WELCOME TO ZANZIBAR
Jambo! This is the Swahili greeting that you will hear on arrival when you are welcomed by the warm and inviting locals. Zanzibar is the name of an archipelago in the Indian Ocean just off the coast of East Africa. There are many small islands and two large ones: Unguja (the main island, sometimes informally referred to as ‘Zanzibar’), and Pemba Island. As the number one beach location in East Africa, Zanzibar is a wonderful island, with classic tropical beaches, lush plantations, an incredible history and a fascinating culture. Apart from historic Stone Town, with its labyrinth of narrow streets, Zanzibar is known for its beautiful palm-fringed beaches and pristine coral reefs.
Zanzibar was inhabited by Portuguese navigators at the end of the 15th century. They were ousted 200 years later by the Omani Arabs and Zanzibar became a major centre for slave trading. The island became an Arab state and was an important centre of trade and politics in the region. European explorers, including Stanley and Livingstone, began their expeditions into the interior of Africa from Zanzibar in the late 1800’s. In 1964, the sultan and the government were overthrown in a revolution and in the same year, Zanzibar and Tanganyika combined to form the United Republic of Tanzania.
The indigenous language spoken throughout Zanzibar is Swahili (called Kiswahili locally). English is widely spoken and understood. Jambo Rafiki – Hello my friend!
Most of the people in Zanzibar are Muslim and all towns and villages on Zanzibar Island have mosques. Visitors to Zanzibar Town (Stone Town) will hear the evocative sound of the muezzins calling people to prayer from the minarets, especially for the evening session at sunset. There are also small populations of Christians and Hindus.
Zanzibar is a few degrees south of the equator and enjoys a very tropical climate. The average daytime high is between 28°C and 32°C and the night-time lows are between 20°C and 25°C. Temperature wise – this island is an all-year-round winner. February is very hot and very humid (just leave your hair straightener at home!) and March to May are the wettest months.
The local currency is Tanzania Shillings (TSH) but the currency cannot be bought outside of the country. Cash (US Dollars) and credit cards are accepted at hotels and at any Bureau de Change. We strongly recommend that you take USD cash in small denominations for incidental purchases, tips etc.
220/230 V. square pin adapter (same plugs as UK). It is advisable to take along an international adaptor.
As Zanzibar is situated in a malaria zone, it is recommended that you consult your physician on the correct preventative medication required before you travel.
WHAT TO DO IN ZANZIBAR
Whether you spend your days lazing by the pool, sipping cocktails on the beach at sunset, diving in warm waters or enjoying a Dhow cruise around small islands, your Zanzibar holiday will be a memorable experience.
- Diving: With living reefs surrounding the islands, Zanzibar has excellent dive locations. There are plenty of places where the water temperature is warm, visibility is usually excellent, and currents are weak, all of which contributes to an ideal location for first time and novice divers. In addition to the warm and still waters full of colourful fish, there are many challenging dives as well. If you want to surf the current through a ravine, go for deep water, or search for wrecks, there are dive companies that can make it happen for you. Many of the larger resorts on the north and east coasts have professionally-run dive shops as well. Qualified divers must produce certification and a log book.
- Shopping: Whether you’re in the market for T-shirts, spices, kangas, furniture or hand sewn pillow covers, Stone Town is a great place for fun shopping and bargain hunting. You will find the inevitable ashtray carved out of a coconut shell, but there are enough Tinga-tinga paintings, woodcarvings and woven goods to keep almost everyone in the market for a tasteful souvenir.
- Stone Town: Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001, Stone Town is a mishmash of cultures, languages and architecture. Over the centuries, Stone Town has grown from a small fishing village to a thriving town with an extraordinary history. Walking around Stone Town, you can see the influence of the different cultures that make up Zanzibar. Coral and stone houses show off imposing Zanzibar doors with brass studs as a defence against charging elephants and carvings with scriptures from the Quran. A tour of the town is highly recommended.
- Excursions: There are loads of excursions available to help you explore this unique island. It is wise to stick to a reputable operator and not be lured by beach boys and vendors who prey on tourists promising cheap prices. There are two excursions that are not to be missed in our opinion. A visit to a spice farm village on the Spice Tour will allow you to walk through the farm with your guide – touching, smelling and tasting different spices and fruits. It will give you an insight into local life and the opportunity to try some Swahili dishes, taste the fruits in season and try some spiced tea.
Setting sail on a traditional dhow will be one of the highlights of your trip. Safari Blue is a full day excursion which takes you out into Menai Bay – a haven of beautiful uninhabited islands where the waters are frequented by humpback and bottlenose dolphins. The anchor is dropped on a sandbank which makes for some spectacular snorkelling. Drinks are served throughout the day and lunch is a buffet of grilled fish, lobster, calamari and chicken. Make sure this one is on your itinerary.
WHAT TO PACK
- As a guide, the maximum weight for checked luggage is 20kg in economy class.
- Your hand-luggage should not weigh more than 6kg and needs to be small and compact
- Take along your best beach and casual wear, perfect for the day
- The dress-code for dinner is usually smart casual and gents may be required to wear long trousers
- Take an umbrella or rain poncho if travelling from October to January to March to June
- When in town, men & women should have their shoulders and knees covered. Bermuda shorts and a polo shirt are perfectly fine but halter-tops and miniskirts are insulting to locals
- Sunglasses and suntan lotion are a must
- Don’t forget any medication that you might need, and be sure to pack it in your hand luggage
- Chargers for all your devices (it’s a good idea to take along a few movies on a tablet or something similar as the English TV channels in your hotel may be limited)
- Swimming shoes and goggles
- Mosquito repellent
- A sun hat or cap
- Pack a change of clothing in your hand luggage in case of baggage delays (and a spare cozzie so at least you can have a swim when you get to your resort)
- Clothing creases less if rolled in a sausage shape when packed – so roll, don’t fold
- No sharp objects are permitted in your hand luggage (yes, tweezers are sharp!)
- Travel insurance is a must. If you can’t afford it, you can’t afford to travel!
- Travelling with kids – please check that you have all the relevant documents including unabridged Birth Certificates.
- Put electronics, medication, toothbrushes and jewellery in your carry-on bag
- It’s often a good idea to let your bank or credit card company know that you’re going overseas
- Be patient, be flexible, be spontaneous and have the best time ever!
DID YOU KNOW:
- Due to its proximity to the Equator, Zanzibar is warm throughout the year and has equal days and nights (12-hours each)
- The shortest war ever recorded by man is the Anglo-Zanzibar War where the British bombarded the Beit al Hukum Palace and after 38 minutes, a ceasefire was called.
- Zanzibar is popularly known as the Spice Islands.
- Zanzibar has the largest number of carved doors in Africa
- Freddie Mercury, lead singer of the band Queen, was born in Zanzibar in 1946. His birth name was actually Farouk Bulsara.