When speaking of Tanzania the first thing that comes to mind would be National Geographic like Safaris, wildebeest migration, beautiful landscape, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro the highest peak in Africa, few would think of it as the perfect beach retreat. Tanzania has more than 50 islands; the most famous are Zanzibar, Pemba & Mafia. I will be talking about Zanzibar, the main island, covering the main highlights.
Photo courtesy: Peter
Zanzibar also known as Spices Island thanks to its production of spices for hundreds of years, it remains one of the world’s few places that still produce saffron along with other many spices such as cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, black pepper, etc.
The island is basically divided into;
- The main center of Stone Town
- The East Coast
- The Northern Tip
- The South West
- Michamvi Peninsula (the south east)
Photo courtesy: Shayne Thomas
Note that Zanzibar is bigger than you think it is, so getting for instance from Stone Town to the northern tip takes from 1 hour to 2 hours drive.
When To Go
Remember that Zanzibar lies at the equator therefore it has a tropical weather, the best time to go is when temperatures are around 28-30 degrees Celsius with barely any chances of rain. At 36-38 degrees Celsius that would be at their highest, and the rainfall would be at very high density, therefore it’s advisable to go in;
Photo courtesy: Jason Bagley
There are different ways to get to Zanzibar, whether to fly from Cairo to Zanzibar making stops depending on the airline company you are traveling with, a much cheaper alternative would be to fly from Cairo to Dar Es Salam (the capital of Tanzania), then fly to Zanzibar from Dar Es Salam-book your tickets separately Cairo/Dar/Cairo then Dar/Zan/Dar via low cost-, or take a ferry boat.
- Duration: 20 minutes
- Cost: starting from EGP 1060 (Dar/Zanzibar/Dar) via low cost carriers
Taking a ferry ride to Zanzibar
- Duration: approximately two hours if the tide is low, but if the tide is high it could take up to 5 hours
- Cost: 35$ for 2nd class, & 40$ for a first class one way ticket (2 ways equals 70$ or 80$), you’d better go for 1st class to have more leg room, and better seating
- Luggage: Each person is entitled to 25 KG, in the case the luggage was overweight a surcharge should be paid
- Operators: the best is Azam Marine specially the Sea Express or Kilimanjaro ferry (tickets best purchased online or a day ahead to guarantee a seat, specially for early morning ferries)
- Daily Schedule: Dar to Zan: 7AM, 9:30AM, 12:30PM and 3:45PM | Zan to Dar: 7AM, 9:30AM, 12:30PM, and 3:30PM
Tip: While in the port avoid touts -sou2 soda sellers- and scams, and buy your tickets from the glass-walled building, not from street-vendors.
Photo courtesy: Martijn.Munneke
Is the enchanting capital of Zanzibar, and its trade center. Was declared a UNESCO World Heritage thanks to its labyrinth-like alleyways blending Moorish, Middle-Eastern, Indian, and African traditions, art, architecture, and cuisine. In the 19th century the trade created wealth which in turn led to the construction of palaces, mosques, and fine houses. That’s the place to immerse in the culture, get to meet other travelers, mingle with locals, and above all munch street food at its best. It’s an open air market full of life, the meeting point, and where the happening usually is; is at Forodhani Gardens.
Tanzania is a Muslim country so make sure to dress conservatively while wandering around markets, however on the beach you are free to be dressed less conservatively.
Photo courtesy: Yoni Lerner
- The House Of Wonders, The Palace Of Wonders, or Beit-el-Ajaib: is the tallest and largest building lying in the heart of Stone Town facing the famous Forodhani Gardens; the locals and travelers meeting point, and your starting point to get yourself lost in the alleys of Stone Town. It was given this name as it was the first house in Stone Town to have electricity, an elevator, and running water.
Photo courtesy: sci-culturist
- The Old Fort or the Arab Fort: Is the oldest building in Stone Town and a major attraction.
- Former Slave Market: The museum was once -sadly- a slavery market, it now consists of two slavery rooms, one for women and one for men, an Anglican Church and a memorial.
Photo courtesy: Kevin Harber
- Spice Tours: No visit to Zanzibar is complete without taking a spices tour on the land of spices, this is your chance to see how different spices are grown, to try exotic fruits, and probably be lucky to see Lipstick trees.
Quircky shops at Stone Town by: Samir Luther
Home to the “only living in Zanzibar” Red Colobus Monkeys, exotic and large trees and plants, and the place to walk in amazing nature trails.
Photo courtesy: Travel Aficionado
Also known as Changuu or Quarantine Island, in the 1860’s it was used as a prison, then as a quarantine station for those infected by yellow fever. It’s now a beautiful place hosting ruins and giant tortoises, and only 30 minute motorboat trip from Stone Town.
Photo courtesy: Antoine Hubert
Powdery white sandy beaches, shaded by palm trees, crystal clear waters, and colorful coral reefs, that’s how the beaches of Zanzibar should be described, needless to mention that off-the-beaten-track honeymooners go there specially Mnemba island the ultimate private getaway.
Lying at the northern tip of the island, crowded by tourists specially Italians during the high-season, that’s the swimming hub even when the tide is at its lowest, and is a nice place to enjoy a bit of nightlife at the beach bars.
