Distant Guide Zanzibar
Jambo! You've opted for quite the adventure and Zanzibar is perfect for the venturesome explorer. Your journey through this magical archipelago will show you what really sets this patient city apart from the rest of Eastern Africa, including expeditions through pristine sands, captivating history and once-in-a-lifetime cultural experiences.
Walk around Stone Town, a World Heritage Site filled with numerous historical monuments, cultural artifacts and much more! Haggle at Bazaars, explore the beaches and learn all about the Jew Corner at Zanzibar.
Zanzibar is a hotspot for all types of water activities so you’ll get to spend your time snorkeling, diving, sailing or simply basking under the sun. Add to that exploring souks and the history of Tanzania and you’ve got yourself the perfect trip!
Thanks to Zanzibar’s strategic location, the cuisine is inspired by Middle Eastern flavors, Portuguese spices, and Indian cuisine. Pair that with the wonderful ingredients and seafood already existing in Zanzibar and you’ll understand why the food there is so delicious!
There is no shortage of incredible places to stay at Zanzibar - from huge luxurious resorts to fun backpacker hostels...You’ll find it all!
Flights & Transport
Planning ahead might seem daunting, but it will save you a lot of time, money and headaches in the long run. Use the few months before your trip to make a checklist (and check it twice!) for booking accommodations, transportation, and excursions.
There are a number of wondrous opportunities in Zanzibar, some of which require some planning to make sure you don’t miss out. Do leave some space for spontaneity - being in Zanzibar is all about taking it easy, so allow yourself the flexibility (and budget) to try an exciting new adventure!
Insurance & Passport
Before hopping on that flight, you’ll want to make sure you are up to date with your vaccinations. Yellow Fever is transmitted by mosquitoes and is a highly recommended vaccination before entry into the country. While Zanzibar is a relatively safe island, it’s always best to arrive insured.
All US passport holders will be required to obtain a visa for entry into Tanzania. These visas can be acquired upon arrival with a fee of $100 USD for US citizens. Once your application is accepted, your visa will be valid for one full year (90 days at a time). Be sure to have the required documents on arrival.
A few months before your trip is the best time to secure your flights, tours and accommodations. Take a look at our hotel and activity recommendations for each location and book now to ensure your trip is exactly what you want it to be! This way, you’ll save a lot of time and stress. Plus, you’ll avoid the disappointment of your favorite places and activities being sold out.
You don’t want to be left without a way to charge your camera, phone, or other devices while abroad. In Tanzania, socket types D and G are most common, while sockets A and B are the norm in North America so you’ll need an adapter to be able to use your US devices. Also, keep in mind that the voltage in East Africa is much stronger than in the US, which means you’ll need to slow it down to work properly with your device. So don’t forget that adapter!
Have a walking tour around the bazaars to take in the architecture and atmosphere of Zanzibar.
Don’t miss out on snorkeling in the Indian Ocean.
The islanders are some of the friendliest people so take some time to interact with them.
Buy some fresh spices from the markets to bring back home with you.
• Zanzibar is located near the equator, bringing warm (and sometimes very hot) temperatures year round. Be sure to pack light clothing to keep you cool throughout your stay.
• The island is predominantly Muslim, so dressing conservatively is recommended as a sign of respect. Opt for outfits that cover the shoulders and knees, and limit swimwear to beaches and resorts.
• The sun in Zanzibar can be a lot stronger than you’re used to, especially on the beaches. Don’t forget to pack sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 to protect against the sun’s rays
. • Be prepared by packing mosquito and bug repellant for wandering through rainforests, beaches, and nature reserves to keep those pesky biters away.
• Beware of pickpockets - leave any fancy jewelry or clothing items back at home and be cautious of the money you take out with you. Less is more in Zanzibar.
• Zanzibar has two wet seasons. To avoid being left out in the rain, pack a lightweight waterproof jacket. • Remember your camera, charger, memory card and power adapter. Be well equipped to capture all of the beautiful sites when wandering the city.
• Be sure to have cash on hand—it’s not uncommon to find cash
• Splitwise | eliminates the headache of bill splitting & a must for group travel
• Tripadvisor | a favorite resource for finding off-the-beaten-path restaurants and things to do. However, all reviews are subjective, so don’t obsess over scores
• Whatsapp | free text messaging to other Whatsapp users
• NobelApp | make cheap calls locally and back home
Transit Booking Sites
• skyscanner.com | easy to use website for finding low air fares
• google.com/flights | helpful fare prediction technology
• www.zanzitaxi.com | for taxi services and tours
• www./kibabucars.com | car hire service in Zanzibar
• www.zanzibarmagic.com | Ferry speed boat services for Zanzibar
Tip around $8-10 for guides and porters in Zanzibar, and 10% at restaurants.
