When I told people that I would be visiting Croatia, I heard stuff like - "Where's that?" I had to actually open a map and point it out for them and tell them about former Yugoslavia. The rest of people who did know where Croatia was, exclaimed "Don't go to Zadar, its boring". Apparently, they've been to the other popular beachy parts of Croatia like Split, Dubrovnik, etc.
If you know me, you know very well that I wont listen to anyone. I'll research about a place and even if I like one thing it it, WE ARE GOING! So yes, we were going to Croatia & Zadar would be a part of it! This city was the start of our great Croatian adventure.
Getting to the city from Zadar airport:
Here's how the entire trip started - we landed in Zagreb, then took a domestic flight from Zagreb to Zadar. Our international flight was from Abu Dhabi to Zagreb via Belgrade, so you can imagine that amount of travel in those 24 hours. Once we reached Zadar, we took the airport bus to reach the city. Its probably the cheapest way (25 Kuna) to get to the city & takes almost the same time as a taxi. Our accommodation was located within old town & the bus stopped just 5 minutes away from Old Town.
Where we stayed
We stayed at Apartments Blue Ivy - a 1BR apartment owned by a lovely lady. It was clean and tastefully designed. The only problem was the walk upto the apartment. There were no elevators, so poor Mr. D had the painstaking task of carrying 2 suitcases up & down. I wouldn't recommend it for older people or people with health issues. Otherwise, it was perfect and right in the centre of Old Town. Our host was very helpful too in guiding us through the popluar attractions in Zadar.
What to see ...
The good thing about Zadar is that, all the attractions are within walking distance to each other. Remember me telling you at the start of this post, that it just takes one thing to catch my attention before visiting a place? Well, in Zadar it was the Sea Organ.
Sea Organ - The Sea Organ in Zadar operates like a normal organ, and is one of the most spectacular thing I've seen in my life. There are stairs with holes in them, and when the waves crash through them, they make sweet music. Its unlike anything I've ever seen.
Sun Salutation - Right next to the Sea Organ is this huge circle with lights on the ground. My suggestion is to come here just before sunset. The sunset in Zadar in considered to be one of the most beautiful sunsets in the world. What basically happens here is the lights on the ground harness the sun's rays & put up a show at night. Its an amazing sight.
Church of St Donatus & Zadar Cathedral - We saw a 15th century church called the Church of St. Donatus from the outside, as they had an exhibition going on, however, we visited the bell tower of St Anastasia Church (Zadar Cathedral) which was next to it. The stairs are very narrow and not the most comfortable, but you'll be rewarded with a wonderful view of the city. (P.S. Its a good idea to cover up a bit before entering a cathedral as you may not be allowed in)
The Forum - The area next to the cathedral has some Roman ruins and offers great photo opportunities. There are some souvenir shops around there too.
Zadar City Gate - Its a nice walk along the harbour, and at the end of it you'll find a Roman style wall with various designs. This serves as a reminder of the country's history.
We barely spent 24 hours in Zadar and still felt like we covered a lot. Just walking around Zadar old town was quite an experience. You'll find gelato, pizza shops and cafes at every nook & corner. Zadar also serves as a base for many day trips eg. Plitvice National Park, Krka National Park, Pag, etc. The main bus station is barely a 10 minute ride away from Zadar Old Town & the bus network is excellent! For those of you visiting Croatia, make sure to spend atleast one day here. You wont regret it.
When you hear the word "Zanzibar", the first thing that comes to your mind is an island with sun-kissed beaches ... dotted by swaying palm trees and surrounded by the most bluest waters ... right? When we visited Zanzibar, it was exactly how we envisioned it to be - picture perfect! After 5 days of roaming around in the Tanzanian wilderness, we were ready for this relaxing beach holiday. It was an hour long journey by air from Kilimanjaro Airport to Zanzibar. And guess what, once I reached Zanzibar I was finally reunited with my suitcase! Imagine being stuck in the same pair of jeans for 5 days!
We booked our tours and transfers from a company called "Colours of Zanzibar" well in advance. And because we booked many things with them, they reduced the price. We were going to spend 3 days in Zanzibar.
