Zanzibar is an archipelago made up of several islands including Pemba, Mafia and Unguja (which is the largest and the one we visited). Unguja is also often known as the island of Zanzibar where we find its capital, Stone Town. This island is located in the Indian Ocean and is known for its paradisiacal white sand beaches, but it is also of great importance in the course of the history of African slavery and trade between Arabia, India and Africa.
During the 19th century, Zanzibar became the point of arrival and departure of millions of slaves from the interior of the continent. This lucrative business was run mostly by Arabs, Indians, and Europeans who sent slaves to the Middle East and the Asian colonies. The largest slave market in all of East Africa was in Stone Town. You can read more about this barbarity in the story in the next article.
With an area of 1,666 square kilometers (85 km long and about 30 km wide), there are about 1.5 million people living in Zanzibar who are very proud to be on this island. One only has to review the history of the last centuries to understand this sentiment.
In 1963, Zanzibar became independent from the United Kingdom, forming a monarchy controlled by the Arab sultans who had previously ruled the country. However, it did not last long because in January 1964 a revolution led by the Ugandan-born African John Okello broke out with the aim of overthrowing the government that had so long oppressed African slaves. Many people of Arab and Indian descent died, and since then the country has been led by Abeid Karume, a moderate leader of the Afro-Shirazi Party (PAS).
A few months later (26th April 1964), the island of Zanzibar and the territory of Tanganyika merged to form the country we now know as the United Republic of Tanzania. Zanzibar would have a special autonomy that it has retained to this day. In fact, when you walk around the island you will see many people wearing T-shirts from Zanzibar and with a very nationalist feeling different from Tanzania inland. Zanzibar is also known as the African Hong Kong.
The intercultural mix of its inhabitants, the paradisiacal beaches, the tropical landscape, its history and the African life that is captured make Zanzibar one of the most special and authentic islands in the Indian Ocean.
How to get there?
To get to Zanzibar, we have two options: either by plane landing at the only airport on the island (Abeid Amani Karume Airport), or by ferry from Dar es Salaam to Stone Town.
There are intercontinental flights flying from Doha with Qatar Airways or from Dubai with Emirates. Once you arrive at the airport, you will need to formalize your Immigration visa (remember that you can see the visa article here). To change money, we recommend changing currency at the office outside the airport in the car park. Surprisingly, the change they have is pretty good. We got the following change: 1$ – 2,309 TSH. All the car rental agencies and taxis will take you to Stone Town city for about 10$. You can also use public transport (dala-dala) from outside the airport.
Traveling by ferry is the ideal option if you are in Dar-es-Salaam. The ferry leaves from the side of Dar Es Salaam Maritime Institute and leaves you on the seafront promenade of Stone Town. The trip takes about 3 hours and costs about 35$ per person per trip. There are different day trips and you can also book in advance online. One of the most recommended companies is Azam Marine. Better to buy the ticket at the offices, and not at the people you will find hanging around. Think you will need your passport and yellow fever vaccination card to be able to make the journey to Zanzibar.
How to move around the island?
The best way to get around Zanzibar is to rent a car. The island is about 85 km long and, although it has public transport, it is not notable for its speed or for getting to all places. The other way is to rent a private driver or a taxi but it will be much more expensive.
We rented a car at the Sabry agency (+255 786414044). She waited us at the airport with our rented car, ready to leave the city. Sabry is a woman with whom you can quickly get in touch via Whatsapp and who offers very good prices. To drive around the island, you will need a special driver’s license that costs 10$ per driver and will be processed by the same rental agency with a photo ID and a photocopy of your driver’s license from your home country. We sent to Sabry all the information via Whatsapp and when we arrived, Sabry already had everything ready.
Another way to get around the island is to rent a motorbike. During the days we were there, we saw some tourists riding a motorbike (scooter type) to visit some corners of the island. We were very happy to rent the car with Sabry, who got along very well with us and even allowed us to leave the car back in the city center to be already located there. Really highly recommended!
