Travel

Zanzibar, Part 4: How To Go To Zanzibar & A Sneaky Proposal

It’s my last blog post about Zanzibar, and this one’s a How to Go To Zanzibar Guide, that you can use to plan your next getaway. First things first, Zanzibar is located on the east side of Tanzania. It is an archipelago made up of many small islands and two large ones. The main island is Unguja but is more commonly referred to as ‘Zanzibar’.

Mango Airlines flies to Zanzibar three times a week – Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and the flight is around three and a half hours long.

 

How to book

When looking for accommodation, and especially if you are looking for a package deal (flight / accommodation / food) I would recommend you use the following sites:

Mango Travel Packages – Perfect if you are on a tight budget and want to go all-inclusive for as little as possible. Most packages are for around 4 – 7 nights. You can also try Holiday Factory and I Go Travel for other Zanzibar deals.

Booking.Com- This option is great if you are looking to stay longer than 7 nights, which we were. We also only wanted breakfast, because we were out all the time and would have missed lunch anyway. We booked our flights separately with SAA, but you fly with Mango. This option worked out better for us financially, as to add on days to the above all inclusive packages would have come to too much.
I would not recommend Airbnb in Zanzibar. (Perhaps in a couple of years when the island is more built up?)

* * Last tip – always check the hotel’s website directly before booking on the aggregators/ travel websites above, as they may have their own specials. **

This is a map of the whole island and we pretty much visited the entire place in the 11 days we were there, except for the South East area, so keep that in mind when using this guide, as it’s based on our experiences in the regions of the island that we did see.

Which area should I stay near?

 

The North

Nungwi is renowned as one of the best beaches on the island, but personally, we thought Kendwa was better.

The beach is overlooked by a number of hotels and backpackers, and is perfect for swimming. The north is blessed by not having to deal with huge high and low tides, so it’s the perfect place if you are looking to swim at any time of day, without having to walk far out to sea to chase the ocean. My advice – Try to book at The Hilton Nungwi or the surrounds – this really is the best location in the area.

The Northeast – We stayed on the North East in a fishing village called Matemwe. The area is very peaceful and less built up than the north.
Matemwe has the best reef – Mnemba Island, just 1km from the shore, where you can find some excellent diving and snorkelling spots. It is also recommended for fishing.
Keep in mind that the tidal movements on the east are massive, so sometimes you can’t swim because the sea is too shallow, or can’t walk on the beach because the tide is pretty much up right up to the hotel!
You will need to bring ‘aqua shoes’ as there are A LOT of sea urchins on this side of the island if you choose to swim or walk out to the reef.
My advice – only go to Matemwe if you are looking for isolation, peace and some fishing. If your a party person, head north.
The South – The general rule is that the further south you go, the busier it gets, as more locals live in the southern region.
We went to Fumba at the bottom of the island when we headed out on the Safari Blue Excursion.
Fumba is also a very beautiful area (but not as pristine as the North) is close to Stone Town, – the city centre – as well as the beaches, airport and many other excursions, so it is a great place to stay if you want to save on taxi fare.
The North West – My absolute favourite beach, Kendwa on the North West is not too far away from Nungwi in the north.
The sand is white and fine, the water is azure blue and ideal for swimming. The hotel you see in the left hand corner of my picture is called ‘Diamonds La Gemma’ and if you want to splurge, this is the hotel I would recommend you stay at.
Keep in mind when you are staying in Kendwa as the area has full moon parties (unless that’s why you are there) so it can get very busy, but it was nothing too crazy when we visited.

Where we stayed in Matemwe

 

We stayed in Matemwe at a Boutique Hotel called Villa Kiva, a beautiful spot with a relaxing and great atmosphere.
The food quality was average – probably because they are on the east and very isolated, so it’s not easy to get fresh food in. They have a baker named Little Chef working in the kitchen and her baked goods where the highlight of the food for us.
Other than that, we loved our stay, the staff were friendly and welcoming, the garden is a tropical paradise, breakfast has an ocean view and it is the perfect place to relax, read a book and forget the world.

