We have been hearing all the wonderful things about Tanzania, Zanzibar to be precise. So, we did some research just to help you prepare and plan for your next vacation in Zanzibar. We know everything about Zanzibar screams dream vacation but how much do you know? Apart from the good things that people say, are there other things you need to know before going on a vacation in Zanzibar?
Did you know that Zanzibar is amongst the best cities to spend your summer vacation? Click here to see the other cities.
You should know that Zanzibar is part of the country Tanzania. The United Republic of Tanzania as it is officially called is a country in East Africa. It shares borders on the north with Uganda, south with Mozambique/Malawi, east with Kenya/Comoro Island, and west with Zambia/Rwanda/Burundi/the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The name was derived from combining the two main states that came together to form the country. Tan from Tanganyika and Zan from Zanzibar. In local terms, Tanganyika means “sail in the wilderness” while Zanzibar means ‘black coast/shore’.
Did you know that the highest mountain in Africa (Mt. Kilimanjaro) can be located in Northeastern Tanzania?
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Vacation In Zanzibar – Things to Know Before It
You must know that although Zanzibar is part of the country Tanzania, it remains autonomous. Zanzibar is mainly an Archipelago (group of islands) situated in the Indian Ocean. There are so many small islands that make up this state but the biggest are Unguja Island and Pemba Island.
Most people today believe and refer to Unguja Island as the whole of Zanzibar. Although, Zanzibar is one of the states that united to form Tanzania. You should know that most of the locals would rather be called Zanzibaris than Tanzanians.
You must know that Stone Town is the centre of history here and is one of the world’s heritage sites. Zanzibar is sometimes called the spice island and this is because of the booming spice production business. It is one of the top producers of spices like black pepper, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, etc. Aside from spices and Zanzibar tourism, the production of raffia materials is the other industry here.
Vacation in Zanzibar – Best Time To Vist
The islands of Zanzibar are accessible through 5 seaports and the Abeid Amani Karume International Airport. The airport provides services for up to 1.5 million passengers every year. You should note that flying to Zanzibar from Dar Es Salaam will be twice the price of taking a boat ferry. Although it is faster, the boat ferry is a more pleasant two-hour-long experience.
Due to the proximity of Zanzibar to the equator, the temperature around these parts is usually steady. In Zanzibar, March to May is blessed with heavy rains but this does not happen always. Short rain spells are also experienced in November here.
You must know that Zanzibar is dominated by Muslims, so when planning your vacation do well to check the date for Ramadan and Eid. This is because most shops will be closed for these holidays. Hence, reducing the Zanzibar experience for you.
In general, the dry season to avoid your holiday being ruined by constant rain is the best time to plan a vacation in Zanzibar, Tanzania. This period goes from June to October and also from late December to February.
However, in late September the temperature is usually very high and this heat might not be good for some activities. You should note this during your vacation in Zanzibar. If you are visiting during this time, make sure swimming is on your to-do list as the temperature is perfect for that.
Things to do During Your Vacation In Zanzibar
When planning your vacation in Zanzibar – your trip depends solely on you and the agency you plan the trip with. The truth is there is something for everybody to do in Zanzibar. Hence, it is the most sought-after holiday destination today. Some of such activities include;
1. Visit the House of Wonders/Stone Town
The Bait al Ajaib as it is called by the locals is found in Stone Town. It is a museum that holds the history of Zanzibar inside. This building used to be the palace of one Sultan Bargash bin Said – he was the ruler of Zanzibar from 1870 – 1888. Just like other Zanzibari architecture, this building has massive wooden doors to show a mixture of Indian and Arabic craftsmanship.
Next to this historic building is the old Arab fort which is worth exploring. The date of the old Arab Fort is believed to have gone as far as the 17th century.
Almost everything that has nothing to do with beaches and water in Zanzibar revolves around Stone Town and its environs. You should take an evening stroll around Stone Town. It is surely going to be one of the best decisions you ever made.
2. Shop in Their Markets
Everything that makes a market glow is exactly how the Darajani Market in Stone Town is. Your senses will be heightened with the colours, noise, and smell here. If shopping here is not part of your plans, then there is no need to pay for a Zanzibar holiday package.
The Darajani Market is where everyone both tourists and locals’ shops, exchange gossip, hang out and meet others. This place is not called the Spice Island for no reason. You can shop for spices when you get to the market – it is one of those unsaid rules.
We have another market close to the Old Fort although this one is quite small. Here, what is mostly sold are local crafts and artworks.
When daylight fades away, the food market in the Forodhani Garden – this is just in front of the House of Wonders. 99% of this shop does not accept card transactions. Therefore, be sure to make withdrawals and change your money into Tanzanian shillings before hitting the market. We recommend that you should try the Zanzibar pizza while in Zanzibar.
3. Explore The Jozani Forest
The Jozani Chwaka Bay National Park houses the Jozani forest. One of the interesting facts of this park is that it is the only home for the red colobus monkeys. You should check your Zanzibar vacation package if it includes a trip from Stone Town or any beach resort to this reserve. We suggest you find another package that does if not.
The Jozani forest is a mature forest blessed with raffia palms, wide date palms, and mahogany. You will see shrews, chameleons, monkeys, and elephants during your ride. You can even find a bushbaby during your tour if you’re lucky. However, it is important to note that you are not supposed to touch most animals. Especially the monkey – even if they reach out to you.
Since we have established that Zanzibar is an island, you should lower your expectations on the animals that will be available for your viewing pleasure.
