Travel guide to Tanzania part 2 : Zanzibar

For our 10 day trip to Tanzania we split it across – Kilimanjaro, Serengeti and Zanzibar. We ended our trip to Tanzania on the beautiful island of Zanzibar! In case you missed it, I have a super detailed Travel Guide to Tanzania Part 1 that covers our time near Kilimanjaro and the Serengeti. This guide will specifically cover only the island of Zanzibar.

 

TRAVEL REQUIREMENTS TO TANZANIA :

* The country dosen’t need a Covid test required to enter, however we did test few days in advance prior to our trip. Your airline might need a test to board so its best to check with the airline too.

* We also got Travel insurance even though it wasn’t necessary.

* The government of Tanzania has stated it has an enhanced screening policy for all incoming tourists, which includes a health questionnaire and temperature checks.

* Mask wearing and social distancing in all public spaces.

* Other requirements :

  • Visa : All nationalities would need a visa to enter. It is recommended to apply for an evisa online atleast 2-3 weeks in advance. If not you can apply for visa on arrival ( $50/person).
  • Yellow Fever certificate : not needed as long as you are originating from a non YF country.
  • Travel back to the USA : In light with the new test requirements back to the US, we also made sure to book our test in Tanzania for 3 days before we depart. We did our test in Zanzibar and got the info on where to test from our resort. If you are travelling to Tanzania, prior to booking your trip make sure to ask your resort or tour operator on testing options to fly back. More on this later.

 

WHY TANZANIA :

Africa is filled with so many incredible countries each more diverse than the other when it comes to natural beauty and wildlife. I love planning trips that have SO much variety in one destination – makes you have such a well rounded vacay with so many diverse experiences ! Tanzania is the perfect definition of that – it has so much to offer from incredible wildlife to natural wonders to rich culture and even pristine islands. We chose Tanzania for these 3 primary reasons :

1 ) WILDLIFE  : Did you know that Tanzania has the highest number of animals than any other country in Africa ? And if you love lions let me tell you this other fun fact – Tanzania has over 13000 lions – thats more lions than Kenya, South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Namibia combined! This fact of the high game density in Tanzania was the primary reason we chose this country as our first safari destination. Approximately 38% of Tanzania’s land area is protected and make up the 17 national parks, 29 game reserves and 40 controlled conservation areas ! So you are bound to see a ton of wildlife in this incredibly biodiverse country at any time of the year.

2 ) GREAT MIGRATION : The Great Migration happens here for a majority of the year ! Most visitors are familiar with the great migration as the famous river crossing that happens usually aug – sept across Kenya and Tanzania ; but for the rest of the year the migrating herds move back into Tanzania into central Serengeti and then the southern plains ( where we caught them during our trip ! )

3 ) DIVERSITY  : Aside from wildlife, Tanzania has sooo much more to offer ! From natural wonders such as Mount Kilimanjaro, cultural experiences such as living with the Maasai and even pristine islands such as Zanzibar – Tanzania makes for a super versatile, diverse and well rounded destination for a bucket list trip!

 

INTRO TO ZANZIBAR :

Zanzibar is an East African island just off the coast of Tanzania and is a tropical gem that is known for its exotic beaches, spice plantations, history and culture ! Zanzibar is a melting pot of cultures – from African, Arabic to Indian cultures; and this is evident right from its cuisine to its culture and language.

My main reason to add it especially at the end of our trip was cos of its beautiful beaches!! Did you know that Tanzania had postcard perfect beaches like these? Islands such as Zanzibar (locally called Unguja) and Pemba are known for their brilliant white sands and stunning turquoise waters. I love planning trips that have SO much variety in one destination – makes you have such a well rounded vacay with so many diverse experiences ! Tanzania is the perfect definition of that – it has so much to offer from incredible wildlife to natural wonders to rich culture and even pristine islands like this.

 

HOW TO GET TO ZANZIBAR ?

Zanzibar is a quick 20 minute flight from Dar Es Salaam, which is what we took to get here. Alternatively there are also ferry options. If you are booking your safari with a safari operator you can also have them book your domestic transfers like we did. Our flight was actually from the Serengeti via Dar.

You can also get to Zanzibar directly as it has an international airport. Many airlines like Fly Dubai and Qatar fly here directly!

 

HOW TO GET AROUND ?

While you can drive around on your own, Taxis are more popular. We used Taxis (booked at our hotel) everywhere! One particular Taxi driver that we really liked and used multiple times was Mau Chide. He is also available to rent for multiple tours around the island ! His whatsapp number is +255 777 892 685.

 

WHEN TO VISIT ?

The best time to visit Zanzibar is from June to October during the cool, dry months of spring. Another popular time to visit is from December to February (which is when we went!) when it’s hot and dry. Coincidentally these two time frames also match the two best times to visit the Serengeti!

 

 

HOW LONG & WHERE TO STAY ?

