You have planned to visit Tanzania and after a game drive in the northern or southern parks (or the Kilimanjaro ascent for “athletes”), you have planned to end your trip in Zanzibar – the “Spice island” & the “blue pearl” – what a great idea! Ideal place in particular for the honey mooners or for people living in the Eastern African countries, but also for those who need a break in a paradisiacal landscape, for nature lovers, for kite surfers and divers, for family travelers! Well, for everyone actually!:)
Where to go, sleep & eat? What to see and do? Here are our favorites & good tips
Let’s say you will stay there between three days – which is the minimum I would say – to five days (or at best one week)!
Tips tested and approved by 18 members of the Huddle community including me!:)
- By ferry with Azam Marine & Kilimandjaro Fast Ferries. A 2.5 hour-boat trip from Dar es salaam. About $70 return trip per person non resident in Business class. Or 70,000 TZS (i.e. about $35) return trip per person resident in Business class.
- By plane. If you come from Tanzania, you can either fly with fastjet (low coast company) from Dar es salaam or Arusha (i.e. Kilimandjaro international airport), or with precision air, coastal, zanair, flightlink from Arusha airport (near town center) or Dar es salaam. With the three last-mentioned companies you can get a special rate if you are Tanzanian resident. I recommend ZanAir who are the more efficient and the less expensive (regarding resident rates).
Even if it is a bit tiring, traveling by boat to/from Zanzibar is a great way to approach and experience the island.
Our favorite part of the island to stay
If you like partying, you will then rather go to the northern part of Zanzibar. Otherwise, if like me you prefer authentic places with a village life, quiet places with tiny lodges, you will then rather go to the south eastern part of Zanzibar. My favorite place is Jambiani, which is located at the south eastern part of the island at about 45 minutes drive from Stone Town. You’ll have the opportunity to see the real local life. I will even give you a Very good local place to eat where you’ll get the chance to meet a nice Zanzibari family: “Peace of mind”.
If you are keen on kite surfing or diving – or if there’s no availability in the lodge we recommend you in Jambiani in this article – you can also stay at Paje, just a bit north from Jambiani at about 5 minutes drive.
Our top 7 places to sleep
1. The “Papaye verte”
No need to advertise for them. They are always fully booked and even if we are expatriates in Tanzania and live “quite” close, we always have difficulties to find available bungalows. Fair prices, between €40 and €70 per bungalow per night with breakfast. Just visit Aniki’s website – a French woman who built this little paradise with her husband, both retired today. It’s by far my favorite place. Each bungalow – beautifully decorated – has a small kitchen, which is perfect when you are a family or want to have you’re own space. They do not provide food for lunch or dinner but you can easily find nice restaurants nearby, get delivered by an amazing local restaurant (my favorite one is Ali from “Peace of mind”), you can buy food in the village or even order fish to Hadji who is the “Papaye verte” handyman.
A very nice lodge with swimming pool (a must in particular with kids as it is not easy to swim there at low tide) managed by a very friendly Italian family. Fair prices (even in high season), about $55 per room per night with breakfast included.
3. “Bahari view lodge”
Beautiful hotel with swimming pool. Very friendly staff. Human scale’s place with a bar and restaurant too. I used to go there quite often when I was traveling with my two young daughters. It’s a higher standard compared to the two other (above-mentioned) lodges but if you are looking for a cheaper option, you can book the banda at $60 half board with a shared bathroom. (email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
A very peaceful, simple and a bit wild place with lots of quite areas to rest within the lodge. It’s not located on the nicest beach of Paje, but just next to it. The great thing is that they change the menu nearly everyday or at least every other day, the food is good and at a very reasonable price. We paid $40 for a spacious double room with balcony with sea and swimming pool view (in low season beginning of December).
5. “Teddys’ place”
According to many Huddle members, Teddy’s place is a cheap & cool place. Very nice option for backpackers with the possibility of accessing kite surfing and diving clubs closeby.