Useful tips to travel in Zanzibar
Zanzibar is one of the best known islands in the Indian Ocean. If you want to see paradisiacal beaches and enjoy African life in a small format, this is the place. However, we give you some practical tips that will help you enjoy this archipelago even more:
- If you drive on the island, scrupulously respect the speed limits. Consider that on the island the driving is on the left side, and the speed limit on the main road cannot exceed 60 km/h (at the entrance to towns and cities, it goes down to 50 km/h and sometimes 40 km/h). Although you will find many drivers overtaking you, do not speed too much because there are a lot of police checks on the roads. We, on the first day, found one that photographed us going at 57 km/h and wanted to fine us for exceeding the speed limit (which was not signposted). In the end, we fixed it by paying 20,000 TSH to delete the photo, but for that reason, we advise you not to go very fast if you travel by car around the island. Drive slowly also because in Zanzibar the roads are shared by cars, bicycles, children, fruit-laden carts and people walking quietly. That way, you don’t have to worry about any bad accident.
- It should be noted that in Zanzibar much of the population is Muslim. Therefore, it is important to wear appropriate clothing that does not attract too much attention (do not go with very short pants, with straps, very low-cut clothes, guys without a shirt…). On the beaches, it is not advisable to do topless although it is allowed to go with a bikini and swimsuit.
- If you are a lover of photography, keep in mind that in many places photography is not well accepted. It’s best before photographing a person or a group, to ask if they don’t mind taking out that photo. It is important to ask permission to respect the privacy of other people.
- It is very important to consider the tides when traveling on the island. We, in the Mediterranean, are not used to it at all but in Zanzibar you need to ask when the tide is high and low if you want to take a long walk on the beach. There are some points that are impassable during high tide. Also for swimming you can ask when the tides are low or high. If the tide is high, it is the best time to swim because if the tide is low, you will have to go deep into the sea to swim.
- Zanzibar is a tropical island where heat predominates. We went there in low season (July) and it was also very sunny. We recommend that you bring sunscreen, a hat and during the sunniest hours think about relaxing in the hotel, in the restaurant or in the shade. Also consider taking a good mosquito repellent with you as we are on a tropical island.
Places to visit:
1. Stone Town
Stone Town is the capital of the archipelago. Merchants, sailors, explorers, slave traders and even Freddy Mercury, who was born here, have passed through here. The mixture of Arab, Indian and Swahili culture is noticeable in the architecture of the city and its buildings (especially in the old part of the city with its majestic gates); in the faces and character of the people; in its gastronomy with a great presence of spices and culinary fusions; in his attire with traditions that have endured over the years; and, in general, in the city’s own temperament.
If you want to experience all this mixture of sensations, the best thing you can do is walk aimlessly through the labyrinthine streets of the Old Town and experience the past and present of this stone city that is a World Heritage Site.
WHAT TO DO IN STONE TOWN?
– Visit the slave market and its Museum:
If you’re going to Zanzibar, it’s a must to know what this island was also some years ago: the largest slave market in East Africa. The main lucrative business of many traders on the island was the slave trade. Carriers and merchants traveled in caravans inland to the African continent, where they chained native Africans and enslaved them. These were taken to Stone Town to be displayed in the square, sold and moved mainly to the Middle East.
On average, about 50,000 slaves passed through Zanzibar each year. It is shocking to see that slavery on the island was not completely abolished until 1909. If you want to know more, you can read this article.
Now on the site of the market is a memorial and an Anglican cathedral in honor of John Kirk, an expedition companion of David Livingstone, who bought slaves to set them free and who pressured the sultans to abolish this inhuman practice.
The cost of admission is 11,500 TSH per person. It is essential to do the guided tour, so you can learn more about the history of this place. There is also a museum where you can see photographies and explanations of migratory routes and slavery.
– Visit the Darajani market and the great multitude of spices:
Located in the upper part of the city, Darajani Market is a lively place divided into different sectors (fruit, meat, spices, clothes…) where you will find the real essence of the daily life of the people of Stone Town.
