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Baraka Natural Aquarium

Baraka Natural Aquarium is located in the northern part of Nungwi. As with everything these days, I originally saw it on the gram and was very pleased that it matched up to my expectations 😻😻.WE LOVE TO SEE IT 🗣⁣

Baraka is a turtle rehabilitation centre run by local people; the turtles here have been rescued from fishermen capture. They are then nursed back to full health before being released back into the wild. You can wade through the shallow water in the low tide, and swim with fish and other small marine animals.

Price: $10 to get in and the seaweed needed to coax the turtles closer is provided. If you would like to snorkel, you can hire gear in destination.

Here are some tips for making the most of your time:

  • No prebooking – just arrive turn up and you will be directed to the location.
  • Arrive early just as they open to get a shot without other people – I say early rather than later because the sunlight hitting the water is something special.
  • The turtles are just trying to eat, so you can very easily bribe them with the seaweed provided 😂⁣
  • Seaweed is salty; so bring a towel and water to wash your eyes out. (I learnt the hard way 😂)
  • There are showers on site – so you can bring a change of clothes
  • It’s by no means a whole day activity.
  • The turtles will bite! Once they know you have the seaweed they’ll swarm.
  • The turtles have a rubbery texture and they don’t seem to mind you stroking them (follow any instructions given by the guides).
  • Don’t put on too much sunscreen if you plan to go into the water, it will contaminate the water and we don’t want that for the turtles.

Photo op tips:

  • When you walk in, find the cove to your right and coax turtles with seaweed. It’s a good point for a photo with no one else in.
  • If you want a picture on the podium in the middle, you’ll need someone high up to capture it for you.
  • If you’re a confident swimmer, go further out and again use the seaweed to coax the turtles

Most importantly, have fun! It’s an amazing experience.

As always, keep up to date with us on @trippinwithsj // @sarahambitious x

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Nungwi Beach

Nungwi Beach is one of the main areas you will find information about online when planning a visit to Zanzibar, and for good reason. It has powdery white sand, turqouise blue water that simply looks unreal – I remember standing in awe. I never get tired of looking at beautiful water.

Nungwi is all you expect from a tourist beach front; restaurants serving a variety of cuisines, water sports and regular party boats that include food, bottomless drinks and music you can groove to. I even got some beautiful henna done.

Here are 10 reasons you should visit Nungwi if you go to Tanzania:

  1. It’s an island paradise(!) 😍 (hyperbole?, yes but no)
  2. It’s warm all year round. Zanzibar is located near the equator and gets sunny weather most of the time, so tan me up please! (Averaging up to 32°C & 9 hours of sun) 🌞😎
  3. Beautiful sunset views. Again because Zanzibar is on the western coast at the top of the island, its perfect to get your insta moments and have people wishing they were laying up there too. You can enjoy a drink on a rooftop as the sun sets or get on a sunset cruise on a dhow. (Did someone say baecation criteria being ticked?) 🌅
  4. Experience nature up close. Baraka Natural Aquarium is a conservation site run by locals, but that deserves a blogpost all of its own. So keep an eye out 😉
  5. Nightlife! As the sun sets, the beach comes alive. Visit Cholo’s Bar – it’s the oldest in the village. 🥂
  6. Enjoy local flavours. There are countless restaurants that will cater to your tastes, you have everything from French inspired to classic Italian in addition to local flavours. 🥘
  7. Build a dhow. You won’t actually do the back breaking work yourself, but you can get a personal look at how it’s done. Dhows are used to catch fish and other seafood in Zanzibar, and some of the fisherman will give a ‘Dhow building 101’. 🚣🏾‍♀️
  8. Walk, walk, walk. Locals are used to tourists walking around, but please be respectful of the local culture and cover up – shoulders and knees. Try the village market and get the best in local fruits and veg. Try the local faves; date nut bread, fried plantains and octopus! Spice galore again – so much to take back home for friends and family.
  9. Melting pot of cultures. Nungwi beach is in Zanzibar which is an important location for the spice trade, trade always brings people together and as people pass through they leave bits of their culture behind. Asian, European and African cultures, can be seen in the religion, values and cuisine.
  10. Beach boys. The souvenirs will come to you, or maybe it’s a dhow cruise you’re after? Water sports? A picture. The Maasai people will try and sell it all, but they are not overbearing. A firm ‘no’, and they will leave you alone.

There are many beautiful beaches in Zanzibar, but Nungwi stays top 5 no debating. Nungwi has so much hustle and bustle, but you still feel secluded; I don’t know but it’s beautiful. 🧘🏾‍♀️

Best time to travel: All year round; June – October, January and February are the driest months

Places to eat: Le Macis Zanzibar

As always, keep up with us on @sarahambitious // @trippinwithsj x

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Diani Beach

Searching for some winter sun and a tan, (it’s always about the tan!) is what drew me to Diani. My Kenya trip was actually planned with Diani in mind 1st and then every other amazing thing came afterwards.

