Banish worries with a holiday fit for a king
Hakuna matata. For those who don’t speak Swahili (or still haven’t seen The Lion King), it means "no worries".
In Zanzibar, it is something people say all the time.
It is what the airport official said in the arrivals terminal, just as the overwhelming humidity burst into a drumming rain drowning out the "Mister! Mister!" cries of currency converters waving fat wads of cash before I had even worked out the exchange rate. It is also what our tour guide said as I crouched under his umbrella and wheeled my suitcase across the soaked parking lot.
"Our weather is unpredictable," he shrugged as we broke through a wall of taxi drivers, jostling for space as they held up passenger names. "Hakuna matata."
Given its location 50km off the eastern coast of Tanzania and a few degrees south of the equator, Zanzibar experiences a similar climate all year, with a short rainy season from November to December and a longer one from March to May.
By the time we reached our hotel, the clouds had parted to reveal the Diamonds La Gemma dell’Est resort, glistening like a jewel in the mid-afternoon sun.
The resort is located on the northwestern tip of the main island, Unguja — sometimes referred to as just "Zanzibar" although Zanzibar is an archipelago. It has 138 rooms and suites, all with a private terrace and guaranteed sea view.
The new Villa Club rooms have a shared living room; the deluxe rooms have direct access to the tropical garden; and the suites have a separate living room and corner kitchen.
The five-bedroom presidential suite has an office, a private pool, a hydro-massage Jacuzzi and a butler who brings pre-dinner canapés, bubbly every night and his golf cart so that you barely have to walk.
There are a range of excursions available through Gallery Tours and Safaris, celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.
At the centre of the island are Jozani Forest (home of the rare red colobus monkey), the Zanzibar Butterfly Centre, and the Zala Park menagerie. Down south is Kizimkazi fishing village with its famous dolphins and humpback whales.
Off the west coast is Chumbe Island, a nature reserve with spectacular coral reefs.
From Stone Town, a 30-minute boat ride takes passengers to Changu Island (Prison Island), once used by a notorious slave trader to house rebellious slaves and later used as a quarantine site sheltering the main island from epidemics such as yellow fever.
It is now home to endangered Aldabra giant tortoises, imported from the Seychelles in the late 19th century. Some are almost 180 years old. Closest to the resort is Nungwi and its dhows. Not to be confused with ngalawas, double outrigger canoes typical of Swahili traditions, dhows are Arab-style boats still crafted by hand.
The village is also famous for its turtle sanctuary, where injured marine animals are nursed back to health.
There is more than enough to do at the resort.
Daily activities that are offered include beach soccer, beach volleyball and water polo with instructors who might let guests win if they ask nicely.
At the diving centre, catamarans, canoes, wakeboards, water skis, banana boats, laser boats, and other floating things I had never even heard of before can be booked. Sailing and windsurfing lessons are available on request.
The resort has four restaurants, with an all-inclusive formula so that guests can eat, drink and be merry without worrying about extra costs.
The main Pavilion Restaurant, which serves buffet meals three times a day and hosts themed evenings each week, offers a fusion of Mediterranean and domestic cuisine.
Think fresh fruit and vegetable salads, grilled fish straight from the ocean, and a make-your-own "pasta bar" that kept the Italians happy for days.
The resort also has five bars, and our group was on an informal quest to taste every cocktail on offer.
With nothing else to do and nowhere to be, it was easy to lie back on a lounger while trying lethargically to remember the time of day or the day of the week
It was hard to resist the enticing names — from Diamond Reef and East Coast Blue to After-Work Special and Zanzibar Kiss. The speciality was Dawa (Swahili for medicine), an infusion of vodka, honey and fresh lime based on a famous Brazilian drink.
Kilimanjaro beer comes highly recommended too.
From the Sunset Lounge and Bar, perched on a magnificent pier with lights that attract night fishermen and shoals of fish, the pool table kept us occupied while waiting for the impressive live entertainment every night.
The beach was a short walk from our suites. With nothing else to do and nowhere to be, it was easy to lie back on a lounger while trying lethargically to remember the time of day or the day of the week.
When the heat became unbearable, it was into the tranquil turquoise ocean for a dip, while nearby traders haggled over prices in different languages depending on where the tourists were from.
"I don’t like the Cape of Good Hope because of the great white sharks," one of the traders said, soon after giving himself a Eastern European name so he could chat up a woman from the Ukraine.
"But here you are lucky. Our sharks are vegetarian. It’s lekker soos a cracker!"
Looking out at the horizon, I saw some guys in our group somersaulting from a wooden platform that seemed miles away. Others were picking up shells closer to the shore.
It was a picturesque scene, with the perfect light and all the hashtags already in place: #sunset #ocean #livingmybestlife.
I considered fetching my camera so that I could finally make use of its underwater capabilities, but decided rather to enjoy the moment and let the salt water melt away my aches and pains.
Even though the hotel’s Wi-Fi reaches all the way to the sea, we left our devices behind so that we could disconnect like we never can in normal life.
Who cares what’s happening out in the chaotic world? Hakuna matata. No worries indeed.
• Yiga was a guest of Mango Airlines, Diamonds La Gemma dell’Est resort and Gallery Tours and Safaris.