Zanzibar… its name itself is already a trip! This fantastic and mysterious island with its beautiful beaches and roads lined with spices is a real crush.
Located 40 kilometers away from the Tanzanian coast, Zanzibar is an island (specifically, an archipelago) of East Africa located in the Indian Ocean. Covering an area of 1264 km2, it is a mix of African, East, Europe and Asia. Former territory of the Sultanate of Oman and major transit of goods and trade, the Indians once occupied the island, and the Portuguese and British settled some time there. To get there, it is a journey of 16hours (at least).
Operated by Emirates, we stopped in Dubai to take the Emirates lowcost airline, Flydubaï. Other companies operate like Oman Air and Qatar Airways.
Once landed in Zanzibar airport, 2 documents are to be filled in order to get your visa for the stay. They will also ask you for $50 or €50 per person. You can pay by cash and also by credit card (beware of fees: I give you additional information here). Customs control registers your fingerprints, like a taste of America in front of us.
On our way to Nungwi, a fishing village of the north of the island, where our hotel is located. 1 hour and a half to open wide eyes to miss nothing of the first images Zanzibar offers to us. We go first through the city: traffic, pedestrians everywhere, noise. We pass school children in uniform, bicycles, cows and goats, crowded “dala-dalas”, the local transportation and after that we take some roads between the villages, towards lush vegetation and red earth.
Zanzibar is a unique island, full of treasures.
Staying there will be necessarily synonymous with swimming in crystal clear water and resting in the shades of coconut trees!
There is one essential point: Zanzibar is under strong tides. Swimming is not possible throughout the day. The sea is really far removed at any time of the day, hard to predict.
One spot is “protected” by this phenomenon: the north of the island and the famous village of Nungwi. Swimming is possible during the whole day, so you will not be dependent on the tides.
If you choose another place to unpack (mainly on the East Coast), you can watch the work of the Zanzibari women, busy picking seaweeds left by the tide. Seaweed farming is a difficult and challenging job that requires them to stay crouched for hours in the heat. These algae, once dried, are exported to Japan, Northern Europe and the United States to be transformed into capsules, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, confectionery, etc.
Exploring Zanzibar is also to be aware of its past. Its main town, Stone Town, is a former hub of slavery and still keeps track of it. The many colonial influences give Zanzibar a special mixed culture. The government has maintained British influence (cars drive on the left, students were uniforms), the people kept the Arab and Muslim influence (95% of the island is Muslim) and the cuisine has Indian influences for this island counting a thousand spices.
The Zanzibaris are warm, open and smiling people. The official language is Swahili; English and Arabic are also spoken everywhere. You’ll also find people speaking French.
The island has two philosophies:
– “Polé, Polé“, which means “slowly, slowly”. You will see that life flows slowly and quietly on Zanzibar. Do not hurry, do not get upset, take advantage of this moment and slow down the pace. Join them! Anyway, you’re on vacation, nothing is urgent.
– “Hakuna Matata” which means “no problem”. Everything is possible in Zanzibar. Any problem has a solution.
Here are some words in Swahili to serve you:
- jambo!: hello!
- powa: how are you
- mambo: hi! (more familiar)
- asante sana: thank you so much
- karibou sana: you’re welcome
- karibou: welcome
The cost of a trip to Zanzibar?
All travelers are different! So I speak only from my personal experience. Zanzibar is a destination that is expensive. Why?
This trip costed €2000 per person for 12 days.
- € 1,500: Flight + Hotel (breakfast included). I found this deal on Expedia. A flight ticket in this period is between € 600 and € 800. Regarding hotels, depending on whether you prefer a resort, a small hotel like the one I chose or a more “backpacker” style. Prices range from 80 € to 350 € / night. On booking.com, the hotel I chose costed € 3,000 during the same period … So, choose the offers combining flight and hotel for this trip.
- € 200 for different activities. You will learn more about it in details in my another.
- € 300 for incidental expenses: meals, daily purchases, souvenirs and tips.