– Enter to the Omani fort of the city:
Stone Town Fort is the oldest building in the city. It was built by the Arabs as a building of protection once they drove the Portuguese out of there. During the 19th century it became a prison, and in the 1990s they built an adjacent amphitheater where the Zanzibar International Film Festival is held. It is located next to the House of Wonders, the former palace of the Sultan of Zanzibar which was one of the most beautiful buildings in Stone Town (although it has been under renovation for many years and cannot be visited today). The visit to the fort is free.
– Get lost in the streets of the Old Town:
Walking aimlessly through the old part of Stone Town is one of the best activities that can be done. If you want, you can go with a guide who will explain the different corners of the Old Town where you will find the great Swahili doors, architecture of Arab and Indian influence, narrow streets with street vendors, souvenir shops, St. Joseph’s Cathedral…
– Dinner in Forodhani Gardens:
The Forodhani Gardens are located right in front of the Omani Fort, next to the sea. In the evening, you will find many food stalls (kebabs, fish, meat…) with chefs who will try to convince you that their dishes are the best. A very good place to dinner and stroll along the promenade that connects the old part with the sea.
– Watch the sunset from the Africa House Hotel:
In Stone Town, there are many hotels that have history. Some of them are the Emerson Spice Hotel (formerly a merchants’ house, as well as being the last house of the Swahili ruler of Zanzibar) or the Africa House Hotel. The latter was built by a slave trader who gave the hotel to the royal family and, after, became “the English Club”, the place where the British met. It still retains this aroma, and it is very nice to go for a drink on its terrace on the top floor facing the sea. Perfect for watching the sunset.
– Visit the House of Freddy Mercury:
The leader of the band “The Queen” was born and spent his childhood on the island of Zanzibar. You can visit his family home located in the city center and a few meters from the boardwalk. Admission is 10$ for adults and 5$ for children under 12.
– Visit the route of the spices:
In the central part of the island and near Stone Town, you can take some tours to see the different plants where the spices come from. Zanzibar is the quintessential spice island and can be a very interesting visit if you have the time to do so. For us, this activity was pending but we can recommend some plantations such as the Village Green Spice Farm located in Uzini, the Tangawizi Spice Farm located near the Masingini Forest or the Kidichi Spice Farms north of Stone Town.
WHERE TO SLEEP IN STONE TOWN?
Stone Town has a wide range of accommodation to suit all budgets. You can find luxury hotels located on the seafront as well as cheaper options. We highlight:
– zLife Hostel: This is where we stayed. It is a very central accommodation with a very good location (we went everywhere on foot). It has dormitories (10$ per person) and double rooms (around 30$ per room) that open onto a very nice inner courtyard. Some have shared toilets, while others have indoor toilets. It also has a communal kitchen and a small restaurant downstairs. It has wifi and very good relation quality-price. Marcus, its owner, will take care of you very well. To book, click here.
– Stone Town Sea View: Located in the eastern part of the city, it is a few minutes walk from the Old Town and right next to the sea. It has an upper terrace and offers double rooms for around 30 euros a night.
– Jafferji House & Spa: It is located behind the ancient Omani fort, very close to the Forodhani Gardens and the old part of the city. It is a hotel that has maintained the traditional Swahili architecture and is over 100 years old (it was a merchant’s house). Prices are around 90 euros a night for a double room and have many good reviews and references. For more information, click here.
– Swahili House: Located in the middle of the Old Town, this hotel was the home of an Indian merchant. They have kept the traditional essence and offer double rooms of high standing for a price of around € 120 per night. It has a beautiful terrace on the top floor and a swimming pool. For more information, click here.
WHERE TO EAT IN STONE TOWN?
Stone Town has many places to enjoy Swahili cuisine and the cultural mix of Zanzibar. Some of the places we recommend are:
– Lukmaan Restaurant: Located very close to the slave market, it is a must-eat place. A restaurant where the local people eat, and where you will find a wide gastronomic offer for a very good price. We had lunch for 30,000 TSH (about 5.50 euros for two people). An authentic place to enjoy Swahili cuisine.
– Forodhani Gardens: In the evening, many food stalls gather in these gardens to offer street food. You’ll find fish and meat that will cook for you instantly, as well as kebabs and traditional Swahili pizza (a mass of local bread with chicken, onion, spices, green pepper and vegetables). We dined for 12,000 TSH 2 people.
