Zanzibar was a bit of a whirlwind for us. An awesome one though. We did so much, experienced so much, and our three months there literally flew by. I always intended on sharing a bit more about our time there, but as soon as we got back to our boat, that fast pace just seemed to continue and then I was writing about day-to-day events there, leaving TZ somewhere far behind.
Today, looking through pictures, I realized that there are just too many cool things to leave unmentioned. So, if for any reasons you end up in this beautiful country, here are some definite must do’s:
-Jozani forest is where you will get a real close encounter with the Red Colobus monkeys. And I mean real close. These monkeys are not afraid of people whatsoever, and in their tame behaviour they will sit roadside and watch you as you stroll along. There is a small entrance fee to the conservation, but it is negligible, and the experience is quite cool. Our girls got a real kick of watching the monkeys, big and small.
-If you are a kiteboarding enthusiast, like Eben, then Paje is the town you want to hit up. There you will find endless beach, shallow water, and great wind, to share with other kiters. There are numerous schools there that can teach you the sport and then set you free. If kiting is not for you, there are plenty of hotels and beachfront restaurants that you can chill at and watch as others get pulled around by the wind. CHECK AVAILABILITY AND PRICES.
STONE TOWN PEOPLE WATCHING
-One of our favourite thing to do when travelling is “people watching” and one of the most entertaining places to do that is while walking the alleyways of Stone Town’s market. Not only do you get to watch numerous tourists, but you will also see the locals in action, trying to sell their goods to all the passerbys. We also enjoy jumping in on the action and buying some souvenirs for family and friends back home. Ellia told us that her favourite part of our nearly three month stay on the island was bartering at the markets!
EMERSON ON HURUMZI ROOFTOP RESTAURANT AND HOTEL
-While in the Stone Town area, if you want a beautiful cultural meal, visit Emerson on Hurumzi. They have this roof top tea house/restaurant with unreal views of the city, where you can choose to sit at a table, or eat on the floor traditional style. The meals delicious, the ambiance is very romantic (even with our kids!), and one night a week they have live music to accompany your dinner. CHECK AVAILABILITY AND PRICE.
-Beach combing is one of my favourite ways to relax, and in Zanzibar you have prime pickings. First of the all the beaches here are insanely beautiful, and the tidal change is huge (3 meters), so the white sandy beaches go on forever! We could spend hours just walking along the beach at low tide and finding tons of beautiful shells. These moments also made for some great home-schooling opportunities, getting to teach the girls about different shells, the seaweed cultivating that happens there, the washed up jellyfish and urchins that they would try and save, etc.
-Although it was a little bit on the pricy side, we really learned a lot from our visit at the Mnarani turtle conservation in Nungwi. Our “guide” had his masters in marine conservation, and spent a solid hour with us teaching us about the marine life in the area, and how this sanctuary is working to help the turtle population around the islands. It was super informative, and although the baby turtles were “hands-off” (for good reasons!), we did get to feed seaweed to some of the older turtles.
HIGH END BEACH HOUSES
-One thing I did not expect in Zanzibar, was how “high class” some of it is. This island definitely caters to the luxurious when it comes to food and lodging. So when on vacation why not treat yourself and indulge a little in some of the higher end perks here. We stayed at two really amazing places that are worth noting, and that cater to two different kinds of travellers. The first was at the Asilia Matemwe Beach House. This was definitely in the top of some of the luxurious places we have visited. We had a beautiful villa, in the same style that I would want my own beach house to look like. Fancy but not overdone, stunning and yet still extremely comfortable. Here we had TWO master bedrooms, and a third kids’ room on the second floor. We had a dining room with large opening glass doors that overlooked the swimming pool. This was so great as a parent, we could relax and eat our meals while the girls splashed around and had their fun. We had a private swimming pool, and were only 20 steps away from the ocean. The beach house felt extremely private, with no one around but ourselves, our butler, and our personal chef. OH YES! CHECK AVAILABILITY AND PRICES.
