For most travelers, Zanzibar is a terra incognita place, although in recent years this island has turned from an unknown African hinterland into a popular, affordable and interesting resort.
Zanzibar is also suitable for adventure seekers looking for jungle walks, island excursions, diving, kitesurfing, swimming with dolphins and turtles … And for travelers looking for a quiet, peaceful, paradise holiday – the island has a very calm and relaxing atmosphere.
Attractions and entertainment
The Rock is a restaurant island and the most famous landmark in Zanzibar. Located in Pingwe. This place is very popular with tourists from all over the world. Tables must be booked in advance, this can be done on the official website of The Rock. Prices on the menu are slightly higher than most restaurants in Zanzibar, but quite acceptable for such a popular and publicized place. Also opposite there is a good cafe Upendo, which offers a beautiful view of the same The Rock.
One of the most popular destinations in Zanzibar is Prison Island . Its official name on the map is Chang Island, and it was nicknamed “prison” because there was once a prison here. And today it is an island where giant turtles live, where you can not only look but also pet and feed. The surviving prison buildings on the island were converted into a “prison hotel” and a “prison restaurant”.
The recommended visiting time is daily until 14:00. Turtles crawl freely around the island, feed on grass stalks, which are given to each tourist who has paid an entrance ticket ($ 4). You can feed the turtles until 14:00, respectively, after this time nothing is given to incoming tourists, and the turtles are not so active and not hungry.
I do not recommend buying a tour. If you walk along the Stone Town waterfront, you can meet many locals who offer to rent a boat and take you to the island. The more people you have, the cheaper the price for each. Always bargain, we paid $ 15 with 4.
Nakupenda Beach – a small area of white fine sand located in the Indian Ocean, 15 minutes by boat from Prison Island. Usually these two islands are visited at the same time.
Nakupenda is notable for the fact that it appears only at low tide, which usually falls in the first half of the day. In the evening, the tide comes, and the island disappears under water.
A dazzling white beach, the surrounding coral reefs are home to a wide variety of colorful fish, shellfish and starfish.
Of course, Zanzibar can offer a standard resort list of activities: diving, snorkeling, kitesurfing, and training schools for all this are also available.
For diving enthusiasts, the Boribi Reef is best suited, the average cost of one dive is from $ 45, night diving is from $ 50.
Snorkelling is available throughout the island, you can rent a boat or walk to the reef at low tide.
Most of all I liked the island Mnemba Island – it is a private resort island, in the immediate vicinity there is an incredibly beautiful coral reef that attracts divers from all over the world to these places. Currently, the island is privately owned and it is not easy to get to it; rest in this fabulously beautiful corner of the planet is classified as elite tourism.
For kitesurfing, the best place is Paget beach, there are many schools, there are also Russian-speaking schools, the price is from $ 50. For beginners, the first 3-hour instruction will cost $ 150.
One of the main activities in Zanzibar is all kinds of boat trips and excursions. Most impressed by the bay with dolphins, where you can swim with them. The first time we arrived at Kizimkazi early in the morning, at about 6 am, with the expectation that at this time there are not many tourists. But alas, there were about 10 boats besides us! As a result, a game of “cats and bears” turned out, at the sight of dolphins everyone broke off and rushed towards them, diving chaotically into the water, the smell of diesel engines and all this hype did not allow to fully enjoy the moment. After that we decided to try again, but in a different place, on the way to Mnemba Island. That morning was fabulous: dozens of dolphins, just us and no one else. Indescribable sensations, dolphins swim at arm’s length and you want to swim with them forever, such emotions cannot be compared with any dolphinarium.
In the vicinity of Nungwi, you can swim with real sea turtles by visiting the Baraka Natural Aquarium Nungwi . But there is a subtlety – there are two aquariums, but you can swim only in one of them, in the other, just watch and listen to the guide.
The aquariums are located very close to each other, the names also almost coincide. The nursery that is closer to the ocean (entering it from the beach) implies only an excursion without the opportunity to swim, but you can look at the baby turtles and even hold them, as well as learn a lot of interesting things about turtles.
If you want to not only observe, but also swim with these amazing animals, then you need that natural aquarium, which is located here, but a little in the depths to the right – Baraka Natural Aquarium Nungwi. For visitors, the entrance is paid – 10,000 Tanzanian shillings, about $ 4. It is best to visit during high tides as the lagoon is not very deep.
Wildlife lovers will find the Jozani Forest National Park, which is located near the southern beach of Kizimkazi. This is a tropical forest, a jungle with mangroves, where monkeys sit on the branches, leopards are found and snakes crawl. In addition, the reserve is home to the rarest monkeys – red colobus. It is impossible to see them anywhere else on the planet.
