Stay-cations in Dar

We’ve now been in Dar for almost 4 weeks, which is hard to believe. Our days have actually gone by reasonably fast, as me and Sara are both working full-time during the day. Life at the convent is pretty comfortable, and the hospitality here makes it a pleasant place to come home to. However, that’s not to say we haven’t needed to get out! We are planning a couple of longer, out-of-town trips in the next month that will hopefully take us chimpanzee trekking, SCUBA diving with whale sharks, and seeing more of the big 5. But we wanted to share about some “stay-cations” around Dar that we’ve taken since we’ve been here.

Kipepeo Beach, The Five Minute Ferry, and Simba Island

The masses line up for the 5 minute ferry ride

The masses line up for the 5 minute ferry ride

Our first real outing in Dar was a SCUBA trip on a traditional dhow another volunteer here learned about. It was just an adventure getting there (no surprise). The beach we were leaving from is only 15 minutes outside of Dar, but it’s on an island/peninsula that you have to take a ferry to, unless you fancy a 3 hour drive. We took a bajaj (tuk-tuk) to the pier and then bought our tickets. Boarding was a bit like cattle. Everyone (maybe 200 people?) bunched up in a big room until the ferry was ready, and then two big doors opened and everyone charged ahead to get on the boat. Apparently this isn’t bad; if you wanted to be one of the 15 cars on the boat, you could expect to wait for at least an hour. All of this for a 5 minute ferry ride; it would have probably been faster to swim, had it not been likely to catch a disease by coming in contact with the water.

Smooth sailing back to Dar

Smooth sailing back to Dar

The ferry unloaded in a similarly chaotic fashion, but we found a bajaj to the hotel, got fitted for our snorkeling gear, and hopped in our dhow. Dhows are, “traditional sailing vessels with one or more masts with lateen sails used in the Red Sea and Indian Ocean region” (thanks Wiki). We actually used the motor to get to the island, about 30 minutes away, which was beautiful, had an amazing white sand beach and crystal blue waters. You would not know you were that close to Dar, that’s for sure! We landed and took a walk around the island, which was nice, up until we had to walk over the rocks, and sadly watched a boat dynamite fish inside the marine park. We then took out the dhow again and did some snorkeling. We didn’t see anything big, but there were some nice trumpet fish, angel fish, lots of pretty coral, and a squid. We then spent the afternoon lazing around on the beach, eating a picnic lunch and taking a nap after this arduous day. Once it was time to pack up, we hopped back on the dhow one last time, but now they put the sails up and we just drifted back to the mainland. It was super relaxing to just be with your thoughts out on the open water. And then we arrived back in Dar, took the bajaj to the crazy ferry to a taxi, and headed back to reality. But it was reassuring to know that paradise is so close to home.

Hanging out on the Peninsula

Surprisingly, just taking a day to go to the peninsula has been a nice break for us. The peninsula is the nicer expat area, and they have a lot more amenities then we have by the convent. First, the restaurants – you can get a steak, a burger, tasty seafood, you name it. Our favorite place to hang out is the Sea Cliff Hotel, which is a 5* resort that has a decent restaurant overlooking the ocean, plus they’ll let you sit there for hours! We also saw a movie (Gone Girl) at the movie theater. It was nice because it was cheap ($3 tickets and popcorn) and air conditioned. I’m sure we would go here more often, except as we mentioned, it’s easy to get stuck in traffic for an hour or two which can really jade the experience.

Chillin’ at the Holiday Inn

Life's not always a beach here, but it's nice to know it can be from time-to-time

Life’s not always a beach here, but it’s nice to know it can be from time-to-time!

This is probably the lamest, but we really needed it. Dar has a few “luxury” hotels, and here, the Holiday Inn of all things is one of them. I have Platinum status with them, so we decided to spend a night there since we’d get upgraded to a decent room and have access to their amenities. We checked in super early (9 AM Saturday) because they have a free shuttle to their sister beach resort about 10 miles north of town. It was actually a pretty decent resort with nice sand (although pretty dirty water), a pool, and decent and affordable food for a beach. It turned out to be the place where the rich Tanzanians sent their teenagers on the weekends, so the pool was quite crowded, but it was tolerable. We got back to the HI around 5, enjoyed the a long, hot shower (our first since South Africa!) A/C for a while, and then ate some tasty, and also surprisingly affordable, Middle Eastern food on their rooftop restaurant. The next morning we got a workout in at the gym before counteracting the calories burned by eating a massive breakfast buffet with omelets and yogurt and bacon and all the other things we haven’t had the past few weeks. We asked and received late checkout until 2:30, so we stayed around as late as possible enjoying the A/C. It was a fantastic break but was just what we needed.

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