ALL INCLUSIVE RESORTS
The second hotel that we really enjoyed was the Melia Zanzibar Resort, this was a totally different kind of accommodation from the one above. Melia is a luxury all-inclusive resort that has 5 amazing restaurants, each with its own unique style and menu, numerous pools, 4 bars, a beach club, and KIDS CLUB! We barely saw our kids when we were there! The girls loved going to hang out with the kids’ club instructor, requesting to return whenever they were open again. The hotel has accommodations ranging from romantic rooms to private villas (which looked amazing, we tried peeking over some of the huge hedges!). This is not the type of place that makes one huge mediocre buffet, oh no, the food was on point at every one of the restaurants that we got to try out. We also were lucky enough to be there during their weekly beach bbq, where there was tons of food, a live band, and lots of dancing after our meal. CHECK AVAILABILITY AND PRICES.
BEACH LIFE OF NUNGWI
-Zanzibar is an island, and happy hour is just a prominent (with the tourists) here as in any other touristy island. I highly recommend finding yourself a bar/restaurant on the beach that has a rooftop terrace where you can enjoy some drinks while watching the sunset over the amazing view. While we were in Nungwi we went to the rooftop bar of Z Hotel (we could not stay at their cool looking hotel because its adults only, but their restaurant is open to all). Their rooftop is decked out with low to the ground group tables, lounge chairs, and even beds, all placed to overlook the ocean. It’s places like this that are unique enough to make your sundowners memorable. CHECK AVAILABILITY AND PRICES.
THE ROCK AND UPENDO, ONE OF A KIND SPOTS
-One restaurant that will most definitely pop up when you google Zanzibar dinning is The Rock. This restaurant is quite unique, as it literally is, all alone, perched out on its own mini rock island. The thing you need to make sure of, is if you want that romantic experience of dinning at your beautiful island restaurant, make sure to go at high tide. There will be a boat on the beach that can take you over to the restaurant. If you go at low tide, The Rock is just off of the beach, close enough to walk to, and that unique feeling all but disappears. We chose to go “see” The Rock, but never actually went because of the pricing. Instead we stayed at Upendo which sits directly on shore from the famous restaurant. This place offers amazing food, with huge portions, and the cutest rooms ever. We stayed in a two-story villa with way more room than we needed, but enjoyed the luxury none the less. The lounge area has a large beachy dinning space, bean bag chairs, lounge beds, swings, and an infinity pool all-facing the ocean, and the rock. To us this was a fun way to see the “famous landmark restaurant” but stay and eat in an even better location. CHECK AVAILABILITY AND PRICES.
-Eating locally is not for everyone, some are worried about the food style, some are worried about the cleanliness, but for us, eating locally is a mandatory part of a trip. Zanzibar has some amazing dishes to call their own, their seafood is unreal, and leaving here without truly eating locally would be a sad mistake. I suggest you get over your fears and get eating. (Yes I did get quite ill at a certain point of the trip, but we don’t know where or when I caught the bug, and it didn’t stop me from eating locally again once I was back on my feet!)
There were a couple of excursions that we did not get to partake in, but that we heard were worth experiencing as well.
-These we didn’t do simply because the drive was quite a distance out of our way, and our time was running short. But apparently if you take a chartered tour they will bring you over to where you can swim with wild pods of dolphins. We also have done our fair share of swimming with wild dolphins given our lifestyle, so this type of excursion wasn’t high on our priority list.
-Prison Island, is exactly what it sounds like, but not only is there the prison to visit, but there are huge 100+ year old tortoises to gawk at. That was what intrigued me. But once again, time…time…time, and too many things to enjoy. Maybe next time!
We REALLY loved Zanzibar and all it had to offer. We even considered living there (yes I know, we consider living everywhere!), with its beautiful beaches, delicious foods, and the great friends we made there, it was up there in our options. And although living on this gorgeous island didn’t fit for us right now, who knows what the future holds.
PS. If in Zanzibar, you should also definitely hop over to mainland Tanzania and do a safari. We did our first ever safari while there and it was such an awesome thing to do. Our whole family loved it.