Only few kilometers from Nungwi, not only that it hosts beautiful sandy beaches, but is home to full moon parties -not as great as Thailand’s though- at Kendwa Rocks happening every Saturday following a full moon.
That’s the southeast coast’s liveliest village, famous for its stunning coral reefs best explored through diving, it has an awesome beach, great restaurants, and above all a kite-boarding and water-sports hub.
Photo courtesy: Shayne Thomas
Home to the most antique mosque in Africa. It’s a small fishing village famous for its Dolphin tours, giving you the chance to swim, get up close and personal to this amazing friendly creature.
Is a small fishing village on the east coast with resorts on the northern and southern side.
The best beach escape specially if you want to run for the northern side’s crowds. Located at the southern tip of the east coast, only 70 KM from Stone Town. You’d better go there in July when the “Mwaka Kogwa” festival is still on, this is no music festival, but one that has a very traditional significance.
Home to a mangrove forest; hosting various coral reefs, turtle species, migratory humpback whales, whale sharks, and the only resident population of dugong along the East African Coast.
Photo courtesy: MongFish
- Those seeking the ultimate local experience should ride dala-dalas, the Tanzanian version of Egyptian microbuses, however not as cheap. It’s the cheapest way to get around the island, costing around $ 1.50 to get from Stone Town to the north, east or south coast.
- Shared taxis are another option for those traveling on a tight budget, or keen to go relatively local, they operate from Stone Town for $10 per person.
- Regular taxis from Stone Town to any coastal city would cost around $50 -note that there is always room for price negotiation.
- Going from the airport/ferry port to any coastal city would cost you something around $50, if not more. Try to negotiate the price before getting in, the last thing you want is being ripped off on your very first day.
The dala-dala by Gael Fortier
What To Eat & Drink
Photo courtesy: Tak
The food is highly influenced by Indian cuisine, so it’s an Afro-Indian mix of delicacies. Eating street-food at Stone Town is a must, however be extra cautious as food that is not covered in plastic, is covered with flies. Read our 13 tips for eating street food without getting sick.
- That’s the land of seafood and meat lovers heaven, make sure to eat lots of them
- Fruits such as plantains (similar to bananas), bananas, and pawpaw (papaya)
- Chai: not the traditional tea but one that’s made of black tea, ginger, cardamom, sugar and milk
- Ugali: a stiff dough made of cassava flour, or cornmeal (maize), usually served with a sauce containing either meat, fish, beans, or cooked vegetables (note that beans are highly consumed in Africa)
- Nyama Choma: grilled meat
- Ndizi Kaanga: are fried plantains or bananas served as a treat in many African and Asian countries
Photo courtesy: Geof Wilson
- Ndayu: young roasted goat
- Samosas: the Indian/Tanzanian version of Samboussak
- Curried Fish
- Pilau: cooked rice, well seasoned with curry, cinnamon, cumin, hot peppers, and cloves
- Mchicha: a vegetarian dish made of Tanzanian spinach and peanut curry
- Kashata: a very sweet tasting snack made from coconut chunks or groundnuts
- Samaki: fish cooked in coconut
- Chapati: fried flat bread
- Rice or potato pudding
No visa required for Egyptian Passport holders;
- Visa acquired upon arrival for 50$
- To skip the airport queues you can apply at the Tanzanian embassy in Cairo located in: 10 Off Shehab St., Mohandessin (Phone: 02 33374155)
- 2 Passport photos
- Valid passport
- HR Letter
- Flight tickets
- Proof of accommodation
- 2 application to be filled at the embassy
- Fees of EGP 400 (cash)
Photo courtesy: Daniel Greer
Vaccinations & Immunizations
- Yellow fever shot: that’s a must, you will be required to show at the airport your International Yellow Certificate proving that you received this vaccination, and is valid for 10 years. For more information call 02 35720451/322.
- Hepatitis A, Cholera, Typhoid available in Vacsera
- Malaria tablets available at any pharmacy -you’d find very cheap ones, and an expensive one costing around EGP 300 if not more, the cheap ones will do that was a pharmacist’s advice.
Don’t fret, remember that after all this pain you will be chill-axing by Zanzibar’s beaches
Photo courtesy: U.S. Army Corps Of Engineers
Not To Miss
- Eat or have a drink at The Rock Restaurant (therockrestaurantzanzibar.com)
- A sunset view from Africa Hotel’s terrace in Stone Town
- Music fans and night gurus should ask at Forodhani Gardens about where to find Starehe, in the weekend reggae music is played in the evening/night and you can dance together with the locals, and Starehe is the keyword 😉
- Kendwa Rocks full-moon beach parties occurring each Saturday following a full moon
- Snorkeling at Mnemba “the honeymooners getaway”
Photo courtesy: Shayne Thomas
- Closely check the doors at Stone Town influenced by different architectural and artistic styles
- Taking a photo of the boat yard in Nungwi at sunset
Photo courtesy: Peter
- Relaxing by the beach
- Snorkeling & Diving
- Kayaking & Canoeing
- Cycling: the most famous tours are offered by zanzibarcyclingadventures.com
- Sailing aboard a dhow: that’s a must try!
Photo courtesy: Geof Wilson
- Yoga & Meditation
to be continued…Where to go for Safari in Tanzania?