What to see and what to know about Zanzibar
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Zanzibar was once a small Tanzanian archipelago where casual travelers would come for a tented romance. But, as is usually the case, it became overrun with more tourists, hotels and restaurants sprang up. Now Tanzania is one of the top countries with the richest resources. Here you have the mountains, the ocean, and tropical jungle. As for the culture, it is a pot of mix of Arab, African and European heritage, creating a unique blend. Let us tell you how to survive and enjoy your vacation in Zanzibar
How to get there
Much easier than you thought. Unfortunately, there are no direct flights. But you can make a quick trip with one connection. Well, we were wrong with “quickly”: on average it’s 12-19 hours. Turkish Airlines with a connection in Istanbul, Oman with a connection in Muscat, Flydubai with a connection in Dubai, Qatar Airways with a connection in Doha.
Better yet, buy a tour with us and sleep well
You need a visa – the bad news. It is good news – you can get it at the airport upon arrival for 90 days at a fee of $ 50.
The season is winter (December-February) and summer (June-September). The thermometer doesn’t drop below 25 degrees, and so it warms up to 35 degrees. In the rest of the months it may rain and it will be quite cool outside.
Where to stay / Beaches
The western part – definitely not, the beach and the ocean are in algae and quite muddy. The southeast coast is for fans of water sports.
And for those looking for tranquility and romance – the northeast coast. In the north, the main party is concentrated: bars, restaurants, clubs.
Now about the beaches:
- Kendwa is one of the most popular, located in the north. With clean sand, turquoise sea, infrastructure and fairly high prices.
- Nungwi – no less beautiful northern beach with well-developed infrastructure and more pleasant prices. You can rent a sapsurfing board, as there are no waves.
- Pwani Makangani is a quiet beach in the northeast with tides and poor infrastructure. But it is beautiful and smooth entrance to the sea, suitable for holidays with children. When the tide is low, walk around the lakes formed with coral, studying the wildlife and bizarre patterns.
- Jambiani beach is a south-eastern beach with cosmopolitan scenery, quietness and a chance to snorkel. The things with an infrastructure are not very well, just a couple of cafes and benches. From a minus: the tides and the ebb tide, the beach in algae is often.
- The beach Pazhe – the most party place on the island. Also located in the southeast. Not only are there many bars, stores and cafes, but the ocean is a beautiful color and the beach is nice. It is a mecca for kite surfers. Because of the large number of young people, the prices are affordable.
- Kizimkazi beach is not the most popular beach. Quiet, no infrastructure, not the best conditions for swimming – algae and sea urchins. But here you can go to the Blue Safari – for more information, see “What to do”.
Tanzanian Shilling. One dollar is equal to 2300 Tanzanian Shillings. Surprisingly, it is better to change at the airport. Or in the capital, Stone Town. The preferred currency is dollars and large denominations, because the exchange rate is better. Unfortunately, very few places accept cards.
Mobile communications and Internet
If you can’t imagine your vacation without the Internet, you can buy a 3GB SIM card at one of the branded tents for 1000 rubles. The operator Tigo Pesa, it is the only one on the island.
But there is free Wi-Fi in hotels and restaurants.
Let’s set aside stereotypes about Africa. Zanzibar has long been a civilized island with all the necessary infrastructure. No Tanzanian tribesmen presenting sacrifices to gods in the middle of the street. There is no terrorism here. The population is friendly, you can safely take public transportation and take an evening stroll. The only thing is that the locals don’t count well, so double-check the change and the bill.
As for water, to drink it from the tap is not recommended. Brush your teeth and wash your fruit with bottled water.
That moment when everyone around here insists that yellow fever vaccinations are necessary. In fact – it’s not true. The last case was recorded a long time ago. But if you do it, you can sleep easy for 10 years – that’s exactly how long it lasts. And you can’t drink alcohol for two weeks, take it into account.
It is also recommended to prevent malaria, although the chance of meeting with a malarial mosquito is almost zero.
Zanzibar is very convenient – all the activities will be within walking distance of the hotel. If you want to get to a neighboring beach, it’s better to walk. They are mostly located 5 kilometers from each other. And the air and save money. You can move around the island by cab or public transport – it all goes through the capital.
- The dala-dala is Zanzibar’s signature shuttle bus. It is a small truck with wooden benches and a stretched awning instead of the roof, which is stuffed with passengers and somehow fits the conductor. Fare is 30-60 rubles.
- Bus. The bus is quite different from the dala-dala and looks like a minibus, but it has windows and normal seats. The cost of 70-90 rubles.
