Zanzibar is my favorite place in the world. Seriously, no one tell Abidjan, but I love Zanzibar. In the last year or two, a lot of my Facebook friends or Tumblr followers have made the trek to the little East African Island. To try to answer all questions about the island at once, here is a little guide of places to stay and things to do while in Zanzibar. Hope it helps and feel free to comment with your own suggestions:
Getting to Zanzibar from Dar es Salaam (Dar) depends on how you deal with sea sickness. If you don’t deal with it well, there are $100-$200 round trip flights from Dar to Stone Town that lasts at most 30 mins. If you can brave a 2 hours boat ride on semi-choppy water than you can take the ferry for about $70 roundtrip. If you do take the ferry, keep your guard up, there are a lot of people, its hot, vendors are trying to sell you things, kids are begging for money, ALL THE THINGS are happening at that sea port. It’s not particularly dangerous, but it can be disorienting, particularly in the 100 degree weather. Another plus of taking the ferry is that you disembark right in the middle of Stone Town, the main city in Zanzibar, and just a few steps from the best hotels. When you take a flight to Zanzibar you end up across town at the airport and it could cost you up to $40-$50 to get to where you need to be.
I have always booked my hotel beforehand, usually through hostel bookers. I usually stay at Zenji Guesthouse; its super clean, air conditioned, colorful, and has a delicious breakfast of fruit, cakes, and omelets included in your stay. It’s definitely a younger crowd so you will meet twenty and thirty somethings which is always a good time (I guess not always but sometimes LOL). They have private rooms, but also shared rooms with shared bathrooms that can go as low as $30 per night per person. It’s good to book ahead as they fill up pretty quickly during the busy season (November-February). Any hotel you stay in in Stone Town can also hook you up with various day excursions around the city. Popular activities include going on a Spice Tour.
Zanzibar is also known as Spice Island so there are forests full of different plants and spices that you can visit. These tours usually include a shuttle that will take you to a spice farm where you can go around looking and tasting different plants and spices. They provide you lunch, and the one I went on took us to the beach. It’s a cool thing to do if you have an extra day or two in Stone Town. Again, wait to organize this until you get to Stone Town, online they will try to charge you upwards of $30 when you could pay around $15 once you get there. Another excursion which I would suggest even more than the spice tour is a trip to Prison Island. This is about a 20 min ride from Stone Town (when I went we were able to stop and snorkel on the way!) and it’s so worth it. It’s a beautiful island with so much history going back to the slave trade. It also has like a hundred huge tortoises, with some as old as 120! It is definitely a must when on the island.
Stone Town also has an open air food market every night that starts at about dusk, it’s really cool and you can try the best sugar cane juice in the world. There are a lot of vendors who sell squid and other seafood, I would stay away from that, these guys are out there selling the same things every day and I don’t know how fresh it is.
If you have some time, don’t forget to visit the Anglican Church that sits on what was one of East Africa’s largest slave markets. It is now a museum with a small fee to enter, you’ll get a guide who walks you through the church and the slave chambers in the basement that was kept intact with authentic chains used on the slaves who passed through the market.
But to really experience Zanizabr you have got to leave the hustle and bustle of Stone Town. I personally think the best beaches on the island are at the northern most tip. Kendwa beach boasts beautiful clean sand, warm water that hardly recedes with the tide, and is not choppy. It’s a tranquil place with tranquil waters best for relaxing and floating around. I would always stay at Kendwa Rocks, its an awesome beach resort that has great views, is right on the beach, has delicious food and is pretty affordable. For around $70 per night, you get air conditioning, a private heated shower, and beautiful Zanzabari décor. Kendwa Rocks also hosts a full moon party every month that brings out the whole island! It’s out on the beach and its beautiful, the DJ plays Afrobeat, top forty, and techno, a little something for everyone. There are lots of booze cruises that happen around Kendwa, also some more romantic sunset cruises for couples, there’s also parasailing and other water activities like jet skiing at your disposal. This is true Zanzibar!
Zanzibar is a great time, the food is good, the alcohol is cheap, but its important to remember it is also a Muslim island. Of course it’s fine to be on the beach in your bikini, but when you are walking around the city or beach towns, cover up, don’t wear short shorts or crop tops. Be as respectful to the local population, they are very welcoming and that consideration should be reciprocated.