Zanzibar, What You Need to Know

Zanzibar is a true island paradise. It is home to some of the prettiest colors of the sea out there, astoundingly beautiful beaches, legendary Stone Town and to lovely people. Almost everyone has heard of this place as the legend of its beauty travels far.  So instead of trying to tell you if you should go, I’ll skip to the part of giving you useful information for when you do get a chance to come so you have the best experience!

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Kind locals will greet you with enthusiasm with perfect waters in the background

When to go?
While the island is beautiful year round the rainy seasons are:
Mid March to late May. And the month of November. So if you like the sun, best avoid these times.

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How to get to Zanzibar?
As you know Zanzibar is located off the coast of Tanzania in East Africa and you can take a ferry from the coastal city of Dar es Salaam for as little as $35usd for a 2-3 hour ferry. Otherwise Zanzibar has it’s own International Airport.

What to do in Zanzibar?
-Explore Stone town, no visit to the island is complete without exploring this Swahili  culture old city. If you are short on time I recommend Urban Adventures Zanzibar tours.
-Visit the Seaweed Center in Paje to learn more about how seaweed farming has changed the lives of women on the island. It is a really nice activity with a good social impact!
-Explore the stunning beaches and sea, during insanely low tides its amazing to walk out in surreal landscapes.
-Do a spice tour. Most of these leave from Stone town as most of the spice farms are closer to this side of the island. I did mine with Mitu Tours and it cost $10 usd including lunch and pick up and drop off.
Jozani forest. Visit this national park that is home to the endemic red colobus monkeys.
Prison/Changuu Island. You can go see this old prison island that is most famous for its giant tortoises. Boats going leave from Stone town.
-Kitesurfing. If you already know it’s a gorgeous place to do so, and if not a good place to learn.
-Go sailing, snorkeling, fishing, diving, or even dolphin spotting.
-See a sunrise or Sunset. The east side gets the sunrises, but misses out on the sunsets. But on the east you can also go to Michamvi an inlet on the east coast to see a sunset.

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Common sight in Zanzibar beaches at low tide. Women harvesting seaweed.

How to get around the island?
The size of the island isn’t tiny, but manageable. It can take you 2 hours to get from the northern to the southern tip and an hour to get to the west coast to the east coast.

While you can always rent a car or hire a cab, there is also public transportation around the island like dalla-dalla (like a 15 person shared taxi) that costs around 500 Tanzanian Schillings (.25 usd cents), You can also take a boda-boda: a motorcycle taxi that usually costs around $2usd for a 20 minute ride. As a benchmark I heard that a taxi from stone town to the east coast should be $15 usd.

Where to Stay on the Island?
A must stop for everyone is Stone town in Zanzibar City on the western coast of the island. You can spend a few days and nights exploring this town day and night, or you can see all if not most of the major sights in a day. A downside to Stone town is that it doesn’t have nice beaches, that’s why most visit Stone town on their way in or out, and stay on the coasts to enjoy the stunning beaches.

Besides Stone town there is a lot of island and beaches to choose from. The Northern coast is home to Nungwi, perhaps the most popular part of the island and from what I heard from people who went there it is the most developed in terms of tourism and sometimes catering to more upscale  crowds.
The East Coast of the island and specifically the towns of Paje and Jambiani, cater more to a sporty crowd and are perhaps the mecca of Kitesurfing on the island. Both have beautiful beaches and a nice atmosphere. The big difference between Paje and Jambiani is that Jambiani is quieter, while Paje has more hotels, bars and restaurants and is busier. However only 7km/less than 5 miles separate these two towns.

Where to stay in Jambiani
I stayed a week at the Red Monkey Lodge and highly recommend it. I kept hanging out there after I checked out as they have an amazing location, vibe, friendly staff and host a party every Monday night with live music that attracts people from all over the island. If you want something quieter, but with a beautiful beach-front bar and restaurant I recommend Kimte Beach Lodge.

Where to stay in Paje
Sunny House Paje is a cozy guesthouse less than a minute walk away from the beach that has comfortable and affordable rooms and is run by a very friendly and helpful woman, Renata.

Where to stay in Stone Town
The Z Life Hostel is brand new and has an excellent location in the heart of Stone Town.

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Some Maasai guys I became friends with playing football on the beach. Photo by Marta Panco

While Zanzibar might be far away from you, if you ever get a chance I think you should definitely visit this island paradise. Stone town is enchanting with it’s old city and streets full of life and history.  And when you get out of Stone Town  you encounter stunning beaches and colors of the water that change every day and mesmerize and impress even the most seasoned travelers. Its people are very warm and welcoming, it’s food delicious from all of the spices they grow and use on the island, and the weather is warm and sunny. So the legend is true, Zanzibar really is paradise…come check it out!

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Sunset in Michamvi. Photo by Mohamed Elafify

For more information:

Article about how Seaweed farming and it’s impact on women in Zanzibar:
https://www.bbc.com/news/stories-44688104

More information on this island and it’s history:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zanzibar
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Please note that my stays at the guesthouses mentioned were sponsored, but of course all view presented here are my own.
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