- Cab . Flying all over the island. No counters, so immediately have to agree on the amount. Bargain, because at first you will sound a crazy amount. The price of a trip around the city 350-450 rubles. At other beaches or in the capital 1300-2100 rubles.
Rent a car
Not worth it. As soon as they see a tourist behind the wheel, they will immediately come up with something to take a penny. They stop you every day. The bribe is about 200-300 rubles. Plus you have to pay for a driving license – it is somewhere around 650 rubles.
Rent a car a day costs from 2,000 to 2,800 rubles per day for a Suzuki or Toyota, plus gasoline – 62 rubles per liter.
Things to do
Go for a walk in the capital.
The heart of the country is Stone Town. It is also where the famous Freddie Mercury was born. The old part of the town is protected by UNESCO. Wander the pretty streets and see the mosques, cathedrals, and palaces. Walk to the Old Fort. Visit the Museum of History and Culture “House of Wonders”. It was formerly the residence of the Sultan.
Take a trip to Jozani National Park.
The huge park on the island where having paid 650 rubles you can wander through the real tropical and mangrove forests, watch the blue monkeys and species of red colobus (they are included in the Red Book). You can take either the 309 or 310 dala-dala shuttle.
Take the Blue Safari tour.
It is designed for a full day and you will remember it: so many emotions. You will ride through the islands, you might see dolphins, go snorkeling, listen to local legends, eat lobster for lunch. All worth it. The price of the tour depends on where you live. The boat leaves from Kizimkazi beach.
Go to the market in Forodhani Park
It’s a colorful place in Stone Town that turns into a main event arena in the evening. You can eat here and buy fruit for the hotel.
Learn about the slave trade
Zanzibar was a major trading center. Everything was sold here, including African slaves who were diverted to Europe. Learn more at the old slave market and at the home of David Livingston, who actively fought the whole business.
Watch an acrobatic show
Almost every day there is a free acrobatic show from the local boys on Stone Town Beach near the Livingstone Beach restaurant.
Take a cruise.
And meet the sunset over the ocean on a small boat. Depart from Kendwa Beach, Nungwi Beach, or Stone Town Town Beach.
Go scuba diving.
Observe the rich underwater life of local fish.
Spot the big turtles.
You’ll have to make your way to Prison Island for that. That’s right, the island used to be a maximum-security prison, but now it’s a green place where the big turtles like to hang out. And the prison was turned into a restaurant and hotel.
As we mentioned, the main place where all the kite schools are located is Paget Beach. But the prices are a bit embarrassing for us mere mortals from Russia. A three hour lesson costs 20,000 rubles. If you already have idea how to do it you may just rent equipment for 1700-3000 rubles.
What to eat
The basis of the cuisine: fish (tuna, dorada, snapper) and meat (beef and chicken). Seafood… there’s a lot of it: octopus, squid, shrimp. All are cooked in different ways and generously use the spices for which Tanzania is famous.
Garnishes: not many vegetables, the main side dishes are potatoes, beans, and of course, rice. The dishes are often served with corn flatbread. But the king of the table is the unsweetened banana variety. It is baked, fried, stewed as a separate dish and as a garnish to the main course. Coconut is also used extensively in Zanzibar cuisine. Well, or it’s just drunk under a palm tree.
Of the unusual things to try: elephant, turtle, crocodile.
Do not count on the Thai and Vietnamese prices. Recreation here is not budgetary in any way. But in some resorts worse. The cost of a dinner for one at a local diner 200-400 rubles, in a cheap cafe will be 550-1000 rubles, in a restaurant 1700-2200 rubles. We advise not to neglect the local establishments – it’s really delicious and safe to eat there.
In Zanzibar the majority of the population is Muslim, so the alcohol here is difficult: not in every store and not even in every restaurant. You need to check. In establishments for the locals, for sure. A glass of beer costs 180-300 rubles, South African wine 280-400 rubles.
What to bring
If you’re the kind of person who just can’t help buying souvenirs, then this list is for you. And do not forget to haggle to the last.
What to see in Zanzibar – the main attractions
Zanzibar is a large archipelago in the Indian Ocean, which consists of many islands. Of course, many tourists associate this place with snow-white beaches, the soft rustle of waves and palm trees. However, the sights of Zanzibar preserved no less fascinating and remarkable. There is definitely something to see here.
Attractions of Zanzibar
The island has preserved a large number of architectural and historical monuments, of course, the nature of Zanzibar is a unique attraction, which should be mentioned separately. When going on a trip to the island, be sure to take a sightseeing map with photos and descriptions to make the best route to see as many interesting places of Zanzibar as possible.
