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Zanzibar
island

Zanzibar island

Zanzibar, otherwise known as Spice Island, is a tropical island situated 35 kilometres off the coast of Tanzania in East Africa.

Still a hidden – gem beach beach destination, it’s famous for its rich cultural history, cloves and other spices and diversity of marine life, offering a world of underwater adventures on its doorstep. 

The island forms part of an archipelago of over a dozen small islands. Roughly 180,000 tourists visit the island annually to scuba dive, snorkel and explore the bright blue waters of this untouched paradise. Zanzibar is easy to reach from the mainland and is extremely safe for tourists .

Zanzibar is the perfect mix of beach and culture! If you love the beach but get bored easily, this could be the perfect destination for you! Now that you have decided to go to this beautiful island, y­ou must need of recommendations for great Zanzibar hotels – and you are in the right place!

The Capital – Stone Town aka Zanzibar City

Stone Town is Zanzibar’s enchanting capital city situated in the old harbour. The town is a UNESCO cultural heritage site and has architecture dating back to the 10th century. Towards the 19th century, Stone Town became a trading town and was one of the world’s last remaining open slave markets. 

Today, Stone Town has a number of ancient buildings and the entire town is a labyrinth of narrow streets. With a unique mix of European, Indian, and Arab influences, it’s small and safe, with a buzzing night market frequented by tourists.

Visitors to Stone Town can stay in the Protea Hotel Zanzibar Mbweni Ruins, the perfect place to enjoy relaxing beach vibes and a bit of local history. This hotel offers boutique luxury close to mangrove forests, beaches and the Mbweni Ruins. 

Customs and Traditions

Tourism activities in Zanzibar make up 49% of the economy, so locals are known for being incredibly friendly and welcoming of tourists. They enjoy a slow-paced, humble life on the main island.

In total, there are 1.3 million people in Zanzibar, and the main religion is Islam.

Tourists are advised to respect the local customs and cultures, particularly in the capital, Stone Town, where it’s frowned upon to wear revealing clothing and engage in rowdy behaviour.

Noted: If you would like to enjoy all the aquatic activities and inland excursions, we recommend you to stay between 5 and 10 days.

Zanzibar Travel FAQs

What are Zanzibar famous spices?

Because of its past in trading spices, the island earned its nickname The Spice Island. Zanzibar main spice exports include clove, chilli, black pepper, nutmeg, cardamom, turmeric, and cinnamon. Cloves are the most commonly produced spice.
Other spices grown on the island include vanilla, saffron, and lemongrassSeveral spice tours are available, ranging from visits to plantations outside of Stone Town to smaller agricultural rooms where some spices are grown.

What languages are spoken in Zanzibar?

Zanzibar is a melting pot of cultures, which means a variety of languages are spoken, Swahili is the main language, but Arabic, English, Italian and French are also spoken. The two official languages are English and Swahili.

When is the best time to travel to Zanzibar?

Zanzibar is a fantastic year-round destination, but it does have a definite high season.
The high season is the dry season which is from July to September, but this is also the peak busy time as it’s school holidays. November and December are also good times to visit when the rains are short and the days are sunny. Most of the year the temperatures hover between 28°C and 34°C. The long rains arrive in April and May when the humidity peaks and the temperatures soar.

Do I Need A Visa to be in Zanzibar

Zanzibar is part of the Republic of Tanzania and holiday visas are required for most countries. A handful of countries are exempt from visas. A few of these countries include nationals from South Africa, Singapore, Seychelles, Mozambique, Malta, Hong Kong, and Malaysia. Most African countries don’t require visas to enter Tanzania. Visas can be obtained through Tanzania’s e-visa system where travellers can double-check if their country of origin is on the visa requirement list. The e-visas need to be booked in advance.

How expensive is Zanzibar?

For 2 people, it costs roughly $4,285 for a week’s holiday in Zanzibar. A hotel stay can cost anything from $38 to $217 our night. Compared to other African destinations, Zanzibar does not come in cheaply. It is possible to do Zanzibar on a budget, but the resorts can be costly. The villages and towns are generally quite cheap. Food and drink wise, it’s very reasonable. On average, a beer will cost $1,50.

Where to stay in Zanzibar?

Zanzibar offers a real mix of accommodation choices with many of our favourites being the smaller boutique lodges offering a true Zanzibar experience. However, there are one or two resort-style hotels that offer a wider choice of activities and are often more suitable for families.
Starting from the most expensive to the lowest price per night.

Which Zanzibar Hotels to choose?

 Zanzibar has luxury 4 * and 5 * hotels, budget bed and breakfast hotels, inexpensive guesthouses and hostels.