– Mashallah Café: Located in the Old Town of the city, it is a local place where you will find good curries and very cheap prices.
– Krishna Food House: Indian restaurant located near the Omani fort, is one of the best places for vegetarian and Indian food.
Nungwi, considered the second largest village in Zanzibar with approximately 5,000 inhabitants, is located at the northern end of the island. This area contains some of the best beaches in Zanzibar, in the west, where you can watch the sunset as you walk along white sandy beaches. Further south, we find the town of Kendwa with also spectacular beaches.
Nungwi is the starting point for snorkeling on Mnemba Island, owned by Bill Gates and where there is an exclusive resort only suitable for billionaires.
It is the quintessential tourist spot of Zanzibar, but Nungwi is not limited to just that: the people, the mix of cultures, the fish market, the village where you can see the local life … they fill everything with essence of African life.
WHAT TO DO IN NUNGWI?
– Walk along Nungwi beach to Kwenda:
The western part of the island is made up of white sandy beaches with turquoise waters that stretch for miles and miles. You can walk a distance of about 7 kilometers from Nungwi to Kwenda on the beach, where you can enjoy the sunset, take a swim, see how they play football and chat with the locals who sell souvenirs (we didn’t find them very heavy) to let time pass and enjoy the environment and the beaches.
– Snorkel in Mnemba Island:
This small island is a private island located about 3 kilometers northeast of Nungwi. It is surrounded by a coral reef that has been declared a marine conservation area. That’s why it’s so nice to take a boat trip and snorkel there. Think that the island is owned by Bill Gates, so it is forbidden to walk inside unless you are one of the privileged guests of the only luxury resort on the island.
Many times, this excursion is combined with a visit to the dolphins where you can swim with them. But we did not like this experience at all. It was like a race between all the boats to see who was getting closer and interceding for the dolphins to see them better. Yes, we did see dolphins jumping, but we found them harassing them too closely. The whole snorkel and dolphin pack cost us 20$ per person from Nungwi.
Mnemba has one of the best seabeds on the island of Zanzibar and the best time to dive is from October to December, although we did it in July and it was also spectacular.
– Visit the Fish Market in Nungwi:
Nungwi is a mainly fishing village. In the evening, many boats go out to Pemba or Mafia to fish all night. They return during the first hour of the morning to Nungwi, where they exhibit in the market all the fish that they have fished and that will be auctioned by the buyers who appear in the market.
The market is located on the beach next to the turtle aquarium, and it’s quite an experience to see the fish being unloaded from the boats, taken to the market, auctioned off and loaded onto motorbikes and cars. Better to get there early in the morning. Above all, keep an eye on the subject of photographs and ask permission if you want to take a close-up photo or a portrait.
– Walk through the village to see African life:
Nungwi is the second largest town in Zanzibar, behind Stone Town. Therefore, despite the great tourist offer in the area, there is also a very interesting African village to see.
It is contradictory to see how on the seafront we find large hotels with all the luxuries while behind there are families who need to go every day to get water and do not have a large coverage of electricity. If you really want to live this African life, you have to go on the street and discover a different Africa, without great luxuries but with a lot of hospitality and warmth.
We recommend that you walk through the village to see how the children go to school, how they get water from the wells, how the families wash their clothes, how they prepare the food, how they play, how they meet and how they make a living on the street. . At all times, we felt safe and welcome.
We were very positively surprised by this African lifestyle that we did not expect to see in Zanzibar, so we recommend that you learn few words in Swahili so that you can greet and communicate with the people there. Here is a link to find out more about Swahili language.
WHERE TO SLEEP IN NUNGWI?
Nungwi is one of the main tourist destinations on the island of Zanzibar. You will find resorts, hotels, campsites and hostels located around the beach areas for all budgets. We recommend:
– Pasha Hotel: We stayed here for 2 nights. Accommodation very well located, next to the beach and a few minutes walk from the village. It has large double rooms with an internal toilet. The price is USD 30 per night for a double room with breakfast included. The owner is Turkish and very friendly. It has a small bar serving breakfast and seating areas. Possibility to leave the car inside the hotel. A quiet place with a very good location. For more information, click here.
