Day Trip to Matemwe

For our final day in Zanzibar, we struck a deal with Langi Langi’s driver to combine a morning outing to Matemwe Beach, on the east coast, with our airport transfer. The LP had described Matemwe as a peaceful, secluded stretch of sand with beautiful water. Based on our Zanzibar experience thus far, we also assumed that the beach itself would change drastically with the tides, and we were not mistaken. We arrived at low tide, when a vast stretch of tidal flat was exposed and the water was between knee and waist deep. Behind the tidal flat, about 500m away from the beach, was a long skinny sandbar, where the waves were breaking at low tide.

We decided to wade out to the sandbar, which looked like a nice spot to sit and have a game of Scrabble. It turned out to be a slightly difficult slog, as the ocean floor was littered with obstacles such as rocks and sea urchins, but it was also surprisingly rewarding. Along the way, we observed women harvesting seaweed and tending their seaweed farms, and saw a beautiful red starfish below the water’s surface. The locals seemed impressed that we expended the effort to cross, and on a few occasions attempted to communicate with us, albeit with very limited success. Unfortunately my Kiswahili is a bit rusty.

On the other side, we saw locals collecting sea creatures, and experienced a dramatic other-worldly landscape, with exposed rocks, coral, and spongy seaweed growing on the surface. We shot a few photos, relaxed, and played Scrabble until we feared that the rising tide might strand us. Besides, our stomachs were starting to rumble in anticipation of lunch. So we commenced our trudge back across the shallow water to the main part of the beach, where we sat down for lunch at the posh Sunshine Hotel, as recommended by our driver. While we lunched, the tide came in quickly, and the entire tidal flat, seaweed farms and all, was completely submerged before we finished.

After lunch, it was onward to the airport, and goodbye to Zanzibar. But we’ll be back in Tanzania in exactly one month.

Harvesting seaweed
Harvesting seaweed

Wading at low tide
Wading out to the sand bar at low tide

The sand bar at low tide
The sand bar at low tide

The sand bar at low tide
The sand bar at low tide

Red starfish
Pretty red starfish

Typical Zanzibari wooden dhow, seen from lunch at high tide

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