Zanzibar is basically divided into 2 parts - Stone Town & the beaches. If you want to stay somewhere close to the airport and are not too particular about a beach, Stone Town is your best bet. If you want to stay in paradise, go for a beach ... its that simple! We stayed at the DoubleTree Resort by Hilton, Nungwi which was somewhere on the north of the island. We got a bit lucky too, when they upgraded us to a cottage ... bang on the beach. With the exception of lunch on the day we arrived & breakfast everyday, we didn't eat at the hotel. Instead we tried out the various restaurants located along the beach. The hotel was lovely too. In addition to big sized rooms, it had a beautiful pool.
I would have loved to just lie down on the beach all day and sip on fresh coconuts, however, I just had 3 days here and a lot to explore. Here are some of the things we did & which I think you should do when you are in Zanzibar:
1) Doors of Stone Town - Even if you are not staying in Stone Town, I highly recommend you visit it. In our case, we toured Stone Town on the day we landed, just before heading to the hotel. Stone Town in well known for its doors. You'll see them in various colours and designs. In the past, you could tell the status of the person living inside just by looking at their door.
2) Eat a banana! - I know, I know ... it sounds ridiculous that I'm telling you to eat a banana right? The bananas in Zanzibar were half the size of my hand! We tried them out at Darajani market. P.S. Its good to tell your guide to buy them for you as you might get cheated in the market. Let me also warn you, that the market isn't the cleanest, however, you'll get a real feel of Africa. You can buy Zanzibari spices there too.
3) Former Slave Market - Zanzibar was the last known hub of slave trade. We visited the exact location where it took place. Now, a part of the area has been converted into a church. We saw the underground chamber where slaves used to be kept before they were auctioned ... maybe 50 of them in that little space. Some of them didn't even make it to the auction as they died of starvation.
4) Freddie Mercury's House - Did you know that one of the greatest singers of all time "Freddie Mercury" was born in Stone Town, Zanzibar? Well, we saw his house ... just from the outside. It had now been converted into a hotel.
5) The Old Fort - There wasn't much to see here except for some ruined walls, a little amphitheatre and some vendors inside. Since it was part of our tour, we just went with the flow.
6) Jozani Park - A national park located an hour away from Nungwi famous for its Red Colobus monkeys. They compulsorily assign a guide for your group. If you are into wildlife, you should visit this place.
7) The Rock - After seeing pictures of this restaurant built on a rock in the middle of the sea, we knew we had to visit. We made an advance online booking on their website assuming that it would be packed, however, it wasn't. Since the tide was low, we could actually walk on the little pavement towards the restaurant. Other than the look of this place, there wasn't anything fancy. The price of food & drinks were ridiculous. We just enjoyed a few cocktails.
8) Horse Riding - This was an impromptu plan, although I do love horse-riding. The horse riding centre was located at Sea Cliff Resort & Spa, and the horses were owned by a lovely couple from South Africa. There were four horses and I got the shortest but oldest of them all! Basically, they take you on a scenic route on the grass, beach & water (if you prefer). Yes, the water was my main intention however, I wasn't fully dressed for it. I did get into the water partially though. It was a sunset ride so we witnessed a beautiful sunset too.
Here are few more pictures of Zanzibar - Stone Town, the beaches & more. We had a lot of free time to explore this beautiful island.
Have you been to Zanzibar?
Did I inspire you?
Let me know :)
Serengeti is one of the biggest & most popular parks in Tanzania. Do you know that "Serengeti" actually means "endless plains"? Its no surprise why. You cannot see where the park starts nor ends. One can easily spend 3-4 days in this park ... its that big! However, we spent just 1 day as we didn't have much time.
By the time we reached Serengeti National Park, we had seen almost all the common animals and were searching for something different. Although I cannot remember the names of all the animals we saw there, they were in Dominic's guidebook. Here's a glimpse of some of them.
Of course there's one animal that I could never get enough of i.e African Bush Elephants. We saw several elephant families in Serengeti.
The main highlight of our trip to Serengeti National Park were the lions. And not just 1 or 2 lions, we saw atleast 20 of them. Most of the lions were concentrated near a particular rock. One even walked passed us like our pet dog or something. This is what happens when you do not lock animals up in a cage. The park is their home, and they feel so relaxed in it.
