It’s not the most glamorous arrival in the world, but it’s the most adventurous. It’s one of those moments in life when you feel like a star in an action movie and you think, at any moment, someone’s going to be waiting for you to get off the double-propeller plane with your new mission. Between the noise of the engines that deafen the cockpit, the pilot’s instructions and each other’s dreams, the attention seems to fly through the air along with the plane… until, in the distance, a small floating earth point that gets bigger and bigger, surrounded by the most impressive turquoise water I’ve ever seen before, is the only thing we can think of. And there is, before our eyes, a paradise in the Indian, the best-kept jewel of Tanzania: the island of Zanzibar.
This archipelago consists of two islands: Pemba and Unguja. A small piece of floating land of only 250 thousand hectares separated by about 80 kilometers from the mainland. An island inhabited for at least 20 thousand years and famous all over the world not only for its beaches, but for having been the birthplace of rock star Freddie Mercury. There, in Stone Town or Stone City, no one would have thought that that september 5, 1946, one of the most important music icons in the world would be born and that by the way, it would put the island into orbit.
Zanzibar is also known for spices. The main ones are nutmeg, cinnamon and pepper. In Stone Town, also a Unesco World Heritage Site, the relentless movement of commerce can always revolve around these products. Between colors and laughter, Swahili culture mixes with smells and once you’re in the middle, you understand the real and honest sense of Hakuna Matata expression. Zanzibar is not just an island, it is a way of life.
Beaches and explosive tourism – between 1984 and 2014 went from 20 thousand to more than 300 thousand visitors a year – seem to be a blessing for this island and, at the same time, a curse. True, tourism is an industry that generates millions of dollars a year and with them, an enormous amount of employment. On the island, there are 50 thousand direct jobs produced by this industry and 150 thousand indirect jobs, which ultimately accounts for 27% of GDP. However, the increase in the flow of tourists and with it, the increase in goods to meet the needs of holidaymakers, bring with it an increasingly serious problem: waste. About 300 tonnes of waste are generated daily in the archipelago; and the total, only 60% is collected, according to data provided by the Government.
A silent reality, weeping a change, of which few know. A hidden setting behind the magnificent first smile that the island shows its visitors. Because let’s not kid ourselves: Zanzibar is a paradise in every way. Its people, the friendliness, the color and the temperature of its beaches, hotels and culture. A mixture that can hardly be found anywhere else in the world. However, and as in any good recipe, if one of the ingredients fails, the cake will ultimately not look as we remember it.