The best 5 * hotels in Zanzibar:

  • Riu Palace Zanzibar (ex. Hideaway of Nungwi Resort & Spa) 5 *
  • Diamonds La Gemma 5 *
  • The Royal Zanzibar Beach Resort 5 *
  • Fruit & Spice Wellness Resort 5 *
  • Melia Zanzibar 5 *
  • White Sand Luxury Villas 5 * DELUXE
  • Zuri Zanzibar 5 * DELUXE
  • Park Hyatt zanzibar 
  • Zanzibar serena Inn
  • Emerald Dream of Zanzibar 
  • The palms
  • Essque zalu zanzibar 

The best 4 * hotels in Zanzibar:

 

  • Royal cliff zanzibar 
  • Mizingani Seafront Hotel
  • Beyt al Salaam
  • Kilima kidogo Guest House
  • Sea view lodge Boutique Hotel
  • Dhow Inn

If your vacation budget is very limited, we advise you to consider cheap 3-star hotels in Zanzibar :

Amaan Beach Bungalows

Langi Langi Beach Bungalows 

Locals are ready to accommodate tourists in bungalows that stand right on the ocean. True, due to the minimum of amenities, this inexpensive accommodation option does not suit all holiday-makers.Both are located on the coast and have gorgeous beaches. However, the quality of food and service is much lower here. The hotels are suitable for unpretentious travelers, or for those who plan to stay for a few days.

BEST RESTAURANTS IN ZANZIBAR

Zanzibar Food and Local Cuisine

Zanzibar cuisine is a mix of the cultures that influenced the island. The cuisine is a mix of Arab, Indian, Portuguese, British, Chinese, and Swahili, and utilises a range of local spices. Dishes are often rich and exotic, packed with flavour. 

One of the most popular Zanzibar dishes on the island is the Spice cake, which is available in almost every town and village. The iconic Spice cake is made from cloves, nutmeg, chocolate, and cinnamon.

Want to try authentic Zanzibar food? Or would you prefer more familiar dishes? Either way, Zanzibar has a place of your choice! Here’s my list:

Beach Culture

In terms of tourism, visitors usually visit the main island of Zanzibar for its beaches, culture, and unique towns. The northeast of the island is the most coveted area as it has pristine beaches, diving, and high-end accommodation.

Some travellers combine a visit to other islands in the archipelago which include Pemba Island, known for its green hills, clove plantations, rich fishing grounds and dolphin safaris.

Overall, Zanzibar main island (Unguja), is the most visited and can be accessed easily from the mainland by ferry.

The best beach in Zanzibar and perhaps in all of Tanzania is Nungwi(its western coast). 

Pros: smooth set of depth (regardless of low tide), perfect white sand, beautiful azure ocean and sunsets, infrastructure developed by African standards. There are shops, souvenir shops and markets, pharmacies, a gas station, an exchange office. There are many hotels for every taste and budget – from inexpensive to very fashionable. Restaurants: Mama Mia, Coco Cabana, Baraka, Cholo’s, etc. Nungwi Beach is suitable for active water sports, beach vacations, families with children, romantic getaways, youth getaways, inexpensive or respectable vacations, swimming all day, the best selfies and photo sessions on the island Nungwi in Zanzibar has no minuses, except for its northern and eastern parts. Western Nungwi is flawless!

The second place is deservedly taken by the Kendwabeach

Pros: the infrastructure is also developed, the ability to swim regardless of the tide, an excellent beach, many hotels from budget to luxury, beautiful sunsets, boat and boat trips, bars, restaurants, discos … Of the minuses, only strong currents, sharp depth and hypertrophied wide beach in the central part of Kendwa. The central part of Kendwa is suitable for youth recreation, beach volleyball and football, noisy parties until late at night. And Kendwa to the north and south is ideal for a quiet respectable vacation, rest with children, romantic retreat and “honeymoon”.

The third place is confidently received by the Pajebeach .

 The depth for full bathing here will be only at high tide, but unlike most of the eastern beaches, in Paja (at least in its central part) there is an excellent wide beach with a comfortable entrance to the sea, no algae and stones. It is very beautiful on Paj, wonderful sunrises, well-developed infrastructure, many decent hotels. Paje is ideal for a romantic getaway, “honeymoon”, respectable rest, youth rest, rest with children … But you still won’t be able to fully swim at low tide.

If these three best beaches in Zanzibar are almost perfect and versatile, then the rest of Zanzibar’s beaches are for everybody!

Main Zanzibar Beach Villages

Nungwi and Kendwa

Nungwi and Kendwa are palm-fringed beach villages located on the northern tip of Zanzibar Island. They are sought-after destinations on the island and can become quite crowded during the season. Swimming can be done at both low and high tide, there’s also a tidal lagoon. Just off the coast in this part of the island, there are rich coral reefs with plenty of marine life, making it popular for boat trips and diving tours.

