And with each click of the camera, the minutes lapsed. Our time was no longer, and we hustled up the street barely in time to board the shuttle, already occupied by the rest of the group. The drive was another lengthy thread of streets and bends through and out of Stone Town - people and cars and bikes coming and going. Although we were only a minute at best from the water, and we had embarked there for our trip to Prison Island, this ocean bound journey was leaving from at least half an hour away. When we arrived after taking one last mysterious left turn, we were at the end of a long, inclined driveway that had a few other parked vans. At the point where the driveway ended, an eyeful of sand and the Indian Ocean confronted us. We were not the only people there. Already on the beach were other tourist groups, and staff of The Safari Blue, the tour company we were chartering with for the day. Lined up was a row of plastic bins filled with fins. Our group was lead to this circling group of people, while someone explained what we were required to do. The general sizes of the fins were sorted, and we were to find our size. To be certain, some of us tried a fin on to make sure that the size we thought we wore in land shoe translated to the size selected.
We were soon directed to the dhow boat that we would cruise on for the day. One by one, we walked into the ocean and climbed the steps to board. By now, I had seen these boats several times, streaking across the ocean. But getting onto one, and getting a closer examination of the craftsmanship, made me appreciate it even more. As technical and precise of a construction as it was, you can sense the many hands that worked tirelessly to make mahogany float. When we boarded, we all assumed a position on either side of the boat, and settled in. Bags and fins were placed at our feet, and we all made some general shifts here and there to get comfortable in preparation of shifting to relax mode only.
The captain introduced himself and the other crew-members. They all donned bright yellow shirts. Since we had a later date scheduled specifically for a sailing experience, they would use the outboard motor instead of letting the wind carry us. We were kindly informed that in the center of our human rectangle, the cooler was stocked with cold, iced beverages. We eventually helped ourselves to the refreshments - all arms and drinks gathered for cheers! It was a salute to the amazing experience and for sharing it together. I could feel my heart rate drop even lower, and slower. For me, I was in my Zen place; a healthy mix of ocean, air, salt, sail and drink. Fortunately for us, to add to the chill zone, we had a few djs on board that came perfectly equipped for a day at sea. Bluetooth speakers and phones make music a possibility anywhere. There was a little bit of doubt back and forth from the djs on who had music that would satisfy everyone’s ear. Our photographer was one of the djs in question. His concern was that his taste in music may not match or quench our Western desires, but he had already shown us by just being himself, that he had taste and could be trusted. We all gave him the go ahead.
The music set the soundtrack. We were on our way to our first stop, which was a natural lagoon. When we got closer, we were told that we would not be able to stop or stay long because the tide was going out. Flecks of green massed in the wide-open ocean. They were mangrove trees growing from coral, making the shape of a mushroom with the tops of the trees protruding out and over their stems. Some were their own islands, independent, and reminded me of the floating islands in Avatar. You could see the sand very easily, and you could tell that there was not much between the bottom and us. Had we stayed any longer, the boat would have been stuck, shored and stuck in the ground due to lack of water. The captain zipped in and zipped out.