The warm turquoise waters, velveteen coastlines, vanilla and nutmeg aromatics, and short travel time makes Zanzibar a popular holiday destination amongst South Africans. Zanzibar is an archipelago of three islands just off the coast of Tanzania. It is famous for its Afro-Arabian decadence and picturesque tropical beaches. Many travellers combine a trip to Zanzibar with a trip to mainland Tanzania to get a unique safari and beach experience. South African travellers do not need a visa for Zanzibar and flights to Zanzibar are relatively cheap, which makes it an extremely desirable holiday destination. You will just need a valid passport and a Yellow Fever Certificate.
Attractions in Zanzibar
For such a small archipelago, there sure is a lot to do in Zanzibar. From the moment you step off the plane you will be greeted with the sweet aroma of vanilla and salty scent of the ocean, a hint at what is to come. It is an island famed for its exotic spices, fascinating history, and beautiful beaches with their dhow dotted horizons. Explore the islands on a dhow safari, plunge into the warm ocean in search of turtles and whale sharks, indulge in island cuisine infused with the flavours of Arabia and Africa, and get lost in the old narrow streets of Stone Town. The beaches of Nungwi and Kendwa will seduce you with their soft sand and sensational sunsets, while the Red Colobus monkeys of Jozani Chwaka Bay National Park will charm you with their mischievous personalities. Head to the tiny fishing village of Jambiani where you can swim with wild dolphins. Be sure to ask around about ethical dolphin tour operators.
Shopping in Zanzibar
The streets of Stone Town are bursting at the seams with shops and markets selling traditional island goods, cultural trinkets, artworks and handicrafts, gorgeous fabrics and textiles, and an array of other treasures. Darajani Bazaar is a particularly interesting spot for shopping in Zanzibar. Stroll between the stalls and you will come across everything from tropical fruits and vegetables, fresh spices, bright Zanzibari fabrics, and even a fish market. Inaya Zanzibar on Kenyatta Street sells handmade beauty products such as soaps, essential oils, and kelp products all made by local women. Zanzibar Curio Shop on Hurumzi Street sells stunning handmade wooden chests made crafted from teak wood and ornate brass plates. And Fahazi-Zanzibar on Kenyatta Street sells products such as bags and coasters made from palm leaves. Many of the small shops in Zanzibar cooperatives that help the locals earn an income and boost the economy. If you want to try the local street food and traditional Swahili dishes, head to Forodhani Gardens.
Transportation in Zanzibar
Exploring the island is one of the most exciting things about a holiday in Zanzibar, so being able to get around easily is extremely important if you want to the make the most of it. Renting a car offers freedom and flexibility, which is great if you want to move at your own pace and venture off the beaten track. There are several reputable car rental agencies at the airport. However, roads can be poorly marked, which can make driving in Zanzibar a bit of a daunting experience. If you are reluctant to self-drive, renting a car with a driver is a good alternative. For short trips around Stone Town, a ride on a Dalla Dalla will give you a chance to experience a slice of local life and chat to the locals you meet along the way.
Accommodation in Zanzibar
There are different parts to Zanzibar and each has its own quirks and unique rhythm. The island is relatively small, so try to stay in each area if you can. Accommodation in Stone Town is some of the best on the island. Guest houses, bed and breakfasts, and hotels are hidden down alleyways and beautifully decorated to reflect the unique culture of the island. You will also be in the buzzing heart of the island surrounded by bazaars, restaurants, interesting attractions, and of course, exquisite architecture. If you would prefer to be away from the hustle and bustle, the east coast is much quieter. When deciding where to stay in Zanzibar, you will have the options of extravagant resorts, luxurious hotels and spas, romantic villas, wooden beach cottages, quaiint guest houses, decadent bed and breakfasts, and vibey backpackers.
Fights to Zanzibar
Direct flights from South Africa to Zanzibar are available from Johannesburg on Mango. Connecting flights are available from Cape Town, Durban, and most of the major towns and cities in South Africa. Most connecting flights to Zanzibar have one layover. Flights from South Africa to Zanzibar are operated by Kulula, Kenya Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, and Rwandair. The shortest estimated travel time to Zanzibar is about six hours if you are travelling from Johannesburg. Flights with more than one layover are about 14 hours. Flights to Zanzibar land at Abeid Amani Karume International Airport (ZNZ) on Unguja Island.
Our expert preferred spot in Zanzibar
The warm blue waters surrounding Zanzibar and its sister islands conceal exquisite underwater kingdoms that are a snorkeller’s and diver’s paradise. Don a mask and snorkel and spend your days exploring the coral reefs or go all out and plunge into the depths of the Indian Ocean on a scuba diving expedition. Graceful eagle rays and manta rays, blacktip reef sharks, seahorses, hawksbill turtles, and whale sharks are just some of the magnificent creatures you might encounter on an underwater adventure. Take a trip to Mafia Island if you want to swim with whale sharks. It is renowned for its whale shark population. If you prefer to keep your feet on the ground, a tour of a spice farm is a classic experience in Zanzibar. You will get a chance to learn about some of the weird and wonderful shapes spices take and even get to taste a few of them.
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