We couldn’t think of any other place to go to escape the summer heat of the Middle East and do a bit of relaxation and adventure. Zanzibar has been on our list for the longest time and finally, we are able to tick this off from our travel bucket list!
All about Zanzibar.
Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous region of Tanzania. It is composed of the Zanzibar Archipelago in the Indian Ocean, 25–50 kilometres off the coast of the mainland, and consists of many small islands and two large ones: Unguja and Pemba Island. The capital is Zanzibar City, located on the island of Unguja (cc. Wikipedia)
Day 1: Travel from Dubai to Zanzibar City
How to get there from Dubai?
FlyDubai flies directly to Zanzibar. It is a 4.5 hours flight from Dubai to Zanzibar’s Capital City. You can also get a flight to Tanzania’s mainland Dar Es Salaam and from there, you take a local flight via Precision Air or ZanAir for half an hour or catch a ferry trip for 1 hour to reach the port of Zanzibar.
Where to stay in Zanzibar?
We stayed at the north-eastern part of the island in a small village called Matemwe. This place is quite isolated from the busy and touristic places in Zanzibar. Perfect location if you’re looking for a complete relaxation, meditation and to disconnect.
We booked a room in Sunshine Marine Lodge – a piece of gem that is built on a cliff right next to the Indian Ocean with the view of Mnemba Island. The hotel name says it all! It comes with stunning view of sunrise and marine sanctuaries. It’s approximately 60 kms away from the capital and took us almost 2 hours of drive to reach as the last part of the roads are rough but is accessible. Since it’s in a small village and there’s literally nothing around, you can only buy food from the hotel restaurant which I find quite pricey. An average meal costs $15-$25 but nonetheless the experience was all worthit.
I indulged myself with plenty of fresh seafood pasta (since it’s the cheapest)!
Day 2: Mnemba Island
The lodge also offers activities during our stay. On our first day, we booked snorkeling at Mnemba Atoll with Dive Point for $45 each. Unlike others, they offer a decent and proper snorkeling experience. They provided us a complete set of wetsuit and a dedicated guide during the entire activity and this turned out to be our favorite experience during our trip.
Though it may look beautiful at first sight, sad reality is that these coral reefs are in so much danger and some have already died due to warming waters, acid and other dangers that destroy the ecosystem.
Day 3: Nungwi – North of Zanzibar
- Nungwi Marine Turtles Mnarari
Not too far from Matemwe, we drove up to the north of the island Nungwi which they say is the most popular and one of the nicest beaches in Zanzibar. Before we headed to the beach, we stopped by to Nungwi Marine Turtles Mnarari an organization that protects and conserve the population of sea turtles in the island. Here, we had the chance to have a close encounter with sea turtles age 20-50. It’s not everyday you get to experience swimming with these gentle creatures!
- Nungwi Beach
A 15-minute walk from the turtle sanctuary, we reached Nungwi beach. My expectation on this beach was quite high since it’s the most recommended beach on my searches. Unfortunately I was disappointed. The beach was not full of tourist, but rather full of vendors who follow you around and try to sell you services and stuff like ‘smokes’. The beach was beautiful, white sand with pristine water but there’s just so much going around. Maybe I’m just getting old and prefer a quiet surroundings. We instead just had lunch at Cholo’s and left after.
- Yoga Session
This was definitely what I needed! Our hotel offered us free Yoga session. Surrounded by forest with the sound of nature and the sunset – definitely relaxing.
Day 4: Muyuni Beach + Biking Around Village + Stone Town
Few meters away from our lodge we biked towards the untouched Muyuni Beach. Long-stretched white sand and clear waters, here you can enjoy sunbathing without anyone bothering your relaxation. It’s by far my favorite beach in Zanzibar.
We’re always adventure ready!
On our way back to our lodge we saw a group of fishermen who just got from their sail.
After swimming at Muyuni Beach, we headed back to the city to explore Stone Town.
While driving to the capital, we stopped by to a small market and bought these fruits. During our stay, I made sure to help the community by buying stuff from the local markets instead from the commercialized hotels. It’s my way of giving back to the community.
Day 5: Stone Town, Prison Island & Nakupenda Island
On our last day in Zanzibar, we booked a day-tour that includes island hoping and a city tour.
- Nakupenda Sandbank
Nakupenda means ” I love you” in Swahili and I bet you will when you see this tiny gem in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Approximately 20 mins dhow ride from Stone Town, you can reach one of the nicest and popular beach in Zanzibar. The islet is less than a mile with literally nothing in it. It’s a perfect place to sunbath and do an afternoon picnic and enjoy the pristine waters around it.
- Prison Island
Also know as Changuu Island is a small island northwest of Stone Town and was developed and constructed as a prison complex for the rebellious slaves in 1860s but has never been used. It is now a holiday destination and tourists from Stone Town flock to the island for a short visit. There is nothing much to see in the island but you can pay a visit to the gentle giants living in the this island which only ages from 60-190 years old!
These Aldabra Giant Tortoises originated and were a gift from the British governor of Seychelles. I saw these gentle giants last year too when we went to Seychelles. They will literally welcome you when you step in to their sanctuary. The oldest tortoise I saw there was 190 years old. Perhaps the oldest living creature I ever encountered!
You can also walk around the island and explore the prison complex and meet animals in the wild.
- Stone Town
After the island hopping tour, we started to walk down the Zanzibar City – Stone Town. It’s definitely one of the things you can’t miss to do when you visit Zanzibar. Aside from the nice beaches, this archipelago is also rich in culture and history. Stone Town is one of the oldest living Swahili town in East Africa and the cultural center of Zanzibar. The small city is full of beautiful old buildings and unique colorful wooden-carved doors which were built by the early arab / indian traders and slaves in the 19th century. Stone Town used to be the slave market and has sold approx 500k+ slaves in its early years. Swahili people living in Zanzibar are mostly Muslims as Zanzibar was once run and governed by Sultanate of Oman in 1698 after defeating the Portuguese and had become its capital before Oman. This was also the birthplace and home of one of the music legends – Freddie Mercury of Queen. So make sure you pay respect to Mercury’s bar when you visit the city!
Stone Town is so unique and has charming of its own. The people were so nice to us too!
After learning the history of Stone Town, we had to say goodbye to this beautiful paradise. It has been (yet) one of the most unplanned trips that we did which turned out to be one of the most memorable, adventurous and cultural trips ever. Hopefully, we’d be able to go back and explore more Zanzibar in future.
We ended up our trip with this famous Stone Town sunset and dhow.
PS: In case you’re planning to visit Stone Town, I recommend my friend Abdul who was our tourguide during our stay. You can reach him at +255778058585. ;)