I think 4-5 days is an ideal amout of time to spend on the island. If I were to redo my trip I would split my time between the west coast (Stonetown) and any one of the east coast beach towns. We spent 4 days on the beach in the east coast and made a day trip to Stonetown.

When it comes to which beach to choose from – you are spoilt for choice! Zanzibar has ton soft beautiful beaches right from the northern tip (Nungwi), central east coast ( Matemwe, Kiwengwa, Pongwe) and the south east coast (Paje, Jambiani). Some of the northern and central east beaches are stunning no doubt but also tend to get more crowded. We were specifically looking for unspoilt, uncrowded beaches and after much research we found that Paje and Jambiani were the perfect choices for us which is why we decided to stick to these two areas for our trip.

 

1 ) SHARAZAD BOUTIQUE HOTELS (mid range ; at Jambiani beach)

During our time in Zanzibar, we stayed at the charming Sharazad Boutique Hotel. This beautiful boutique hotel group has 2 properties right on Jambiani beach – Sharazad boutique and Sharazad Oasis.

Different type of villas at Sharazad

The entire property is so serene and charming ; it was the perfect mix of informal barefoot luxury meets island boho chic. The entire property is surrounded by lust tropics and is right along the shores of one of the most untouched beaches in all of Zanzibar! Check out my full blog post from our stay at Sharazad for more details.

2 ) WHITE SAND VILLAS ( luxury, at Paje beach )

The only Relais & Châteaux in all of Zanzibar, White Sands is utterly spectacular and sits on my favorite beach in all of Zanzibar – Paje beach! White Sands was actually our first choice, but unfortunately the dates weren’t available for our dates since there only have 11 villas on property. Big tip from me – if you want to stay here book early! White Sands is a luxury boutique resort that has 11 spacious luxury villas each with their pool and recreational area and offer the utmost privacy in a natural setting.

Beach Restaurant at White Sands

We spent an entire day here and also grabbed lunch at their Beach restaurant. The food was downright incredible, and with a killer view of the beach – I mean can it get any better! We also spent the afternoon on Paje Beach, the water was so perfect – warm, calm and so shallow that you could walk out for almost half a mile out into the ocean.

3 ) EMERSON HOTELS ZANZIBAR ( luxury , in Stonetown )

Emerson Zanzibar has 2 incredible colonial boutique hotels both located in the heart of Stonetown – Emerson Spice Hotel (which is a restored Merchant’s House ) and Emerson on Hurumzi Hotel ( which is a restored Swahili palace ).  Both these magnificent historic buildings have beautiful rooms  and offers an authentic stylish ambiance, amidst the vibrant, mystical and magical sounds of  the old city!

Each hotel has an amazing rooftop restaurant.  In Emerson Spice there is also the magical Secret Garden Restaurant. We stopped by Emerson on Hurumzi for lunch while we were in Stonetown and I kid you not it was one of the BEST meals of my life ( no exaggeration)! This is a must visit on your trip to Zanzibar. More on this later below!

 

THINGS TO DO IN ZANZIBAR :

We did Zanzibar after out 6 days at Serengeti and near Kilimanjaro, so honestly we were a little exhausted by this end of the trip. While we did have a huge itinerary planned, we didn’t get around to doing much as all we wanted to do was relax on these perfect beaches, can you blame us?! But Zanzibar is a lot more than just beaches; so I’ll list out everything that was on my itinerary if you want to do more.

 

1 ) Beach hopping

When it comes to which beach to choose from – you are spoilt for choice! Zanzibar has a ton of beautiful beaches right from the north to the south! The island is known for its beaches characteristic of white soft sands , pristine warm blue waters and shallow calm tides. Here is a list of the best beaches in and around the island :
1 ) north beaches ( most popular )- Nungwi, Kendwa

2 ) central east coast – Matemwe, Kiwengwa, Pongwe, Mchangani

3 ) south east coast ( my personal faves ) – Paje, Jambiani

4 ) other small islands in the Zanzibar archipelago – Pemba Island , Mnemba island , Nakupenda Sandbar

Jambiani beach

Some of the northern and central east beaches are stunning no doubt but also tend to get more crowded. We were specifically looking for unspoilt, uncrowded beaches and after much research we found that Paje and Jambiani were the perfect choices for us which is why we decided to stick to these two areas for our trip. Paje is my absolute favorite!

Paje beach (my fave!)

One thing to keep in mind is the tides on the island ! They can go out very far out during low tide (even as much as a mile). This is one of the reasons many prefer the northern beaches because you can swim out in the waters at both low and high tide. On the eastern beaches the water goes pretty far out – at this time you can use it as an opportunity to discover the amazing reef!  You can walk out and see creatures like octopuses, sea cucumbers, etc. Most resorts will have tide timings info for you so you can plan your day.

 

2 ) Ride a traditional Zanzibar Dhow 

If you are staying at a resort, you can book for a ride on a traditional Zanzibar dhow for sunrise, sunset or even during the day like we did. It was so amazing to be out in the water! And a fun fact – this boat is made from Mango wood!