Those who find this not enough can visit the mainland and go on safari: lions, cheetahs, elephants, giraffes, antelopes, hyenas, zebras, rhinos, baboons, flamingos and many other animals in their natural habitat can be found in the parks of Tanzania.
Zanzibar cannot boast of a large number of attractions, its main trump card is nature. However, there are interesting places that we recommend to visit:
Stone Town, or Stone Town is a visiting card of the city of Zanzibar, its ancient part, listed under the protection of UNESCO. Cathedrals, mosques, an Arab fort and the People’s Palace, the David Livingstone House Museum and much more can be found in the old streets of Zanzibar, which will not take long to walk through.
Freddie Mercury’s apartment number – few people know, but the world famous musician Freddie Mercury was born and spent his childhood in Zanzibar. And today the place where he lived is one of the main features of the city. Although it was turned into a hotel where everyone can stay for a very solid price, everyone can look there.
The famous Stone Town doors are a whole area of art and are still very popular among wealthy people from all over the world. Each door is a unique masterpiece worth several thousand dollars, some of which are even included in the UNESCO list as historical value. And there are many such masterpieces on the streets of Zanzibar. Moreover, there are as many as three directions in ornaments: Indian, Arabic and Zanzibar proper.
The best beaches
The best beaches in Zanzibar are Kendwa, Nungwi and Paje . All these beaches have perfect white sand, beautiful azure ocean and infrastructure developed by African standards. Unlike the first two beaches, Paget is located on the east coast and you won’t be able to watch beautiful sunsets, but there will be no less beautiful sunrises. It is more windy here and this is where the best kiting on the island!
On all sides, the island is washed by the warm Indian Ocean, the main feature of the beaches of Zanzibar is the strongest tide, when the water leaves the coast for hundreds of meters, exposing algae with stones and turning the ocean into a huge warm puddle, knee-deep or ankle-deep. During this period, you can easily walk to the reef and watch the many inhabitants of the underwater world: starfish, various shells, fish. Shoes are a must because of the many sea urchins.
There are few bars and nightclubs here, but the growth in the number of tourists contributes to the development of the nightlife industry. The island’s nightlife is mainly concentrated on the territory of the hotels; discos, theme parties and evening shows are held here. There are several clubs scattered throughout the island, but the most popular is the B4 in Page. All bars and clubs are full of locals, mostly friendly and cheerful, be prepared that they will definitely come up to you and offer all kinds of “night entertainment”.
Important: Do not leave your things at the table unattended, as we once stole $ 100 from a woman’s purse.
Our independent Zanzibar itinerary for two weeks
Upon arrival, we stopped for two days at Stone Town. During this time, we managed to walk along the narrow streets of the city, go to Prison Island and snorkel. I recommend going to the Dhow Countries Music Academy. Here you can enjoy live music every day by 8pm. Local young professional musicians will create a magical atmosphere in which you navigate, dance and feel the rhythms and melodies of Zanzibar. To enjoy the sunset, we chose Africa House restaurant, and if you are interested in unique antique souvenirs, then I recommend to go to the store opposite the Buni Cafe.
After the capital, we moved to Page for three days. Here is the best place for kitesurfing lovers, you can go to Kizimkazi to swim with dolphins and visit Jozani Forest. Be sure to visit The Rock Restaurant in Pingu and catch the sunset at Kae Beach Bar. For partygoers, Page has one of the best nightclubs B4, and I also recommend the Mr. Kahawa.
After that we wanted three days of calm, quiet rest and booked a bungalow in Kiwengwa. But, unfortunately, it turned out to be too calm here: at high tide, there was practically no beach, there was only one resort in the circle, where you could relax and eat, and in the evening it was complete wilderness.
Realizing that we would not live like this for two more days, we decided to move to Kendwa. And I want to say that it was here that there was the widest and most beautiful beach that we have met in Zanzibar. Even after moving to Nungwi, they often came here.
For the last 5 days we have lived in Nungwi. Here is the most developed infrastructure on the island, many hotels, bars, restaurants. Nearby there are aquariums with turtles, for one day we took an excursion to the Mnemba island, diving near the reef, swam with dolphins and in the end ate freshly caught fish on a fire. There were four of us, paid $ 15 per person, but this tour is a must have!
Our trip budget
The flight is about $ 500, accommodation is about $ 300 per person for two weeks (they rented apartments, mini-hotels), and somewhere around $ 800 ($ 50 per day) went to expenses (food only in cafes and restaurants, parties, excursions and so on.) Only about $ 1600 per person for two weeks on the island.
