Dutch author pens unique Zanzibar tale

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Caroline Langevoord in Zanzibar. The Dutch author is currently concentrating on her new book about Zanzibar. PHOTO | COURTESY

Zanzibar. As the semi-autonomous archipelago awakes, the soothing and rhythmic swishing of the Indian ocean waves can be heard. The merchants and tourists slowly start filling up the streets of Stone Town.

In the Archipelago Waterfront cafe, Caroline Langevoord sits, sipping her tea masala.

She is a constant presence here; the owner knows her, and they let her stay for hours immersed in her laptop. The cafe even has her own special blend of tea.

When she orders ‘Chai Caroline’, they know exactly what she needs. ‘Chai Carolina, it is chai masala without tea leaves, she laughs. As an author who has to write for hours daily, Caroline finds the cafe the best place to do so, and if she is not at Archipelago in Stone Town, she is at Mimi Cafe in Mbweni, her two favourite places to get her creativity flowing.

Caroline is currently concentrating on her new book about Zanzibar.

An avid photographer with a unique eye for detail, Caroline has been travelling across Africa, capturing the magical moments of life in the wilderness.

Born and raised in the Netherlands, she worked in advertising for many years while in Amsterdam before she drastically decided to travel and see the world. That’s how she backpacked across a few countries in Africa, using her passion and skill in photography to document her expedition. She travelled and lived in Kenya, Uganda, and Madagascar before settling on the spicy island in 2014.

Caroline is already an established author; this will be her second book. Her previous book, ‘Bush Life’ written in Dutch, was launched in the Netherlands in 2023. In Bush Life, highly recommended for nature lovers, she de-scribes her life and adventures as a safari guide. She also shares her love for nature and takes you on a safari. This time, the book is specifically about Zanzibar.

“There are many books written about Zanzibar, but they miss so many things,” she said. “This is not a normal travel book; it will be a completely different book about Zanzibar,” she added. Caroline keeps the details about the upcoming book under wraps, but the book will not be an ordinary article on the tourist attractions found on the island but rather on the daily lives and culture of the people on the island, something that will uniquely inform tourists who will be visiting the island.

The diversity of the people, religions, and cultures of tolerance of different people is one of the reasons Caroline feels so at home in Zanzibar,and she is sure it is one of the main reasons people across the world choose it as a tourist destination.

“Zanzibar is pretty safe; when I came here there was no crime, and even now the crime rate is very low. I feel safe here,” she said. Caroline would most of the time confidently walk at night in Stone Town without looking over her shoulder. “As a white woman with blonde hair, I look different, and everyone would know I am not from here, but I live in Stone Town, and I can walk at night safely to my apartment,” she said.

Her new book is aimed at tourists who are more interested in the culture and how the locals live here.

“I am not writing about the most popular bars or hangout places or the most popular excursion; there are books about that,” she mentioned.

Two years ago, Caroline embarked on a walk around the island that would change her life and give birth to the idea of the book. In a span of just under a year, she and friends walked a route every other week, averaging 15 km each time. In a total of 24 days, she walked the entire coastline around the island. Using her GPS, she knew exactly where she stopped and continued next time. ‘I heard from locals that no one had ever done that before,’ she says. It was very special to get to know and explore the island this way, and each time a few friends walked with her, so in the meantime, we had great conversations.

“I have been to places in Zanzibar that are not widely known,” she added. Initially, she walked only to exercise her body for medical reasons. She started by walking from Stone Town to Mimi Café in Mbweni, and when she was sure she had the strength, she started the coastal walk. She became the talk of the day; people called her ‘the woman who always walks around’, but they didn’t understand why she did that.

During her walks, Caroline saw the hidden Zanzibar, the unspoiled, beautiful beaches that are not congested with hotels. In the rural areas, Caroline witnessed natural beauty and fresh air that she says was good for her health, but it was also good mentally.

“It is like a different type of meditation, being close to nature,” she had observed. Caroline plans to share some of her experiences in a book, hoping that tourists visiting Zanzibar will see for themselves the beauty of the island as a whole and have a better understanding of the local culture. Unlike the first book, which was in Dutch, this one will be in English.

Caroline is no stranger to adventures; she has lived in Serengeti and visited most national parks in Tanzania.

Her first book ‘Bush Life’ had stories of her time in the wild, scary but amazing moments, like when she was at-tacked by an elephant.

 “I think I won my new Olympic record,” she laughed, alluding to the fact that she ran so fast to get away from the giant of the big five.

That journal also detailed animals that she met living in Kenya and Tanzania. The publication’s reception was more than she had expected, and it drew the attention of the media in Holland.

‘Bush Life’ is not yet published in English, and she hopes to find a publisher that will do so. She is confident her new book about Zanzibar will be a pleasant surprise to tourists and locals alike.