Zanzibar travel guide 2021- The hidden gems of Zanzibar

the-rock-restaurant-zanzibar-travel-guide-2021

Before travel read about latest COVID-19 Zanzibar Restriction HERE

Depending on your expectations but also on your chosen vacation package, Zanzibar can be heaven on earth or hell. It is advisable to inform ourselves before leaving. After all, you don’t get to the end of the earth to see and judge poverty and misery in one place! And not to change the world in the few days you stay there!

Zanzibar travel guide 2021

For a holiday in Zanzibar you don’t need a Covid test if you fly with Qatar Airways (there are other companies that request a test – so be careful what you fly with if you plan a holiday here in a short time) and the entry procedure is extremely easy.

➡ On the plane you receive a health statement, stating if you have specific symptoms of covid or fever or malaria, which countries you have traveled in the last 21 days (we mentioned the Maldives and no one asked us anything);
➡ Upon landing you receive a very short form stating where you are staying, how long you are staying, passport data and then you go to the counter and receive a visa.

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Depending on the country where you live, you will need a visa or not. You can get in Tanzania a visa on arrival, which means, that you don’t need to apply for it in advance. Although you can if you want. Once you arrive at the airport, just head to the immigration office with 50$ and 2 id pictures. You can also check here if you need a Visa.


Airport / hotel transfer

A personal recommendation: be careful when transferring by taxi to the hotel! It is preferable to arrange the transfer in advance with the hotel because at the airport there are only taxi drivers who will try to fool you. Or at least that’s the conclusion we’ve reached.

Tips for renting a scooter or a car – Zanzibar travel guide 2021

You can rent everything you want in Zanzibar, it is quite chaotic but if you are used to traffic in a big city then it is ok here too. Be careful where you rent, because the company must obtain a Tanzanian driver’s license in order not to have problems with the police.

✅ The cost of the permit in our case was 10 USD and the scooter cost 25 USD / day.

The police stopped us from the first day, checked our license and let us go. They didn’t ask for a tip, as I read, they were even super cute. This on the first day… in the following days we were asked for a tip (3-5USD), it is important to have “little money”. Of course, the fact that you have all the documents in order is irrelevant…

rent a scouter-zanzibar travel guide 2021

The travel speed is 40 km / hour in the locality and 60 km / hour outside the locality. The distances are small in Zanzibar but not scary and gas stations are quite common. You can also pay in USD and receive the rest in local currency – silings.

A few ATMs, I did not find any at the airport but I found about 2 on the way to Stone Town. You can’t pay with the card anywhere, not even at gas stations or tourist attractions. Here the cash is in power. There are hotels that charge the card payment fee of 5% of the amount.


About accommodation and meals – Zanzibar travel guide 2021

Considering that I had 10 nights at my disposal, in order to make the time more efficient but also for diversification, I opted for 2 accommodations. The first accommodation was in Uroa in the eastern area, in order to be able to watch the tide leisurely, the accommodation was at 4 *, a rather big and nice hotel, clean but as facilities probably not worth 3 * either.

The food was too diverse and if you have a diet based on healthy food it is even harder because the basis was carbohydrates and foods cooked with a lot of sauce and a lot of oil. The grill was completely missing. Also, the drinks included in the all package were quite limited, a few cocktails based on coca-cola / sprites with rum or whiskey, bottled juices served as fresh juice and the classic carbonated juices.

We were lucky to have the all package because the hotel (there were 2) was quite isolated and there were no restaurants nearby. A la carte food from USD 45 / pers. They were standard packages with a fixed price (the price did not include the drink).

The second hotel, also 4 *, in Nungwi, was part of an international chain and once there, things changed significantly.

The 4 * were really 4 *, the food and drink were super diverse and for all tastes, even at dinner in 2 evenings out of 5 I had grilled lobster for whoever wanted it. The hygiene rules were much stricter. Also in the Nungwi area there were many restaurants with prices for all pockets.

Even though we had an all inclusive package, we were away all day, so some days we opted for a light lunch in various local restaurants. I think in the end it depends on everyone’s tastes and tolerance. The food was ok, I can say that the seafood was really fresh but the conditions in which they were prepared, as many of the terraces looked like (I’m not talking about bathrooms anymore), didn’t give you much confidence.