So in search of the beautiful coastline that I’d heard so much about I made my way down to Diani. To reach Diani from the mainland (Mombasa) you have to use the Likoni ferry, if you fly into the main Mombasa airport this is where you’ll also start your journey.

Diani beach has been rated the best beach destination since 2015 by Lonely Planet. The Indian Ocean goes on further than your eyes can sea 😉 and the white sand is almost blinding. The quieter part of the beach is where the resorts and hotels are; you can easily blag your way in or buy a drink so you can sit in one of the sun chairs and take in the island breeze under some palm trees.⁣

There’s someone selling fresh coconut, necklaces or you may even catch an impromptu performance.⁣

All part of the Diani vibe. ⁣

If you choose to stay in a hotel; the majority of them are right on beachfront. If you get an airbnb, you can easily find one 10 mins walk from beach.

Don’t leave without getting on a dhow; unmatched vibes.

The standout excursion from my time in Diani was without a doubt, the day trip to snorkel Kisite-Mpunguti Marine National Park and Reserve. We sailed on a traditional dhow sailboat, stopping to explore two vibrant snorkel sites of coral reef. Sailing from the mainland to marine park was serene and I would say it was an eco-friendly way to experience the area. We spotted dolphins, turtles, octopus and countless fish. The cruise also included delicious Swahili seafood and drinks on Wasini Island. The service was amazing and it’s definitely something I’d recommend including on your itinerary.

Places to eat:

  • Tiki Bar – the food was delicious, great cocktails and a lovely vibe.

Places to visit: Kwale, Shimoni, Kisite Marine Park, Wasini Island

Luxe Out: a day trip to Kisite-Mpunguti Marine National Park (You can even dive if you know how to)

As always stay connected with us on @trippinwithsj x

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Tulum

An 1 hour and 30 minutes away from Cancun lies Tulum. I’d seen Tulum on the ‘gram and I would say it’s the ‘IT’ girl. Tulum has a rustic and chill vibe to it, but the time to turn up is still very much there.

Like most places there is a main ‘strip’ where all the action happens; in Tulum it’s also the Zona Hotelera. There are countless hotels, beach clubs and restaurants – not to forget the signs along the road that give you a dose of self love. I think Tulum is going for ‘eat, pray, love’ vibes and I’m not mad at it.

You get adequate doses of beach, food and views – one of the servers from a hotel on the strip told us their minimum spend was so high because you are getting the views. I appreciated the honesty, but it still didn’t justify spending so much for me.

Photo op on the beach

Where to stay:

  • Zona Hotelera
  • Centro
  • You don’t have to stay at a super expensive hotel, as everything is quite close to each other. Save your coin friends!
  • I stayed at the Mayan Monkey, as I am really glad I did. It’s a hostel with private rooms, they have a range of activities and its a great way to meet other travellers.

Getting around:

Regardless of how close your destination is in Tulum, you will pay $20 for the ride. So, getting around Tulum you will see people on bikes, quads, walking or driving – I’m a strong advocate for hiring a car as you have more freedom to do things. Something to note: parking on the main strip isn’t the easiest feat, so here are a few tips:

  • You may have to (or be better off parking) park further down and walking down.
  • You will have to pay for a parking spot each time you move, so find a central(ish) location to park and move from there.
  • The road to Zona Hotelera is small, there are many construction projects going on. So you can get caught up in some serious traffic as the day goes on.
  • Park by Coco Beach Tulum – it’s free parking!
  • The roads in Tulum are not the smoothest – so slow down.
Tulum sign (there’s a massage parlour right by this sign)
Beach views
Restaurant views

Places to visit:

  1. RAW LOVE – the open arm sculpture you are bound to have seen.
  2. Mia Restaurant – a chill vibe and a lovely photo op that makes you feel like you’re in Bali.
  3. IK LAB – an art gallery in the heart of Tulum (entry fee)
  4. The beach itself! – Go early to almost have it to yourself.
  5. Bagatelle – if you’d like something super boujie to do.
  6. La Eufemia – for a cheap and delicious eat on the strip. It’s a walk from the main sites
  7. Mistico – Restaurant and Shisha bar
  8. Chichen Itza – not exactly in Tulum, but close? enough.
  9. Tulum Ruins
  10. Countless cenotes, Tulum is located perfectly for exploration.
Tacos in central Tulum
Tacos from La Eufemia
Mia restaurant

There are supermarkets all around or if you are willing, you could go into the local community and buy some of their produce – an amazing way to give back! So whether you’re in an airbnb or hotel, you are covered.

I had amazing time in Tulum, and to think I was almost put off going! (Crazy)

Check our IG highlights to see some of these things live: @trippinwithsj // @sarahambitous

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Chichen Itza

We are avid World Wonder searchers, we’ve got a few under our belt – but still a fair few to go. So visiting Mexico, it was impossible to not visit the Chichen Itza. After reading so much about the Mayan civilisation, it was a dream come true to visit.