– Papaya Guesthouse: Located near the Pasha Hotel, it is a hotel just minutes from one of the most beautiful beaches on the island. It has an inner courtyard and different rooms as well as a restaurant where you can dine even if you are not staying at the hotel. Prices around 35 euros for a double room and breakfast included. For more information, click here.
– Kendwa Rasta Style: Located in the town of Kendwa, this hostel is 500 meters from the beach. It is one of the cheapest options for those who want to stay in Kendwa. It has bungalows, a garden and a relaxing atmosphere with a communal room with sea views, where during the day you can listen to good music. Prices are around 30 euros per bungalow (2 people) and breakfast included. For more information, click here.
– Green’s Nungwi: This accommodation is located about 400 meters from the main beach of Nungwi, further away than Pasha or Papaya Guesthouse. It has double rooms with shared toilet or private toilet, and some of them include a kitchen for self-catering. It has a beautiful garden inside with a swimming pool. The average price for a double room with breakfast included is 55 euros per night. For more information, click here.
– Habibi’s Bottle House: This accommodation is built with used plastic bottle materials. It is located in the eastern part of the village, away from the main beaches, but they offer free bicycles to help you get around. The place is very quiet and you can do a lot of local life. The price of the double rooms is around 40 euros per night with breakfast included. For more information, click here.
– Baobab Sandys Resort: For high budgets, this resort is located right on the seafront, between Nungwi and Kwenda. It has all the luxuries possible and a small terrace in front of the beach. The price ranges from 130€ per night for two people. For more information, click here.
WHERE TO EAT IN NUNGWI?
– Cocoa guesthouse & restaurant: Hostel and local food restaurant run by a family. We went there for dinner, and we were treated very well. Very warm welcome from the owner, Captain Morgan. Very good value for money. Cheapest restaurant in the area. Be sure to try the octopus salad with soft chilly.
– M&J Cafe: Restaurant with a nice terrace, further away from the sea. It is located in front of a car park and next to an elementary school. They serve sandwiches, wraps, burgers, pasta, fish… at a good price and good. Very friendly and attentive service.
– Baraka beach restaurant: Restaurant located on the beachfront of Nungwi beach. It is a cheaper restaurant than the rest that are located around it. They cook fresh fish with accompaniments, curries, seafood… Correct service and very attentive to what we needed. A little slow to serve.
– The Corner: Pizzeria restaurant located very close to the main beach of Nungwi, next to souvenir shops and small supermarket. Good atmosphere and good service. Highly recommended pizzas made in a wood oven. They also make pizzas to take away.
Matemwe is a small village located in the northeast of the island. Its inhabitants are engaged in fishing and seaweed gathering. It has fantastic white sand beaches with palm trees: the idyllic dream of everyone who loves the beach and the sea.
Its beaches are surrounded by a coral barrier that makes its turquoise waters calm to swim in when the tide is high.
We made a stop in Matemwe on the way to Jozani Forest, without staying overnight. Many locals also offer excursions to Mnemba Island, as it is closer to Matemwe than to Nungwi.
4. Jozani Forest
Jozani Forest is a nature reserve located in the center of the island, and aims to preserve its tropical forests. A few decades ago, this forest covered much of the island’s territory but due to human action and deforestation it became extinct until 1960 that it was declared a protected nature reserve.
Thanks to the protection of the remaining forests, a great biodiversity of fauna has been maintained: more than 40 species of birds, reptiles, 100 species of butterflies and the famous endemic monkeys of the island that are in danger of extinction, the red Colobus monkeys. These are the icon of the Jozani Forest Natural Park and it is currently estimated that there are a few more than 2,500 specimens left in the reserve. Due to deforestation, these animals have been disappearing, but thanks to the protected reserve, these animals are recovering.
