Zanzibar Travel Guide
January 1, 1970
by Ladin Atilla
If you are thinking Zanzibar, Tanzania? No, thank you. I strongly suggest you think again. Here is why. Search Zanzibar in Google images. You don’t need any more reasons. Actually, pictures are not even close grasp the beauties this island has to offer. Friendliness of people, the freshness of the seafood, wonders of spices farms and beauty of the beaches.
I made you a list of things to do in Zanzibar. It is a long list but you can get everything done in a short time. I was there only for three days. I managed to do all of them except two. Mainly because I like to take things slow, go into details and take a lot of pictures.
Things To Do In Zanzibar
Let’s start the day with a walking tour of narrow, winding streets of Stone Town. This is probably going to take more than half-day. There are nice shops on the way to the attractions. Give yourself some time to shop.
House of Freddy Mercury
A bit of a disappointment because it’s not a museum. You can only see the door, nothing more.
This park really comes alive at night. You can see locals hanging out. Street food vendors also gather here. Eat at your own risk hygiene is questionable.
This bazaar is full of fresh fruits and spices. If you like spicy food, I strongly suggest you buy small red peppers from there. I’ve been told by a local that; because they don;t drink alcohol they use nutmeg in their drinks. They say it makes you tipsy. Next to the bazaar, there is a fish market.
This is an old fort built by Portuguese for defense purposes. Not much of it left to see except the walls. Inside there are stalls that sell souvenirs.
You can learn more about the life of Sultans here. There is a small entrance fee.
Old Slave Market/ Cathedral
It is a sad and horrifying part of the island’s history. There are well-informed guides who give tours for free. Don’t forget to tip them. There is a cross in the church made out of the tree which Livingston was buried under.
House Of Wonders
It was the first building to have electricity in Zanzibar, hence the name. It was closed for renovated while I was there. I can’t give details about the inside.
Keep an eye out for these beautiful, handmade, wooden doors. Carvings on them tell stories about the person who built the house.
Zanzibar has many beaches. Don’t come back before you visit at least one of them. My choice was Nungwi. It is perfect for swimming and sunbathing but there are more things to do here.
- You can watch locals collect seaweeds.
- If you walk towards the lighthouse, there is a small dhow making area. You can see fisherman mending nets and building dhows. Ask for their permission before you take pictures. There is nothing more annoying than someone staring at you while you are working.
- There are two turtle sanctuaries almost next to the lighthouse. They protect sea turtles from hunters. They heal the injured ones before they release them back to the sea. There is a small entrance fee. Inside a guide will show you around. You might get a chance to feed the turtles.
- Along the coast, there are some restaurants and bars. Pick one and chill.
Changuu Island AKA Prison Island
A boat trip to Prison Island only takes half a day. It is easy to arrange. Your hotel can arrange it for you. Prison island is home to giant tortoises. They were a gift from British Governor of Seychelles. It is easy to navigate around the island because it is small. Another thing to see besides the tortoises is the hotel. You can walk around some parts of it and take pictures. Usually, Prison Island tours end with a snorkeling trip. There aren’t much underwater activity to see around the island but it is a good swim. If you are really into snorkeling, there are better places in Zanzibar.
Zanzibar has been a spice trade center for a long time. Omani Sultan noticed that island has the perfect climate for growing spices. He brought different plants to test if they can grow here. Ever since spice trading is a source of income for the islanders. Tourists are only allowed to visit private spice farms. During this visits, farmers show which spices grow on which plants. It lasts a couple of hours. It is touristy but fun activity.
Its full name is Jozani Chwaka Bay National Park. It is the home of red colobus monkeys. It isn’t allowed to enter the park without an official guide.
It is a restaurant on top o a rock. You reach there by boat. It makes good pictures. I haven’t been there I can’t recommend the food.
Tips and Tricks
- Best time to visit Zanzibar is October to June (dry season). Weather is good year around but summer is the rainy season.
- Dust off your bargaining skills and use them. Also, everything is cheaper if you pay in Shillings instead of Dollars.
- Try Zanzibar coffee. It is strong and delicious. The way they make it similar to Turkish coffee.
- The seafood here is fresh, delicious and probably cheaper than home.
- You must be careful about strong tides and currents while swimming.
- It is a Muslim Island, dress respectfully. It is also a touristic island wearing a bikini at the beach is okay.
- Don’t drink tap water. I was also advised by the hotel not to brush my teeth with it either.
- Try playing Boa. It is a board game that looks like backgammon.
I hope this article inspires you to travel. Enjoy your stay in Zanzibar. I loved it there and can’t wait to go back. Feel free to write your suggestions or questions in the comments below.