Redefining paradise

London Journalism CentreBy Lucy Mizen

Lush blue sky, amazing turquoise water and totally white sand – this is my view as the plane flies in low over the island of Zanzibar. I’ve finally arrived in paradise.

In fact, initial impressions suggest that Virgin holidays have got it right: “The very name ‘Zanzibar’ evokes an air of mystery and exoticism. Lying 35 kilometres off the coast of Tanzania, it boasts crystal clear waters, glorious beaches and a fascinating history,” the brochure says.

On day one of my holiday, the beaches are indeed glorious, the waters are totally clear and apart from the sunburn, the day is perfect. This is paradise.

However, cracks begin appearing in the paradise image when day two consists of torrential rain. And yes, that’s rain all day, with no thought of stopping.

I’ve flown out for my friend’s wedding. Yet on the big day, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.

“I think I’m still in England,” laughs Sarah, on her exotic wedding day in Zanzibar. “There’s thunder and lightning. The beach wedding is being called off.”

Looking back, Sarah has no regrets for choosing Zanzibar as her wedding destination; if nothing else, it kept the guest list down. However, the tranquil idea of paradise that was so pleasing to her before the wedding, was slightly dashed following the wet experience.

During my holiday, I meet a mum from England, Julie Kittow. She’s been living in Zanzibar with her family for a year now.

“Living in paradise involves; four showers a day, sweat running down your back the whole time,” she says. “Tiny ants finding their way inside a bread maker so there is an ‘ant crust’ to cut off every morning. A line of ants drinking the sweat from the pools underneath my six-month-old eyes whilst he sleeps. Power outs just as dinner has started to cook in the oven.”

Listening to Julie, I begin to think of my flat in London. Suddenly, the cold, wet English weather and grey London life doesn’t seem so bad

Two weeks after leaving Zanzibar, I still have two itchy bites on my legs. They’re growing and looking pretty nasty. Although a GP kindly tells me they’re only infected bug bites and puts me on antibiotics, I’m not so sure. After visiting the Hospital for Tropical Diseases, it turns out that I have two worms growing under my skin – picked up on a tropical beach in paradise.

There’s no doubt about it, when the sun is shining Zanzibar is beautiful. The food is amazing and it’s a privilege to visit such a place. However, next time I plan a trip to paradise, I might just find myself a tranquil Cornish beach instead.