"Cut off from the World" Uzi Island by maharaja_joe

Uzi Island Travel Guide: 3 reviews and 6 photos

Ever lived in a place that is cut off from society for almost 12 hours per day. That is how it is to live in Uzi, a small isand off the south-western coast of Zanzibar. This place is home to about 6000 people and is only accesable during low tide, on a path through mangroves or on boats. Uzi represents a Zanzibar that is still in the 19th century with untouched nature and an unchanged African way of life.

But dont let this description fool you, because in the midst of the old is rising the awareness of the new. Uzi island is considered by many to be the success story of grass-roots solar power development in Zanzibar. It is one of the few places where people have invested their own money to buy solar panels, rather than wait for handouts as is common in many places.

I got to know about Uzi from a german volunteer working in Kizimkazi, in southern Zanzibar. We spoke out my interest in collecting data about the use of solar panels in rural Africa, and she was quick to introduce me to Mtumweni, her local contact in Uzi. He spoke a little bit of English, and I hardly spoke Swahili. Even then, we decided to meet up "near the banyan tree on the main road". I had no idea where that was. Mudi, the guy running the hostel in Kizimkazi suggested that I take the local transport till Kitogani, and then continue on by bicycle till the banyan tree.

The local transport turned out to be a mid-size truck with two benches along its sides. The bicycle was tied to its rooftop and we made it to Kitogani. From there began my trip to the non-touristy part of Zanzibar. There were banyan trees every half kilometer, with people sitting underneath to escape the harsh sun. Primary schools, health care centers, and small shops passed by as I bicycled toward Uzi. Finally, a tall man stepped forward from one of the Banyan trees and flagged me down. It was Mtumweni.

While it seems cool to say that I walked through the mangroves to reach Uzi, the truth is that the scorching sun, the high humidity, and the path made of coral stones can seriously *** you off. I stumbled along for almost 2 km, dripping sweat and trying to make sense of what Mtumweni was saying. By the time we crossed the mangroves and reached the island, he had given me a run down of the different types of solar systems in the island, the pricing schemes, and the major pitfalls of the existing systems. In the next few hours, I visited some of those houses and actually understood why Uzi island succeeded in its experiment with solar power.

Uzi island is made up of many mud houses. Sticks are first used to make the frame of the house, coral rocks are used as bricks and mud is used as mortar. The people live off the land and each house is surrounded by banana and coconut trees. Mud roads run along the island, and big trees provide shade along the road. The beaches are deserted, and many people fish for a living. Most families are muslims and observe a traditional islamic life style. A guest generally has lunch with the man of the house, while the wife and kids eat seperately. If one family does not have something to eat, the others usually chip in to help them out. It is this spirit of mutual help that is helping the residents of Uzi to improve their own standard of living. Micro-finance is helping more people to buy solar power equipment and take their family to the next level.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Completely off the beaten path
  • Cons:Hot and humid, and nothing to do.
  • In a nutshell:A tiny lonely paradise
  • Last visit to Uzi Island: Mar 2007
  • Intro Updated Apr 30, 2007
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