Renewing Our Wedding Vows
When we were planning our trip to Tanzania we decided to add some time in Zanzibar since we were so close, I mean it really would have been silly not to. Besides, Graeme has been enchanted with Zanzibar since he was a boy and I loved the way his face lit up when we talked about it.
After doing some reading and waffling back and forth we finally agreed that we might never be that close to Zanzibar again and added it to our itinerary. We planned for five days and saw it as a way to relax post-safari and to experience more of the culture of East Africa. We set our sights on Stone Town and got to work planning that part of our trip.
The Planning Process
That’s about the time I got the big idea to renew our wedding vows. Since this trip was to celebrate our ten-year anniversary it made perfect sense. Originally I thought about doing it at our final stop in the Seychelles but I was having a difficult time finding a photographer and a venue and I was getting nowhere fast which is always a signal that its time for me to take a break to pause and breathe. Plus, I wanted it to be a surprise for Graeme and I couldn’t ask him to help me but he’s really good at this kind of research. See…..I’m doing it now, getting all worked up just writing about it. 🙂
After adjusting my expectations and remembering that we were traveling during a pandemic and anything could happen and we might not even make it to the Seychelles…….I started looking for alternatives in Zanzibar. Enter Safari Blue.
How we Decided on Safari Blue
Safari Blue is the original and much replicated sailing experience in Zanzibar. They have been around forever (est. 1996), they know what they are doing, and they do it well. Safari Blue offers options like group trips and bubble boats but we opted for the private charter on a traditional dhow since we wanted to do everything within our control to minimize our exposure to CoVid and maximize our chances of making it to the Seychelles. It was a bit spendy but it gave us peace of mind and was worth every penny.
A Zanzibari Dhow
Safari Blue sent a driver to our hotel in Stone Town and we headed southwest to the town of Fumba where we met our dhow and the crew of three that we would be spending the day with. The tide was way out and after we got our snorkels and fins we walked across the low-tide beach and boarded our dhow. That took a minute because we had to watch every step and make sure we stayed upright.
Dhow, mahogany boats that are lovely representations of Zanzibari craftsmanship, are very comfortable for a day of sailing. We were sheltered from the sun and enjoyed comfortable seating; since we were the only passengers we had plenty of room to spread out.
How we Spent our Day
Before we knew it we were slicing our way through the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean.
Right away we were served several varieties of fruit, some familiar, some not. It was all delicious. We had communicated our beverage preferences beforehand and they had plenty of options available for us including the sparkling water that I requested. It was soooooo hot! I drank non-stop the entire time we were on the water. Hydration, hydration, hydration.
We also had the opportunity to hang out and visit with the gentlemen on our crew. We got to talk with them and hear about their work, where they lived, how they spend their free time, and about their families. They were a delight.
In between activities we had the opportunity to learn about the waters around Zanzibar. Each one of the gentlemen had a different area of expertise, from the variety and types of fish and the reef ecosystem to navigating the Indian Ocean and where to find dolphins. They were more than willing to share their knowledge about their part of the world. When we choose to listen rather than talk, we learn so much from the people we encounter. It is the personal connections we make along the way that fulfill our travel dreams.
The varying hues of the water in the Indian Ocean were sublime. To call it blue or green is a disservice; observing the ever changing colors and shades was much like a mediation, peaceful, serene, and beautiful.
We experienced that beauty face to face both times we went snorkeling. I had a steep learning curve and because I’m claustrophobic there was no small amount of anxiety but I managed and acclimated quickly with the reassurance of our friends on the dhow.
The coral was beautiful and we had an experienced partner who was right there in the water with us to ensure our safety. Our fellow snorkeler also pointed out various fish, and other fun things under the water. The warm water wrapped around me like a blanket. It was healing and comforting and I really didn’t want it to end.