The main historical and architectural attractions of Zanzibar, Tanzania are concentrated in Stone Town, the peninsula’s capital and oldest city. It is here, between the eastern mosques, noisy, colorful markets and ancient houses loop the narrow streets. So narrow that no car can pass through them. In Stone Town it is best to stroll around, taking in the sights carefully.
Interesting fact! The area of the town is only 1.5 by 2 km.
The official sources indicate that the town was built in the 19th century, but mentions of settlements in this part of the island date back to the 8th century. At that time it was quite a large port, where the trade of spices, coconut oil and slaves was actively conducted. Thanks to its unique architecture, today Stone Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Probably the special atmosphere of the town was created by the fact that the houses and other buildings were built chaotically, without a plan. Stone Town is a randomly built houses of white color, the doors of which are decorated with carvings and balconies, as if woven from lace.
“House of Wonders.
The main attractions on the island of Zanzibar, which can be seen in the capital:
- Arabian Navy;
- Sultan’s Palace – “House of Wonders;
- The ruins of Mruhubi and Mtoni;
- St. Joseph’s Cathedral;
- Malindi Mosque.
For more information about Stone Town and its attractions, see this page.
Cheetah Rock Sanctuary
What to see in Zanzibar for nature lovers? There is a place on the island where you can interact with cheetahs, to see – how these flexible and fast cats live in their natural environment. It is noteworthy that in the reserve live cheetahs, which were rescued under different circumstances. Decent and comfortable conditions have been created for the animals, and they are trained daily to communicate with people.
Good to know! The owner of the reserve – Jenny – personally gives tours for guests in English. During the tour, she tells in detail the stories of each cheetah’s rescue, how they are nursed and trained. The tour lasts 4 hours.
In addition to cheetahs at the shelter you can see lemurs, zebras, lion, hyenas, peacocks, roe deer and monkeys. They can be fed, played with and stroked. At the end of the tour, the hospitable Jenny offers tourists a glass of champagne.
- The cost of the tour is $160, this price includes transfers from anywhere in Zanzibar;
- payment in cash only, the tour can be paid in advance;
- If you live on the southeast coast, shuttle service is $20 round trip;
- The sanctuary can be visited by those over 15 years of age;
- To visit the sanctuary, choose clothes and shoes in neutral shades and without jewelry, so as not to attract unnecessary attention of the animals;
- book your tour in advance on the official website www.cheetahsrock.org.
What to see on the island of Zanzibar if you want to combine sightseeing and outdoor activities? Fortunately, there are still places in the world where life flows according to the laws of nature. Here one can plunge into a world filled with colors and creatures that still trust people. There is such a place in Nungwa in Zanzibar. It is about an artificially created lagoon, where thousands of years old trees grow, sharp rocks rise up, among which the caring hands of man have created a turtle farm. People come here to fill up with the slow, cute turtles.
The aquarium was built in the northern part of the island in 1993. It is essentially a sanctuary whose main purpose is to rescue and raise turtles in Zanzibar. When the pets reach a certain age, they are released into the wild. During the tour you can feed the turtles, pick them up and even swim with them. The impressions are complemented by the clearest water in the lagoon, beautiful nature and the sounds of nature.
This is important! Ningwi Beach has two aquariums with turtles. The one closer to the shore is where you can only feed the animals. If you want to swim with the turtles, you have to go a little further, turning right from the beach.
- Address: Nungwi Beach, Nungwi, Tanzania;
- cost to visit: $30 – price includes a guide’s story, seaweed to feed the turtles, and a chance to swim with them;
- be careful – the turtles may bite their legs, mistaking them for food;
- Arrive for the tour by 9-10 a.m. when there’s not a large influx of tourists;
- website: www.mnarani.org.
The main feature of the sanctuary is that it is not a traditional aquarium, but a natural habitat for the animals.
Nungwi Natural Turtle Aquarium
The aquarium is located directly on the beach of Nungwi. You can’t swim with the turtles here, but you can feed them and listen to fascinating stories about raising the animals. The price is $5. In addition to turtles, which amusingly flapping their flippers, you can see the skeleton of a small whale, visit a plastic recycling station and see the bright fish.
Interesting fact! Volunteers from all over the world work here. The duration of the tour is 20-30 minutes.
If you are heading to Jozani Forest, be sure to visit the butterfly garden. This is a part of the tropics that is enclosed by a netting to keep the butterflies from flying around. Here you can see the butterfly’s full developmental journey from caterpillar to pupa and the miraculous transformation. On the territory there is a place where chrysalis hangs. Nearby on the trees live monkeys.
