Zanzibar Holidays and Hotels

zanzibar

Zanzibar island along with Pemba Island to the north are referred to as the Spice Islands. Zanzibar is best known as a tropical beach paradise, which is easily combined with a safari in Tanzania or Kenya. The history here harks back to ancient trade routes. In Stone Town, Indo-Arabic influences intertwine with African Swahili origins to create a heady fusion of sights, sounds and aromas. Whether you’re looking for the culture and bustle of historic cobbled streets in Stone Town or the peaceful beaches and warm Indian Ocean with its dhow trips and excellent diving, Zanzibar is simply paradise.

Currency: Tanzania Shilling / US dollars can be exchanged easily in Stone Town and are widely accepted as payment for hotels/activities.

 

Where is Zanzibar?

zanzibar-island-map

Zanzibar is conveniently located on the shores of Tanzania and exceptionally well placed to bookend a safari of a lifetime. With so much on offer here accommodation and activity wise, Zanzibar has something for even the most selective of travellers. The vast and wild Selous Game Reserve is a mere 45 minute flight away. As you can see, with a Tanzania beach and safari holiday, nothing so luxurious could be easier.

 

History of Zanzibar

The history of the islands is fascinating and is still evident in the crazy, cobbled streets of Stone Town. The island is known as the birthplace of Swahili and it became a major port for traders from Persia, Arabia, Indonesia, India, China, Malaysia and, later, Portugal. It is this mix of cultures that brought about the melting pot of architecture and tradition that still fills Zanzibar with an exotic sense of romance.

In the early 1500s, after Vasco da Gama’s visit in 1498, Zanzibar became a colony of Portugal. The islands have a chequered history of rule from Arab sultans in the slave trade to British protectorate to full self-governance by Zanzibar in 1963. It was briefly ruled by Sultan Jamshid bin Abdullah until he was deposed. In 1964, Zanzibar and Tanganyika merged to form the United Republic of Tanzania, of which Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous region.

 

Climate in Zanzibar

Temperature on Zanzibar is usually consistent with the year round average staying above 20°C, but unfortunately this same consistent does not apply to the rains.

March until May will see the largest amount of rainfall on the island whereas the “Dry Season” months between June and October are when most tourists arrive to enjoy cloudless blue skies and slightly less humidity.

Finally, November and May are considered the shoulder months and these along with the months in between may consist of “short rains” which are little more than a brief distraction when they happen.

 

 

Getting to Zanzibar

By air – A number of international airlines offer flights to Dar es Salaam and some directly to Zanzibar. Domestic flights are available from Tanzania’s main cities to Zanzibar. Mango Airlines offer 3 flights a week from OR Tambo in Johannesburg to Zanzibar Airport near Stone Town.

By sea – Several ferries run between the mainland and Zanzibar.

 

 

Where to stay in Stone Town?

Why spare yourself any expense on a honeymoon in Zanzibar and stay at the luxurious Double Tree by Hilton. Nicely located and with a comfort of the highest quality, this hotel will not disappoint in any way.

That being said, if price is a factor and you still want to experience high quality for lesser cost, the Africa House Hotel  is right next to the town centre and the go to place for sunset every evening.

 

 

Things to do in Stone Town?

  • Visit the House of Wonders
  • Take tour of the old slave quarter
  • Explore the ancient streets on foot
  • Enjoy coffee or a cocktail in the Africa House Hotel at sunset.
  • Eat at the Night Market on Forodhani park

Tour Guide Advice: Stay in Stone Town for the first and last night of your stay on Zanzibar, this way you will enjoy a much more leisurely stay and can also take a tour of the spice plantations enroute to the beach.

Travel warning: Stone Town is a very safe town but as always, common sense is always worth having. In this sense, do not interact with any locals offering any illegal substances and stick to the most central parts of the town, especially after dark.

 

 

Best Beaches in Zanzibar 

 

The North Beaches – Nungwi & Kendwa

Also known as the “North Beaches”, Nungwi and Kendwa are a short drive or water-taxi from each offer and offer relaxing resorts for a honeymoon in Zanzibar with many options in terms of restaurants and nightlife.

Nungwi

Zanzibar | NungwiNungwi is the more lively of these resorts which has two beaches, many souvenir stores, massage rooms, hotels and seafood restaurants. While it may not be for everyone, Nungwi is sometimes suitable for a honeymoon couple who like to meet other people when they travel and get involved with the local nightlife.

