After an hour of fruitless searching, I was about to give up when the beam from my torch landed on a claw of monstrous proportions, waving gently at me from inside a clump of undergrowth. I stopped in my tracks, and the crab crawled slowly into view, one great leg after another moving deliberately across the sandy path inches from my feet. Its body was deep red, patterned with black wavy lines, and more like a lobster in shape than the conventional 'sideways' crab. It was beautiful and at the same time, rather horrifying, and I was contemplating flight when a ranger appeared out of the darkness and unhesitatingly scooped it up to show me the white abdomen glistening in the torchlight and claws waving in impotent fury. Placed at the bottom of a palm tree, it had an affronted air as the huge legs wrapped themselves around the trunk and started to inch upwards. We left it in peace after 50 feet, still moving inexorably onwards in search of dinner.
Finally, under my mosquito canopy, surrounded by squeakings and rustlings from the jungle around the bed, I lowered my personal portcullis and lay gazing at the stars, caught in the ragged tops of the palm trees as they danced in the night wind to the soft tune of the sea. All I needed now was Tarzan.
Chumbe Fact File
Chumbe is located 8km south west of Zanzibar Town, a journey of around 40 minutes by boat. Zanzibar Island is a two-hour ferry journey from the Tanzanian mainland, and fast ferries make the trip four or five times a day in both directions. International carriers including Kenya Airways, Ethiopian Airlines and Gulf Air fly from the UK to Zanzibar airport, while British Airways flies to Dar-es-Salaam via Nairobi. Prices start at around 400 pounds.
A day trip to Chumb from Zanzibar Town, including snorkelling, costs US$70 per person. To stay overnight, high season price is US$ 200 per person full board (excluding alcoholic drinks), including snorkelling equipment, transfers and guided forest walk. In low season (March-June and September-November) the price drops to US$150. Chumbe Island is a non-profit making venture and all proceeds from visitors are re-invested in the park's conservation activities.
When to go
Zanzibar is a year-round destination, but daily rain showers can be expected during the short rains - November to December, and the long rains - April to June. Temperatures vary between 30ûC in the dry season and 25ûC during the rains.
What to bring:
Adequate sun protection, including t-shirt for snorkelling. Shoes suitable for wading on and off boats across sharp rocks. High-quality mosquito repellent - Zanzibar is a malaria-risk area. Consult your doctor before leaving for immunisations and malaria prophylaxis. Visitors planning to combine a trip to Chumbe with a stay on Zanzibar Island should be aware that 95% of the island's population are Muslim and modest dress is encouraged.
Chumbe Island Coral Park (CHICOP)
PO Box 3203 Zanzibar Tanzania
Tel/Fax: +255 24 2231040
Copyright © Gemma Pitcher 2004, Images © Manolo Yllera