As personal advice it is good to have some stomach medications in the medical kit just in case.

If you want to know what to expect on an accommodation in Zanzibar you can search below.


Excursions and tours – Zanzibar travel guide 2021

From what we found out, 5 trips can be made to Zanzibar:
➡ Prison Island & Stone Town
➡ Mnemba snorkeling
➡ Safari blue + dolphins
➡ Jozani forest + Rock restaurant
➡ Spice tour

As for prices, there are two options:
1️⃣ The first option is the guided group trip, at 150 USD / person (the package of 5 trips mentioned above). You can probably negotiate a little more, if you are a master at this!

2️⃣ The variant of private guided tours, which I considered at some exorbitant prices. For example, for the package of 5 mentioned above, plus airport-Uroa-Nungwi-airport transfer, the prices varied between 760 EUR and 820 EUR for 2 people. We are talking about negotiated prices!

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Attention: a significant part of the price is the transfer to the place of departure of the trip. We arrived, after other negotiations, at a price of about 500 EUR for 2 people – including scooter rental for 8 days – but we ensure the transfer to the place of departure in the excursions. I opted for the regime: private guided tours.


Jozani ForestZanzibar travel guide 2021

Jozani Forest is a protected area that has been feeding the entire community since its inception, respectively since 1997 – a place not to be missed if you arrive on the beautiful island of Zanzibar!

Jozani-forest-zanzibar travel guide 2021

Here you can visit 3 areas:
➡ the forest, where you can enjoy the flora and fauna of the area;
➡ the area of the red colobis monkeys, some red-backed monkeys that live only here;
➡ mangrove area;

In March, the forest area is flooded and can no longer be visited. Under the forest there is a water table at a shallow depth and in the rainy season the water can no longer be absorbed by the ground.

✅ A tour lasts about 2 hours and is done with a guide and the cost is 25,000 shillings, about 10 USD.


Prison (Changuu) IslandZanzibar travel guide 2021

The island can be reached after a journey of about 20 minutes by boat and if you are on your own you can take a boat with 10 USD round trip, to which you add 10,000 shillings, entrance fee (about 4 USD).

➡ In the past, slaves were brought here and later, also in this place, the sick were isolated from yellow fever. There is no yellow fever on the island and theoretically no Covid.
➡ The main attraction of the island is the turtles received as a gift from the state of Seychelles, turtles that can reach up to 180 years.

Besides turtles, there are also some peacocks and with a touch of luck you can see some small antelopes scared by tourists.

After a walk among the turtles, you can enjoy a small beach and the fabulous water here. Additionally, you can benefit from a snorkeling session (if you have a private tour).


Jambiani – Paje – Bwejuu – The RockZanzibar travel guide 2021

Another trip you can take if you are tired of staying at the hotel is a tour of the beaches in the southeast, starting from Jambiani and ending at Michamvi.

Jambiani and Paje are places for kitesurfing lovers, because they are areas with strong winds. At the same time, you can enjoy the beach and the fine sand and last but not least good food.

I have to make a small clarification: Paje beach is located in the village of the same name and to reach it you have to go through a not very nice area. After all, this is not important, but what opens up in front of you. And for everything to be exotic, it is a beach that you share with some cows, not only with kite lovers.

For those who want to kitesurf, courses of up to a week are also organized (I saw on a panel a price of 370 USD for a week of lessons with equipment), as such it can be a place to learn something new.

The Rock, the famous restaurant located on a rock and which you see on all the flyersthat present Zanzibar located here too. Eating here is a great experience, the prices are not exaggerated, 2 people can eat for 50 USD but not lobster or other wonders, but only simpler menus.

Attention: do not come without a reservation! The location is small, there are many people who want it and, as such, if you want a dinner here, either make a reservation in advance or you are satisfied with the pictures taken in front of the restaurant and you are left with an empty stomach!

the rock restaurant Zanzibar travel guide 2021

Stone TownZanzibar travel guide 2021

Between 1840 and 1856, Said bin Sultan had the capital of the Omanid Empire (yes, you read that right) in Stone Town or Mji Mkongwe, which in Swahili means “Old Town”.

