My top 8 destinations in Zanzibar

…2 Geheimtipps und was man nicht unbedingt machen muss

I lived in Zanzibar from 2016 – 2017 and even after a year, the island has not lost any of its beauty and fascination for me. Although I have since made several more long-distance trips, Zanzibar is for me the most exotic and beautiful island in the world.

I sincerely hope that Zanzibar will keep its original character for a long time, although many hoteliers have discovered the island for themselves in the meantime.

The island has much more to offer than dream beaches, so I recommend everyone who visits the island to leave his hotel every now and then to get to know this wonderful island and its exotic population. Here are my top 8 places to visit in Zanzibar:

 

8. The Rock

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or a few years ago, the photo of “The Rock Restaurant” went viral around the world and the authenticity of the pictures was often doubted. This restaurant really exists and is just as beautiful and impressive in the original as in the photos. Turquoise blue water, white sandy beach and in the middle of the sea the mini-restaurant perched on a rugged rock.

The restaurant can only be reached on foot at low tide; at high tide a fisherman leads you in a boat to the restaurant. It is best to reserve your table in the evening and/or at high tide and sip a few cocktails at sunset with a fantastic view.

My tip: the restaurant accepts bookings online: book.therockrestaurantzanzibar.com.

Good to know: the food in the restaurant is rather average and the prices high. Of course, you also pay a lot for the location. A visit is nevertheless worthwhile in any case!

7. Country and People

For this excursion, it is best to book a tour with a local driver who will show you his homeland off the beaten track. How do the Zanzibari organize their everyday life? How does the education system work on the island? There is nothing more exciting and exotic than to dive deep into the life on the island. A special experience is a visit to a school or a local market.

My tip: If you dare such an excursion, you should definitely not be frightened by the poverty on the island. You will quickly notice how unbelievably positive and unique the Zanzibari people are. Their way of simply living into the day and being so carefree and full of life despite few possessions is admirable.

Good to know: many children on the island are now accustomed to receiving gifts from tourists in the form of sweets, etc.. So don’t be surprised if the little ones follow you around the village with big eyes. If you want to do something useful, bring school utensils, clothes, medicine or hygiene products. Give it directly to the children or better yet to a social association that helps the needy on the island.

 

6. Prison Island/Canguu

Only 20 minutes away by boat, off Zanzibar, lies the small island of Prison Island. Formerly a slave prison and quarantine station, today home to giant tortoises up to 150 years old and weighing 200kg. The animals were a gift from the Seychelles in the late 19th century and may be fed and petted. The island also has a beautiful beach and the surrounding coral reef is a good snorkeling area.

My tip: this excursion can be combined with a visit to Stone Town and if you book the crossing on the spot, you should negotiate the price (max. USD 15,-/person).

Good to know: the entrance fee on site costs another USD 4,-. Those who are very concerned about animal welfare will probably not like this excursion.

 

5. The different beaches of the island

Beautiful sandy beaches can be found around the island; the big difference in the beaches is the tides. The northwest side is known for great bathing spots, as there the tides are hardly or only slightly noticeable. On the east side, however, the tides are massive. If you are vacationing on the west side, you should go to the east coast at least once to see the beaches at low tide. The kilometer-long mudflats, the bright turquoise water spots, the colorful dresses of the Zanzibari women who harvest sea grass at low tide – a backdrop for paradisiacal experiences and dreamlike photos.

My tip: my favorite beach in Zanzibar is Kendwa Beach near Nungwi on the northern tip of the island. Primarily known for the “Full Moon” party that takes place once a month, the beach offers snow-white sand and turquoise blue, crystal clear water. In addition, there is a restaurant that serves delicious specialties, free sunbeds when consumed and relatively few beach boys.

Good to know: On most of Zanzibar’s beaches, beach boys try to sell excursions, etc. to tourists seeking peace and quiet. Unfortunately, there is not much you can do about this, except to politely point out that you are not interested. The less touristy the beach and the fewer hotels (especially Italian club hotels) there are on the beach, the more quiet from the beachboys.

 

4. Boat Tours

A tour with a traditional fishing boat, the Dhow with its trapezoidal sails is a very special experience and is a must on a Zanzibar vacation.

Snorkeling in the atolls you will discover many colorful tropical fish, corals and with a little luck dolphins. The highlight is the snorkeling paradise around the private island Mnemba. Unfortunately you are not allowed to visit the island itself, but the dhow usually stops on a sandbank in the middle of the sea, which is swallowed by the sea at high tide. Many tours include a BBQ on an uninhabited island with grilled seafood, freshly caught fish and coconut milk. Often you can also spot the famous tree crab, also called coconut crab.