When is the best time to go to Zanzibar?

 

 

The best time to visit Zanzibar is between July and September when it is warm and has occasional showers, and the dry season in December and February. Don’t go in March, April and May, the rainy season, prone to anticyclones.

 

What should I pack / Remember to do before we go?

 

Pack: Universal Power adapter, camera, mosquito repellent, sunscreen, flip flops, comfortable walking shoes, lightweight clothing, swimsuit, rain jacket, aqua shoes, sunglasses, first aid kit, sea sickness tablets, sarong for beach / cover shoulders in certain Muslim areas, toiletries, sweets. (More on that in a minute)

Remember to: Visit a travel clinic to get malaria tablets and a yellow fever injection. Apply for travel insurance (just call your medical aid to arrange), purchase your dollars -try to get small denominations, check your passport is valid (you don’t need a visa) and take a pen with you on the plane as you need to fill out immigration forms. (if you forget it like we did, you stand in a very long line waiting to use a communal pen 😂)

The Food

 

 

 

I am not going to lie to you.

My IBS diet was ruined from the moment I set foot off the plane.

While it’s easy for me to avoid too much dairy, it’s near impossible to avoid Gluten without starving. In addition, everything is laced with Garlic and Onions – so I was in pain a lot of the time I was there, meaning I had to opt for very basic food.

If you haven’t got issues like me – you will be fine. 😊

Other things to know

  • Do not drink the water unless you are a local (their stomachs are pretty strong) – your hotel should provide you with bottled water everyday
  • There are no malls on the entire island, so try not to forget the basics as you will struggle to find kiosks and shops, especially if staying in areas like Matemwe
  • There is no Uber, but plenty of local taxis (easily arranged through hotel)
  • Learn a few basic Swahili words. Hello – “Jambo”, Thank you – “Asante Sana”, Welcome – “Karibu”, No problem – “Hakuna Matata”
  • Don’t bring Tanzanian Shillings back to SA – South African foreign exchange kiosks will not accept it
  • Don’t bring back sand or shells, it is not allowed and you will be fined
  • When walking in the sea, look out for Sea Urchins. They look like little black balls with spikes, that sit on the sea bed and they are very poisonous
  • Locals will approach you wherever you go, trying to sell you something. Listen to what they have to say, because you may find a good bargain on an excursion. Always be polite in your interactions, even if you have to keep saying no a few times – they are VERY persistent.
  • Little children will ask you for sweeties and dollars. Keep some sweets on hand if you can and you don’t have any dollars to spare 😉
  • Strange Fact – Egg yolks are white, not yellow. There’s nothing wrong with them, it’s just that the yolks are never yellow, because the chickens are fed on a grain that makes them produce monochrome eggs!

Zanzibar has a reputation for being super-expensive, but we didn’t find this to be the case once we were there (except for the food – that is overpriced, but its an island so it’s kind of expected)

If you want to be a budget-backpacker, you can skip out on the activities we did and relax at the hotel / swim, but if you are travelling with other people, you can split the costs of the tours between you

 

A Sneaky Proposal

 

 

Zanzibar is the home of idyllic beaches, warm tropical waters, coral reefs and white powdery beaches, but it is also full of other options for travellers that want to see more (Safari Blue and Mnemba Atoll), learn more (Stone Town and Prison Island) and dive into the rich culture (Spice Tours).

But, even with all these things in mind, my favourite thing to do in Zanzibar was to be on the beach.

And on the 8th September 2018 – Shaun sneakily found a way to propose, on a secluded reef that we had kayaked out to (too shoot pictures for his Fly Fishing Shop supposedly), with his drone in mid-air recording everything going down… 😁

Zanzibar holds such a special place in my heart and will for years to come and I cannot wait to go back someday. 🤞 Tick it off your bucket list – visit Zanzibar as soon as you can!

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