The successors of the first Arabs to arrive on the island built the Kazimikazi Mosque around 1100. After about five hundred years, the ships of Vasco Da Gama, who installed the Portuguese government in East Africa and Zanzibar, arrived on the island.

Of course, conflicts arose immediately between the Portuguese and the locals, the latter asking for the help of the Sultans of Oman. The Soultans army conquered the cities on the East African coast and annexed them to the Omani empire along with the island of Zanzibar, in 1856.

The island territories of the Sultanate of Oman came under British protectorate in 1890, and after a revolution, Zanzibar became fully independent in December 1963, also member of the Commonwealth and the UN, and in January 1964 formed the state of Tanzania with Tanganyika.

We are of course talking about a city with a bloody history and a mixed architecture.

What we can see here:

  • The Anglican church where there is also a museum of slavery
  • St. Joseph’s Cathedral
  • Persian dances
  • The old hospital
  • The fort of Zanzibar
  • The museum of peace
  • A lot of mosques (because they are Muslims – most of them)
  • Local markets

Until recently, you could also visit Hause of Wonder, the House of Wonders, which was practically the main attraction of the city. Unfortunately, it can no longer be visited because an important part of it has collapsed. The house, which also housed a museum, was the first lighted building in the city and was the tallest. In addition to the clock overlooking the port area, the building was endowed with dozens of fabulous columns.

Stone Town must be beaten and even if it does not have 1001 objectives, you will surely be attracted by the doors, the colorful shops but also the people’s frenzy.

In conclusion, I will tell you about the main attraction: the Fredy Mercury museum. Let’s not forget that the great artist, named Farouk Bulsara, was born here in Stone Town. Nobody knows exactly the house where he was born, there are three options that the guides take into account.

As expected, some guys skilled in tourism marketing symbolically “confiscated” a house that is supposed to be the one where Freddy was born.

Every year, thousands of fans, out of the tens of millions he has in the world, come on a pilgrimage to Stone Town to breathe the air that Farouk breathed until he was 6 years old. And that does a lot of good to this dream island, whose history suddenly becomes even more fascinating.


Mtende Beach Zanzibar travel guide 2021

A place (still) untouched by tourists, where you get a little harder but worth the effort! It is a private beach, with fine sand and turquoise water and certainly most Instagram photos are taken here.

➡ Be careful, however, if you arrive on this beach you must carefully follow the flow and ebb program because you have chances to arrive and not really enjoy the place or even worse, to catch water away from the shore. It does not grow super fast but if you are not careful you can have unpleasant surprises. In one hour the water increased by about 50-70cm. If on arrival we enjoyed the beach with fine sand, in the end everything was just water!
➡ Attention to sea urchins too! When the water returns, they are no longer visible and if you do not have adequate shoes, you can have… stinging surprises!

✅ The entrance fee is 2,000 shillings, ie 1USD.


Kuza CaveZanzibar travel guide 2021

Kuza cave is located on the southeast coast of Zanzibar, not far from the resort of Jambiani.

✅ The entrance fee is 20,000 shillings or 10 USD.

It is a natural cave where you can swim in the crystal clear water but also snorkel, because there are corals on the bottom of the water. The water is sweet, clean and cool, only good for relaxation after the heat outside.


Safari BlueZanzibar travel guide 2021

Safari Blue is an unmissable experience in Zanzibar, a trip that can take you a whole day if you are lucky and find the right organizer.

The trip starts in the village of Fumba and even if you are on your own you will be safe, it is not complicated. If you encounter problems or difficulties, the locals will definitely help you.

Here are the stops during the trip:
➡ an oasis of sand in the middle of the sea – here you can enjoy turquoise water, sun, fine sand and some fresh fruit;
➡ snorkeling, the coral reef in Menan Bay is well preserved, it is not extremely spectacular but the lack of multicolored corals is compensated by the multitude of colorful fish;
➡ blue lagoon – I personally thought it was green but everyone sees what they want… If I used the word “divine” it would be a little said, dead corals of various shapes form the lagoon, plus a specific vegetation that does not lack mangroves. Here the water is small, I don’t think it exceeds 1.2 m as such you can walk freely and you can have a photo session with the other tourists;
➡ a small island in Menan Bay, where you will serve an absolutely delicious lunch: shrimp, lobster and squid. After lunch you will go to visit a baobab about 500 years old, it does not look like a classic baobab, because the winds have left traces on it. If you are obsessed with spectacular pictures, you can climb it for another photo shoot.


