Zanzibar is a small and beautiful island famous for turquoise waters, traditional carved doors, spices, fresh fruits and tropical beaches with white sands. It is also a birth place of Freddie Mercury, where you can visit his family apartment in Stone Town.
If you plan a trip here, check location of hotels first, because not everywhere is a beach where you can swim. Furthermore the island strongly depends on the tides, so during the day you can walk kilometers into the ocean but still cannot take a deep.
My favourite part of the island is Northern and Eastern, which are a bit different. The coast on the ocean side is full of wide beaches with white sands, it is also more spacious and in general more relaxing. Paje is a name of the beach, which is considered the kitesurfing paradise. Nungwi is in the North part of the island, my favourite but full of tourists, Italian hotels and restaurants, which I wasn’t happy about because I love to try new flavours and eat local food. You also cannot chill too much at the beach because you are asked to book a boat tour or buy something every now and then. Locals are really nice guys though. So what’s that great about this place? The color of water. It is just amazing! Sometimes you may also spot beautiful red starfish on the beach. They are water creatures and need it to live, so please put them back to their habitat if you see them on the sand ♡
Spice tours are offered everywhere and the whole island it actually famous for it, because of Arabic and Indian influences in the past. Unfortunately, like I mentioned before, it is not that easy to find a local cuisine where you can try meals with this aromatic flavour.
In the central part, there is a highly recommended by tourist agencies Jozani Forest, where you can observe the red colobus monkeys. I was excited to go there as it looks like an ethical place. The walk in the jungle and spotting monkeys was really great, but the whole organisation is disappointing, and they were actually prepared to hear that, so I guess there’s many sad or angry tourist at the end of the tour.
I’d say the reason is that you expect an amazing jungle tour, but first you have to stand in a long line for a ticket which is two pieces of paper (A4 size) to fill out, including your car’s plate number. There is a huge book they scribe in, and it looks ridiculous.
You pay for the tickets and after that, outside the reception you are informed that you have to pay for a guide as well, otherwise you cannot enter the forest. The guide is of course needed, because tourist behave sometimes in a terrible way, but the organisation makes it confusing.
After around 10-15 minutes walk, you are told to go by car to the other place which is a Mangrove forest. It is beautiful, but I didn’t expect to go there. Actually I was in many forests like this, and I could also see that people from my group got angry. The most disappointing for me was that I had to join a big group and have them on my pictures…
This place would be great if tourists would know what to expect. I thought it is a place where we can chill and connect with nature and I hope it will be like this one day.
If you got used to renting a motorbike on the tropical islands – don’t do it on Zanzibar and rent a car instead. There is right-hand traffic (RHT), a bit stressful style of driving, and sections with no roads, no side walks. When I was visiting the island a few months ago, there was no roads in some places, some were under construction.
The old town of Stone or Zanzibar city is decorated with wooden, carved doors that are a real piece of art. Arabic style is rectangular shape, and Indian style is rounded on the top, often with big, metal spikes. This type of decoration has roots in the long past when elephants were used on wars to break doors among others. The spikes were made to protect from it, but it is fortunately purely decorative for lasts centuries.
It is good idea to enter the maze of narrow streets, get lost and make pictures of the doors, chat with locals and eat some curry.
Zanzibar has also very dark past related to ivory trade and slavory, which you can still see in the architecture and on the old pictures.
Close to the shore, there is Prison Island that may not sound welcoming, but it is a great place to visit. The prison is long time gone, and nowadays it is a home for huge tortoises! You can interact with them and if you come at a right hour, you can also feed them. They are Aldabra giant tortoises up to 250 kg and some of them are almost 200 years old. By the way, the name turtle is for the water reptile (or close to water), and tortoise is for a land dweller.
On this island you can also see one of the cutest creatures on the planet with a funny name dik dik. They look like tiny roe-deers and are very shy, so you have to sit still and quiet to see them.
To get on this island you can book a tour in a hotel or you can go to the port in Stone Town and ask locals if they can give you a ride (both ways!). I don’t know if it’s better, but I prefer to support local businesses.
You can see that there is something wrong with the economy as the prices are often European but the standard is not that good. Outside resorts the island looks poor so where are all those dollars? It is f.eks. 10$ for a magnet, and renting an old car is more expensive than a new one in Dubai. I’ve heard it’s like this in Africa and could see that on the mainland too, so I really hope the economic situation for natives will change for the better soon🤞
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