We just created a gallery with the best images of our 2014 trip to Zanzibar, so click on the image below and enjoy!
After spending two weeks in the hot, dry and dusty Tanzanian mainland, Zanzibar quickly impressed us as a very interesting and attractive location.
Even though this island is politically part of Tanzania, its people and culture are totally different and the cliches that you might have heard about it are all true: the abundance of spices, the white beaches with palm trees and turquoise water, the handsomely carved wooden doors…
Our first Zanzibar impression was of Stone Town’s narrow winding streets densely populated by a vital Muslim community. After turning a few times around the corner you quickly get the feeling of being lost, but you don’t particularly care because with each turn a new world opens in front of you: a colorful textile market, a furniture-making cooperative, a street corner lined up with food stalls… And the streets are full of people, bicycles and motorcycles all going in different directions, ringing their bells or tooting their horns. Men are sitting on the doorsteps drinking chai while women with black clothes and head-dresses are quickly walking by.
There are many hotels in Stone Town. We like to keep our budget low, so we stayed at the Riverman Hotel for 30 USD per night, but if you like a bit of luxury and exclusivity, check out the Tembo Hotel. This is the perfect place for spending your honeymoon.
Food and Drink
Our visit coincided with the last three days of Ramadan and the festivities that follow it. During Ramadan Muslims fast and refrain from many activities during the day, but after sunset the towns and villages explode with life. Markets overfill with people and food stalls appear everywhere.
After our very simple diet on Tanzania’s mainland, the food variety on Zanzibar easily amazed us: various fruits and vegetables, baked goods (try Kshetieu), various fish and seafood, Zanzibar pizza (it’s delicious), pilau, Urojo soup, etc. Even our beloved sugar-cane juice was available everywhere. And to top it off we discovered a new drink: Sotojo. This mixture of milk, yoghurt, honey, chopped dates and roasted peanuts is indeed highly caloric, but also incredibly delicious!
If you have any interest in food and food preparation do make a spice tour. Mr. Mitu’s Spice Tours (among others) are highly recommended and can be booked in most hotels. For 15 USD per person you will enjoy a ride to a farm outside of Stone Town, a two-hour detailed explanation of the various spice plants and trees, a freshly cooked delicious lunch, a ride to one of the nice beaches and a return to Stone Town in the afternoon.
Katja and I enjoyed immensely seeing the spice plants as well as touching, cutting, smelling or trying fresh vanilla, cinnamon, cardamon, star fruit, coconut, cocoa, pepper, ginger, rambutan, lemon grass, turmeric, nutmeg and clove.
No visit to Zanzibar is complete without hitting the beaches, so don’t forget your bathing suit at home! You’ll have a wide choice of resorts, ranging from basic all the way up to super exclusive and luxurious. The former are individual buildings and restaurants with shared access to the beach, while the latter ones have high walls, private beaches as well as their own boats and shuttle services.
The white sand and warm turquoise water are great, and if you like to relax, you can easily spend a week or more here. All of these places are self-sufficient (with bars, restaurants and day-tours to various snorkel and diving spots), so you will be totally cut off from the local people and their culture.
There are clear boundaries between the tourist spots and the local villages, and the two hardly ever have any contact. While the people of Zanzibar seem to be slightly better off than the very poor population on Tanzania’s mainland, the locals still lead extremely simple lives. They live in small houses made out of stones, corals or wood with roofs made out of thin metal sheets or banana leaves. Their only contact with the water is for fishing or offering the occasional tourist a boat ride.
Of all the resorts that we experienced, we especially liked the Belvedere Resort in Jambiani. If you are looking for the perfect romantic spot, we highly recommend this place!
We really enjoyed our week on Zanzibar. Almost everyone in Stone Town speaks good English, but here too, they use it more for selling than for making true contact with the visitors. The prices for food, transport and accommodations are a bit higher than on the mainland, but not out of proportion. There are many more tourists and souvenir shops here, and the prices are at least 30% higher than in Moshi or Arusha.
To get to Zanzibar from Dar es Salaam you can fly (20 min, 53 USD) or take a fast boat (2 hours, 40 USD).