Hi guys, I am finally back from my trip to Zanzibar! Well I actually got back last week already, but could not manage to sit down and put my thoughts into one place. The trip was lovely, and both Steve and I very much enjoyed Zanzibar and what it had to offer. Because Travel has become such a huge part of my blog, of course I have to share my Zanzibar photo diary as well as give you guys some tips on travelling there!
Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous part of Tanzania in East Africa. It is composed of the Zanzibar Archipelago in the Indian Ocean, 25–50 kilometres off the coast of the mainland, and consists of many small islands and two large ones: Unguja(the main island, referred to informally as Zanzibar) and Pemba. The capital is Zanzibar City, located on the island of Unguja. Its historic centre is Stone Town, which is a World Heritage Site. The name Zanzibar is apparently derived from the Persian zang-bâr signifying “black coast”.
Travel and Visas
If you are from South Africa, you are in luck, because Mango Airlines does a direct flight to Zanzibar every Tuesday and Saturday morning. The flight is quick (just over 3 hours) but if you are anywhere else in the world, you have to fly through Tanzania and Dar El Salaam. The airport in Zanzibar is really tiny (like really tiny); you get your luggage handed to you manually (as in by hand) which I found quite interesting ha-ha. South African residents don’t need a visa, but I needed one with my Moldavian (European) passport. I got a visa right at the airport and it cost 50 dollars.
Getting Around and Money
We stayed on the Northern side of the island, Nungwi, which is the best place to stay in the hot season due to the winds. The weather is hot and dry in December, January and February while March, April and May is considered to be the rainy season in Zanzibar. Our hotel was an hour’s drive from the airport, and what I didn’t expect (because maybe I was a little ignorant about where I was going) is that Zanzibar is quite rural in places other than the centre and resorts that you stay at. The currency in Zanzibar currency Tanzanian shillings and R1=168 Tanzanian Shillings at the moment. US dollars are widely accepted though, so make sure to take some with you.
South African residents no longer require the yellow fever injection certificate to enter Zanzibar. However, if you are travelling from one of the yellow fever risk countries (such as Namibia, Kenya, Somalia etc.) you do need to provide a certificate of vaccination. Malaria pills are also not required to be taken by law, but rather be safe and take them. We just went to our GP and he gave us both a script for the pills. Be wary though, Malaria Pills can have some side effects.
Where to stay
We stayed at The Double Tree by Hilton and it was very pleasant and enjoyable.
The most amazing things about Zanzibar are its beaches and yes they are just as magical as they look in the photos!
The water is amazingly blue and the sand is white, and it’s very comfortable to swim in the water. You can also snorkel a little bit away from shore, but you need to organise with your hotel to arrange a boat to take you out to the reefs.
The beach was right on the shore of our hotel, so we enjoyed the sea from early morning until late evening. Double Tree by Hilton has 3 restaurants on the property (1 of each is not included in any package though and you still have to pay) and we really tried to enjoy the local food as much as we could.
One of the restaurants is right in the pool, that was my best!:)
The seafood was fab, and every night for dinner there would be a fresh selection of fish on offer.
I also tried out the different fruit, and really enjoyed the Cheromoya(custard apple) and the Jackfruit. And just take a look at these pretty litchies!
What to Do
Culturally, Tanzania has been described as one of the most diverse countries in Africa and this is reflected in the fact that there are more than 120 local languages spoken in the country. Swahili is the national language that is widely spoken while English is the official language of education, administration and business.
The centre of Zanzibar is called Stone Town, which was an hour away from where we were, so we opted not to do it(also because I wanted to be lazy and stay on the beach), but I’ve heard great things about it, and that you can really engage with the locals by shopping at local markets and learning the history of the place. Zanzibar is also famous for its spices, so make sure to get some of those when you visit (I brought home a whole bunch and can’t wait to use them!).
For the leisure side of things, a trip to the islands is a must. We took a trip to Pemba island from our hotel and look, if there is one thing that I’ve realized it’s that me and boats don’t go well together. It’s plain and simple, I get sea sick, and I can’t fool myself about it anymore.
Sadly I didn’t get to enjoy the beautiful views that opened up while we were sailing through to the island(luckily Steve still took some photos), because I was too busy trying not to die if nausea (it was bad guys, really bad).
Eventually when we got there, the nausea pills kicked in and I felt much better so we could snorkel right with the fish (which is always a highlight for me).
We paid 25$ for the trip and it included lunch on the boat(which looked very nice but I was too sacred to have any in case it needed to come out later), so if you don’t get sea sick then this is something that I would definitely recommend. Another trip that is highly recommended is the trip with Safari Blue. Again, only if you are into boats and won’t get sea sick.
And most of all, you just have embrace the local culture and enjoy! At our hotel we did arts and crafts everyday where you can make yourself a hat or a handbag out of palm leaves, and I believe you can do the same vibe in the mainland.
We drank fresh coconut juice every morning(as in right off the tree), enjoyed dinner on the beach while watching some pretty cool music and acrobatic shows(different theme every night) and attempted to learn Swahili. All we know is “Jumbo” and “Hakuna Matata” and that seemed to be enough to get us through 😉
A trip to Zanzibar is affordable (especially if I compare it Mauritius) and we booked through Africa Stay. You can do a 5 day trip for around R150000 per person and a 7 day trip for R20000 (departing from South Africa).
If you are looking for a very relaxing holiday and a mix of cultures, then Hakunana Matata Zanzibar!