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All the hotels in The Zanzibar Collection offer the same set of trips and excursions - Stone Town, Dolphins, Spice Tour, Jozani Forest etc., as most of the other hotels - with one notable addition.
They offer a tour of the local village - Bwejuu - for $15pp. The Zanzibar Collection has a long history of working with the local community through employment, funding and collaboration and they can arrange a tour of the village any day of the week.
The $15 goes direct to the village and helps to fund the school, medical facilities and other needed services. In addition to this, The Zanzibar Collection gives large donations to support the community and evidence of this was on show during our tour.
The tour was 2 hours from hotel pick up to return, and Bwejuu is only a few minutes drive away. As we arrived, we were greeted by an ex-school teacher with excellent English to guide us around.
Just being in the village, walking down the sandy tracks between the houses, glancing in the homes and at the villagers, gives you an insight into daily life. We met some women making rope from coconut hair, children playing in the street and got a general feel for how people in Bwejuu live.
We were shown the relatively new maternity and children's clinic. On the outside, the sign says 'Bwejuu Children and Maternity Clinic project is sponsored by the New Hope Sweden & Breezes Beach Club & Spa, The Palms and Baraza Resort Spa Zanzibar and in collaboration with Bwejuu community'. Before this clinic was built, women had to travel over an hour away to Stone Town for all maternity care so this has made maternity care and childbirth much safer for the women of Bwejuu village. This wouldn't exist if the hotels didn't make significant donations.
Across from the clinic is the school. It's quite a big site but has 650 pupils so space is tight. Most rooms are empty shells apart from desks and chairs. We met with a teacher who had lots of ideas and enthusiasm but lacks the money he needs to improve things. The library set up is fantastic, but the shelves aren't well stocked. He told us they need Swahili books, more books in English and also animal toys. They want to teach the children about the animals of Tanzania, but they want toys of these animals to help with their learning.
At the end of our school tour, it was clear that the teacher wanted us to donate some money. Because Breezes is a no-cash resort we didn't have any on us, and in a different hotel we'd been told not to give money directly to the teachers of the school we'd visited there, but to donate through the hotel. It might be worth asking at your Zanzibar Collection Hotel about whether to take money with you on tour, so you feel comfortable with your choice. Obviously, you have already donated your $15pp, so there is no obligation to give anymore. If you have real foresight, you could get in touch with the hotel a few weeks before you leave home to see if there is anything you can bring in your luggage for the school or the children as their requirements will change as time goes on.
Zanzibar is a beautiful place to relax and take it easy. The food is amazing, and the people are warm and friendly. We appreciated this brief insight into the lives of the true Zanzibarians and would highly recommend this 2-hour tour to everyone.
By Loiuse Briggs