Both villages are the centre for building and producing the traditional dhow, a trading and sailing vessel. Kendwa is believed to have the better beach and is home to the famous Zanzibar Full Moon party. It’s also popular with guests seeking an activity-based lively beach holiday. Once a destination favoured by Bohemians and hippies, Kendwa is lined with affordable rustic resorts and beach bars. 

Volunteer projects in Zanzibar normally take place in Nungwi, and are centred around turtle and rainforest and coastal conservation. Green and hawksbill turtles are sheltered in a tidal lagoon that’s monitored by the Mnarani Marine Turtle Conservation Pond.

For most holidaymakers, access to pristine white beaches is a must. An in-demand Zanzibar hotel in Nungwi is the DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Zanzibar. The resort is sandwiched between palm groves and the actual village. 

Jambiani

The tiny fishing village of Jambiani is ideally located between the towns of Paje and Makunduch on the southeast coast of Zanzibar. Comprising a few small villages, it’s a quieter destination but has many restaurants, hotels, and guest houses.

The area is well-known having that authentic Zanzibar feel, where dugout canoes are still used for transport. It’s also known for its local seaweed farming activities, and locals are only too happy to share their knowledge about this vital source of agriculture.  

Michamvi

The Michamvi peninsula is perfect for honeymooners. It’s a remote area on the southeast coast, offering a quiet and serene beach experience. Visitors flock to Michamvi to witness some of the country’s best sunset viewpoints.

Michamvi is home to premier resorts and luxury accommodations. There is quite a famous restaurant called “The Rock” that’s built upon an outcrop. Guests would have to take a boat just to visit this unique restaurant. 

Zanzibar is safe, but mosquitoes can be a problem – especially when temperatures become extreme. Zanzibar is a high-risk malaria area, and visitors should take care. As well as bringing along anti-malaria ointments, travellers should consider taking either one of the following anti-malaria pills: Doxycycline or Atovaquone/Proguanil, or Mefloquine. It’s advisable to check with your local health practitioner about what to take. 

SNORKELING AND DIVING :

The Best diving sites in Zanzibar Island are;  Tumbatu Island, Mnemba Atoll, Kichwani wall, Watta Bommy, Leva Bank among others. These sites range from 3m to 50m,

why should you Scuba dive in Zanzibar?

The island is better known for its beauty, and this beauty extends to the ocean. Colorful corals, small reef fish, vary underwater topography (vast underwater volcanic mountain ranges to huge granite boulders covered with soft corals and sponges).

Zanzibar Island offers opportunity to see larger animals on dives, particularly in Mnemba or Leven Banks. It is easily to sport Barracuda, Sailfish, Dorados, Whale sharks and Wahoo

Mnemba give you a chance to see dolphins and if lucky to play and swim with them.

KIAfrica Adventure can arrange Scuba and Snorkeling trips, from any hotel you choose. Very beautiful and great places to snorkeling and diving. From Fumba close to Stone Town, see dolphins, sandbanks, islands and coral reefs of Menai Bay, very beautiful conservation area.

Next day visit wonderful sandbanks where you enjoy swim or snorkel. Our guides will show you the pristine coral reef and tropical sea life. Instruction is also available for beginners.

After snorkeling you will heard to Kwale Zanzibar Island where we have “desert island” restaurant. The lunch included fish, slipper lobster, calamari, rice and sauces, all served hot from the grill. The chef arranges fruits tasting with a large selection of delicious tropical fruits.

Different species of, Dolphin, Humpback and Bottlenose. We are lucky to see dolphins on during many excursions.

Afterwards we return to Fumba by traditional lanteen sail, the full splendour of the African sunset reveals itself. Fresh coconuts and local snacks are available throughout the day.

Dhow Sunset Cruise

The cruise leaves Stone Town in the afternoon visit along the coast, After you step on-board the vessel, guide on board take the dhow about 1km away from the shore, once out in the sea the engine is shut off and during a tense moment they put up the sail.

Listen to songs of love and loss played by musicians on board as the butler serves canapes and fills your glass with beers, wine and sodas, encouraging you to sink back into the cushions and enjoy the romance of Africa while watching the scenery drift by.

A professional guide will accompany you on your cruise and give you a tour of Stone Town from the water. You may ask any questions about Zanzibar Island.

See the different colors of the sky from shades of pinks and blues to magnificent golden colors as you sail back toward the glimmering lights of Stone Town with the wind gently blowing you back to shore.

