Sandy Toes in Zanzibar

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Undeniably Zanzibar’s beaches are my favorite. The sand is soft and almost has a milky consistency which glides over your feet and toes like butter. Zanzibar’s velvety coasts also feature year-round warm waters thanks to the Indian Ocean and tropical climate. Although I was in Zanzibar for work, I still got time on the weekends (and after classes) to enjoy the tourist hotspots.

Even on the most popular beach there was still space to breath. It wasn’t like Ocean City, Md in July – there was open space and self-catering services. This is not necessarily a great thing for Zanzibar’s economy as it has seen a dip in tourism recently, at least in Stone Town – according to my hotel manager friend Ulrica, but it feels like paradise for me.

One highlight of my beach excursions was going to the East Coast beach and The Rock restaurant, which lives up to it’s name as the restaurant is literally on a rock and requires a boat to get to during high tide. What an experience. The food was also to die for and surprisingly affordable (in American standards). I got home-made tagliatelle with lobster mixed in – I’m drooling thinking about it.

Not only beaches in Zanzibar pure paradise, they’re also fun. Local kids will come play frisbee with you and you never know who you’ll meet! Going to the beach by myself was so fun because I’d meet all these other tourists/volunteers, mostly from Europe, and we’d all talk about our experiences and where we’re from. Zanzibar is mostly a tourist destination for Europeans because for much of Europe there’s little to no time difference whereas from the US (mainland) there’s anywhere from 6-10 depending on day light savings time.

The best time to go is definitely during their winter, as during Zanzibar’s summer it is unbearable hot and humid. Their winter usually lasts from May to September, but July is definitely the peak of tourist season. Make sure though before you go for a relaxing beach vacation you know the area in which you’re staying. For example it is never appropriate to show your knees on the streets of Stone Town, but it is perfectly ok to lay out in the sun wearing nothing but a bathing suit once you hit the sand. On the east coast of Zanzibar you’ll have much more privacy and the beaches are apparently more pristine, although I’m not a huge beach snob. All I need is warm water and soft sand, and just about every beach in Zanzibar (I went to at least) had that.

Horseback Riding in Ojai

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Entering Ojai Valley is scary. I’m driving 50mph (or more) through all these twists and tight-turns with the locals driving right on my tail. Then I look out the window and all is ok. Mountain ranges with the sun just bouncing off of them creates this majestic color that looks like a postcard.

Once you say goodbye to the Pacific Ocean and start heading west you think that it’s going to get less gorgeous. But it doesn’t. Ojai Valley is just a new kind of beauty in California. This dry and sunny city is home to many vacation homes for celebrities or just crazy rich people and for good reason. There’s horse ranches galore and a great downtown area. If you love the outdoors (and the heat) and are kinda a hippie this is the place for you. With locally-grown food everywhere, farmer’s markets every Sunday, and the mountains as a constant backdrop this is undeniably an amazing place to live (and visit!).

IMG_4309Chain stores are actually prohibited by law making Ojai a great place to start a business, because the government does all it can to promote any and all local businesses. Also fun fact: Jim, from The Office, used to live there so yeah it’s pretty much the greatest place on Earth.

My boyfriend and I stopped for a burrito at Ruben’s, which was finger-lickin’ good. It’s just a cute little family run restaurant with amazingly spicy stuff. I got one of their milder burritos and it was still spicy. Luckily they have delicious Horchata so that really helps with the burn from the spices.

Then we were off for some horseback riding! I was actually kind of nervous going riding just because it was my first time and they’re pretty huge creatures. Also this sign didn’t help…

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Once I started going I had a great time! The horse I was riding on was great and our guide was amazing. My boyfriend’s horse, Chance, was quite stubborn and really slow. He really just wasn’t feeling the sun that day.

Another fun fact: Easy A was actually filmed in Ojai! The “hippie” culture here is even obvious in the movie.

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Just look at how gorgeous this area is… Like drool.

 

Oldies but Goodies

On Prison Island, a popular tourist attraction in Zanzibar off the coast of Stone Town, is home to some really old turtles. These guys have seriously been through a lot. The oldest turtle on Prison Island is 189 years old, when America was only on its fifth president and Beethoven was still alive.

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This grandpa has seen a lot of history. He’s seen slavery in America. Both World Wars. The dropping of the atomic bomb, hundreds of revolutions and wars, and a time before blue jeans.

Throughout international crisis after crisis this oldie has remained on the same island enjoying the hundreds of tourists who come through daily. He gets a nice neck massage in return for a few pictures. His life has been the same thing for almost 200 years now. I cannot even imagine living in the same poop covered enclosure for that long…

While so much has changed in the world around him since this elder’s birth, nothing has really changed for him. And I think he is totally ok with that.

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This is a BABY turtle….

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Lemur Selfies

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Zoos in general are kinda ehhh to me when traveling as I feel they’re kind of a waste of money, but this zoo was relatively affordable and also happened to be one of my traveling partner’s favorite childhood memories. A highlight of the zoo was their relaxed approach in dealing with lemurs in what they call “Lemur Encounter,” where you’re put in a play-pen with two lemurs and you just play around with them. I was especially pleased at their selfie taking skills. I’m out ☮.