Location: Tanzania – East Africa
Flight Time: From Europe: 9-10 hour to Dar es Salaam, then 30 min flight to Zanzibar
Language: Kiswahilli, English, Arabic
Located off the coast of Tanzania is Zanzibar, a small island covered in white sands and crystal blue water. It is the birthplace of Freddie Mercury and the home of the spice trade. I often recommend 7-10 days for a visit to Zanzibar simply because, there is so much to see and do. March-May is the rainy season, try to avoid these months because the weather might ruin your beach plans. If you planning to visit in December for the New year, book well in advance. This is a very popular time for people to travel and hotels get booked up very quickly. Zanzibar has a conservative culture and the majority of the residents are Muslim. While they are used to seeing tourists, it is always better to respect the culture by covering up when out and about. The locals are very friendly and greeting is part of the culture. Be sure to say Jambo or Mambo when greeted by locals. Island life is slow and requires some adjusting, try to be patient.
There are two ways of getting to Zanzibar (Zanzi) from Dar es salaam. You can either take a 30 min flight or a 2-hour ferry ride. When I fly to Zanzi, I normally use Coastal aviation. I have flown with them very many times and it’s always been pleasant. I have also taken the ferry with Azam Marine – Kilimanjaro Fast Ferries. Taking the ferry is a great way to enjoy the fresh ocean air and the view on your way to Zanzi. It’s also much cheaper than flying. The ferry terminal is a bit chaotic, so here are a few tips when booking the Ferry to Zanzibar.
There are four ferry departures a day: 7AM, 9AM, 12PM, and 4PM. Try to book your tickets a day or two in advance. If you decide to book on the day, make sure you get there very early as the tickets often sell out and there are very long queues. You can also reserve your ticket online but will need to collect and pay for it at least 3 hours before departure. There are four types of tickets to choose from, Economy, Business, VIP and Royal class. Prices vary for residents and non-residents. For non-residents the prices range from $35 to $60 per adult depending on the class of travel. You could also get your tickets booked through an approved booking agent.
You will arrive in Stone Town, which is a great place to start. Stone Town is an ancient city which was declared a UNESCO cultural heritage site in 2000. The food market in the main square -Forodhani comes to life at night. You will be spoilt for choice – from fresh seafood to fresh sugarcane juice, there is plenty to satisfy the appetite. Emerson on Hurumzi Hotel is a great Tea House that offers the Zanzibar tea ceremony from the rooftop with Tarab music. It is a great way to enjoy the view as the sunset.
Walking through the narrow roads and alleys of Stone Town is a great way to see the city, local art, clothe shops and mini markets – Darajani market is worth a visit. You will also come across the resident of the late Sultan of Zanzibar, ‘Tip Tip House’. For a deep dive into the slave trade history, visit Zanzibar Slave Chambers – The Anglican cathedral Church now stands on the sight of a past slave market. Then head over to Prison island – this is where slaves with contagious diseases were kept to recover before being returned to the mainland . The island itself is very beautiful and worth the visit. To get there, go to Forogani where there a ton of boats that can take you. You will need to haggle the price.
Dinning in Stone Town
There are plenty of restaurants from which to dine in Stone Town but The Beach House is one of my favourites. With a terrace deck that overlooks the beachfront, the Beach House is one of the best places to enjoy a cocktail and watch the sunset. Try the Beach House G&T cocktail. As the sun goes down, there is a DJ set and on some nights live entertainment.
- Taraab restaurant at the double Tree by Hilton
- Dining Room at Park Hyatt
- Baharia at Serena Zanzibar
- Lazuli has great smooties
- Stone Town Cafe. Try to local chai, boiled with cinnamon, ginger and lemon grass. It is mouthwatering
The Bougie Experience
Nungwi and Kendwa
For the best parts of the beach, head up north to Nungwi or Kendwa. This is also where you will find majority of the 5 star resorts.
Swimming with dolphins
This is one of the reasons why Zanzibar should be your next destination – swimming with dolphins. The water north of the island is crystal clear which makes it great for snorkelling, taking great photos of the coral reefs and of course swimming with dolphins. Sadly I wasn’t able to capture the moment because I run out of battery but it was truly magical.
Shabuta spice farm
Make time to visit the spice farm in the western region of the island- Shabuta spice farm grows tropical fruits and spices. Beware, you may have to book in advance of your trip if you would like to do the full tour. The spice market is a great place to shop for your favourite spices. I usually stock up cinnamon, turmeric and nutmeg
Baraka natural aquarium and buggy riding
Another magical place to visit in Nungwi is swimming with turtles. Yes, swimming with turtles at Baraka natural aquarium. You get to see, swim and feed theses amazing animal. It’s an amazing experience and one that I highly recommend.
For the adventure seekers, enjoy a four hour off road buggy tour in Nungwi and some local towns. This a great way to experience the local lifestyle, get to know the culture and see the island.
For a more exclusive luxurious experience, try a few days on Mnemba Island which is located off the north east part of Zanzibar. This place will truly change your life. The water here is so clear that you can literally see the boat’s shadow on the ocean floor. There are a variety of activities to indulge from jet skiing to kite-surfing on the Island but why not try yoga on the beach or just sit and watch the sunset. This is the ultimate relaxing place. A few days here is bound to refresh the soul. But don’t just take my word for it, go visit it yourself.
Full Moon party
For a bit more excitement, look out for Zanzibar’s Full Moon party. This is normally planned around the full moon and occurs monthly on Saturdays . The party has live performers from fire eaters & acrobats to music on the beach until late. its a great way to unwind.
Yacht day and Nakupenda sand bank
For the ultimate relaxation I often finish my trip off with a chilled afternoon on a yacht. A great place to sail to is Nakupenda sand bank or any of the other islands. Watching the sunset on the boat deck is the perfect way to end your trip.