Before heading to our next hotel, we decided to stop by a Masai Village. You might have heard of the popular Masai Mara, but how much do you really know about them? They are supposedly one of the smallest tribes among 120 tribes in Tanzania. They are popular because of their eye catching attire.
To visit a Masai Village, we had to pay a total of $50 for 4 of us. On arriving, we were welcomed by a group of male & female Masai warriors. And by welcome, I mean a sort of dance where everyone jumps up and down. By the way, I joined them too. Have a look at the video below.
The Masai Village consists of a number of little huts where the Masai people live. There are more women than men and one men is allowed to marry many woman. I visited one hut and it was really tiny inside. Basically, there's just a little spot for everyone to sleep and a place to heat up some water. It made me wonder if they actually lived there. The hut isn't waterproof and the Masai people have mobile phones too. So much for primitive living!
We even visited a Masai school in the compound where a group of children read the English alphabets and numbers to us. It was a pretty interesting experience.
That night, we stayed at Lake Manyara Serena Lodge. This is a mid-range to luxury lodge. It consists of a number of little cottages facing Lake Manyara. What freaked me out here, were the number of baboons hovering around the lodge. A couple of them were so smart that they could open dustbins & take stuff out. Thankfully, they didn't come near us. What fascinated me the most was the lodge's swimming pool. It had a view to die for. The water was very cold though! After staying at the tent the previous night, this place felt more like home.
If you've checked my earlier post, you would have seen that our room at Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge directly faced the Ngorongoro Crater. That's exactly where we were heading to next.
The first thing that cauught my eye when we entered the crater was the landscape. Although a grey day, it looked picture perfect. Ngorongoro Crater is wide and relatively flat. Since there are no trees around, it makes it a bit easier to spot animals. The first animal we spotted was the wildebeest ... plenty of them actually. July is the beginning of the "Great Migration" in Tanzania. It is during this season that animals such as wildebeest and zebras move to different areas in search of grass and water. These animals also happen to catch the eyes of some of Africa's greatest predators such as lion, cheethas, hyenas, etc
They say that about 1.5 million wildebeests migrate every year. In the few hours we spent there, we were literally surrounded by them and a bunch of zebras.
Further away into the flatland, we spotted pink flamingos and water buffaloes. It is always a good idea to carry a pair of binoculars while going on a safari. Every vehicle has a path which they must take, and if you have eyes like mine, you will not be able to see anything. Thankfully, Dominic our guide has a pair of them.
So, this is basically how safaris work - if a guide spots something interesting, he alerts the other guides in the vicinity and everyone gathers there. We received one such alert and proceeded to go where 20 other safari vehicles were gathered. Apparently, a lazy water buffalo who couldn't catch up with his mates was gonna become lunch!
Everyone gathered around what seemed like an arena to witness a "kill" ... after all this was what we were here for. After what seemed like an eternity, with the poor water buffalo running into a lake and dodging itself from lions & hyenas, it won! It was a narrow escape! And we missed watching a kill :(
Next, we headed to the hippo pool. Although not very visible, we did manage to get a glimpse of a few of them lazing around in the pool.
Lunch was somewhere over the clouds ... well, atleast it seemed like it. This picnic spot was located at a higher altitude and it was freezing cold. Thankfully, a piece of steak (cold steak) packed by the Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge kept us warm.
We did a bit of Serengeti National Park later that day before proceeding to our accommodation. I will tell you more about Serengeti in a separate post. Let me tell you about where we stayed that night.
For the first time ever, we stayed in a tent. This was at the Serengeti Heritage Luxury Tented camp. This camp was located in the middle of Serengeti National Park and consisted of about 15 tents or so. By luxury tent, I mean a tent that has a proper king sized bed with its own toilet. As first time "glampers", we did find a few inconveniences like no proper lighting, poor water pressure and lack of warm water. Basically, if we wanted warm water, we had to tell the staff to heat it up for us. But this stay was all about connecting with nature. Wi-fi was terrible, even though they mentioned that it was better near the dining area. Each time, we needed to go to & from the tent, we were escorted by a Masai warrior. Each of us were given a walkie talkie just incase we needed to contact the staff from our tent. Dinner was average, however, the BBQ organized for us that evening was excellent!
Next up - Serengeti National Park xx
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