The red Colobus monkeys are characterized by having a long tail to maintain balance, a crown of white hair on the head, a pink mark on the lips and nose, and the back skin of a red and black color that defines as a unique species in the world. Unlike other primates, Colobus do not have opposable toes. To make up for this shortcoming, their four remaining fingers line up in the shape of a hook, allowing them to climb the branches without difficulty.
For the flora, you can take a walk through the rainforest and discover different types of trees. Some of the ones you can see are African red mahogany, oil and raffia palms, ferns and sycamores. You can also get to the mangrove area where there are platforms for walking. This area is located 2 kilometers from the sea. Therefore, when the tide rises and the moon is full, the area is filled with water. During the other days, you can walk and stroll through this curious and characteristic mangrove forest in the area.
Admission fee to the park costs 10 euros per person (can be paid in euros) and includes a guide, the tip of which is not included in the price. The guide took us to see the Colobus monkeys which are very social (it is recommended not to get too close to them so as not to transmit human diseases to primates), then we went for a walk in the rainforest and finally visited the forest of mangroves.
Jozani Forest is an interesting visit to Zanzibar to see a different landscape from paradisiacal beaches and to be able to enjoy nature and animals in a reserve that, fortunately, is protected in order to maintain the biodiversity of an island that decades ago was still more tropical than it is today.
Jambiani is a fishing village on the southeast coast of the island of Zanzibar. Located an hour and a half from Stone Town, it is one of the most charming places on the island because it still preserves the authenticity of local life.
It is also notable for its pristine beaches bordered by coconut palms, although facing the Indian Ocean, it blows more wind than the west coast. This makes it a paradise for kitesurfing lovers, especially in Paje which is a more touristic town located north of Jambiani.
Jambiani’s main source of income is fishing and seaweed production. During low tide, you will find many women walking out to sea to collect seaweed and return to the beach with a full sack on their head so they can then sell the seaweed to inland. They are local women who, in addition to taking care of all the household chores and taking care of the family, also work in the production of seaweed.
Seaweed exports to Zanzibar began in 1930 when a variety of local red algae was first shipped to France, Denmark and the United States. Today, it is the second largest foreign exchange inflow on the island behind tourism. Some of these algae are used for the food industry, others for the pharmaceutical and others for the chemical (shampoos, perfumes, toothpastes, creams …).
The income generated by this seaweed crop has allowed farmers to improve their living standards and those of their family, even though working conditions are very harsh and seaweed sacks are very poorly paid. To learn more, we encourage you to read this article from El País, which although from 2014, is still very actual.
The atmosphere in Jambiani is very relaxed, with a village on the seafront and where you can see what local life is like there. You will find children playing with plastic boats on the beach, football matches, fishermen returning with their canoes from the high seas, old people having a chat and a very friendly and authentic village where you will get a good idea of the life of a fishing village on the island of Zanzibar.
WHAT TO DO IN JAMBIANI?
– Walk through Jambiani village:
Jambiani is a very quiet village located on the seafront where the main streets are sandy. With little vehicle presence, you can walk around and greet people, see how the children go to school, how families wash their clothes, how they fetch water from the wells, and generally observe local life and discover the simplicity and tranquility of African life.
– See how they collect algae during low tide:
One of the most important economic activities in Jambiani is the production of seaweed. Cultivated mainly in the southern part of the village, it is a very interesting activity to see while you put your feet in the crystal clear water of the Indian Ocean.
When the tide is low, many women walk out to sea to collect algae from their plantations. These are nothing more than a square formed by poles where, thanks to the passage of the tides, algae plantations are formed. It is a strenuous activity carried out mainly by women and children who return to the beach with sacks full of seaweed on their heads. If you want to see it, we recommend that you approach the beach when the tide is low.
– Visit Paje Beach and if you dare, go kitesurfing.
Paje is a town located 6 kilometers north of Jambiani. It is a much more touristic village than Jambiani where you will find the main services such as banks, shops and numerous accommodations.
It is a tourist destination mainly for kitesurfing lovers. There is a lot of wind on the east coast of the island, and in this town there are many who are encouraged to fly their sails while surfing in the waves. On the beach, many locals and children watch the sport as they discuss the play.