UroaZanzibar travel guide 2021

The beach area in Uroa is not the most spectacular, the hotels are scattered, usually all-inclusive resorts and few terraces. I saw only two, as such an accommodation in this area kind of limits you if you don’t have something to rent in advance.

The beach is ok, fine sand but you can only take a bath in a certain time interval, because the water recedes quite a lot, leaving behind many algae, a bad sand and the local algae plantations.

In the few hours, when the water is withdrawn, the locals come to take care of their small algae plantations. For many, this activity is about the only source of income – a fairly low income.

Watch out for sea urchins, shells and other wonders. Do not enter the water without proper footwear.


NungwiZanzibar travel guide 2021

Nungwi is next to Kendwa, the luxury area of Zanzibar. But all this costs quite a lot.

If in the southern area the prices can be for all pockets, here the prices double, even triple in some cases. But as in Paje, behind the luxury resorts is the village. But what does it matter what is behind if a dream panorama opens in front…

Here the offer is richer, many restaurants, shops where you can buy what you need and trip merchants.

Their famous boats are also made in Nungwi and if you get here, a cruise to the west with such a boat is not to be missed. The cruise lasts about 3 hours, you receive water and fruit and especially a lot of good cheer. Throughout the cruise you will have live music sung by the locals, you will enjoy the sun and you will dance.

✅ Price… by luck. We took the trip on the net for 15 USD, at the hotel it sells for 20 and for the locals for 15-20 USD, according to the negotiation skills.

Nungwi is not only a beach destination but also a traditional Zanzibar village. Here people live their daily lives with tourists but also try to make some money on them.

If you want to know what to expect on an accommodation in Nungwi you can search below.

It is true that everything is negotiated, but the prices also differ depending on the appearance of each one. On the beach, children can be easily annoyed, they come directly to you and ask for dollars and euros, that’s how they are taught, you just have to ignore them. This happens on public beaches, on the beaches of the resorts they do not have access.

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Also on the beach you will find a multitude of traders who sell something, usually trips or souvenirs. If you ignore them or say a simple thank you, then it is easier to escape than if you stopped talking to them.

As a small parenthesis, I did not see supermarkets or large stores, only small boutiques that sold something. I didn’t see the displayed prices, but if the prices for the souvenirs seemed exorbitant, for the shop on the road, the prices were, let’s say, modest for a juice or a coffee. A 350 ml bottle of cola was about 1000 shillings (less than half a dollar). But if you didn’t have silings they asked you for 1USD… Fruits as well, you can get a fruit bag for a few dollars. It is good to have silings, the prices are better if you pay with silings – the local currency.

Nungwi & Kendwa beach. Both located in the northern part of the island, are next to each other and I think they are the most attractive because the water retreat is not as strong as on the east coast and you can swim almost all day.

Here you can find a lot of resorts, both large and expensive and some more modest. Also here you will find a lot of restaurants.

A decent meal in a decent restaurant starts at 30-40 USD / 2 people. You can eat even cheaper at other restaurants but the conditions do not seem great.

Although it is definitely the beach where you will see most local tourists, it is definitely the place where you will be quite annoyed or bothered by street vendors, little beggars, non-masseuse masseurs or ladies who offer massage.

This does not mean that you cannot enjoy the beauty of the places if you adopt the right attitude!


Spice TourZanzibar travel guide 2021

Zanzibar is also known as the “island of spices” so we couldn’t miss a trip to find out more about these little wonders that make our lives more enjoyable!

Honestly… I did the tour more by mistake! Initially, we wanted to buy an organized tour from the hotel… While we were walking on a scooter through Zanzibar, a boy came out of a forest farm inviting us for a spice tour on his farm. On time!

✅ The tour cost 5 USD / person or rather 15,000 shillings.

