I’m sure if you follow me on social media you will know I spent a few days in Zanzibar over the Eid holidays with a friend! A few people asked me where it was and what we did there, so I thought I would put together a little blog to give some info to anyone thinking of going in the future.
I initially heard of Zanzibar from a few friends of mine who had been there in the summer, and another who visited Zanzibar after climbing Kilimanjaro. So whether you’re just looking to chill out, or you are a bit more active (& fancy climbing Kilimanjaro beforehand 😉 ), then Zanzibar is the perfect place to relax!
Where is it?
Zanzibar is part of Tanzania, but is a little island off the coast. East Africa for those of you geographically challenged like myself! haha.
We flew there from Dubai with Oman Air and had a stopover in Muscat for around 1 hour-ish before having a stop over in Tanzania (didn’t have to leave plane). However some flights don’t have this stop, so just check when you are booking. The total journey took around 7 hours from Dubai.
Cost of flight?
Where we stayed:
We stayed in a little village in the North tip of Zanzibar called Nungwi village, and the hotel we stayed in was The Doubletree by Hilton – Nungwi Resort. I really cannot fault the hotel at all, it was just lovely! I emailed the hotel prior to arrival to arrange pick up at the airport, and they were there waiting with a sign as soon as we left the arrivals hall/shed……You’ll know what I mean if you go there! The cost for transport to the hotel from the airport (which is around an hour and 1/4 away), was $70 per car and the lovely driver even had a cool bottle of water for us in a little cooler bag in the car. It’s the little things!.
On arrival at the hotel, after a very bumpy drive in to the entrance from the back of the beach, we were greeted with a warm cookie and a fresh juice – yum! It’s situated on the beach front as many are, but it has it’s own pool bar and sun loungers just off the beach which are patrolled by security all day long – not that it’s needed! What it does mean is that you don’t have people trying to sell you stuff constantly when you are sun bathing. It has steps directly down onto the beach front where the view is just breath-taking!
The staff couldn’t be more helpful, there are two restaurants there, one with daily buffets at breakfast/lunch/dinner, and another with an a la carte menu daily. It does say it has a fitness centre, although I would say if you are looking for a big well-equipped gym that’s not what you are going to find I’m afraid! What it does have is a few cardio machines and a set of dumbbells, so there is more than enough to get you through a workout, so no excuses 😉 I even took my workout (see here) outdoors on my last morning, what’s not to love about training with that view!
If you prefer to be pampered then you don’t even have to leave the hotel as there are treatments available on-site, as well as hotel activities daily and water-sports/local tour options.
Cost of Hotel?
We paid around $160 per night room-only basis, but I would suggest getting at least bed and breakfast as I wasn’t overly impressed with breakfast options elsewhere. We ended up just paying extra for breakfast at our hotel as it had a great selection of hot and cold options from an egg station, waffle station, pancakes french toast, breads, fruit, juices and loads more! Well worth it! We paid $20 each for breakfast when we wanted it, so it would probably be cheaper to add this on to your stay when booking. I did manage to get a lovely assistant manager at the desk when I was sorting my extra night’s stay by myself at the end and he threw in a complimentary breakfast for me! Maybe it was the Irish accent, I dunno! 🙂
The local currency is Tanzanian Shilling, but you can use Dollars as well. I would suggest to have dollars and then change to shilling when you arrive as you will get more shillings for what they will give you if you pay in dollars. There are a few currency exchanges close by, just ask at your hotel.
$1 = 2000 shilling roughly (will get more at an exchange)
Food on the island?
Lots of little bars/restaurant shacks along the beach to choose from. I would stick to seafood and you can’t go too far wrong as you can literally watch the fishermen bring in the fish from the sea as you wait! I went for the hotel restaurant a la carte menu on my last night before I left for the airport and it was so good! A little pricier than the other places but well worth it.
Again, along the beach there are multiple bars to choose from if you want to stay close, which we did. Prices vary although drinks are relatively really cheap. At our hotel a beer was around $3 – $6. Kilimanjaro is a local lager and is lovely (and cheap!), cocktails at the hotel were around $8, outside the hotel you could get much cheaper anything from $3.50 and up.
This was not a party holiday, purposely. I literally was in bed by 11 every night! Haha. There were a few parties going on apparently, although the place wasn’t super busy where we were staying. Some bars/spots regularly talked about are:
–Cholos Bar, along the beach and Guru Guru were good bars in a good area of the beach, if it’s busy!
–Kendwa Rocks, heard this place is a good spot to party, although we met a few guys from our hotel who said it was full of kids the night they went so not sure! They have a full moon party every month that is supposed to be brilliant though, so check it out if it’s on when you are there.
–Coccobello, a few minutes drive from the beach hotels, get local guide to arrange a taxi to take you there.
