Since the first Arab traders laid eyes on the tropical island of Zanzibar in the eighth century, people from across the globe have wanted to visit this famous spice island off the Tanzanian coast. The mystical allure of the name alone is enough to capture your imagination before even setting foot on the beautiful white sand beaches, surrounded by lush forests and the glistening blue waters of the Indian Ocean.
The people of Zanzibar are well-known as a friendly nation and can always be relied on for a warm welcome and wonderful hospitality. The local language in Zanzibar and across much of the East African coast is Swahili or Kiswahili. It has been greatly influenced by Arabic and dates back to the first contact of Arabian traders with the inhabitants of this African region over many centuries. People appreciate if you have taken the time to learn even a few Swahili words. So do say a friendly ‘hujambo’ or ‘jambo’ (hello / how are you?) when meeting someone and reply with ‘sijambo’ (I am fine / no worries) when asked the same.
Zanzibar (or Unguja, as it is now locally known) is an island with a rich and diverse cultural heritage that has made it the interesting destination it is today. Once the seat of the Omani empire, the island was an important stopping point for spice merchants plying the trade routes between East Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and China. Unfortunately, it wasn’t only spice, as hundreds of thousands of slaves were also bought and sold in the island’s capital city of Stone Town. A visit to Stone Town with its bustling markets, narrow winding streets and wooden dhows anchored in the harbour provides an atmospheric glimpse of what life may have been like over a hundred years ago.
Choosing how to get to Zanzibar depends on your budget, time and the travel style you prefer.
Ferry: Depending on which ferry you decide to take, the trip can take between 1 and 2.5 hours. For information on departure times and prices, please refer to Azam Marine.
Flights: For information about flights from the Tanzanian mainland, please visit Precision Air and Coastal Aviation. Precision Air, Egypt Air, South African Airways, 1Time, British Airways, Kenya Airways and Ethiopian Airlines fly direct to Zanzibar from elsewhere in Africa and the latter two also fly to Zanzibar from Europe.
From the time you leave the airport terminal, getting around Zanzibar is easy enough as there is an abundance and options of vehicles waiting to take you to your chosen vacation spot.
Taxis are plentiful and there is no shortage of them at the airport to offer you a ride. Average fees are about 50000 Tanzanian Shillings (TSh) to get to Kendwa Rocks Beach and Nungwi Beach where Zanzibar Watersports is located in northern Zanzibar. If you have time to spare and want the authentic Zanzibar experience, consider getting on a dulla dulla. These half-bus, half-truck vehicle hybrids ferry locals all over the island and a trip from Stone Town to Kendwa Rocks Beach costs about 3000 TSh.
For most of the year, Zanzibar has some of calmest and clearest oceans imaginable. This, combined with a plethora of marine life, make it an excellent destination for a holiday jam-packed with watersports. Visibility is usually in the range of 10 – 40m depending on the dive site. Of course, like everywhere in the world, weather does play a factor during certain months of the year.
June to December: These months provide some of the best diving in Zanzibar. September through to the end of November offers superbly calm sea conditions and amazing visibility. The months of August through to November are typically when the whale sharks are migrating north and sightings of these majestic fish are frequent.
January and February: This is the time when the KasKasi winds hit the island. These can render the ocean very rough and force boats to retreat to the safety of sheltered coves. Don’t fret if you are planning your vacation over this time tough as the winds are unpredictable and it is quite common to have perfect weather interspersed by just a few days of strong winds.
March to May: This is the long, wet season of Zanzibar, which means that sea conditions and visibility can be quite poor. Having said that, it is possible to still have good days and some particularly interesting dive days out to our more protected local sites. We help you make the most of your trip by keeping updated on where are the best possible dive sites are on each day.
Most hotels and restaurants accept credit cards. Almost all of them with the exception of Zanzibar Watersports will levy a surcharge though. Most establishments also accept foreign currency in US Dollars, British Pounds, Euros and travellers checks. For local shopping, you will need currency in Tanzanian Shillings. You will get the best exchange rate in Stone Town. PLEASE NOTE THAT THE ONLY ATMs ON THE ISLAND ARE IN STONE TOWN.