The old saying of “been there, done that” in no way applies to this tropical paradise. If you thought going to Zanzibar is similar to a visit to Mozambique, it is time to get rid of your old sunnies. The azure sea and sky will have you doubting the quality of your Ray-Ban’s polarizing lenses.
This becomes evident as soon as the aeroplane swoops down over the edge of the island to land at Zanzibar’s quaint airport. Off the east coast of Africa the deepest blues of the Indian Ocean give way to the turquoise waters and white beaches of this island.
The attraction of the beaches will keep you mesmerised. Zanzibar is a photographer’s paradise, especially with the spectacular sunsets and the colourful fashion of the female residents. A word of advice though – the locals, especially the women are camera-shy. It is advisable to respect their traditions and refusal to being photographed as the population is traditionally Islamic.
We ventured north and settled in Nungwi. The village is known for its tourist shops and busy beaches. It is also the base for countless scuba-diving operations and if this is your priority, you will find at least seven professional operations within a three-kilometre amble along the beach. Best is to take along a snorkel set including fins. The tranquil and clear blue ocean is an underwater photographer’s dream. With dive sites around Mnemba Atoll and the lush coral mounds off Tumbatu Island, divers have a multitude of options to explore to their heart’s content.
After a full day of traversing the underwater world, you will have quite an appetite. Zanzibar is known for its abundance of spices and seafood – all the more reason to take yourself on a sensory tour by savouring the local cuisine. The bounty of fresh seafood such as kingfish, tuna, prawns and octopus, to name but a few, can be enjoyed by trying the various curry dishes on offer. Traditional breakfast is substituted with freshly cut, succulent fruits…. From the everyday bananas, tropical pineapples to the exotic jackfruit and carambola, or more commonly known as star fruit. Be adventurous, find the locals’ favourite food hangout and ask for a Zanzibar pizza. This uniquely Zanzibari snack makes for a filling breakfast.
Remember to stay hydrated, drinking enough water is essential. But who can deny a long cold cocktail at the end of a hot day on the beach? Settle down at a rooftop bar that overlooks the wide-open ocean and watch the sunset while sipping on your favourite island drink or ice cold beer.
The spice island offers much more than idyllic beaches and excellent cuisine. Explore the vibrant cultures and history of Zanzibar up close when you wander through Stone Town. The maze of alleys and narrow streets seem to have no specific order and you might end up going around in circles. With an abundance of hip cafes and coffee shops, you will find yourself admiring the rare carved ancient doors and energetic daily life. From the local artist exhibiting his creations on his doorstep to the more trendy crafted jewellery, fashion designers and curio shops, one is bound to find gifts for friends and family back home.
If you like the hustle and bustle of shopping take the time to walk through the world-renowned Darajani Market. Taste the sticky dates and chetti then take a break and have a hearty meal at Lukmaan restaurant around the baobab tree. Once you have had your fill of the sights and sounds in Stone Town head to one of the various spice farms along the road between Nungwi and the capital city. Witness first-hand the harvesting of spices such as cloves, cinnamon bark, star anise and vanilla pods when in season.
The allure of Zanzibar is its mix of blissful beaches, flavoursome food, lively culture and rich history. Add to this the rush of adventure when doing island hopping from Zanzibar to Mafia and Pemba islands by making use of the local airlines and you’ve had a taste of tropical paradise. The booking for your inter-island flights can be done online and in general, is slightly cheaper than doing it when on the ground in Stonetown or Nungwi.
Using your Visa or Mastercard here will incur excess fees and these payments are loaded with a 4 – 6% surcharge or handling fee. Take into account that you will also have to fork out the banking and exchange fees when using your plastic to pay for food services and or gift. ATM services are available in Stonetown.
Pictures and text; Nicolene Olckers