On Tuesday, November 19th, we packed up our bags and left Manch Lodge and Stone Town behind for Paje, a little beach town all the way on the eastern side of the island. We were told there would be no ATMs, so we made sure we had enough cash on us before taking a kombi there. It was nice seeing the interior of the island. It was lush and green and there were villages spotted throughout. Unlike in Gabs, the cattle in Zanzibar seemed pretty happy. As we got closer to Paje, we actually saw monkeys gathered in the trees along the side of the road.
We stayed at a hostel called Teddy’s Place. It was about $11 dollars a night, so it fit our price range and everything except the dorm situation was nice. They had free breakfast at the bar every morning, lots of open space, and an elevated patio with cushioned chairs and plenty of hammocks. We ended up in a mixed dorm with two guys, which surprised us because we thought it would just be us five. The dorm was a wooden cabin and the floor was all sand. It wasn’t as messy as I thought it would be, but the fans didn’t work very well and the cabin was so hot, that I woke up feeling feverish in the morning. I thought I knew heat, but Zanzibar taught me otherwise.
Onto the good stuff: the beach was absolutely amazing! Teddy’s was a two-minute walk away. The beach was all white sand and there were numerous boats in the clear, turquoise water near the shore. We arrived right after noon, which was when low tide began. This beach was unlike any other beach I had been to before; it was like being on a different planet, because at low, tide an unbelievable expanse of beach was exposed. We had to walk around five minutes just to get to the water deep enough to swim in. There were huge mops of lime-green seaweed and reeds washed up in the shallows. The water was incredibly warm and I dove in as soon as I could, but it was no more than 4 feet deep.
I found my way around a raised bed of seaweed, rock, and sea urchins and explored the low tide area for maybe two hours. I’m not sure; I lost track of time. Even though I was far from shore, the water never went up past my knees. Eventually I couldn’t even see people on the shore. The low tide seemed to go on for miles in every direction, even though I knew it ended eventually I wanted to reach the border way in the distance where the waves were breaking.
I was exploring my own personal ocean life nursery. I found a strange hunk of a rubbery plant on a sandbar with hermit crabs clinging to the inside. I lifted it up and underneath I found a tiny transparent shrimp with white and red stripes who bristled and got defensive as soon as I moved its home. As I kneeled there, a dark gray fish swam sideways in the inch-deep water and took shelter by my knee, then another. Then a small crab came over to relax for a moment before deciding to pinch me. But I didn’t move until I saw what I swear as a lionfish the size of a fat pebble. I stumbled across several starfish, a huge crab, coral, colorful fish, and crawling sea urchins. I continued walking out toward the horizon, hoping I wouldn’t step on something unsavory. I wandered out so far that I could see the women who collected seaweed and large shells in buckets all day.
I collected my own shells. I even found an intact sand dollar with a fish inside of it, but it broke when I got greedy and tried to pick up more shells than I could hold. I didn’t make it out to where the tide was breaking, because I needed shoes to continue over the rock. Besides, I noticed the seaweed farmers returning to shore, which made me realize that the tide was coming in and I should head back with them.