6. “Dhow palace”
Very nice place with swimming pool. This hotel with Arabic decorations is located in the center of Stonetown. Great place if you want to have the chance to cool down in the busy and warm Stonetown. Perfect if you are with kids too. The price per double room with breakfast is $110 for non residents and 135 000 TZS ($60) for residents.
Many Huddle members have recommended the place; nice hotel with great location. A single room per night per room on bed and breakfast costs $35 (email: email@example.com)
Our top 10 things to do
Plan at least one day & one night in Stone Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site, it’s worth it. Visit this historical town (central market, former slave market, Zanzibari doors…) with a guide. You will always have much more understanding of the city and its great story from a local guide. You will find many there but we have one to recommend. His English is really good, he was perfect, we have learned a lot thanks to him. Let me know in the comment box (or send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org) if you need his contact details.
To get an idea of the price for a 2-hour guide tour: 40,000 TZS (about $20)
If you want to visit Stone Town on your own, don’t miss the following:
– Central market – darajani market: to approach the oriental culture of Zanzibar and to buy spices
– Museum of the former slave market ($5 for non resident adult and $2.5 for resident adult)
– Wandering in the narrow street of the old town (between central market and the port)
– Enjoying the friendly and relaxed atmosphere of Forodhani gardens at sunset or early evening
– Having a drink at sunset at the Africa House Hotel (roof top), if you’d like to have a glimpse at the British colonial atmosphere.
Stone Town is full of wonders and for the ones who like cultural visits, they are many other things to be explored…
A visit of a spice farm, even though it is touristic, is definitely a way to understand the main economy of the island (the 2nd top 3: 1st tourism – 2nd spices – 3rd fishing) and what made its wealth in the past. You will see in their environment the spices you know as powder in your kitchen: cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, pepper, vanilla etc. The visit is a nice activity to do with kids as it’s fun.
We liked “Tangawizi Spice Farm Zanzibar”. To organize it yourself call +255 (0) 776 101 586 or organize it with a taxi driver; in that case it is about 30,000 TZS ($15) the visit for the whole group. Tips for guides are not included.
It is always possible to find around fishermen who will be very happy to take you on a fishing tour. For that of course, you will have to get up early and be fully equip with suncream, sun glasses, hat etc. The sun there is really tough! We have one guide to recommend, so feel free to contact me. Or Hadji from the “Papaye verte” (cf above) organizes such tours and he’s a really nice guy.
To get an idea of prices, Virginie, a Huddle member, paid for the “blue safari” and fishing activities early morning $80 per person. By boat it is about $200.
Snorkeling / Diving
Zanzibar is also the perfect place for snorkeling or diving. But you will need to go on a boat to take you to the coral reef or other interesting places.
To get an idea of the price for snorkeling: about 15,000 TZS ($7) per adult and half price for kids to go to the coral reef by small boat. We got this cheap contact thanks to Kobe house. Contact me if you need the telephone number of “Captain salum”:)
For diving, there’s a good school in Paje near the airborne kite center.
Swimming with dolphins
This might sound again a bit touristic but we liked it very much. It’s quite impressive to approach the dolphins in such a way! You can jump into the water – if you aren’t scared – to see them really close under water. We recommend you to go there really early (about 6 am) to avoid many boats surrounding you and the dolphins, which doesn’t give you the best experience. Early morning, you will have also the chance to see them in the shallow water searching for fishes to eat.
You can ask any taxi driver to organize this tour. We recommend you one, don’t hesitate to contact me at email@example.com
To get an idea of the price: about 40,000 TZS per adult (about $20)
Go walking at low tide…
The beach side offers more than swimming, snorkeling and sun bathing… You can definitely have a glimpse at the local life – especially in Jambiani – where fishing and sea weeds cultivation pace people’s life together with football matches end of the afternoon after school.
Don’t forget to relax and do nothing, it’s the perfect for that!;)
Definitely one of the best places on earth to learn in a very conducive environment for beginners like me: shallow and warm water, cheapest price than in Europe…
Recommend Kite season (i.e. windy;)) are from June till September and from mid-December till end of March.