During the tour, he not only introduced us to local spices and fruits, but also told us about traditional medicine and how the locals use these plants and fruits.


Maruhubi PalaceZanzibar travel guide 2021

Not far from Stone Town, about 4 km to the west is Maruhubi Palace (only its ruins).

✅ The entrance fee is only 5,000 shillings, about 2 USD and this price includes the guide.

The palace was built in 1882 by Sultan Barghash to impress his great harem, but unfortunately in just a few years the palace was destroyed by fire, leaving only the columns, arches and some walls. But it is worth a visit to see a piece of the history of this beautiful island!


Mnemba Island – Zanzibar travel guide 2021

Mnemba Island is considered the ultimate attraction when it comes to a holiday in Zanzibar!

It is said here that the island of Mnemba belongs to Bill Gates, but whether it belongs to him or not is not important at all… The important thing is that the island is private and tourists are not allowed to set foot on it even if dozens of boats they stop less than 30 m from the shore.

Being so famous, it is clear that everyone wants to come here, tourists from all the beaches of Zanzibar are here and the habitat of fish and dolphins is quite affected.

A second stop of the trip is on a sandy strip, about 200-300 m from Mnemba Island. When the water recedes, the two stretches of sand join and when the waters return only the large and private island remains. The trip lasts about 6-7 hours and has a modest lunch included. Indispensable in the luggage is sunscreen and water.

✅ The price is 60 USD / person if it is a private trip, 30 USD / person if it is in a small group.


Turtles and starfish from Nungwi

A big attraction of Nungwi resort is the sanctuary / aquarium here, populated with water turtles. For the amount of 10 USD / 20,000 shillings you can swim with them, you can feed them or you simply enjoy their presence.

It’s noisy though, everyone wants to pose with turtles and swim with them, but the surface is very small and the number of tourists is very large. It is a place recommended for tourists with children.


Transfer and procedures at the airport – Zanzibar travel guide 2021

With a length of just over 80 km, the island of Zanzibar is not very large. What is certain is that the traffic is chaotic and from Nungwi to the airport we did an hour and a half.

The Zanzibar people are moving at their own pace: pole pole (slowly, slowly) but it seems too slow for our taste!

At the entrance to the airport, your plane tickets and passport are checked, then you go through a first luggage scan and you arrive at check-in.

After you get rid of your luggage, go and get your passport to leave the country. Here you fill in a form with your passport details, how long you have been on the island and other details.

After this procedure you receive the exit stamp from the country and then the luggage is scanned again. From the entrance to the airport to the boarding gate, it takes about an hour and a half.

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Zanzibar, beyond the fine sandy beaches and turquoise waters

Zanzibar is a place where you don’t have to come up with extraordinary expectations. It is a place you have to go to without having in your head the paradisiacal images from the leaflets of travel agencies.

Remember that Zanzibar is an island in Africa, probably the poorest continent in the world and the place that provided slaves for centuries.

However, I do not think that Zanzibar is poorer compared to other countries I have been to and here I am referring for example to rural areas in Cambodia or Indonesia or countries in North Africa (Egypt, Tunisia, etc.).

➡ Yes, here most of the population does not have electricity, schools look awful, sometimes without windows, with some rudimentary benches.
➡ There is also sex tourism… let’s not forget that European women come here to solve their hormonal problems as some European men go to Asia. I apologize if I hurt someone’s honor, but here nothing should be generalized, there is also normal tourism and sex tourism and everything you want.
➡ In some areas with a public beach, to get to the beach itself you have to go through the neighborhoods of the locals. Sometimes you have to share the beach with both the locals and their cows…


Conclusions

All in all, with good and bad, with ecstasy but also with the sadness of seeing realities that are not listed in the brochures of travel agencies, Zanzibar is an experience worth having, if you have time and of course… money. We tried to reduce all unnecessary expenses and came to a cost of about $ 60 per day / person. $ 120 per couple. All expenses.

So enjoy what this island generously offers and once you return to the comfort of your home, think about the consequences of your actions for other people on the planet!

And as in any place in this world, choose to see only what interests you, without taking into account the opinions of others! Just get well informed before leaving.

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