MOUNT KILIMANJAROS SUMMIT rose through the cloud and beckoned us through the final descent into the Indian Ocean island of Zanzibar.
We had arrived on a hustling, bustling island with a robust character, a mini African nation with associated sights and smells, and far more than just the birthplace of Freddie Mercury. But this is not why I was here.
We were transferred to the south-east of the 1200sq mile island, and welcomed into Breezes Beach Club & Spa. As the resorts name promised, a breeze fanned gently through the resort - quite a relief after the overnight flight.
The resort is small but beautifully formed. It nestles away from the rest of the world on the east coast of Zanzibar, with its picture-postcard white-sandy beaches lined with palm trees.
If you want a flavour of local life you have to make the effort, otherwise your best chance of seeing it will be from the airport taxi.
The service at the resort is discreet and very friendly, with nice touches such as a bottle of fizz in your fridge on arrival. Breezes Beach Club & Spa has two sister-resorts alongside it if you want to upgrade to the luxury levels that are Palms and Baraza. Palms represents exclusive 6* luxury, while Baraza seems to have been designed for VIPs, heads of nations and David Beckham.
The resort owners had the foresight to buy land stretching quite a distance either side of that belonging to the existing complex, guaranteeing its isolation. All three resorts are serviced by the Rising Sun Diving Centre, located within Breezes Beach Club & Spa and offering everything from try-dives in the resort pool through to advanced dives in the open sea.
This boded well, because my wife had decided to give diving a try. It had only taken her 12 years to get round to it.
Rising Suns manager Paul Shepherd, a larger-than-life character, was there with his wife Kirsten to welcome us. It was clear that he was prepared to pull out all the stops to make diving on the island as good as possible for us and for his other customers.

DIVING IN THIS PART OF ZANZIBAR consists of small but lovely reefs, with plenty of marine inhabitants to keep you occupied, particularly if youre a photographer.
On some dives titan triggerfish patrol the confines of the coral, always good for concentrating the mind.
Most of the more appealing tropical fish species are present and correct, including lionfish, batfish and shoals of glassfish. Look closely into most rock holes and you will see a moray eel.
As far as big stuff, my impression at the time I visited, late November, was that rays were the main event.
Mikanda Reef and Ciupis (it means Y-front, apparently) Garden were packed with snapper, octopuses and eels of all types. Blue-spotted rays are so common that I accidentally trod on one.
Access to the sea for divers depends on the tides. Embarkation onto the dhow can either be directly from the sea in front of the resort or requires a short van ride to a private beach a kilometre or so up the road.
Local fisherman make up the crew, and demonstrate excellent seamanship skills. On one night-dive the skipper negotiated a 7m-wide gap between coral reefs in a swell to return us to our resort with no light to guide him at all. Black magic, I reckon.
Another beauty was Shindano Reef - winner, as its name is translated - again small, but buzzing with snappers, parrotfish and the odd powder-blue surgeonfish. The coral here was compactly spectacular in a Hampton Court Flower Show sort of way, and you dont have to fin hard to find any of it.
Table and rose corals proliferate here, providing a roof for scorpionfish, butterflyfish and red cornetfish.

THE ODDLY NAMED CAVE 20 was one of those rare dives that leaves you feeling that everything is right with the world.
From the moment we rolled backwards off the dhow, it felt as if we could see at least 40m.
As if in some weird Tex Avery cartoon, things looked that little bit different. A lionfish, usually shy and skittish, was staring into a a metre-wide barrel sponge, not moving. Big pink whip rays up to 1.5m across littered the seabed, and allowed me in close to photograph them.
Two or three turtles whizzed past, not waiting for my camera unfortunately, and a large shoal of glassfish concealed yet more pink whip rays. Clownfish in anemones, sweetlips, squirrelfish and soldierfish were abundant, too. The sun was out that day, and I loved it.
Cave 20 proved a bittersweet experience, however, because the jammy buggers who made up the second group of divers on the day were buzzed by some 12 bottlenose dolphins only a metre or so away as they were surfacing and I was getting out of the water.
I guess they just wanted to play.
I suppose the main event in Zanzibar is the famous Blue Wall. Paul takes divers here only if he thinks they are proficient enough, and it is a world-class site. The Blue Wall is about 70m straight down. There are a few things to look at on the wall itself as you descend, but you are there mainly to see big stuff.
The vis on the day was down to about 20m, which was disappointing, but sliding down that huge expanse of water I was vigilant for possibilities, particularly as Paul had mentioned seeing bull sharks on his previous dive there.
On the way down I saw a bright red anenome with a huge anenomefish in residence. At 40m a curious metre-plus wrasse came to investigate, followed by another just past 50m.
Several blotched fantail rays were perched on a ledge and a free-swimming giant moray flitted below me at 65m-plus.
The controls of my camera at that depth were hard to change and acted as if they were jammed, and the pleasure of seeing these things had to be tempered with remembering to dive the plan.
You do have to factor in a decompression stop into the bargain, but if you have the experience and Paul greenlights the dive, you must visit the Blue Wall.
Zanzibar has a very temperate and benign climate, usually steering clear of extreme weather, so it can make for a very agreeable destination for non-diving companions.
The diving is probably not for the dedicated ultra-experienced group, or a pair of divers who want hardcore underwater experiences every day, but whats on the table is a relaxed, ambience-soaked place with diverse dive sites and 5* luxury when you surface.
The resort is mainly populated by couples and honeymooners, so in the evening it is almost empty by about 9.30 pm. But I suppose thats the point of it. Theres no TV in your room, so the classically beautiful beach is the place to chill, unwind and perhaps get to know your partner a little better.
On the journey back to the airport, our driver saw a football match, and slowed down. He then asked permission to watch a corner that was being taken at that moment, carefully applying the handbrake as he watched the set-piece.
When it was over, we proceeded and made it in good time to the airport. Thats Africa.

GETTING THERE: Kenya Airways flies into Zanzibar from the UK via Nairobi. Get a visa in advance from the High Commission in London (£35).
DIVING & ACCOMMODATION: Rising Sun Dive Centre,, at Breezes Beach Club & Spa,
MONEY: US dollars or Tanzanian shilling
WHEN TO GO: It is driest in Zanzibar from July through to March, and the best time for diving is November to March.
PRICES: Specialist tour operator Africa Dive & Safari arranges packages including flights to Zanzibar (, 0208 879 6178). Flights start from around £700 - those for Zacs trip were provided by Flight Connection ( Seven nights half-board at Breezes Beach Club & Spa starts from around £490 per person and a 10-dive package around £480 (January exchange rates). If booked through AD&S you get two additional dives free.