Zanzibar. Even the name sounds romantic and exotic, doesn’t it? And the islands themselves (there are three main ones – Unguja, Pemba, and Mafia – located just off the coast of southern Tanzania) are exactly that and more. Here we show you how to travel to Zanzibar in style!
What You Should Do
Experience the unique culture of the Swahili coast and explore the culture of an incredibly interesting part of the world. Even walking around Stonetown and seeing the layers of history in the architecture and style of the city is an educational experience! There’s more about the history here if you want to go down the Wikipedia rabbit hole. Getting out into the countryside and visiting the villages is also extremely interesting – try to go to a local soccer game or other event!
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The islands are also known for their amazing scuba diving and snorkeling, and you can even swim with dolphins and tortoises. Taking a ride (or two) on a Swahili dhow boat is also a wonderful experience, and you can even sail one (with assistance) if you’re feeling like a pirate. And if you’re an animal lover, you’ll definitely want to visit the Cheetah Rock animal sanctuary and get to spend some time with some gorgeous critters – and pet a super friendly cheetah!
What You Should Eat
Zanzibar is a foodie melting pot that draws from East Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and India along with being home to spice farms that produce a significant amount of the world’s supply of cloves, vanilla, and more, so you’ll get to experience some incredibly rich flavors and unique dishes. Plus there’s awesome seafood straight out of the Indian Ocean.
Where You Should Stay
The Jafferji House and Jafferji on the Beach are both stunning, and if you want to get a bit further afield head to the unbelievable Manta Resort on Pemba Island. Zanzibar’s coasts are home to many amazing resorts and guesthouses however, and we recommend spending part of your time on the coast and part of your time in the city in one of the gorgeous old hotels in Stonetown.
What You Should Wear
All the tropical colors and flowy dresses! Keep in mind that Zanzibar is nearly 100% Muslim, so dressing a bit modestly is a good plan. That said, feel free to wear your bikinis and halter dresses on the resorts! In town, wearing a maxi dress that’s a bit more covered up or longer shorts/cropped pants and tee or tunic works. Carrying around a light scarf for coverage isn’t a bad idea either.
What You Should Buy
Zanzibar’s long history of being a crossroads or trading port mean there are plenty of exotic souvenirs to be had! Wood carvings like boxes, masks, and mini sculptures (think of the famous Zanzibari doors), colorful Tinga Tinga artwork and batik or woven wall hangings, and more intricately beaded jewelry than you could ever wear are all easy to find at nearly any price point. Or take home spices from the source!
How You Get There
From most of the world, you’ll want to fly into Dar Es Salaam on the mainland and then take a short twenty minute hop over to Zanzibar’s islands.
What Else You Should Know
The official language is Swahili, but most people in Zanzibar speak at least some English, especially the ones you’ll encounter in tourist areas. The currency is the Tanzanian shilling, but most places will take U.S. dollars and even prefer them for larger purchases. The islands are pretty safe, but keep your wits about you at night in Stonetown the same way you would in any big city.
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Photos: Jacqueline Zenn for Fountain Of 30