The Chichen Itza is a 2 hour drive from Tulum, and I highly recommend driving as opposed to getting on a tour with others. If you aim to get there for 9am, you’ll have the ruins to yourself for nearly and hour!

If you can go by yourself, DO NOT buy tickets online. They are inflated in price and it’s straightforward enough to do it yourself.

Price for the Chichen Itza on arrival

You have to pay 2 charges; one goes to the local government, the other is the actual admission fee. It comes up to roughly only £20!

Whilst it’s a good to save some money – I do recommend hiring a guide. There are many at the gate of the park and they wear an ID card so you can guarantee they’re official. If/when I do go back I will take the walk around alone and go at my own pace.

Remember to take a water bottle, hat and a waterproof jacket – it’s a lot of walking and there is no shade.

The most popular part of the Chichen Itza is no doubt El Castillo (pictured below)

However the Chichen Itza is much more than El Castillo. There is a cenote (you can’t swim in it), legend and science have it that it was used for disposing of human sacrifices.

Over the years human bones have been found inside. Another fun fact is that visitors were allowed to climb up the steps of the pyramid until a few years ago. It became forbidden after a woman fell to her death (!)

If you are not tired after a long day of exploring the park, I would recommend a stop in Valladolid. It’s a 45 minute drive from the ruins. It’s a quaint and colourful town; there are local jewelleries available to buy and an opportunity to try local food.

Every type of souvenir you could think of is also sold inside the park. Keychains, sculptures, bottle openers etc. As with everything – haggle, haggle, haggle.

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Cenotes

Cenotes are natural swimming holes formed by the collapse of the limestone bedrock. The term cenote is used in the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico where cenotes were commonly used for water supplies by the ancient Maya, and occasionally for sacrificial offerings.

During my time in Tulum I was able to visit Gran Cenote:

  • Price: 300MXN/£11
  • Location: 15 minutes give or take drive from central Tulum or a 20 min cycle (perfect day trip from Tulum)
  • Remember: Bring your own towels
  • Pros: Location, TURTLES, good for unconfident swimmers 
  • Cons: Quite pricey as far as cenotes go

Cenotes are regarded as special waters, so you must act accordingly when you visit them. On arrival at Gran Cenote your temperature is checked and you pay the entry fee. You walk towards the cenote and there is a shower, so don’t bother with creams or sunscreen – washing yourself from head to toe is meant to protect the water pH balance.

If you would like to snorkel you can also hire snorkelling gear and lifejackets – the guarantee is a piece of ID and you’ll get it back on return of the equipment.

Cenotes get quote busy so I’d advise going as soon as they open or right before they close. The timings on Google are quite accurate. Gran Cenote opening hours: 8 am to 4.45 pm (the final entry is at 4.15 pm)

Some other cennotes I wasn’t able to visit but definitely would are:

  • Dos Ojos Cenote
  • Cenote Nicte-Ha
  • Gran Cenote
  • Carwash Cenote
  • Suytun 

For more information about cenotes in Mexico, visit: https://cenotesmexico.org 

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Cancun

This is the point you’ll probably start your trip. Flying into Cancun International, the airport is pretty easy to navigate and if you have or haven’t booked car hire it is easy enough to find your pick-up or hire a car.

The flight from London to Cancun is just under 11 hours, so I think you want to keep it simple. Pre-book your arrival plans.

The main area to stay in is called ‘Zona Hotelera’ which just means hotel zone, this is where all the main tourist attractions are located. Cancun offers you the perfect stop if you are looking to chill, eat, drink and drink some more.

Getting around Cancun can be cheap too! Get the bus (85p a ride); it’ll take you to all your desired locations and they run on a regular schedule.

If you are after more, I would recommend visiting Holbox and Isla Mujeres. They are two beautiful locations that are easily accessible from Cancun.

Things to do:

Take a touristy picture (if you don’t it obviously didn’t happen)

Chill on the beach

Grab a bite to eat, one thing you won’t run out of is options.

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Activities

Aside from all the nature activities there are to do in Mexico, I’m sure you are aware of the turn-up!

So, we would be doing you a disservice if we didn’t show you some of the spots we hit up for a good time and good food.

Cancun

  • El Fish Fritanga – awesome service and delicouso seafood!
  • Playa Delfines – chill and catch the sun and some waves.

Tulum

  • Teetotum – for some awesome food and a welcome happy hour. This place provides a lovely vibe and doubles up as a hotel, if you choose to stay.
  • Mistico@blackintulum hold ‘Welcome’ parties here each and every Wednesday. A good chance to meet some friendly faces, go into the local community and spend some coin.
  • El Eufemia – for cheap and delicious food on the beach front.

Playa del Carmen

  • YACHT! YACHT! YACHT! with more as many shots as is responsible. @blacktravelgram have you sorted for your yacht and snorkelling experiences. They host parties fully inclusive of an open bar, food and serious vibes.
  • El Gran Taco – a no frills, cheap eat but heavy on the flavour.