Nungwi Tours

Nungwi on the North tip of Zanzibar Island. Has crystal clear water, for diving, snorkeling, swimming and sunbathing.

This trip takes you through the Mangapwani cave which is a 30 minutes’ drive from Zanzibar island   town. After the closure of Slave Market in June 1873, the cave was a secret hideout from where slaves were kept illegally then transported by dhow up to 1911. You will then proceed to Nungwi which is an hour’s drive from the cave.

 Tour details

  • Visit aquarium natural turtle
  • Visit to a typical Zanzibar island village.
  • Swim sunbath or buy a package of water-sports.

 

Swim With Dolphin Tours

From town drive to Kizimkazi a small village to the southern point of the island takes one hour. Channel of Kizimkazi surface is broken by the skimming arcs of wild bottle-nosed dolphins.

You are taken by outboard engine boat into the sea to see the dolphins, and if you’re better lucky you will be able to swim quite close with them, as they are very friendly

Changuu Prison Island

Prison Zanzibar  Island or by another name Changuu Island is the middle is let of the three visible from the Stone town, it takes approximately 30 minutes to get there by a wooden boat powered by and outboard engine. The prison on this island was built in 1893, which was later used as a Quarantine Hospital.

Surely the only interesting part in Prison Island is giant tortoises. They were brought to the island in 1820 by Seychelles Sultan Said.

Also you can swim, sunbath, snorkel and enjoy the peacefully beautiful island while relaxing. The hotel built on Changuu Island does not allow the day visitors to move or going around the Prison Island.

SPICE TOURS

Tour begins with a drive through a profusion of greenery seeing countryside smelling and tasting a variety of spices and mouth-watering tropical seasonal fruits such as jack fruit, green coconut juice, pineapple, banana durian, love apple, litche, soursop etc.

Spices like cloves, black pepper, turmeric, cardamom, cinnamon, vanilla, and nutmeg – are as exotic as the flavor….etc.

A full tour conceder much more than spices, and you will also have a chance to see the iodine plant, ylang-ylang, the lipstick tree, heena bush, cocoa, and coffee trees.

Tour also visit

  • Dichi: Persian Baths was built in 1850 by the princess Seyyid Said bin Sultan for his wife Persian
  • Sheherezade: shah granddaughter of the Persia.
  • Maruhubi: Palace Ruins was built by the third Sultan of Zanzibar Seyyid Barghash for his concubines.
  • Dr Livingstone’s House was built in 1860 for Sultan Majid. Dr David Livingstone lived there before commencing his last journey to the mainland interior.

 

STONE TOWN TOURS

It is a fantastic introduction of Zanzibar that gives you the feeling of the rich cultural heritage. One gets a comprehensive view, history and walk of the Stone Town. Magnificent architecture, narrow alleys, sand and stone ancient built houses where some of them are over 200 Years old that have Arab/Indian carved wooden doors.

We begin this tour at the main City market which was opened in 1904, where tropical fruits, vegetables, spices and fresh fish from the island are sold. Our next stop will be at the Anglican Church of Christ built by Bishop Steers in 1873 on the site where slaves were being auctioned.

Other highlights on our historical stone town tour are a visit to

  • Sultan’s Palace (Now a Museum) – Built in the late 1890’s for members of the Royal Sultan’s family.
  • House of Wonders – Built in 1883 as a Royal ceremonial function Palace.
  • The Africa House – Formerly known as English Club.
  • Jamituri Gardens where you can spend your evenings leisurely watching the brilliant sunset while enjoying the locally made dishes, Zanzibar pizza and barbequed sea food.
  • Visit of The Old Fort – Built by Arabs for defense against the Portuguese.

 

In Zanzibar there are no:

  • none of the African Big Five: elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard
  • national parks, or rather there is one, but colobus monkeys live there
  • savannah and prairie
  • and the last elephant in Zanzibar died according to some sources in 1997
  • BUT mainland Tanzania has it all in one of several world famous national parks at the foot of Kilimanjaro.

 

WHAT IS PROHIBITED TO TOURISTS ON ZANZIBAR

In Zanzibar, 99% of the population is Muslim. This fact does not impose any restrictions on rest in hotels for tourists, the exception is access to the city (outside the hotel) – tourists in the city and on excursions need to have clothes  that cover  their shoulders, navel and knees.

You can drink alcohol in Zanzibar, but many of the locals don’t indulge. Many of the island’s resorts, expat bars, and hotels will serve alcohol, but there are only a few bottle stores on the island. 

If you wish – before or after rest, you can order a safari program on the mainland. Don’t miss the opportunity to see the African Big Five and other animals in their natural habitat!

Let’s say: “HAkuna matata” (in translation: “no problem”) all together!

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