Getting back in the dhow was easy enough, that is to say with plenty of assistance from our crew. I am physically awkward at best and my reentry into the boat included me falling/rolling on to the front deck while trying to keep my bathing suit on. The one thing I didn’t anticipate was the necessity of wearing a bathing suit that tolerated a lot of activity and movement; it was a rookie mistake. I spent way too much time pulling and tugging on my suit but that’s the only thing I’d change about the entire day. It was a small price and I’ll know better next time.
Lunch on a Private Island
After snorkeling, we started making our way to a private island for lunch, another benefit of opting for the solo experience. Along the way we got to experience the playfulness of a pod of dolphins; watching them jump alongside the dhow was yet another sweet surprise. Did I mention how beautiful the waters of the Indian Ocean are? You just can’t capture that kind of color with a camera; besides, that’s what memories are made of.
We beached near the island and waded over to a tented area with so much food I can’t even begin to describe it. Everything was cooked by a couple who had been there since early morning so it would be ready when we arrived. We had fresh everything! Grilled prawns and lobster, curry, rice, bread, sauces, and so much more. Every single dish was delicious and the attention and effort that it took to prepare everything in such a remote area made us appreciate it all the more. There was enough food to feed us, our crew and the lovely couple who prepared it for us.
After lunch, we relaxed on loungers thoughtfully situated under an outcropping of volcanic rock. We watched the tide come in between frequent trips to the water to cool off. Zanzibar is six degrees south of the equator and to say that midday is toasty is an understatement. As the tide crept closer to our shaded area it was time to leave the island and we made our way back to the dhow to travel to our next to last stop.
Off to a Sandbar for our Vow Renewal
Our crew recommended that we leave our visit to a sandbar as the penultimate stop as our chances of being there alone were probable. It turned out that they were exactly right.
When we arrived it was magical. We were somewhere in the Indian Ocean on a sandbar inhabited only by birds. This was the ideal location for our wedding vow renewal. For the sake of privacy, two of our crew stayed on the dhow and another went with us to take photographs. This is the moment I was grateful we had opted for simplicity instead of trying to overdo renewing our vows.
Quick note: Graeme and I approach things very differently. I had bulleted my vows in the notes app on my phone and I reviewed them quickly as we made our way to the sandbar. Graeme, on the other hand, had handwritten his and kept them dry all day, no small feat on a boat. When I saw him pull that piece of paper out and start reading to me in his steady and earnest voice I just melted inside. Again.
Ok, back to the retelling of our vow renewal. This amazing man who continues to say yes to my zany adventures had this folded up, half-piece of hotel paper safe in a pocket next to his heart so he could read it to me on this sandbar. Swoon!
I love that line by Tom Hanks when Private Ryan asks him about this wife’s rosebushes….. “no, no that one I save just for me.” This is exactly how I felt about that day. There is so much personal information available for consumption by anyone with an internet connection and I’m sometimes guilty of oversharing, but not this time. The intimate details of our vow renewal are just for us but I’ll say that the simple unfolding of his vows strengthened my love for him when I didn’t think it was possible.
Finishing out the Day
We had one final stop for snorkeling and more fresh fruit. If I didn’t want to first time to end, I really didn’t want to take my face out of the water for the last time. The underwater silence and the steady sound of my breath that accompanied the rhythm of my heartbeat was so peaceful. The sea landscape was so visually rich. The colors, the fish, the reef, the water…..oh my goodness it was something. Even all these months later I can still close my eyes and see it, feel it, hear it.
There are some travel moments that simply defy description and they retain highlight reel status in our memories. This was one of those days.
In our last minutes on the ocean, the dhow gently transported us through the water and back the to the beach. There we met our driver for the return trip to Stone Town. What a remarkable ending to a perfectly memorable day.
If you are in Zanzibar and want a day to remember, we highly recommend Safari Blue. You can’t beat the options and quality for the experience of a lifetime. Our Indian Ocean private dhow adventure included everything except our sunscreen. We had a crew of three gentlemen, safety was a priority, we had more food than we could eat, and transportation to and from our hotel. There are a lot of copycats out there which says a lot about what the real Safari Blue has to offer. Happy sailing!