There are also endless options of things to do in Nungwi with Scuba Diving operators, snorkeling trips, village tours and many watersports.

Where to stay in Nungwi?

Luxury: The Z Hotel is a beautiful spa hotel right in the middle of the beaches in Nungwi. Surrounded by many restaurants and beach side bars, the hotel is akin to a small oasis in the middle of a lively beach paradise.

Midrange option: Amaan Bungalows is another resort in the middle of all the action, although this can sometimes feel less personal given that many other tourists will be passing through the resort on their way up and down the many restaurants in the area. That being said, Amaan has quality rooms and is a good place to meet fellow travelers.

Budget option: Baraka Aquarium Bungalows is certainly the budget hotel in Nungwi but offers decent value for the cost per night. Baraka has good facilities but is located a little further from the main strip of beach and restaurants/bars.

Kendwa

Kendwa on the other hand has a much larger beach and feels a lot more personal in terms of experience when compared with Nungwi.

Some nice restaurants, bars and relaxing seating areas line up along this stretch but ideally, Kendwa is suited to those who want a quiet stay, but then to also be within reach of Nungwi to sample some lively nightlife.

Aside from the monthly full moon party, Kendwa is a great place to sit back with a cocktail and watch the sunset in a sublime atmosphere.

Where to stay in Kendwa?

Budget option: Sunset Bungalows Kendwa is a large complex of bungalows which reach back toward the interior of the island, meaning the accommodation nearer to the waters edge is a little more expensive. Sunset Bungalows is a reasonably quiet property with high quality room interior.

Midrange option: Kendwa Rocks Hotel is slightly more busy than Sunset above and the scene for the monthly Full Moon party which is a huge contrast to what is usually a quiet area. Similar room quality to the above, Kendwa has a slightly younger and more social crowd.

Luxury option: Gold Zanzibar Beach House and Spa has great food, a high standard of service and a beautiful beach on the doorstep. If it can fit within beach, this hotel provides value to match the price tag.

The East Beaches – Matemwe

East Coast – Matemwe

On the eastern side of Zanzibar, you can find the small village of Matemwe which has a beautiful long stretch of beach and faces out onto the renowned Mnemba island.

Quieter than the above resorts and with a limited selection of places to eat/drink, Matemwe is still a popular resort and a truly serene place to relax when the afternoon tide comes in.

Trips out to Mnemba Atoll are easy to organize where you can snorkel open waters and sunbathe on the deck of a local Dhow sailing boat, but the real attraction of Matemwe is the secluded nature of the resort.

Where to stay in Matemwe?

Luxury option: Sunshine Hotel Zanzibar is a relaxing and secluded resort with a nice restaurant, excellent swimming pool and easy access to the beach.

Mid range option: Matemwe Bandas are another luxury option albeit for a lesser price. This boutique hotel has high quality decor on the interior and an outdoor pool next to the beachfront.

Budget option: While this will not necessarily meet a backpackers budget, the Zanzibar Retreat Hotel is ideal for a honeymoon and half the cost of the luxury accommodation on this list. Small and quaint, this stunning hotel is right next to the beach with all modern facilities available.

What to do on Zanzibar Island?

Snorkelling:
Off the east and north coast of Zanzibar there is excellent reefs with colourful marine life. Pemba Island is particularly good for those who are really keen

Diving:
Diving trips can be organised from all the hotels we love to recommend. Again, Pemba Island offers some of the best diving in the world. Mafia Island diving is also exceptional with the mighty whale sharks in abundance here from October – March.

Jozani Forest Tour
In Zanzibar’s only national park find the endangered red colobus monkeys and many more tree hoppers such as bush babies.

Spice Tour:
Zanzibar is known to be the spice island. For those interested in trees, spices (for obvious reasons) and where everything is from. Learn about all the different spices in Zanzibar from their origins.

Prison Island Tour:
Contrary to the name, no prisoners have lived on this island. It used to be an isolated area for the yellow fever epidemic sufferers, but now it is home to the Aldabra giant tortoises which is the main attraction of the island. A short 30 minute boat ride from Stone Town.

Stone Town Tour:
Take a guided tour around the cobbled streets of charismatic Stone Town and learn about Zanzibar’s rich history and culture.

Village Tour

For anyone interested in delving further into the local and cultural side of the island, taking a village tour is an excellent way to see how the real locals live while learning about Zanzibar cooking and history.

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