4. Visit Some of Their Spice Plantations
It will be bananas to spend some time on the spice island and not visit any of the spice plantations spread across the land. Even if your tour guide omits this from your package, you can book a tour to any of the spice plantations open to visitors from your hotel.
The spice you are into does not matter here, as Zanzibar grows everything. Lemongrass, chilli, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, turmeric, curry leaves, vanilla, nutmeg, bay leaves, cloves, etc. all grow here. They also grow fruits like guava, durian, papaya, coconut, jackfruit, and ten different banana spices.
5. Relax in the Ocean
Zanzibar prides itself on being one of the best beach vacation destinations in all of Africa. Since this is an archipelago, water bodies close to the land are something that can be found almost everywhere. The beaches here are the crowning jewels of Zanzibar – with colours that cannot be found in most of the other islands.
There are different islands here but some of the popular ones for tourists include Changu Island, Mnemba Island, Chumbe Island, Nungwi Beach, Jambiani Beach, and Nakupenda Beach. You can catch some acrobatics and capoeira at the beach during your stay here.
You can engage in a lot of activities to make your holiday worthwhile. Swimming, scuba diving, surfing, fishing, etc. – anything water activity you can think of is available on one of the beaches in Zanzibar. You just have to compare the vacation packages in Zanzibar available.
6. Go to a Festival
You should know that there are three major festivals in Zanzibar every year. So, if you happen to be in town for one then there is no reason why you shouldn’t attend.
The first is a music festival that happens in February that features artists from all over Africa. It is titled ‘Sauti za busara’ which means ‘sounds of wisdom’. This music festival is usually held in Stone Town.
East Africa’s largest film, music, and art festival – the Zanzibar International Film Festival also held in Zanzibar. Here, some of the best talents in music and movies all across East Africa are showcased on a big stage for the world to see. Music performances, as well as recognition awards, are some of the activities that happen here.
Every year there is a theme for this event and this determines the artists that you would expect to see.
The last festival is the Zanzibar Beach and watersports festivals which usually take place in September at the Jambiani beach. This festival sees a host of water and beach sports. It is capped off with an amazing music festival. But the food stalls during the competition are what catches our eyes the most.
7. Visit the Mrembo Spa
A vacation is meant for relaxation. There is nothing that says ‘relax and be taken care of’ other than an amazing spa session. Normally, with all the activities you have lined up while planning a trip to Zanzibar, you are surely going to be worn out.
Now, almost all the hotels in Zanzibar come with a spa. But the number one from personal experience and the views of others is the Mrembo Spa. This Spa is located in Stone Town and they offer a lorry load of treatments here. One we would recommend especially for women is Singo. This is a scrub that local women of Zanzibar use on their wedding day.
Where to Stay During Your Vacation to Tanzania (Zanzibar)
There are so many vacation places in Zanzibar. Therefore, this is worth determining where you would stay when on vacation in Zanzibar. The good news is Zanzibar hotels are not as expensive as those in other cities to visit during Christmas.
Some of the hotels we recommend for you include.
- The Serena Inn
- Emerson On Hurumzi Hotel
- Breezes Beach Club
- Zanzibar Palace Hotel
- Baraza Resort
- The Residence Zanzibar
- Essque Zalu
- Fumba Beach Lodge
- Pongwe Beach Hotel
- Unguja Lodge
There are so many amazing hotels and resorts to choose from during your stay in Zanzibar. You must check the Zanzibar vacation package to check out which hotel you will be staying at.
If you check out vacation spots in Zanzibar, we are sure almost all the aforementioned hotels will be on the list. However, one that is going to be on the list is the Manta Resort. This resort was listed by earthporm as one of the 10 amazing hotels you need to visit before you die. Features of this hotel include a spa, underwater rooms, diving, fishing, safari, excursions to Pemba inland, the Ngalawa cruise, etc.
More of the Things Worth Noting Before Your Vacation in Zanzibar
Different ethnic origins can be found here, in the 1960s 56% of the Zanzibar population was Shirazi (Zanzibar Africans). 17% of the population at this time was occupied by the Zanzibar Arabs.
The Bantu population of sub-Saharan Africans (ethnic Swahili) are the main inhabitants of Zanzibar in recent times. We also have Arabs, ethnic Persians, Somalis, and Indians living in Zanzibar today. Since they occupy most of the land in Tanganyika, Swahili is the official language in Tanzania. However, most of the locals understand English, Arabic, French and Italian. Swahili has different dialects but the one used in Zanzibar is Kiunguja.
The predominant population in Zanzibar is Islam. However, around two thousand plus Christians are living in the area. Small clusters of other religious practices like Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs can also be found in Zanzibar. However, there is the Juhudi za Viongozi wa Dini kuimarisha Amani (the Joint Committee of Religious Leaders for Peace). Thanks to them, all religions live peaceful lives and there is little or no religious tension in Zanzibar.
Tourism provides around 25% of the total income of Tanzania. Which is one of the reasons why the country invests a lot in it.
The Government of Zanzibar has a vision regarding tourism. It is ‘to become one of the top tourism destinations of the Indian Ocean, offering an upmarket, high-quality product across the board within the coming years.’ Every year, there is almost double the number of tourists visiting Zanzibar from all over the world.
Conclusion on Vacation in Zanzibar
We know it is impossible to say it all and this is why we recommend that you read. This will give you more insight into the people and culture before planning your vacation in Zanzibar.
Some of the books we recommend include: