Ringed by coral beaches and sapphire ocean, Zanzibar is pretty much the jewel in Africa’s crown.
The main island in the archipelago, Zanzibar, has history, culture, natural beauty and so much more. This tiny island is blessed with superlative beaches: Jambiani, with its beautiful coral reef, Pongwe, which is said to be the best beach on the island, and rustic Matemwe where you can swim all day, regardless of tides. There’s also a wealth of wildlife, like at Jozani Forest with its endemic red colobus monkeys, as well as dolphins and the most vibrant sea life.
In the centre is Stone Town, with its medieval ambience and labyrinthine alleyways — a walk through here is exciting, with ornate doors surprising you every now and then. When in town, shop for spices, for which Zanzibar is justly famous, at the Darajani Market — they’re so cheap, you’ll feel like an ancient trader.
Take the rest of the afternoon off at, yes, you guessed it, more beaches – Bweju and Nungwi, where you can swim and frolic, or try a snorkelling day-trip to the Mnemba Atoll with its clear waters and stunning coral reefs.
There are also cruises and day excursions on dhows around Menai Bay from Fumba where you can snorkel, sail, eat delicious barbecued seafood, sunbathe and even spot dolphins. Or you could swim with them at Kzimkazi — the best time is morning. Don’t touch, though! Avoid asking at the hotel, as prices are inflated, and go straight to Kzimkazi circle and negotiate with hardworking local fishermen with their own boats who will still give you a trip to remember, within your budget.
LEAVE ON A JET PLANE:Return flights start at 465USD from Mumbai and 847USD from New Delhi.
VISA: 50USD, yellow fever vaccination essential
STAY: Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate – especially if you’re staying at the same place for a few days. Book the first two days before you go and then negotiate a price for the rest of your stay. Try Zenji Hotel, Stone Town or Paje by Night . The Pongwe Beach Hotel or Coral Rock Hotel may stretch your budget but both offer great long stay rates and are totally worth it.
EAT AND DRINK: You can eat very cheaply at local haunts in Stone Town- all you have to do is look for the most crowded stalls. Local staples like urojo (soup with potato balls), chipsimayai (omelette with french fries), pilau (spiced rice), and mishkaki (beef or chicken kebab) are great to fill up on. Forodhani Gardens at Stone Town’s seaside offer delicious grilled seafood street food options in the evening. Luukman Restaurant offers amazing Zanzibari food like biryanis, fried fish, coconut curries and more at cheap rates.
WHEN TO GO: June to September is peak tourist season. October to December (excluding the Christmas to New Year period), mid-January to February and March to May are cheaper times to go. The months of March to May, in particular offer lush landscapes and discounts at hotels. Heavy rains may make some areas inaccessible. November to December is the best time to go.