Thinking of traveling somewhere with stunning beaches, away from the hustle and bustle?
You always tend to think of the Maldives when you picture that white sand and turquoise sea. How about if I told you, you can see just as beautiful beaches but for the fraction of the price… Yes this is possible.
The Maldives isn’t the only country that shares the Indian Ocean, another place I visited recently, also shares it too.
An island of the East Coast of Tanzania, named…
I recently got back from an amazing trip to Zanzibar and I would like to give you an insight to this beautiful country.
I’m a beach addict, as you know from my previous blogs. I’m a sucker for white sand, turquoise sea, sun and sea life. So where can I go for my birthday in March? I wanted to travel somewhere that has the above criteria but I only have 10 nights to play with. I don’t want to spend most of that time travelling and there aren’t many countries near the UK that are hot during that time of year.
I did some research and decided on Zanzibar and here’s why…
When is the best time to visit Zanzibar?
Zanzibar sits just below the equator and has fairly constant temperatures all the year around, however it has two rainy seasons. There are two distinct rainy seasons; from the end of March to June and from the end of October to mid-December. From January to March it is hot and dry. June to October is warm and dry with colder evenings.
I started by searching for the cheapest and fastest route possible. Most flights had a connection, which is fine, but I wasn’t happy with a 10 hour stop in Nairobi. That would be a whole day gone from my trip. So I kept on searching, yippee! Found a return flight with one stop in Oman for just an hour duration. Excellent! Thank you Expedia!
Accommodation was the next thing on my list to sort out. I like to look through TripAdvisor rather than the direct company websites as this gives you a true insight of what the accommodation is really like. “Real reviews from real travellers”. I wanted a boutique lodge, something more personal and traditional. I’m not one for big resort type hotels. I came across a beautiful place called “Villa Kiva”.
Wow this is the one for me! Located on the North East coast of the island which means it is practically opposite the Mnemba Atoll. Perfect for my freediving trips. It was time to search for the cheapest deal. Once I was happy with the flights and accommodation I called up Expedia and gave them all the details I had put together. I had a very helpful advisor on the phone who ended up giving me a really good deal and even threw in breakfast. Perfect! Not bad for a total of £615 oh Yeah, that’s your flights, accommodation and breakfast.
I wasn’t expecting Villa Kiva to be as comfortable as it was, let’s just say I was pleasantly surprised. The breakfast was put together superbly, a huge selection of fresh fruits, (you all know how obsessed I am with fruit) fresh pastries, hot food selection and more. All served at the water front terrace. It’s settings like this that makes your soul happy. There’s also a garden restaurant, with lush greenery and two small swimming pools. Here you can enjoy various types of pasta, soups or dumplings, many different kinds of fresh fish and octopus carpaccio. The fresh catch of the day was my favourite it was always delicious. I had a sea view room which was equipped with a ceiling fan, mosquito nets on the windows and around the bed, air conditioning and a fridge. All rooms have on suites and there’s Wi-Fi available in the whole facility.
Waking up to the view of the Indian Ocean is simply tranquil. This is what dreams are made of.
I wanted to run away from the cold, the hustle and bustle of the city to a beautiful unspoilt place. I can truly say that Villa Kiva and Zanzibar itself has given me a real paradise with white beaches, warm waters, and an incredible sea. It’s an ideal destination for those who appreciate peace and quiet.
What can I do on Zanzibar Island?
The island is blessed with palm fringed beaches and stunning turquoise blue sea.
It is an idyllic place for anyone that enjoys water sports such as snorkelling, scuba diving, sailing, fishing and sunset cruises. As you know I love to freedive and staying so close to the Mnemba Atoll was ideal. Away from the beach, there are a number of attractions on the island including the spice farms, the historic Stone Town with its markets and winding lanes which can be explored on foot. To the south, boat excursions are offered to see dolphins and there is a marine reserve. The old Prison Island offers a fascinating insight into the old slave trade, as this was once used by Arabic Traders as a confinement for slaves. If you have more time you can combine a safari with a stay on Zanzibar. Zanzibar is an ideal place to relax after you have enjoyed a safari in either Tanzania or Kenya. There are direct flights from some of the airstrips inside the National Parks and reserves. Zanzibar is blessed with a number of excellent reserves and has been at the forefront of conservation for a number of decades. I didn’t have time for a safari trip but hope to return to Zanzibar to check it out. Of course I will update my blog with what research I come up with.
Here are some useful things you should know about Zanzibar
Tanzanian Shilling – can’t be obtained (easily) in the UK so it’s better to buy once you arrive. I changed my money as soon as I arrived at the airport. You can also use USD, I got a mix of both currencies.
English is widely spoken but a few Swahili words are always well received. A few words I got by on were “Hujambo” (Hello) “Hakuna Matata” (no problem) “Asante sana” (thank you very much)
I was very confused when enquiring about a visa. There was no straight answer. Now that I have been it’s as simply as – Once you arrive in Zanzibar airport a visa can be obtained for 50 USD although I used my card to pay they do prefer cash. Tourist visas usually have a one month validity, unless you request a longer period. Zanzibar is part of the United Republic of Tanzania. Visas are required by almost all nationalities.
Again there was all different advice on this. I didn’t have to pay any airport tax there just wasn’t any payment needed for international flights. Simple!
What to wear
Women should carry a wrap to cover their legs in towns or villages as revealing clothes can cause offence especially in Zanzibar and other Muslim areas. On the beach, and within the confines of beach hotels, normal swimwear is acceptable but nudity is not.
Zanzibar is a Muslim community. The main religion is Islam (97%), followed by Christians and Hindus (3%), therefore, it is good practice to respect the culture and religion of the country, avoiding provocative costumes, topless and nude bathing. In addition, during the Ramadan period, the entrance to men and non-Muslim women in mosques is forbidden, as the consumption of food, drink and smoke in public.
Malaria is endemic to the region, especially on the coast. It is transmitted by infected mosquitoes. I never play around with “Should I” or “Should I not” take medication”. I took some Malirone with me and took one tablet every day. You are advised to take preventative medication. Ask your doctor. Remember that mosquitoes are most active during the evening and night. Wear light coloured clothing – mosquitoes don’t like to be seen and use mosquito repellents.
I hope I have helped you with some of the basic information to keep you safe on your trip. If you have any further questions I’m more than happy to help, just leave a comment below.
I just wanted to end this blog by saying the people I met in Zanzibar were some of the kindest, friendliest and helpful people I have come across. Do try and use the local people for tours and excursions rather than the big foreign hotels. You can trust the locals, don’t be afraid. No one knows the island better than the locals do.
Until my next trip, stay happy and keep travelling…….
if I can do it