I recently came back from an amazing holiday to the beautiful island of Zanzibar!
My flatmate Kirsty and I both had some time off, and although we had originally planned to go to India to see the Taj Mahal and experience Holi festival, we couldn’t get our visas in time. So a new destination was needed, preferably somewhere neither of us had been and relatively close by. Zanzibar was the perfect choice!
We booked our tickets to Dar Es Salaam, and a 4,5 hour flight later we were there.
Once in the airport we walked outside to the tiny ticket offices to find a flight to ZNZ. The next flight was leaving in around an hour, so we handed over our money and got ready to fly on this tiny plane!
As we were flying over Tanzania we spotted our first glimpses of what was to come. Beautiful clear blue water and white sands. And 20 minutes later, we were there!
After around an hour taxi drive from the airport, we arrived in the north of the island, Nungwi. Supposedly this is where the best beaches are, and we definitely couldn’t disagree.
We couldn’t stop repeating ourselves about how beautiful it was! The water was just so turquoise and unspoilt, with traditional fishing boats dotted around and palm trees swaying in the breeze.
Kirsty had done a bit of research about which areas of the island we needed to see, so we booked a driver for the next day. He would take us to Prison Island and Stonetown.
After about an hours drive early the next morning, we arrived in Stonetown. Our driver dropped us off at the port, where a boat was waiting to take us to the island.
The boat ride over to Prison Island took around 30 minutes. Once we arrived we stepped off into the warm water and onto the beautiful white sand! The island was formerly a prison (hence the name) but then gradually turned into a quarantine for people with deadly diseases. I could certainly think of worse places to be quarantined on!
We wandered around the island, visiting some of the areas that used to hold the prisoners.
Another reason many people visit is because of the giant tortoise rehabilitation centre! Four tortoises were originally gifted from the British governor of the Seychelles, and they bred quickly. They soon started disappearing and more hatchlings had to be brought in. They are now a protected species, and the oldest one is 191 years old!
We got speaking to the owner who told us that they love being scratched. If you scratch them on the neck they stretch it out and rise up on all fours!
We had a little bit more time left to explore the island before our boat came back to pick us up.
Neither of us could get over just how gorgeous it was!
Next stop was a tour of Stonetown, also know as Mji Mkongwe (in Swahili), the main city of Zanzibar. It was formerly a flourishing centre of the spice trade, as well as the slave trade in the 19th century.
Our guide, Eddie, was really well informed and told us all about the history of the town. He showed us around all of the main monuments as well as the tiny streets running through the town. He said even the locals get lost sometimes as it’s so confusing!
We strolled through the Darajani Market, which is the main market in Zanzibar and sells everything from fruit, veg, fish and meat, to second hand electronics!
As I mentioned earlier, Zanzibar was a prime hub for the slave trade during the 19th Century. Eddie took us to the former Slave Market, and showed us down to a couple of tiny rooms. They used to keep between 200-300 people in there for 3 days at a time. If they survived, they were seen as the stronger slaves and taken to market to be sold.
We continued our tour through Stonetown. As Zanzibar is primarily a Muslim island, there are lots of mosques to be found (52 I believe). However, there are also 2 churches on the island, one of which is located next to the Slave Market. We walked around the corner and there was a great view of the church spire right next to the minaret.
The locals were so friendly, everybody would say hello and some would even stop to chat with us!
After our tour we stopped for dinner at Freddie Mercury’s house, where we enjoyed a traditional Zanzibarian coconut fish curry whilst watching the sun set!
There was also a group of children swimming in the sea – they used empty plastic bottles to make floats!
Our hotel was located right on the beach. The next morning we took a stroll along the sand; the tide goes out so far that it’s hard to see where the water would be deep enough to swim in! In the evenings the tide comes right back in again and the waves were up against the rocks by the hotel.
By the time we got back to our hotel (after around 2 hours of walking along the beach) we realised just how sunburnt we both were! I even had a line from where my shorts had been, oops!
Luckily we had plenty of shade to lie in so we didn’t turn even more into lobsters.
In the early evening we decided to go on a sunset boat cruise. The guide came and picked us up and as we walked down the beach (the other direction) we realised how secluded our hotel was. We’d had no idea there were loads more hotels lined up along the beach full of tourists!
The boat took us out to a snorkelling spot, where we saw lots of beautiful stripy fish swimming around.
We cruised along, eating fresh fruit and enjoying the beautiful scenery surrounding us.
Our last morning was spent enjoying some more of that beautiful African sunshine – although firmly in the shade after the sunburn the previous day!
Before we knew it our time was up and it was back to the airport. Another little Cessna flew us back over to Dar Es Salaam, before we flew back to Dubai.
It was back to work for Kirsty, and as I still had a few days of leave left, it was onto the next adventure for me – Jordan!
I had the most incredible time exploring Zanzibar, and it was hard picking only a few photos for this blog post (considering I took around 500!) – definitely a place to go back to 🙂