Aperitif at Sunset
Right next to Kobe house and Bahari view lodge, on the left side, you’ll find a pontoon from Spice Island Hotel in Paje, our favorite place to enjoy an aperitif at sunset!
My favorite place to buy souvenirs in Stone Town is in Kenyatta Road (and surroundings)
– Buying hand made lether shoes at Surti & Sons in Stone Town
Address: House no 133, Kenyatta Road,, Gizenga St, Zanzibar Town
– Buying cover-pillows made embroidered by women
In Kenyatta Road, just 300 meters further after Surti & Sons shop, on the left side
– Buying clothes for adults and kids (Upendo)
In Kenyatta Road, near Surti & Sons shop
Our top 3 places to eat
1. “Peace of mind”
Best sea-food ever in a local, friendly & beautiful family restaurant. Enjoy very fresh and nice seafood such as calamari, slipper lobster etc. the feet in the sand. A unique local experience! If you stay at “La Papaye verte”, you can get delivered. It’s recommended to book at least one day in advance: call Ali +255 (0)772 252 670
Great restaurant if you want to taste quality local gastronomy: pilau, chapati, spinach, beans, fresh fish and seafood etc. Get the oriental and Zanzibari atmosphere especially on Wednesday and Saturday night where you can hear local music while enjoying your meal. (see map above for the location)
Good spanish bar/restaurant in Stonetown. Very nice place where you can find good products such as cheese and delicatessen. You can get good tapas and buy good sandwiches to take away (perfect for you lunch box before taking your 3 o’clock ferry to Dar). Very good but a bit expensive though. (In the same street as Surti & sons shoes shop: see map above)
Bonus & other price ideas
You can either take anti-malaria if you want to be on the safe side – as it is said that there is more risk to get malaria on the coast – or like us as expatriates living in Tanzania for about 4 years (we cannot take anything as the side effects would be worst for our health…) just take homeopathic anti-mosquitos spray and sleep every night under a mosquito net.
Nice kite school
We take courses at airborne school in Paje. The managers and teachers are great. We highly recommend the place. At the end of the kite’s day, there’s a nice bar next to it to have a drink;) Another school is also recommended by a Huddler, which is the school Paje by Kite. To book your courses contact Jan at firstname.lastname@example.org
Another member of Huddle also recommends “school Paje by Kite”.
Getting an idea of “Normal” taxi fares
– Stonetown airport or port to city center: 10,000 TZS one way (i.e. $4)
– Stonetown from one place to another place in or around the city: 10,000 TZS one way (i.e. $4)
– Stonetown ariport/port/center to Jambiani: 45,000 TZS one way (i.e. $22). It’s really hard to get such a price as taxi drivers usually propose 90,000 TZS one way (i.e. $45). Now that you get an idea of the “normal” price, you can negotiate (it’s easier if you speak Kiswahili though)
– From South to North island: 70,000 TZS one way (i.e. $33)
– From Paje to Jambiani: 10,000 TZS one way (i.e. $4)
Shopping food around Paje/Jambiani
Really useful is you stay in a guesthouse with your proper kitchen such as “La Papaye verte” or if you rent a house via airbnb. There’s a supermarket in Paje where you can find groceries (rice, pasta etc.), crips, drinks, biscuits, nappies (for babies under 9kg;) it’s good to know otherwise you’ll have to go back to Stone Town). You have also another shop next to it that sells drinks (water, wines, beers etc.). Ask to any taxi drivers to take you there.
In the center of Jambiani village, you can find bread, vegetables, fruits, crips, pastas, rice, biscuits etc.
You can find many small supermarkets in Stonetown.
Hope those tips will be useful, such as the prices ideas! as Zanzibar is a very touristic place so Zanzibari apply sometimes high prices… Just note that is only an idea and that it is always easier to negotiate when it’s low season as there are less tourists (i.e. November-beginning of December March-Mai) and if you can speak Kiswahili too!! Don’t hesitate to share your feedbacks in the comment box below!
BON VOYAGE & ENJOY!!!!
Credits: Elisabeth and Augustin Douillet; Papaye verte; Bahari view lodge; Dhow palace; Yves Douillet