Pamela MacNaughtan

I had an hour to kill before I was to meet Bernie, Em & Christina and head out to meet the rest of the group at Africa House for drinks before dinner. Initially I was going to sit on one of the carved wood sofas and play catch-up in my journal, however, one look outside at the children playing was enough to change my mind.

For the first time during this trip, I was going to have decent hair, well, until I sat on the steps in front of our hotel. Within minutes of sitting down, 4 little girls came over and started to touch and play with my hair. Their dresses were dirty and a little torn and the girls ranged in age from about 4 years old to 7 years old.

There was a girl standing in front of me wearing a yellow, flowery dress and a white headscarf. I couldn’t understand what she was saying, but it had something to do with the off-white linen scarf I had bought earlier in the day. I guessed from the movement of her hands that she wanted me to tie the scarf around my head in a way similar to hers. I played around a little bit and each effort resulted in the little girls laughing and trying to correct me. Eventually, they gave up trying to mime how to do it and started to do it themselves.

I sat there as they used their little hands to smooth back my hair, soon the smoothing gave way to tugging as the girls started to braid my hair in sections. My neck was getting a little sore as they went to work, but I was happy to just sit there and let them do what they wanted. Once the girls were satisfied with my braids, the girl who had been standing in front of me took my scarf and started to wrap it around my head.

In the meanwhile, the boys had my Nikon D60 and were busy taking photos of me, the street outside the hotel, themselves and anybody who happened to walk by.

At first, I was a little nervous letting the little ones use my camera, but my fears of them running off with it soon disappeared and I decided to relax and let things be. I loved sitting there, watching as the kids took turns snapping photos. Most of the locals were fine, but from time to time someone would get angry -that’s when I worried that my camera would get grabbed or dropped, luckily it didn’t.

The streets outside the hotel were almost bare due to Ramadan (Zanzibar is 95% Muslim), but the few people that I did see were fairly polite and would respond in kind when I would greet them with “Jambo!”, only a few of them seemed to almost scowl at me. No worries though, I was having fun watching the kids play with my camera and action cam -although my head hurt from all the braiding that was going on.

One of the challenges of being on a tour is that your schedule is set for you and there are limited opportunities to sit down and interact with locals on a one to one basis. I loved having some time to myself and playing around with the kids, although, when I did get my camera back I soon discovered that they had taken 240 photos in 45 minutes and almost drained the battery.

As I walked away from the hotel (reluctant to join the group for dinner), I flipped through the photos on my camera and smiled. Unfortunately, my camera was stolen that evening, so I am unable to share those photos with you. I do have some short video they did, which I will add below as soon as I have fast-ish wifi.

Traveling in Africa, solo can be a scary thought -especially for solo female travellers. I’m not saying it can’t be done, it can. What I am saying is that there is nothing wrong with joining a group tour.

For 45 days I travelled from Kenya (Nairobi) to Cape Town with Intrepid Travel. This was my very first group travel experience. At first, I wasn’t sure what I had gotten myself into, but as time progressed, I began to relax and fall in love with this type of travel. In fact, I would definitely travel with Intrepid again. 


  • August 19, 2011

    Aw, lovely story, so sad your camera was stolen! As I was reading it I kept thinking, “where are the photos?” What a bummer! Hope to see the video.

  • August 19, 2011

    I’m still so heartbroken about your camera.  I would have loved to have seen these pics. 🙁


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