Tanzania Day 22 - Prison Island and Big Tortoises!

We woke up this morning and decided we’d rather go to Prison Island than do a walking tour of Stone Town. The guy who was supposed to be our guide found us a boat to take us there. It was a small dhow called “Mr. Bean”. The ride to Prison Island was very choppy and wavey and took about 20-30 minutes.

Mr. Bean
Riding the dhow, Mr. Bean, to Prison Island

When we got to Prison Island, we paid $4 per person to walk around the tortoise sanctuary. The tortoises were a gift to Zanzibar from the Seychelles Islands, and they were HUGE! They were also very calm and let us get up nice and close to them. If you scratched them, they would stretch their necks out and stand on their feet. There were also cute little babies. This island used to have a prison for slaves.

Petting a tortoise on Prison Island

After spending some time with the tortoises, we went back to the beach to meet with “Mr. Bean” and go snorkeling. He took us out to the good snorkeling spot, but unfortunately it was so wavey that the visibility wasn’t very good. We didn’t stay out long because of this, so we headed back to the hotel.

View of Stone Town from Prison Island

When we got back, I took a nap on the beach for about 2 hours while Charlie went for a walk around Stone Town. He said he didn’t get heckled at all while he was by himself. He also got 3 chicken kabobs at the market for $1 (but they had bones in them), some coffee, and more spices. He also said during his walk he walked into some muslims praying as they were taking their shoes off and sitting on the ground.

Next, it was time to get on the ferry to Dar Es Salaam. The ferry terminal was pretty chaotic, but we were able to make our way on into the air-conditioned business class.

Oh… backtracking… Before we got on our ferry, we decided to have lunch at the place next to our hotel. Someone directed us to a seat after we stood around for 5 minutes, and then after another 10-15 minutes of waiting and multiple servers passing by us, we still didn’t even get a menu. This was pretty typical service at most restaurants we went to. I don’t know if it’s because they are all understaffed, or if they do things different around here.

We decided to leave and go to their bar instead. Charlie got a Kilimanjaro beer while I ordered a plate of chips (french fries) which came pretty quickly. Then I ordered a chocolate milkshake because I was still pretty hungry. It took 45 minutes and another time asking before getting it. I was also hoping to get another plate of chips, but that wasn’t happening. Charlie got a bottle of Castle Beer while I was waiting for my milkshake. When we were all done, we headed to the ferry.

The ferry was very fast. It took a little over an hour to get to the mainland from Zanzibar (although one of the passengers told us it would take us a half hour). Since our lunch in Zanzibar was less than spectacular, we bought some cookies and chocolate bars to munch on. None of them were very good.

We made it to Dar Es Salaam and met our guide who walked us through the crazy streets of Dar to his van while we towed/dragged our suitcases behind us. We got into our van and had to have a traffic control officer help him back out since there were so many cars. We need to go the opposite direction that all the other cars were going, so what did we do? We backed up so we were facing the opposite direction of all the other cars and proceeded to drive in a “lane” on the left side that was partially open at times. As with everywhere in Tanzania, there don’t seem to be many rules, and every driver does what he wants.

We made it safely to our hotel for the night, the Econo Lodge. It was by far the least luxurious places we stayed at, but hey, at $30 a night you get what you pay for. We had two twin beds. The mattresses were covered with a thin sheet, and there was only one thin sheet on top of that. We did have air conditioning, which worked most of the time except when the power went out and we were running on the generator for about an hour.

Our room at the Econo Lodge in Dar Es Salaam
Bathroom with a pink dolphin shower curtain in Dar Es Salaam

I started to get a really bad stomach ache, so I rested while Charlie went out on his own to get some dinner. It took over an hour for me to feel better. Must have been the nasty chocolates and cookies plus a little bit of sea sickness from the ferry.

We both took showers in our less than spectacular bathroom with a pink dolphin shower curtain and headed to bed. Tomorrow we are getting a tour of Dar Es Salaam before our flight at midnight. We asked our guide what there is to see around here, and he blatantly sad, “Not much”, other than a museum and market. Looks like tomorrow is going to be a long day…