ladder. Some people had more trouble than others. There were about 23 people on the boat. Charlie and I paid $55 for the both of us, which we didn’t think was too bad.

The boat ride on the dhow was horrible. I didn’t get sea sick, but I got pretty close to it. Everybody on the boat was European or Russian, and none of them spoke English as a first language, although all of them probably knew English. We actually haven’t passed by many groups of people in Zanzibar who speak English as their primary language. There is definitely a huge European presence on this island. Charlie was the only person on the boat wearing “normal” swimming trunks. Everybody else was wearing speedos or very short board shorts, even the fat guys. I’m pretty sure the Russians were making fun of us at one point since they were looking at us a lot.

View from the dhow on our way to Mnemba Island
Riding on the dhow to go snorkeling around Mnemba Island.

It took us almost 1 ½ hours to get to Mnemba Island. The actual island is a private island, so we aren’t allowed to set foot on the beach unless we pay $1500 per person per night, or something ridiculous like that.

We spent about an hour snorkeling which was lots of fun. The coral wasn’t as amazing as I expected, but it was still fun to swim around and look at all the fish. While we were snorkeling, I was amazed at the number of people who were still sitting on the boat. After about an hour, we got whistled over to the boat for lunch. Everybody (except for us) was already on the boat and half dry. Hmmm. Lunch was tuna, salad, chapati, watermelon, and mango. Some people were drinking beer.

The tuna was actually prepared on the boat on our way over. I had a front row seat to the skinning and cutting of the fish. We also got to see them start a fire with gasoline (which they took from the outboard motor) on our wooden boat.

Cooking with open flames on a wooden boat in Zanzibar

After lunch, they said we could snorkel for another 20 minutes before leaving. What!? That’s it!? Bummer! Apparently everybody else was ready to leave as it was, but I could have spent all day there, even if the coral wasn’t that great.

After our last 20 minutes of snorkeling, it was time to leave. Within 10 minutes of leaving, one guy started vomiting off the side of the boat while his friends all laughed at him. He had vomit all over his face. The kicker is when one of the crew members gave him a bucket, but it was the bucket he used to wash our fish/lunch in. Ahh! Later on in the ride, one other girl vomited.

We passed over a few sketchy/big waves on our ride, but we made it home safely. We went back to our hotel, had some snacks, and then decided to go on a walk to the beach south of us called Kwenda, which is supposed to be one of the best beaches on the island.

Romantic walk on the beach in Kwenda, Zanzibar.

As usual, our romantic walk was ruined by a ton of Massai people. Although they aren’t as bad as in Arusha, they are still annoying.

We were walking at high tide, and we got stuck at a “road block” where we couldn’t continue walking because the water was too high. We tried going around it by walking through a Massai market (with Massai people using smart phones), but this was unsuccessful. Since we did enough walking yesterday, we decided to turn around and go swimming.

We played around with the frisbee and GoPro for a while in the water. Then, we went and had dinner where we went the first night. We were going to eat at our hotel since it seems to be the hot spot for eating, but we decided against it because we have found the staff to be pretty impersonable.

We like the other place because they are nice, the food is good, and it is cheaper than other places. We got some more tropical drinks today. I got a Bailey’s Banana Colada, which is Bailey’s + pineapple juice + banana + coconut milk. It was DELICIOUS, and I must learn to make it at home! Charlie got a Tequila Sunrise and Godmother, which is vodka + amarula + mixed fruit. It was okay, but not as good as mine!

Charlie even practiced some Swahili tonight. He got “Ningependa chupa ya Tusker”, meaning “I’d like a bottle of Tusker”. Yeah!