 

3 ) Safari Blue Tour

For a longer ride out on the water that also includes snorkeling and visiting an epic sandbar , opt for doing the day tour with Safari Blue.

 

4 ) Visit Stonetown

Stonetown is a UNESCO world heritage site and a fine example of the Swahili coastal trading towns of East Africa. It retains its urban fabric and townscape virtually intact and contains many fine buildings that reflect its culture. It is the cultural heart of Zanzibar and is known for its unique winding, narrow streets adorned with beautiful buildings, doors and so much more. It reminded me so much of the souks in Marrakech.

Shopping in Stonetown

Walking around stone town is such an incredible sensory experience by itself! We just went around walking on our own, while stopping at all the beautiful doors and handicraft shops along the way. If you have the time, I would recommend doing a guided walking tour here!

Beautiful doors in Stonetown

Since we only did a day trip to Stonetown we had limited time. This is why I recommend staying atleast for 1-2 nights on this side of Zanzibar before moving to the beaches as there is so much to do here. Other things to do in Stonetown – The Old Fort, The House of Wonders, Freddie Mercury’s birthplace, The Slave Museum, Darajani Market and so much more!

 

5 ) Enjoy some traditional Zanzibar food 

Delicious lunch at Emerson on Hurumzi rooftop

If you love spices like me, you are going to love the traditional food in Zanzibar. Zanzibar’s cuisine, like its culture and language, is a mix of ingredients from all over the world – it is so flavorful and aromatic. My favorite meal of the trip ( and one of the best meals ever!) was at the rooftop restaurant at Emerson on Hurumzi in Stonetown. Swahili style seating, with stunning views of the old city and lip smacking food made this such a wonderful experience overall! We went here for lunch and tried a mix of their vegetarian and fish delicacies – every dish was so so delicious. Everything comes in Tapas style, so its perfect to share. Also don’t forget to try their yummy homemade sorbets in interesting flavors such as avocado, mango ginger and tamarind. Make sure to make reservations here if you plan to go for sunset dinner.

And of course if you love tropical fruits – Zanzibar is heaven! So much fresh fruit everywhere!

6 ) The Rock Zanzibar 

The Rock Zanzibar is a must visit! It is literally a restaurant on a rock in the middle of the ocean. Depending on the tide, you will have to take a small boat ride to get to this restaurant. We went at high tide so we could walk to the entrance. The food was average in mu opinion, but I still recommend this place for its iconic location!

7 ) Other Things to do 

Here are the other things that were on my list that I couldn’t do, that you could potentially add on your itinerary :

  • Jozani Forest ( for the red Colobus Monkeys)
  • Kuza Cave
  • Visit Prison Island ( a former prison but now a reserve for giant tortoises! )
  • Swim with Turtles in Nungwi
  • Visit a Spice Farm ( afterall Zanzibar is the Spice Island! )
  • Scuba dive or Snorkel at Mnemba Atoll

 

 

 

WHAT TO WEAR :

Zanzibar is a casual island and you can get away with casual island wear. It gets very hot and humid so definitely pack accordingly. Zanzibar is predominantly Muslim, so definitely be respectful of their culture while choosing what to wear. Swimwear including bikinis are okay to wear on beaches in front of big resorts, but avoid wearing any revealing clothes in other public areas. Especially in Stonetown. I made sure to wear a full sleeved blouse and loose cotton pants.

Here are few things I packed :

  • day time : loose airy dresses, tops + denim shorts, swimsuits & coverups, beach hat, a beach bag, a waterproof bag (helpful for excursions), water shoes, sandals, sunglasses.
  • evening : a few dressy options. I noticed people weren’t over the top dressed for dinner. Some evening resort style dresses for women and printed shirts with linen pants for men would be perfect.

 

Testing for Travel back to the USA :

In light with the new test requirements back to the US, we also made sure to book our test in Tanzania for 3 days before we depart. We did our test in Zanzibar and got the info on where to test from our resort. If you are travelling to Tanzania, prior to booking your trip make sure to ask your resort or tour operator on testing options to fly back.

Here are details on where we tested :

Location : We tested at the PHEOC in Migombani. The Centre is located at previously CPS building opposite Military Camp & NMB Atm and is open daily from 8am to 5pm.

Cost : $80 (can be paid by visa credit card)

Contact info  : zpheoc01@gmail.com or WhatsApp +255772502513

Make sure to give sufficient time to pick up your test results as you will have to pick them up in person.

GET INSPIRED TO VISIT :

In our happy place!

Picture perfect beaches in Zanzibar!

Tropical fruit break at the pool

Dreamy Zanzibari sunsets!

 

In case you missed it, I have a super detailed Travel Guide to Tanzania Part 1 that covers our time near Kilimanjaro and the Serengeti.

Thanks for stopping by! xoxo

Jyo

 

 

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