You can go to Paje by public transport and walk back to the beach to Jambiani (about an hour’s walk). Above all, you have to check the state of the tides because if the tide is high you will have to go up the coast because the path along the beach will be cut off by the water.
– Watch the sunrise from the long beach of Jambiani:
Jambiani Beach is a beach that is about 4 kilometers long. If you go there early, you can see the sunrise from the ocean horizon. At dusk, when the day is over, the different shades of water and sand are also very beautiful.
Jambiani Beach is a pristine and wild beach, much quieter than the rest of the island’s beaches. When there is low tide, you can access to sandbanks form and see a very beautiful landscape from the sea and a perspective of the whole beach with its coconut trees. A good place to relax and disconnect.
– Visit Kuza Cave:
Kuza Cave, which was left to us, is an ancient limestone cave with a natural freshwater turquoise pool of a very transparent turquoise color. Local people know the place as Panga na Maji, which means cave with water, and for them it is like a sacred space where you can connect with nature.
Located about 3 km north of Jambiani, it can be reached on foot. Once there, you have to pay a 20,000 TSH or 10$ ticket fee and walk about 10 minutes to get to the cave. They give you a snorkel mask to swim in, and it’s a pretty uncrowded place so you can enjoy the place in peace.
– Visit the Rock restaurant in Pingwe:
One of the most spectacular restaurants on the island of Zanzibar is The Rock, located in the town of Pingwe, 20 kilometers north of Jambiani. This is a restaurant located on a rock that, at high tide, is only accessible by boat; while at low tide it can be reached on foot.
It is amazing to see a restaurant surrounded by water! If you are going to have a meal there, boat transport is already included. The average price is around 60$ per meal per person. We didn’t go because it didn’t fit to our budget, but we did a walk around the beach which was also very nice.
WHERE TO SLEEP IN JAMBIANI?
Jambiani is a very quiet place that does not have as much hotel offer as its neighbor Paje which is more touristic. However, we also find different options, among which we recommend:
– Bahari Pizza Bungalows: We stayed at this beachfront hotel for 2 nights. Run by Francesca, it is a spectacular place with an ideal location right in front of the beach. It has several very complete bungalows with a spacious room, toilet, shower and a space outside to relax. Its restaurant is located on the beach, and you can leave the accommodation and step on the beach instantly. Also located next to the village of Jambiani, it is one of the best places to stay and visit this part of the island. Great relation quality-price. To book, you can click here.
– Moringe Home Stay: A more local option but not on the seafront is to stay with a local family from the village. This is the case of Moringe Home Stay, located in the southern part of Jambiani. This is a local house that offers rooms with breakfast for around 20€ a night.
– Mau’s Place: Located north of Jambiani, and near the Kuza Caves; this family-run local accommodation is located close to the main road and about 300 meters from the beach. It offers rooms with kitchen access and a very welcoming reception. Prices range from 20 euros per night with breakfast included. From there, you can also enjoy the local life of Jambiani by visiting the village school and getting to meet the neighbors.
– Driftwood Beach Lodge: For higher budgets, this lodge is located south of the village of Jambiani. The hotel has a seasonal swimming pool, bar, gardens and family rooms. It is located on the beachfront next to other hotels. Prices are around 110 euros per night for a double room with breakfast included. For more information, you can click here.
WHERE TO EAT IN JAMBIANI?
– Bahari Pizza: This is the best place to eat the best pizzas in Zanzibar. It is noticeable that it is run by an Italian. They have a great variety of pizzas and are of very good quality at acceptable prices. We, who were two people, for two pizzas and beers charged us a total of 21 euros. The place is located right in front of the beach.
– Captain Cook Restaurant: Located in the middle of the village of Jambiani, this is a family place where you can eat different Swahili dishes. Among them, the highlight is the Coconut Crashed Fish that they cook wonderfully. Walking along the beach, you will see a sign indicating the way to enter to the village and eat at one of the best places in Jambiani.
– Fadhil Restaurant: Another of the best local places in Jambiani, we recommend you go to lunch at this restaurant which is close to the beach, in the middle of town. It is a family place that prepares traditional dishes with very good fresh fish. We tried the squid and prawns with Massala sauce and it was very good! Go there for lunch because it takes a while to serve the dishes, and at meantime you can take refuge from the heat and the midday sun.
