One of the highlights of my recent trip to Zanzibar was swimming with the friendly turtles at the Baraka Natural Aquarium on Nugwi Beach in the north of Zanzibar. The aquarium is actually a small natural pond – a grotto, which serves as a sanctuary for the turtles. The conservancy receives turtles which have been accidentally caught in fishing nets, and gives them a chance to recuperate before being released into the open ocean again. What really attracted me to this place was the fact that I would be be able to swim with these gentle animals. They come very close and it was a bit odd in the beginning to feel them brush up against me. But once I got used to them, I even touched them myself – it was a wonderful experience and of course perfectly safe. Its lovely to run your fingers over their shells and feel them next to you, although one of them nibbled my skin a little while trying to get to some sea weed I was sitting on – I was startled but it was really nothing serious or unusual.
Things you need to know:
– For a cost of $10 you can swim and feed the turtles for an unlimited time. The will charge you $7 if you just want to watch them and not swim
– If you are not a good swimmer, you will have to make do with sitting by the edge of the pond since the water gets quite deep – up to 2 meters – so definitely bring a life jacket.
– There is plenty of food (sea weed) provided by the aquarium for you to feed the turtles.
– Bring your snorkeling gear if you wish to snorkel, and an underwater camera too. There is however the possibility of renting snorkeling gear for $5 at the aquarium.
– Go there early around 9am as there are fewer people. I however went just before 3PM and the place wasn’t as crowded.
– The water can feel murky at certain points in the pond, but luckily, there is a shower on site. However, I preferred to go to rinse off in the ocean; the nearest beach is about 200 meters away and its absolutely stunning!