Good to know! It is enough to allocate one hour of time to visit the garden. The best time to visit is from August.
The territory is equipped with pedestrian paths, benches are installed. The garden is more like a landscaped park, where it is pleasant to spend time observing the beauty of nature. If you are lucky, you can take a photo of a newborn butterfly – it is very slow, so the pictures are clear and bright.
Interesting fact! The garden is a collection of all the butterflies that live in Zanzibar.
- Address: Pete Village, Jozani, Tanzania;
- The visit is better to plan in advance on the official site;
- ticket price: $ 5;
- official website: www.zanzibarbutterflies.com.
Jozani Chwaka National Park
Experienced tourists know very well what to see in Tanzania in Zanzibar. Of course, we are talking about Jozani Chwaka Bay National Park. Once Zanzibar was completely covered with impenetrable forests, where mangrove trees towered, and the intertwining of powerful roots created a magical atmosphere. Gradually the forests were cut down, land was cultivated and spices were grown on them. For many years Zanzibar supplied spices to many countries of the world. Jozani Forest is the only place where authentic nature has been preserved. The Jozani Chwaka Bay National Forest is located in the southeast of the island. It is an area of 44 square kilometers, which consists of three natural areas:
- mangrove forest;
An interesting fact! There are trees in the park that are more than a hundred years old. Such lush vegetation attracts a large number of animal birds.
The national park is home to monkeys, chameleons, snakes, antelopes, genettes (small predators, resembling ferrets). More than forty species of birds live in the tree crowns. Until 2003, the unique Zanzibar leopard could be found in the forest, but today this species is considered extinct. You can also find colobus monkeys, which are listed in the Red Book. They are distinguished by a special shade of fur – red-brown. The underwater world of Jozani National Park is no less diverse – there are sharks, marlins and dolphins. As for plant life, the forest has carnation trees, vines, ferns, palms, ficus and mahogany trees. There are hiking trails and wooden bridges in the forest for the convenience of tourists.
Good to know! The best time to visit the national park is from June to October. The rest of the year the island receives heavy rains. For a tour is better to use the services of a guide.
- You can visit the forest only during daylight hours;
- for maximum comfort, it is recommended to wear comfortable clothing and athletic shoes;
- clothing should completely cover the body, the head should be covered and have a reserve of water;
- there is a souvenir shop at the exit from the national park;
- The park is located in the central part of Zanzibar, next to Chwaka Bay;
- You can take a cab or a minibus to the forest – dala dala;
- ticket price $10.
Mtoni Castle Ruins
What to see on your own in Zanzibar? Mtoni is an ancient palace that used to be the residence of the Sultan. In translation, the name of the castle means “a place by the river.” The ruler’s daughter describes the palace as a large structure with a courtyard, bathhouse and mosque, as well as a separate part where the sultan and his consort lived. From the recollections of the sultan’s daughter, historians know that about one thousand people worked in the palace. So that the ruler could observe his fleet, an observation tower was built.
Interesting fact! In the second half of the 19th century the castle was abandoned, and during the war and completely demolished. Today, tourists can admire only part of the walls and the roof of the palace.
- The castle is located near the ruins of the palace complex Maruhubi;
- To get to the ruins of the castle can be as follows – you need to move north along the main road, the field of Castle Maruhubi need to drive a few miles and turn to the side road, then easily oriented by the signs.
The cultivation of spice gardens is not just an agricultural industry, but part of the history of Zanzibar and the culture of the locals. Spice farms are quite a new and trendy phenomenon, popular among tourists, because many have no idea what ginger looks like or how cloves grow. A tour of the spice garden will give a lot of discoveries, during the walk you can touch, smell and taste a variety of spices. In addition, each such farm has a store where you can buy lemongrass, vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, turmeric.
- Be sure to take some petty cash with you, the fact is that the farm staff often give gifts to guests, expecting in return a small reward;
- the quality of spices on the farms is very high, but also the price corresponds, so many tourists prefer to buy spices at local markets;
The sights of Zanzibar are an amazing mix of natural beauty, African flavor, seasoned with the aroma of spices. Do you want to fully enjoy this place? Visit the endangered island of Nakupenda, swim with dolphins, feel like a prisoner on an exotic island. Such a trip will leave a lot of bright impressions and emotions.
The sights on the island of Zanzibar, described on this page, are marked on the map in Russian.
Author: Julia Matyukhina
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