Kizimkazi is a fishing village located in the southwest of the island of Zanzibar, famous for their excursions to see the dolphins and to swim with them. We did this activity in the north of the island and we were quite disappointed by the lack of respect for the animals. Many people visit the village during the day for a dolphin excursion and return to Stone Town. It is also notable for its turquoise and white sand beaches; and the tranquility and kindness of its people.
We did not have time to visit Kizimkazi. Now, this village has become famous because the current president of Tanzania is from there.
What was our route? 5-day planning crossing the island:
DAY 1: We arrive at the international airport in Zanzibar and Sabry is waiting for us there with our rental car. We do all the paperwork for the car and take out money. We drive to Nungwi, in the north of the island, on a journey that takes about 2 hours and where we are fined for the police. We rest at the Pasha Hotel and take the opportunity to go for a swim on the beach next to the accommodation. In the afternoon, we walk around the village while observing the local life and return to the same beach where we walk while watching the sunset behind the sea.
DAY 2: In the morning, we snorkel and see dolphin on Mnemba Island from Nungwi. On the way back, we have lunch in Nungwi and then take the opportunity to relax walking to Kwenda on the beach and watch the sunset. We sleep at the Pasha Hotel in Nungwi.
DAY 3: We get up early to walk to the fish market in Nungwi and watch the boats arrive and how the fish that are currently being auctioned are carrying. We take the opportunity to walk around the village again where we see how the children go to school, the adults go to get water, open the first places to eat and the day slowly wakes up in the second largest town in Zanzibar. Then we take the car and drive to Matemwe where we take a swim and continue our journey until lunch time at the Jozani Forest, where we visit the red Colobus monkeys. Before, we try to stop on the way to the Village Green Spice Farm located in Uzini but we don’t find anyone there. We are told that due to the coronavirus and the low presence of tourists, it is best to call and book in advance.
In the afternoon we arrive at Jambiani where we will rest in our bungalow at Bahari Pizza Bungalows and walk along the beach to observe the different shades of colors as the day goes on.
DAY 4: In the morning we take the opportunity to observe how the local people cultivate seaweed on Jambiani beach. We see women going out to sea and coming out with sacks laden with seaweed on their heads and we walk around the village that is slowly waking up. We continue to drive our car through the villages north of Jambiani. We stop in Paje where we walk around the beach while watching the locals laugh at the juggling of bathers with kitesurfing.
Then we go up higher to The Rock restaurant where we watch the customers come and go by boat as the tide is high. We return to Jambiani where we will take the opportunity to walk along the beach, take a swim and at the end of the day, we eat one of the best pizzas in Zanzibar at the Bahari Pizza Restaurant. We sleep another night in Jambiani.
DAY 5: We get up early to watch the sunrise from the beach and head back to Stone Town (about 1 hour and 15 minutes). There, we drive back to return the car to Sabry in the Forodhani Gardens and settle into our accommodation (zLife Hostel) which is in the city center.
We take the opportunity to get lost in the streets of the Stone Town, visit the Darajani market, the Omani fort, the house of Freddy Mercury (from outside without going to visit) and the slave market where we are impressed by the recent history that this island has lived.
We eat at the Lukmaan Restaurant near the slave market, and get lost in the streets of the Old Town before going for a drink on the terrace of the Africa House Hotel, as we watch the sunset and the dhows pass in front of the sea. In the evening, we go to the Forodhani Gardens which are filled with local life and we eat sitting on a bank of the boardwalk while contemplating the quiet life of one of the most important and strategic cities of the last centuries of East Africa. .
The next day, we have to get up early to get a flight to Arusha and say goodbye to an island that has pleasantly surprised us by the amount of African life we have seen. Our first image was a full touristic resort Zanzibar and we left with a new image of human warmth, kindness and very positive authenticity. It remains to be seen whether Zanzibar finds the balance between the arrival of visitors and sustainable and responsible tourism as the main source of income and development for its inhabitants.