While the town is unique in its layout and architecture, this is not what ultimately captivated me; it was the profusion of the traditional, locally made Dhow. Originating in India, these boats which were adopted in the Middle East and Africa, are still used today in countless countries found between the Persian Gulf and East Africa. They come in numerous forms, shapes and sizes and are used for fishing, transportation and tourism. The dhow has a distinctive hull and a single or double sail, with a unique gaff rig which turns this vessel into the most beautiful and graceful working boat in Africa.
The changing angle of hull and sail brings an ever changing mood, beauty and energy to an image. Choose your background carefully as it strongly influences the photograph. For a cluttered and busy feel you will find moored fishing boats and modern ferries or liners, while for a more serene and peaceful mood look for small islands, open ocean, or another sailing vessel.
I was hooked, and tried to get to as many vantage points as I could in order to get a great shot of this majestic vessel. Choosing to remain near the main harbour, I went out early morning and late afternoon to catch the boats leaving and entering the port. Since we were on the western side of the island the only chance of getting the sun and ocean was at sunset.
Using a recommended taxi driver, I travelled up and down the west coast a few times looking for hubs where the boats were built, moored, refurbished or repaired. Whilst there were plenty around in the numerous fishing villages dotted along the coastline, the northern most village of Nungwi had the largest boat building presence. Watching the skilled craftsmen build these vessels from local timber, using rudimentary hand tools, was fascinating, and makes for some great imagery.