Travel Destinations / Zanzibar

Overview

Zanzibar is still the best-kept secret in the Indian Ocean, with its fascinating historical Stone Town and magnificent beaches.  Stone Town is the old city and cultural heart of Zanzibar, little changed in the last 200 years. It is a place of winding alleys, bustling bazaars, mosques and grand Arab houses whose original owners vied with each other over the extravagance of their dwellings.

Zanzibar's brilliant white beaches lapped by the warm turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean provide the perfect place to relax, soak up the sun and take a break from some busy sightseeing.  The long, pristine stretches of white sand, lapped by the crystal clear, warm waters of the Indian ocean are perfect for kicking back, relaxing and soaking up the sun.  Dotted along the stunning coast line are picturesque fishing villages, where the people live a simple way of life in idyllic surrounds. There are more than 25 fantastic beaches in Zanzibar, and some are so peaceful and remote that the only sound breaking the serene silence is likely to be the ocean.

At the northern tip of the island is Nungwi, approached by a road lined by banana palms, mangroves and coconut trees. This is the dhow building capital of Zanzibar island, so it is a good place to see traditional craftsmen at work.

On the west coast of Zanzibar, Mangapwani beach is worth a visit, and to the east are the beaches of Matemwe, Pwani Mchangani, Kiwengwa, Uroa, Bwejuu and Jambiani, all with stretches of beautiful and uncrowded sands.

Zanzibar also boasts several small offshore islands which are ideal for a day-trip. Prison (or Changu) island is the most popular with tourists because it is only a short trip from Stone Town. Originally, it was used by Arabs to detain recalcitrant slaves, and then a jail was built by the British, but it was never actually used. Visitors to Zanzibar will notice a large population of ancient Aldabra tortoises. Other islets near to Stone Town are Chapwani, Chumbe and Bawe.

Demographics and Stats

Culture

Zanzibar's local people are an incredible mixture of ethnic backgrounds, indicative of her colourful history. Islam is the dominant religion, and practiced by most Zanzibaris, although there are also followers of Christianity and Hinduism. Population is estimated at 800,000, with the largest concentration being Zanzibar City which has approximately 100,000 inhabitants. Zanzibaris speak Swahili (known locally as Kiswahili), a language which is spoken extensively in East Africa. Many believe that the purest form is spoken in Zanzibar as it is the birth place of the language.

Zanzibar's most famous event is the Zanzibar International Film Festival, also known as the Festival of the Dhow Countries.  Every July, this event showcases the best of the Swahili Coast arts scene, including Zanzibar's favourite music, Taarab.

Shopping

As you stroll through Stone Town , you will find several shops selling wood carvings, Zanzibari chests, clothes, spices, paintings and antiques. Many souvenir shops are situated along Kenyatta Road in Shangani, and Gizenga Street behind the Old Fort.

For electronic equipment, textiles, hardware, jewellery and cosmetics, the shopping areas to visit are along Kiponda Street (mainly textiles and jewellery), Market Street (textiles and jewellery), Malindi Street (textiles, cosmetics) Darajani street (almost everything) and Mchangani Street (mainly hardware).

Tourists are advised not to buy any products related to protected species on the islands, such as sea shells and turtles.

Money

Currency:  Tanzanian Shilling (Tsh)
Approximate exchange rate:  US$ 1 = 1,000 Tanzanian Shillings = 100 cents

Best rate of exchange is usually offered by your hotel, a Bank or an Exchange Office.  ATM's are available only in Stone Town, however they frequently do not work.

Transport

One can rent a car in Zanzibar at a cost of approximately US$ 50 - 70 per day but we would only recommend this option to people who are well travelled as the road in Zanzibar is in poor condition and not well marked.  A good option is to rent a car with a driver.  This would cost approximately US$ 75 to 100 but you will have the services of a driver who knows the roads and can show you around.

Scooters and bicycles can also be rented, as well as Dhala Dhala's (local taxis) for the more seasoned traveller.  The best way to see Zanzibar is to book a guided tour.

Health Requirements

Vaccinations:
Compulsory: None
Recommended: Hepatitis A and B, diphtheria, tetanus, typhoid
People over one year travelling from risk areas (not SA) need a yellow fever vaccination certificate. Immunisation against cholera, meningitis, rabies and tuberculosis may be advised. There is a risk of malaria below 1,800m and prophylaxis (not Chloroquine) is recommended. Consult a doctor if suffering from flu-like symptoms or a fever up to a year after visiting a malaria region. There is a risk of Dengue fever. Medical services are rudimentary. Take a sufficient quantity of required medications for personal use. Medical evacuation insurance is advised. It is recommended that travellers see a healthcare professional or travel clinic no less than six weeks before departure.

Visa requirements

Nationality Requires Visa
American Yes
British Yes
European Union Yes
South African No

Should your nationality not be listed above, kindly contact our dedicated consultants for assistance.

Weather

Zanzibar is warm all year round, but officially, summer and winter peak in December and June respectively.  The island is blessed with an average of 7-8 hours of sunshine daily.

Short rains can occur in November but are characterised by short showers which do not last long.  The long rains normally occur in April and May although this is often referred to as the 'Green Season', and it typically doesn't rain every day during that time.

Zanzibar Packages