Even if you usually shy away from obviously organised or ‘touristy’ activities, a spice tour is probably the best way of seeing the countryside around Stone Town and meeting rural communities.
Guides take you on a walking tour of the villages and plantations at Kizimbani or Kindichi, picking bunches of leaves, fruit and twigs from bushes and inviting you to smell or taste them to guess what they are. Pretty much all the ingredients of the average kitchen spice rack are represented - cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, garlic, chillies, black pepper, nutmeg and vanilla among many others.
Alongside the spices grow a mouthwatering array of fruits, which depending on season will include pineapple, mango, jackfruit, lychees, bananas, papaya and the notoriously smelly Durian fruit (‘smells like hell, tastes like heaven’). All these are available to be feasted on as you walk around the plantations.
During your tour, local children follow you all the way round, making baskets of palm leaves and filling them with flowers to give to you. At lunchtime, you'll stop in a local house for a meal of pilau rice and curry, followed by sweet Arabic coffee and perhaps a slice of lemongrass cake.
Many spice tours include a visit to the Persian baths built by Sultan Said for his harem, and stop at Fuji or Mangapwani beaches just outside Stone Town for a swim on the way back.
The average price for a group spice tour in a minibus is around $10 including lunch. A tour with a private guide is more rewarding but more expensive, at around $40. The most highly recommended of Zanzibar’s spice tour guides is Hisdory Jumane, an ebullient young man who grew up in a family steeped in Zanzibar’s traditions of spice agriculture. Check out his website www.earthfoot.org/guides/jumane.htm or contact him directly by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © Gemma Pitcher 2004