I was off to Africa to volunteer for my first time, and I chose Zanzibar (an island of the coast of Tanzania) to offer my services (although it does cost to do this!). What an island paradise!
I arrived a few days before I was scheduled to help and went to the Northern tip of the island to Kendwa. This place was incredible. I have never seen such white sand with pristine waters – it was like a dream.
I went exploring along the beach, going for a swim and sitting down to watch the sunset. I met a few Aussie girls on the beach who invited me to dinner with them. We wandered over to the full moon party which was held at my hotel, Kendwa Rocks. There was a Michael Jackson impersonator and a massive group of dancers who were really good and did a few dances from the movie ‘Stomp the Yard’ – which I do love. Fun night with some awesome people I had just met.
The following day I was up bright and early for a full day of snorkeling. I was the only one snorkeling and a Kiwi couple were going diving. Again, I did not think this island could get any better. The water was crystal clear. I had a guide who took me to some cool parts of a reef near Mnemba Island. Back on the dhow (motorised sailing boat) we had lunch and went for another swim before heading back to the hotel. I got a taxi to the main town of Stone Town and wandered around with the Kiwi couple before having a rooftop cocktail having the sun setting in the background – bliss.!
Early the following day I was picked up to be transferred to Jambiani (east coast of Zanzibar) with the rest of the volunteers who had just arrived. Once at the Bungalows we met Luke, who gave us an induction as to what we would be doing , what to expect and introduced us to some of the existing volunteers.
The bungalows were right on the beach with each of the rooms sleeping two to three people. Each bungalow had an ensuite, but no hot water, although you get used to it because of the heat outside.
Food was included, so we would wake up with a selection of tea/coffee, cereal, oats and freshly cut up fruit. They would also take our individual orders on how we would like our eggs. Lunch would range from a whole lot of different dishes from European pizza to freshly caught octopus that we watched them bring in from the fishing boats straight to the kitchen. A lot of the meals are based on rice and seafood, which I loved.
Each day of volunteering was different but usually consisted of the following:
Monday – Thursday
- 0600 I would usually get up for sunrise and either sit on the beach to watch or go for a run
- 0700 for breakfast
- 0835 rode our bikes to JTTI (about a 15 minute bike ride) for a 9am lesson teaching English to adults who ranged from levels 1-5 (I had level 4 students who were up to having debates in English)
- 1015 ride our bikes to Kikadini Nursery School for a 1030 English lesson to a class of juniors – this involved us preparing the lesson plans the week prior so we knew what we were teaching
- 12noon – ride our bikes back to the bungalows for lunch and some free time
- 1400 – Dulla boys English class (soccer team) a couple of us taught basic English to the soccer team
- 1530 – gather materials for an afternoon with the children of Jambiani village (craft day, sports day, arts day)
- Thursday afternoons involved lesson prep for the following week and then a volunteer night where some of us cooked dinner and others arranged fun activities
- 1800 was usually dinner time – we generally ate together around a big table for all meals.
Wednesday evenings would consist of a dinner at a local’s house. We each donated money, and the food they cooked for us was incredible!!! We usually sat on the ground in their house with the bowls of food spread out in the middle and the mamas insisting we eat more and more.
Friday mornings consisted of various projects including cleaning up the village of rubbish, helping build a fence, painting classrooms etc. and also lesson prep for nursery school. Friday afternoons were free time to start our weekend early.
I had no prior experience in teaching English, so was thrown in the deep end a bit but so was everyone else. You had great support from everyone for your lesson plans and there were plenty of resources to assist you.
Everyone expects to enjoy teaching the younger children but this class was the hardest. They required so much attention and you always had to be on your toes. The adult English class was a lot more intimate, as there were only a few students and they really wanted to learn English, so gave it their everything. It was great fun too, as you could joke around with the students and I even got to have a few healthy debates in my class. One of my students, Siostin, would walk an hour in the heat each way just to get to class. He was the hardest working student I met. Truly inspiring.
During our ‘free time’, there was plenty to do. One afternoon we had a sunset bbq down the beach of Michamvi which was just incredible. Another day a few of us went to Stone Town (roughly 45 min drive) to walk about the amazing Old Town and catch a boat to Prison Island, which had the giant tortoises.
Other things that we did in our free time included a cultural tour around Jambiani Village, a Blue Safari (which is a full day out on the local dhows swimming and snorkeling in amazingly clear blue water) and generally just laying around on the beach going for a swim or reading a book.
A few of us went to Paje By Night Hotel down the road at Paje Beach for the day hanging with some cool kids by the pool, before it was time for my transfer back to the airport. I have never not wanted to leave from somewhere as much as I have in Zanzibar.
I had the most incredible experience in Zanzibar and it is a place that I will never forget, especially the people.