Where to stay: Royal Zanzibar
Cost: R 19 800 (All inclusive package)
I always arrive in a new country without any expectations. The pictures always look amazing but somehow reality is never the same. Zanzibar lived up to all those pictures with its white sandy beaches, exotic looking palm trees and aquamarine waters. If relaxation was a place this was it, and for 8 magical days I embraced the serenity.
Zanzibar consists of two large islands, plus several smaller ones. Google assured me that the best beaches would be found up North and it turned out to be an excellent choice. I stayed in Nungwi, about 1 hour away from the town,airport and most tours. For most of my holiday,I spent long lazy days relaxing on a picture-perfect beach, cocktail in one hand and book in the other. The weather this time of the year was perfect, warm sunny days and evening rain every few days.
The Royal Zanzibar, our resort, was worth every penny! It was an all inclusive package, so all meals and drinks were included. There was an a la carte restaurant and a buffet restaurant, with a wide variety of food..so you never got tired of the menus. For dinner the hotel would change it up in the evenings, with themed dinners and live entertainment. There are several bars placed around the hotel, so getting a drink was never a hassle.
I loved the fact that the Royal Zanzibar is right on the beach and we didn’t have to walk far or travel to be able to swim. The room and bathroom was spacious and the facilities were all in excellent condition. The room had two balconies with day beds, so you could kick back and enjoy the amazing view. The hotel staff were some of the most friendly and helpful people I have ever encountered. They were constantly checking in to see if you needed drinks or snacks and always ready to give advice on what to do or where to go.
The hotel consisted of several pools, a yoga deck, volleyball area and a games room fully kitted with table tennis, pool tables, board games, etc. There were activities scheduled every day like outdoor yoga on a deck overlooking the beach, aerobics and volleyball for those that wanted to participate.
Things to do:
Spice tour: I loved this tour! Its a trip to the a local spice farm just outside of Stone Town. I got to smell and taste spices, herbs and tropical fruits and learnt how they are cultivated. There is also a small market where the spices, herbs, coffee and tea are sold but rather pick these up in Stone Town as its much cheaper.
Snorkeling: This was one of the highlights of the trip for me. There was an endless view of coral reefs and beautiful fish. I did the day trip to Mnemba, which included an option to leave early in the morning in order to swim with the dolphins.
Jozani Forest: An excursion to the Jozani Forest tour takes you on walk through the beautiful tropical forest, where you also get to see the rare red colobus monkey, which is endemic to Zanzibar. To be honest, this was my least favorite tour, and I wouldn’t necessarily do it again. We paid 120 dollars for this tour and it really wasnt worth the hefty price tag as it only lasted 30 minutes.
Local Food and Markets: Along the beach there were a few markets you could shop at, with lots of handcrafted souvenirs, henna artists, clothing stalls and other interesting vendors. There were also some local pubs and restaurants. Trying the local food is a must, its affordable and simply divine. Best prawn platter I have ever had!
Prison Island: Prison Island, is just short boat ride away from Stone Town. You get the chance to walk around this historic site and see what would have been a prison but was later used as a quarantine zone when the construction was delayed. You can check out the giant tortoises that roam a section of the island. You can also snorkel in the surrounding corals.
Stone Town: A trip to Zanzibar isn’t complete unless you have experienced Stone Town. It was vibrant, fast moving and packed with people. Our guide took us through the town to look at the historic buildings, some of the temples and mosques and to the markets. At the markets you could find anything from fresh fish and spices to electronics and clothes.
Learn Swahili: I spent some time getting to know the local Massai who taught me a bit of Swahili, which is the indigenous language spoken throughout Zanzibar.
- Even though dollars are accepted just about everywhere, the locals tend to round off the shilling price to the next dollar amount. So paying in shilling is often cheaper.
- Haggle! Never accept the first price, its generally 30-40% cheaper after negotiation.
- Book your tours or excursions with the beach boys. It is waaaaay cheaper. (for example, a snorkelling day trip with the hotel was $75 pp but with the beach boys it was $20 pp)
- Since it’s only a 4 hour flight, meals and snacks aren’t provided on certain airlines and to purchase drinks or food you may require cash in specific currency. (I flew with Mango airlines and they only accept cash in Rands)
- If you require transfers to the airport, the locals are much cheaper than booking with hotels or taxi companies.
- The only ATM’s available are the ones in town. All banks have a withdrawl limit, so if you need a substantial amount of cash you will be paying multiple bank fees and you can only withdraw in Shilling. (If you prefer dollars, remember to carry your passport in order to convert). I found it easier to convert my cash at home and take that with.
- Stone town shopping can be a bit crazy, so be careful when taking out your cash or phone.
- Most tours are about an hour away from Nungwi, so book some of the tours together so you save money and don’t spend too much time driving around. I did Stone Town, the Spice Tour and Prison Island on one day.