Once you’ve been bitten by the travel bug, you never need a reason to travel. Just like that, we 3 friends footloose and fancy-free decided to pack our bags, picked a destination that allowed visa on arrival for Indian passport holders, offered plenty ‘me-time’ and on a budget. Our destination of choice: ZANZIBAR.
To be honest, I really didn’t have many expectations. After all what could an island offer apart from sun, sand and sea? But, I was surprised in more than one way. It was a 3-night/4-day holiday and, guess what? I’m coming back to Zanzibar someday.
Here are 15 reasons why I would go back to Zanzibar to experience what I did. All over again.
1. Explore the island by road
We rented a car which is much needed on the island. Taxis can be quite expensive and not easy to find. So with a car at your disposal and a map, pick different spots during your stay and explore the island. From narrow dirt streets to wide concrete roads, from village to beachside drives, from sunrises to sunsets – driving in Zanzibar is an experience. I was particularly surprised by the local people’s road courtesy and respect for fellow drivers. So, buckle up and hit the roads.
Blue skies beckon as you drive
2. Enjoy fresh tender coconuts anytime, anywhere
Forget the fancy imported labels and ‘virgin’ coconuts sold in the big hypermarkets. I’m talking about enjoying a fresh tender coconut right from the farmer himself. You just can’t miss the many coconut vendors waving their coconuts high up as you drive by. Pull up, and buy one. You may just go for a second one and, maybe another one for the road.
Loved this sight of fresh produce sold on the streetsides
Tender, tender coconuts
3. Catch the sunset at Nungwi Beach
At Nungwi, you can sip on a beer with your toes buried into the white sands, as you watch the sunset dip down into the African horizon. A lot of the beach shacks start bringing out their tables further onto the sand, twinkle lights are turned on and the reggae beats are turned a notch up. You catch silhouettes of people swimming, kayaking and even large boats sailing by – the view is simply sublime.
Sweet nothings as you watch the sunset with a friend
4. Dinner while you watch the sunset
And then there’s the sunset view from the rooftop of The Africa House Hotel located on the marine front in Stone Town. Be sure to arrive at least an hour before sunset to catch the best seats on the roof top. With music, food and drinks complementing the experience, this is a great place to linger on after sun set and enjoy Zanzibar’s nightlife.
5. Take a stroll on the ocean bed during low tide
I must say, this was one of the highlights of my trips. At Nungwi beach, we managed to catch the low tide and at first (if you haven’t experienced this before), you could think ‘wait…can I really walk that far out without being washed away?’ The answer is yes! Take advantage by talking a walk along the ocean beds, catch some flora and fauna along the way, anchored boats, fishermen busy preparing for their next catch and just the joy when you turn back and have a panoramic view of the beach from where you stand.
6. Get a feel of fishing village life
Villages in Zanzibar are humble and offer some lovely glimpses into the people’s day to day life. Little children playing, women sitting around watching passerbys, food hawkers trying to earn their day’s wage, groups of young men toying around and the elderlies playing cards - are some of the sights you may catch as you walk or drive through the fishing villages near the beaches. Coral stones houses with thatched roofs subtly characterise the village area.
7. The ever-so-amazing banana fritters
I actually posted this description on my Instagram and it’s so true. Enough said, here you go:
8. Yoga at sunrise
Serene, bliss-like moments are abundant as you practice yoga and meditation with the sun rays teasing its way through the skies. The sound of waves, crisp air and stillness is all you need to get your morning zen in place to kick start the day, with energy and peace.
9. Up close and personal with Zanzibar’s marine life
A full day trip but oh-so worth it! We booked ourselves with Safari Blue for a snorkeling trip at Fumba. I would highly recommend Safari Blue for the safety, quality, fun and professionalism. Our first stop was at a sand bank which invited still waters for a cool dip in the blue, blue waters. Next, was a good 1-1.5 hours of snorkeling at two different spots. The aquatic life is stunning and I enjoyed every moment spent gazing at fishes and plants of every colour.
Some Amarula coffee after the long day?
Seafood bbq lunch awaits after the snorkeling activity
10. A walk-through the winding roads of Stone Town
Meandering narrow streets, hole-in-the-wall shops selling spices, perfume, incense, fabric and antiques – a walk though Stone Town is a must do. The highlight of your walks will be the Insta-worthy moments as you pose beside the stunning doors of Stone Town. You’ll be walking trying to make sense of the busyness around you when suddenly your gaze fall upon these doors that are an architecturally and design treat to your camera lens. The bold colours, structure and motifs these doors are made of are visually stunning.
11. A cup of spiced coffee at The Zanzibar Coffee House
During our walk-through Stone Town and trying to make sense of the area, we pleasantly stumped upon the Zanzibar Coffee House. The moment you enter you’re welcomed with strong wafts of freshly brewed coffee beans and spices. This earthy, rustic place is a must visit for coffee aficionados – I would highly recommend the Spice Coffee - brewed black coffee with hints of cardamom and cinnamon. Their big yellow wall overseeing the Stone Town streets is a picture-perfect spot while you sip some good quality African brew.
Brew spiced with cardamom and cinnamon
Enjoying each sip of my Spiced Coffee
12. The hustle and bustle of Darajani market
Darajani market is a busy (very busy!) marketplace. The locals seemed to be comfortably haggling with the street vendors who in communal setting having organized their goods on mats for sale. This could range from fruits, vegetables, spices, seafood, household items and incense. I knew then I had to experience what it would be like walking through the market. From the few moments I spent at Darajani market, my senses were being pleasantly challenged with the sights, scents and sounds!
13. Spice shopping at Stone Town
Zanzibar’s colonial past with the Omani’s and Portuguese have left them being a potent and important hub for spice trading. From the biryani masala to chicken tikka rubs, it won’t take long for you to notice how important spices are to the people. It is amazing how history travels right through to your plate – fascinating!
14. Star gazing
Probably one of the high points of my trip was lying under the starry skies after dinner. One night we were fortunate to even catch the rising of the moon – large and flaming red – that for a moment we thought there was a rave party happening on another island! Imagination or the wine, I can’t tell :) The skies are absolutely stunning coupled with deep conversations, a blues playlist and a glass of wine. Weeks later I stumbled upon this image below and couldn't help thinking that's exactly what we did.
15. Take a dip in the sea
I can tick this one off my bucket list – swimming in the deep, deep blue seas. The Zanzibar waters are stunningly beautiful with multiple shades and hues of azure and green. Taking a dip in the ocean, the waters are crystal clear and as you can see from the picture below, at some point you just can't tell where the sea and the skies meet. I still remember my friend saying, “guys, capture this image in your memory forever”. I sure did.