How long to fly and how to get to Zanzibar
There are no direct flights from Ukraine, with transfers you can fly from Kiev to Zanzibar and back for € 400-500. The average flight will take about 12 hours.
Best hotels to stay
It is best to book a hotel or apartment on the first line of the best beaches on the island. It is better not to save much on housing and read the reviews carefully, because everything in the photo is much more beautiful than it really is. We personally moved out of one hotel, staying there only one night out of three.
Fans of a secluded, beach holiday will find the western coast, which delights with the silence and calm sea, and lovers of water sports, the south-eastern part, where you can catch good waves from time to time.
How to get around the island
If your goal is to go around the entire island around the perimeter, visiting every beach and visiting the most remote corners, of course, it is better to rent a car in Zanzibar. It will be at least cheaper than a taxi.
The island is quite small and the distances here are rather modest, and a rental car will be at least cheaper and more convenient than a taxi. The only drawback is a small number of rental companies and small difficulties with obtaining a permit. But earlier online booking solves these issues.
Moving with things from one beach to another, a trip to the airport from anywhere on the island, taxi drivers will take you without any problems. In any bar or hotel, you can order a taxi by taking a Whatsapp number from one of them, he can become your personal driver for the entire period of your vacation.
If there is no point in bargaining for car rental and public transport, the price is fixed everywhere, then you just need to do it for a taxi. Sometimes the price can be reduced twice or more from the original one.
How to get around Zanzibar to Daladala
There is a daladala stop at the main intersection in almost every village. There is no timetable, they leave as they fill up, they go very often, the fare costs 1,500 shillings.
Daladala is a very good option if you are planning an independent trip to Stone Town for 1 day, or you want to visit a neighboring village 10-15 km from you, or it is just interesting to experience all the delights of Zanzibar life.
Currency where to exchange money
The currency of Tanzania and, in particular, Zanzibar is the Tanzanian shilling, but along with it, you can pay in dollars everywhere, they are accepted in cafes, souvenir shops, hotels, and even prices are often indicated in dollars.
Do not be lazy to bargain, you can do it almost everywhere, except supermarkets. Markets, souvenir shops – do not hesitate to lower the price, usually it can be “knocked down” by at least half.
If, as a souvenir, you decide to purchase products from the skins of wild animals, ivory, rhinoceros horn, gold, you cannot take them out of the country if you do not have a certificate of their purchase.
The best exchange rate in Stone Town banks, the worst in bars, restaurants and hotels. In general, there are not very many exchangers, so it is better to change money in advance. At the airport, the rate is, as always, the worst, it is better to exchange only the necessary amount for a taxi.
Prices: food, cafe, fruits
The prices for meals depend on where you are going to eat. So, dinner for two in a good restaurant on the coast will cost from $ 50-70, and you can dine in a small cafe with drinks for $ 15-30. Those who like to save money can buy food in the markets, as for fruits and spices, it is really profitable. However, you should not buy fish or poultry on the market, as they are kept there in complete unsanitary conditions.
Weather, season, best time to go
It is best to rest in Zanzibar in winter and from June to October, while the rest of the time there are rainy seasons (October-November, March-May) and rather cool weather. During the year, the air temperature on the island is kept within + 28-35 ° C, the water temperature in the ocean is + 27-29 ° C.
Visa, vaccinations, what to take with you to Zanzibar
Yes, you need a visa. It can be issued at the airport upon arrival, the period of stay is up to 90 days. Tourist visa cost – $ 50. For a few dollars in tips, you will be taken to a separate air-conditioned room, where they will help you fill out a questionnaire sitting on a sofa and do everything for you.
You do not need any vaccinations to visit Zanzibar, you only need vaccinations if you plan to visit a safari on the continent.
Be sure to take mosquito and sun protection with you. An adapter for a euro socket will also be useful.
They speak here mainly in English and Swahili, especially locals are happy if travelers say a few words to them in Swahili, for example, “sana” – thanks, “jumbo” – hello, or “akuna matata” – no problem. Many residents have already learned some Russian words. In Nungwi, near the house, every morning a local guy came up to us with a pen and a notebook and asked for help in learning Russian.
Until now, when Zanzibar is mentioned, many people ask the question, is it not dangerous to go there? In general, the locals are friendly and cheerful. And if you rest only on the territory of the hotel, then you will get a truly paradise vacation. But if we go a little outside of it in the evening, then personally we become a little anxious. The guys are constantly offering various drugs, the girls “their services”. Once we had a mini conflict with the guys and a friend’s money was stolen from her purse, so I would definitely not recommend going for a walk myself.