Welcome to The Spice Island! Unguja, or Zanzibar Island is the main region of the Zanzibar Archipelago and home to the capital and cultural centre of Stone Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site filled with landmarks and establishments that define some of Zanzibar's colorful history. This is a great place to start but can be a little busier than the serene resorts and beaches that line the island’s northern tip. All areas of the island pack in East African culture along with scenic views.
Abed Amani Karume International airport is the islands’ main (and busiest) airport sitting 5kms away from Zanzibar City. The easiest way from the airport to the stunning island neighborhoods is by way of taxi. Though taxi rates in Zanzibar are fairly reasonable, now’s a great time to practice your haggling skills. Check into lodging to begin your experience!
The historical city center of Stone Town is a short drive from the airport, on Zanzibar's main island. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is the soul of the island, one of the oldest Swahili Towns in East Africa and the perfect place to get acquainted. The name of the area is inspired by old stone Arabic buildings that line its narrow paths, giving an insight into the city's history.
Soak up Zanzibar's hub by taking in the sights and smells of spices and local crafts at Darajani Bazaar.
TASTE THE CITY
Now that you’ve worked up an appetite, head to Tea House Restaurant atop the 19th-century Emerson on Hurumzi to enjoy stunning views of the city. Have your first bite of traditional flavors by biting into delectable curried goat or freshly served seafood while enjoying the sun setting along the coast. For more local flavors head to the street vendors at Forodhani.
Morning and Afternoon
Nungwi Village, located on the Northern tip of the island, is just an hour’s bus ride from Stone Town and perfect for some R&R with palm trees, white sands, and glistening water awaiting you. While the inviting hotels are a great place for a secluded stay, visiting the area will give you some rejuvenation after and during your travel days. If you need an extra boost, Yoga Zanzibar offers energy lifting yoga on the beach to help tap into your inner yogi.
If you’re a diver or snorkeler, this top city beach is a great spot for checking out Tanzania’s reefs and aquatic life. Animal and wildlife lovers will enjoy spending an afternoon with endangered Hawsbill and Green turtles at the Mnarani Project. This project has been protecting these turtles often hunted for their shells and meat since 1993.
Nungwi is known for having spectacular sunsets, and you can get a unique experience by hopping aboard a sunset cruise. While sunsets are breathtaking on the beach, they’re sensational right on the water! If you prefer to stay on shore, you can watch local fishermen leave from the picturesque boat yard every evening for night fishing.
Take a spice tour this morning to really indulge yourself into Zanzibar’s flavors. Zanzibar is famous for its spices, tracing back to the 16th century with seasonings like vanilla, nutmeg, and cloves being an essential part of everyday life.
Zanzibar has been dubbed ‘The Spice Island’ with passages, villages, and plantations to explore to give you a literal taste of the city’s culture.
The Palace Museum (or the Sultan’s Palace) is one of the most historic buildings in the country dating back to the 19th century. Once a home for the Sultan and his family, this museum on Stone Town’s waterfront features antiques of the past Sultan family.
Zanzibar's Old Fort is the oldest building in the area once used as a defense against attacks from the Portuguese in the 17th century. Check for local produce or events happening amidst the fort's remains.
Zanzibar is known for its Full Moon parties held on the northern part of the island in Kendwa at the Kendwa Rocks Beach Resort. Known as one of the best full moon parties in the world, you’ll be treated to an evening of delicious local flavors, breathtaking acrobatics, and moving cultural sounds.
Kendwa is an hour’s drive from Stone Town and just 15 minutes from Nungwi with many resorts and hotels on its coast. Settle in for a night of unforgettable live performances.
Pemba may be Zanzibar’s smaller island, but it packs in a rolling, hilly landscape and lush forestry along with lesser trodden sands and unique wildlife. Those looking for some tranquility in nature or stunning dive sites will love taking the trip from the main island
ARRIVAL IN PEMBA ISLAND
There are daily flights from Zanzibar (ZNZ) to Pemba Island (PMA) all lasting a half hour between the country’s two islands. The ride from the airport is just the beginning of your adventure with historical sites to see along the way. Stop at the Chwaka Ruins sites and walk through the field.
BASK IN TRANQUILITY
Pemba Island is a paradise for those interested in watersports like snorkeling and diving, since its entire coast is surrounded by coral reef. For those looking for a place to soak up the sun, the islands around Pemba offer secluded, tranquil beaches to relax on. Misali Island is one of our favorites for sunbathing.
