All you need to know before travelling to Zanzibar
Zanzibar offers a dream getaway, with clean beaches, sunny days, and historic sites it should be on your travel bucket list. Zanzibar is a collection of islands off the coast of Tanzania with Unguja & Pemba being the larger ones. The Capital of Zanzibar is on Unguja and its historic site, Stone Town is a world heritage site.
Zanzibar's main industries are species and tourism and recently there is an increased investment in the tourism sector. It also has a diverse marine ecosystem and fresh fish are in plenty of supply most times of the year.
Zanzibar is part of Tanzania, and it has its routes as an Arabic colony. In 19840, The Oman Sultan moved his capital to Stone Town, Zanzibar and the land was the main route of the slave trade and spices to the Middle East. The Island gained its independence in 1964 and the same year joined with Tanganyika to form the nation of Tanzania.
Best Time to visit
The best time to visit is from June to October, the dry season filled with reliably warm and sunny days. From November to February, you may experience light rains, but they last for such a short time that they're unlikely to ruin any plans. Located just 6 degrees south of the equator, Zanzibar is usually warm throughout the year with temperatures ranging from 25°-35° C year-round. (75°-95° F).
Between March and the end of May, you have the so-called heavy rains, and it is usually a low season hence might not be the best time to visit.
Zanzibar is predominantly Muslim, so do check what dates Ramadan and the two Eid celebrations fall onto, as you will find many shops and cafes closed, although the beach resorts will offer business as usual.
Most countries require a visa to enter Zanzibar and the cost is $50. It can be done online before, but it is also possible and recommended to simply complete it at the airport. At the airport itself, you can only pay with cash and there are no ATMs at the airport so be sure to bring enough cash with you.
The best way to get around Zanzibar is by taxi. There are registered taxis that you will see everywhere. They are almost van-like with two rows of seating. For a one-hour drive, you'll pay about $20. It is also advised to hire a driver throughout your journey to ensure you get fair prices and always have someone when moving about.
Busses or public transportation are also an option and very much cheaper than taxis. However, you just have to ask a local when you arrive for directions as there is no real official bus system with official bus stops in place.
There is a wide range of accommodation in Zanzibar, from hostels to 5-star hotels, it depends on the type of traveler you are and your budget. Hotels on the Eastern coast of the islands tend to be more expensive but the rates are still reasonable. They usually offer more private amenities and are located in a larger area giving you things to explore within the hotel. Hotels near the stone town side are more affordable but they are usually smaller or boutique style. On average the cost of accommodation and food can vary from $50 - $300 per person per day depending on your accommodation and where you choose to eat.
Zanzibar is full of water activities like snorkeling, surfing, scuba diving, kite surfing, jet skiing, and kayaking. Some tours give you a deeper look into the Zanzibar culture, history, and social life, some of them are
Stone town tour; a tour around the stone town where you will get to see historic sites like the Old Fort, House of wonders, Freddie Mercury's childhood home, and the spice market. This tour will give you a look into the history of Zanzibar and a feel of the everyday life of the island. At night, there is a Forodhani Market that is a pop-up BBQ that is a culinary delight.
Dolphin tour; ever wanted to swim with dolphins? Then this is your chance. The tour involves a boat ride to Kizimkazi, snorkeling at the full of fish coral reef then a ride to Menai Bay sandbank for a delicious seafood lunch with drinks.
Prison island; Also known as Changuu Island, this island has quite a tragic history. It was used as a prison (hence the name) for rebellious slaves in the 1800s. A bit later in history, it was also used as a quarantine island for those with yellow fever. Now it is one of Stone Town's most popular tourist destinations, most famous for the abundance of giant tortoises that inhabit the island! A day trip by boat to visit Prison Island can last half a day to a full day as it's just about a 20 minutes boat ride from Stone Town port.
Spice tour; this is a unique tour through the spice farms, Zanzibar was one of the leading producers of spices like cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg. This walking tour takes you through the farms and you will get to see where your spices come from and taste them. The tour also covers a variety of tropical fruit and at the end, you can buy spices as souvenirs.
Dhow cruise; is the best way to experience the glorious Zanzibar sunset. This tour is on a traditional wooden dhow to Kendwa reef to watch the sunset and enjoy the calming evening beach wind. It can be a calm romantic experience or a fun time with friends full of music.
Nakupenda tour; Nakupenda Island is a tiny and very beautiful island about a 15-20 minute boat ride off the coast of Stone Town. In Swahili, Nakupenda means "I Love You". In the afternoon, they set up a large marketplace and "pop-up BBQ" and the tiny white-sanded beach will become very crowded (usually with people coming from their visit to Prison Island) This island is so small that it disappears in the evening when the tides come up! So be sure to visit before 5 pm if you want to see the island itself.
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