Catamaran Cruises in Kendwa - Plus Sambusas…
Updated: Jul 30
Most of our Nungwi days followed a work, beach, eat, repeat routine. But, we also threw in some “organized fun.” Taking a sunset catamaran cruise in Kendwa, a little beach village a couple miles south of us, fell into this latter category. Great decision.
You never know what you’re going to get with these things, that is, tour-like excursions with a bunch of random people. If the group doesn’t mesh, you just end up with a bunch of individual parties not really interacting. Fortunately, we met an absolutely awesome - and eclectic - cast of characters.
Beach Strolls to Kendwa
Kendwa - a tiny beach village - sits on the northwestern coast of Zanzibar, about two miles south of Nungwi. Prior to our catamaran adventure, we were introduced to this great little town on an afternoon stroll.
As discussed (reference Russian Insta-fluencers looking for the perfect shot), a lot of Zanzibar’s northern coastline has high - and razor sharp - coral walls on the inland sides of the beaches. And, the couple mile stretch between Nungwi and Kendwa was dotted with these obstacles. If you time it poorly (i.e. at high tide), these walls make walking the beach between the towns impossible.
But, at low tide, you have access to a stunningly beautiful walk along pristine beaches and lush jungles. And, while we were there (always? Chipp missed this lesson during his Navy time), we were lucky to have low tides every afternoon. So, lacking any real semblance of an exercise routine, taking this stroll became a somewhat regular “work out.” Walk a couple miles, grab a beer or fruity cocktail, and walk back - basically a day at the gym!
Drunken Political Debates Lead to the Best Plans
It seemed like a good idea at the time - a common phrase the morning after a night of drinking results in a questionable plan. Enter a Tuesday night in the Highland bar. Jenna, ever the responsible one, opted for an early bedtime. Chipp, on the other hand, was roped into (notice the passive voice deflection) an evening of beers and ridiculous political debates.
Our friend Ika - a Georgian living at Highland Bungalows - had been in Zanzibar a couple months longer than we had. In this time, he’d met a good group of people, including an English guy, Jake, who swung by the bar to kick off the night.
Over the next few hours, we solved exactly zero of the world’s problems - but not for lack of effort! Pretty sure we touched on all sorts of topics - pharmaceutical pricing, economic models, intellectual property, just to name a few - areas we were all woefully unqualified to discuss, let alone drunkenly lecture each other about! But, as with any bar-related conversation, don’t let lack of competence derail your confidence…
Eventually, Ika and Jake were off to a party at the beach. In a courageous level of self-discipline (dripping with sarcasm), Chipp declined to continue the festivities in favor of some sleep. One parting shot:
Jake: “Hey, well how about going on a sunset catamaran cruise tomorrow?”
Chipp, beers in system at night: “Hell yeah - sounds awesome. We’re in.”
Fast forward to the next morning.
Chipp, beers slowly working their way out of the system: “Did I agree to that? Oh man, I have no desire to do anything with anyone today…”
An Inauspicious Start
Despite the early morning reticence, the sunset cruise would - as expected - be a great time. But, it certainly didn’t kick off smoothly.
Around 1pm, Chipp finally saw Ika - apparently the “little party at the beach” turned into a 6am adventure. And, Ika’s flip-flops seemed to have been a casualty of the night, disappearing somewhere between getting to the beach and strolling back to Highland around sunrise.
We still appeared to be on for a 4pm pick-up by Jake to head down to Kendwa, though. True to his word, he did arrive just a few minutes after the scheduled pick-up time. But, Jake also declared that we’d need to swing by a pharmacy on the way. The night before, Jake had brushed off questions about a bandage around his leg - just a little scratch. Turns out, that “little scratch” was actually a pretty nasty cellulitis infection.
Jake: “Nothing to worry about - saw a doc today - just need to grab some antibiotics and painkillers.”
One guy doesn’t have shoes. The other has a rapidly spreading leg infection. And three of us are nursing lingering hangovers. Naturally, Jenna could only shake her head, wondering how she’d been pulled into a boating boondoggle with this crew.
Catamaran Cruises from Kendwa Rocks
Walking to Kendwa may be a straight shot down the beach, but driving there takes you over some pretty hilly and windy backroads through northern Zanzibar’s jungle-like landscape. With three of us wedged into the tiny back seat, we - somewhat nauseous - arrived about 15 minutes after leaving Highland.
The catamaran cruise would depart from Kendwa Rocks - the major beach resort and focal point of tourist activity in the little town. Not sure exactly how the business relationship works, but a company called Zanzibar Watersports has an office just off the beach at Kendwa Rocks. They own three or four boats and do all sorts of - as the name suggests - water stuff in the area (e.g. snorkeling and scuba tours, island cruises, etc.).
After signing some disclaimers and paying for our spots on the night’s cruise, we waded into the surf, hopped into a little skiff, and tooled out to the anchored catamaran. As the first people aboard, we happily dove into the all-you-can-drink beer and wine, worked our way back to equilibrium, and enjoyed the beautiful view back to shore.
Over the next 30 or so minutes, the skiff shuttled about 20 people out to the boat. With the last guests aboard, we weighed anchor (do remember that naval term) and started the cruise. For about two hours, we slowly motored (too calm to sail) back and forth between Kendwa and Nungwi, taking in the incredible sunset, listening to music, drinking, and meeting people from all over the world - air traffic controllers from Romania, British bankers from Dubai, Russian girls on holiday, to name a few.
Oh, and there were sambusas, the delicious east African version of the Indian samosa (a triangular, fried pastry stuffed with all sorts of tastiness). Apparently, Chipp has a compulsion regarding these little flavor bombs. Midway through the cruise, Chipp excused himself from the social activities, went below deck to the spread of food, and ate. And ate. And ate.
One minute, there was a full tray of sambusas. After 15 minutes of “time traveling,” he looked down and there was now closer to half a tray… Guilty as charged!
Water Taxis and a National Anthem “Mixtape”
When we dropped anchor back at Kendwa Rocks, our newly formed little UN of characters decided to continue the festivities. In a far better option than a bumpy jeep ride, the catamaran’s skipper organized a water taxi for us. A few minutes later, about a dozen of us hopped off the boat and into a little outboard motor job that would take us north to Nungwi.
While we’d certainly have a blast the rest of the evening at Beach Baby, a Nungwi institution, it was the trip to the restaurant/bar that proved most memorable. One of the air traffic controllers - actually a Spanish guy living in Romania, may have been the most interesting man in the world. A former professional basketball player in Spain, he just had one of those big personalities, a guy who seemed to have a gravitational force of his own.
Well, he decided it’d be a good idea, with drunk people from all over the world, to do a national anthem mixtape, of sorts. That is, have someone start with his or her anthem, sing a few lines, then pass it along to the next person in line. Sure, why not?
Russian, Georgian, American, English, Ukrainian, Serbian, Romanian, then, last but not least, our man from Spain was up. But, instead of singing, he started humming the anthem.
All of us: “Bulls***! You need to sing it!”
Spanish guy, through raucous laughter: “There are no words!”
As we’d learn, only four of the world’s national anthems have no official lyrics, and Spain’s Marcha Real falls into that category. Guy duped us all!