After almost three months of travelling through the Middle East and Africa, we have arrived at our final destination. Time to relax! We check into Zamani on the west coast of Zanzibar and decide not to use the car anymore. We just want to hang out and enjoy Zanzibar beach life. We lounge around on the jetty and then decide to go for a walk along the beach as it is low tide.
Along the way, locals are trying to sell knick-knacks to passersby. As it is low season there is extra competition to offer the best price. We are not interested in shopping though, so they have to come up with something more creative.
“Have you ever sailed a mango tree?” a guy who calls himself Captain Alan asks. Of course we haven’t. “Come with me – I’ll show you how we sail the Indian Ocean.” We follow him to his boat, a traditional dhow with two floaters that will keep the boat stable. It is indeed a hollow tree trunk which can only just take four people. Alan ties the triangular sail to a large branch that serves as a mast. He pulls on all sorts of ropes and places a plank of wood in the water behind the boat to act as a rudder. Just as I am starting to think that this will never work, the sail swells up and the tree trunk glides through the water like a boat.
There is a strong wind and we soon leave the mainland behind us. We sail out to the open sea, the dhow cutting smoothly through the waves. It is very different from any other sailing experience I have ever had. It is in fact more comfortable as the weight of the tree and the floaters means you hardly notice the waves – it is as though the dhow is at one with the sea. We sail up to the reef where we throw out the anchor and pull down the sail: a short swimming break to cool down. We have the whole Indian Ocean to ourselves!
On the way back the wind has picked up even more and we reach the mainland in no time. I take it all back! All the doubts I had upon first seeing this tree trunk were invalid – what an amazing boat!