My tip: it is best to book the tour directly with the provider on the beach (e.g.: at the diving school on Kendwa beach in the north of the island).

Good to know: if you expect a diverse underwater world like in the Maldives or in the Red Sea, you will be rather disappointed. If you are prepared for a relaxed boat trip on a traditional Zanzibari boat, swimming in crystal clear water and delicious food, you will surely enjoy the tour.

 

 

3. Jozani Forest

The nature reserve is located about 35 km southeast of the city of Zanzibar. The last virgin forest of Zanzibar is home to the dainty “Red Colobus” monkeys. Currently, the total population is about 1000 to 1200 animals. With a bit of luck you can also spot the antelope Dik-Dik, chameleons, wild boars and many more in the jungle. The mangrove forest forms an important eco-system and has excellent nature trails to discover the native flora and fauna.

My tip: the road to the south of the island leads directly through the jungle. So if you visit the Jozani Forest on your own with a rental car, I ask you to drive especially slowly and carefully, because the road is often crossed by the monkeys and other animals.

Good to know: the entrance fee is about USD 12,-/person and the forest may not be visited without a guide.

 

2. Spice Farms

Zanzibar does not bear the nickname “Spice Island” for nothing. Cinnamon, cardamom, vanilla, cloves and many other spices were introduced to Zanzibar by the sultans. Zanzibar has countless spice plantations, which offer the opportunity to pick and taste the spices directly from the bush or tree. During a guided tour you will learn a lot about the medicinal use of the herbs and their use in African cuisine. Most of the time you have the opportunity to watch a so-called “coconut picker” picking coconuts from the meter-high palm trees and delighting his audience with his “Hakuna Matata” singing.

My tip: unfortunately, on the farms the spices are usually sold at a higher price than in the city. So if you want to fill up your spice cupboard at home, I recommend buying the spices at the Darajani market in Stone Town.

Good to know: especially on bigger tours you are usually accompanied by a couple of guys working on the farm. They make crowns out of leaves for the men and necklaces for the ladies. They dye lips red with the “lipstick fruit” and assist in picking spices. Thus, they are usually very unobtrusive and are happy to receive a small tip at the end of the tour.

 

1. Stone Town

Next to the dreamlike beaches probably THE highlight of the island. The stone city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and puts everyone in a feeling of 1001 nights. The lively colorful bazaar, the ornate wooden doors and the beautiful colonial hotels.

The capital of the island is the center of the spice trade and delights with its tiny branching alleys, where it is easy to get lost. But no matter which way you go, you’ll eventually come out at either the Forodhani Garden by the sea or the Darajani Market on the main street.

One of the highlights is the birthplace of Freddy Mercury, which can be visited from the outside.

My tip: who visits Stone Town MUST look at the city from above, from your numerous roof terraces cafes.

Good to know: although UNESCO invests a lot of money every year to preserve the old town, most of the money unfortunately seeps away somewhere in the sand. Therefore, one should not wonder why many of the historic and wonderful buildings are slowly decaying.

 

My 2 insider tips

1. on the northeast coast of the island is the Karibu Zanzibar Resort in the middle of the sea. This simple hotel was built on a large rock and also offers non-hotel guests the opportunity to enjoy the view of the mudflats or the turquoise sea with a delicious cocktail. Especially for vacationers who live on the north coast, a great alternative to “The Rock Restaurant” in the very south.

2. those who are traveling in Zanzibar by rental car and are looking for something particularly adventurous and completely non-touristy, go to Uzi in the south of the island. The special thing about Uzi is that the island is only connected to the mainland by a 2 km long road that leads through the mangroves. This road can only be used at low tide. As soon as the tide comes in, you have to wait a few hours until the road is passable again. When I went to Uzi at that time, we were approached relatively quickly by a nice villager who offered to show us around for a small tip. An incredible experience!

 

With reservation:

Turtle sanctuaries

There are at least a dozen hatcheries on the island where sick turtles are cared for and the eggs of endangered species are hatched. Many of these organizations are doing good work but please check before visiting if they are reputable. There are some “black sheep” that handle these sensitive animals anything but species-appropriate, such as: Offer swimming with the animals and let children ride on the animals.

You don’t have to:

Swimming with dolphins:

Off the coast of Kizimkazi in the south of the island live over 150 dolphins. I write very reluctantly bad about this trip, because many local fishermen with dolphin observations your livelihood and feed your families. Unfortunately, these boat trips still resemble more of a hunt than an “observation”. As soon as the dolphins appear, all vacationers jump out of the boat into the water. As soon as the dolphins dive down, all get back into the boat and go after the dolphins. Sometimes more than 10 boats race after the animals. For the love of the animals I recommend not to go on this excursion.

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