If you’re more interested in Pemba’s wildlife, Kidike Flying Fox Sanctuary is home to animals like flying foxes, and indigenous bats, while the Ngezi Forest Reserve offers views of of the lush, indigenous Ngezi forest. Keep an eye out for Red Colobus monkeys swinging from forest vines. Pemba Island is also known for its incredible array of bird species, 183 to be exact, like the Pemba Scope Owl.
The clove industry is a big part of Pemba Island, and the ZSTC Clove Oil Distillery will show you just how it’s done. Head just outside of Chake Chake for a chance to see how the island’s natural resources like clove, lemongrass and cinnamon, are turned into essential oils. You can even bring some home to remember the experience.
JUST KEEP SWIMMING
You must be hungry after your day out on Pemba! You won’t find too many touristy restaurants on this island, but the Times Restaurant in Wete is an inviting favorite with dishes like prawn curry and tandoori chicken to satisfy any starving appetite. You’ll need to return to the airport to catch your flight back to Zanzibar island, so be sure to plan accordingly.
For those not wanting to say good-bye to Pemba’s beauty, the Manta Resort is worth crashing at if not just for their world famous underwater hotel room! You’ll be right up front with Pemba’s sea life and aquatic creatures when you retire after your adventurous day.
ONWARDS TO CHANGU
Just 30 minutes away from Zanzibar Island is Changu (or Prison Island) home to over 100 year old giant tortoises. To see this interactive nature reserve, you’ll need to book a tour in advance, or you can head down to the ferries near Forodhani Park to hire one for about 20 to 30 USD.
Once on the island, you’ll be able to feed and pet the tortoises, see other wildlife like colorful peacocks, and snorkel through the island’s gorgeous coral reef.
BE A LOCAL
Changu island has a slightly darker history than its free roaming tortoises. It suited it’s former name in the past, as an island used with the intention to detain slaves. While no slaves actually lived on the island, it went on to act as a place of quarantine. Take a walk to see old prison ruins amongst picturesque stone walls and cliffs. Once on the main island, head over to Mrembo Spa for lessons in traditional Swahili dancing and music. This workshop is amongst a variety of cultural experiences like Zanzibari cooking and Swahili tinga-tinga painting.
A FEAST TO REMEMBER
For a truly unforgettable evening, you do not want to miss a chance at dinner at The Rock. You won’t be able to get there on foot, instead, this world famous restaurant has an extraordinary location in the Indian Ocean on the island’s south east peninsula of Michamwi Pingwe.
Along with a spectacular 360 degree ocean view, you’ll be treated to some of the freshest seafood on the island combined with traditional Zanzibar spices. Finish off your special of grilled lobster, king prawns, and calamari with a sweet coconut tiramisu.
Zanzibar’s Jozani Forest is not to be missed by wildlife lovers, sitting 38 km from Stone Town. Choose to either join a tour, charter a taxi, or hop on bus 309 or 310 from the Darajani terminal in Stone Town.
Located in Chwaka Bay’s centre, this indigenous forest is home to Zanzibar’s famous Red Colobus monkeys, bush pigs, and unique flora. The park opens at 7:30 a.m. with a small entry fee.
The Seaweed Centre in nearby Paje serves up fresh seaweed fruit juice with ginger, mango and passionfruit. There’s an abundance of seaweed in Zanzibar, and this centre employs local women to create products with this green and super healthy ingredient.
Back in Stone Town, you can treat yourself to a pick-me up at the famous Jaws Corner located near St. Joseph’s Cathedral. This is a popular hotspot in Zanzibar for discussing anything from politics to gossip while sipping on a strong cup of joe.
This is your last evening in Zanzibar, so think like a local and take your relaxed attitude down to the beach near Livingstone Beach Restaurant. Talented local acrobats flock to this beach to show off performances similar to capoeira. Stick around for a stunning show.
Celebrate your last night with more locals at Daragiani Market, the bustling heart of the city centre. There are a variety of stalls selling favorites like samosas and chapati and fresh local produce!
If you fly out of Zanzibar in the evening, you’ll have plenty of time to soak up the last bit of island sun before returning home. Now’s your chance to try any local activities you’ve been dying to take part in, like kitesurfing or kayaking. Or rest up for your flight by spending your last morning lazing on the beach. Kumi Gifts & Treats has a number of unique and quality souvenirs, with a friendly staff who can help pick out the perfect items to take home.
The airport is a short drive from Stone Town, easily accessible by cab - though if you’re staying further away, plan ahead to be sure to arrive to your flight on time. Take advantage of one last photo-op of Zanzibar’s coastline