I visited Zanzibar in September and the weather was amazing! In and around 30 degrees celsius every day, with a nice breeze by the beach and the clouds giving some shelter every now and then. I did of course burn to a crisp so make sure you wear plenty of sun cream! Oh and do not forget your mosquito spray – ESPECIALLY at night!
Kizimkazi village is where we went to swim with wild dolphins, down the south of the island and it was amazing! We booked through a local guide and it included the transfers there and back, the dolphin trip and a stop at the Jozani forest to see the wild monkeys! We left in the morning at around 8am however I would suggest going earlier, like 6.30am as there seemed to be more dolphins earlier in the day. As well as that, it’s hot by the time you get there after a 2 hour drive, before heading out into the ocean on a boat!
We were parched by the time we arrived so we asked one of the workers if he would grab us some beers for the trip, which he kindly did and he even waited til we got back in for payment. You are provided with a snorkel and flippers and when the dolphins are close your guide will tell you to jump in to see them underwater – so cool!
If you have a go-pro bring it! I have lots of footage I have yet to edit from the trip if anyone fancies doing it for me 😛 I would suggest bringing snacks for sure on this trip as the food you are provided with isn’t great, and the little restaurant/cafe there took all day to serve us as there was only one man taking orders and cooking.
The stop at Jozani Forest on the way home was short and sweet as we were all pretty tired and all I wanted to do was see some monkeys!
That didn’t take long as we entered the forest with our volunteer guide, as we were surrounded by red and grey monkeys jumping from tree to tree! As well as that, a few fearless monkeys coming right up to us and paying absolutely no attention whatsoever to us! Unlike the other monkeys I have seen in Thailand and Malaysia, where they would grab the bag from your back. These monkeys are wild but very very tame and so cool to look at 🙂
The tour cost $50 through the guide we used (see below), so don’t go for the ridiculous prices that some locals will try to give you (up to $180 one guy quoted us!). One thing we learnt quite fast was that you can bargain with them on almost anything there so chance your arm 😉
We also took a trip to Stone Town (Old Town) which is a beautiful town which, according to Wikipedia, was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000. It has beautiful architecture and little back streets full of bits and bobs from local hand made products to local spices, which the town is renowned for. We had a gorgeous 5-course meal in one of the well-known hotels, Emerson Spice, in their roof-top restaurant as the sun set overlooking the town. Amazing!
We paid around $40 for the 5-course meal (excluding drinks).
We paid around $25 each for the taxi there and back for the evening, again through John (see below).
Other things to do and see on the island as far as I am aware include water sports such as wake boarding, jet skiing, paddle boarding etc, tours to prison island, spice tours and a restaurant we didn’t get the chance to go to on the East coast called the Rock Restaurant out in the sea (make sure to book!).
You will get asked by many many locals if you want to go on tours and excursions through them, but I can only vouch for the tour company we went through and we had a great time! Along the beach there is a restaurant called Guru Guru Restaurant, and that’s where we got talking to John who was the nicest guy ever! He wasn’t full on in his approach like a lot of them were, and he even knew more about our President, Michael D. Higgins than I did! 😀 John set us up for the few days we were there with whatever we needed. We took an evening trip to Stone Town for sunset dinner, we did the dolphin and monkey tour and we arranged our airport transfer when we were leaving, for less than half the price it would have cost through the hotel (only $30). I would highly recommend visiting him if you go there and he will give you decent prices for tours/taxis or whatever information you want about the place.
Taxi Bantz with Ali 🙂
I booked my transport through John who sent his driver Ali to collect me. We had the chats all the way to the airport and Ali was filling me on what life was like in Zanzibar. Like most people he wasn’t too fond of his government! He reckoned that Zanzibar was a very rich country (or Tanzania as they are technically the same country), yet the people were very poor. He said its a really peaceful place and there’s rarely any trouble there.
According to him the population is just over 1 million! Ali asked if I had any children and I laughed telling him I’m too young for children yet! After him asking how old I was and me telling him 24, he laughed even harder and said I am too old in his country! haha. Apparently from the age of 14 girls there get married and have anywhere up to 18 children each!! No thank you.
On the drive there and on other journeys throughout the island we noticed that there were a lot of police checkpoints and we also noticed that sometimes the drivers would hand the police money without saying a word, then drive on. Apparently this is normal and the police try to find any reason to stop the taxis/drivers and bribe them to not give a ticket etc.
Aside from that we had a great drive to the airport! 🙂
Make sure you print out a confirmation email or have it saved on your phone as there is a little guy checking your passport and proof of your flight before you enter the airport. Once inside it’s a very very small airport so it doesn’t take long to get through to the ‘departure lounge’. There are one or two little shops selling souvenirs and some duty free though, as well as a very very limited shop selling some food and drinks! Again, I would say go prepared if you are hungry!
Hopefully these tips are of some use to someone who is thinking of visiting Zanzibar and wanted a bit more information! Of course feel free to email me if you do want any other advice and if I can help I will 🙂