You just had an amazing Safari, but those long days have left you sore and exhausted. So why hop on a long flight home right away? Consider visiting Zanzibar after your safari for the ultimate relaxation experience!
Zanzibar is a small group of islands just off the coast of Tanzania. Most people refer to the largest island — Unguja — when talking about Zanzibar. It is home to some of the world’s greatest beaches, warmest ocean waters, most beautiful resorts and spas, and delicious restaurants! If you’ve never been to Zanzibar, consider visiting at the end of your next East African safari!
When to Visit
Deciding when to visit Zanzibar will depend on what you want to do there. While you’ll most likely enjoy yourself visiting anytime of year, there are high seasons and low seasons to take in to consideration. Here are a few suggestions to consider when booking your vacation.
Tourist Seasons – The high tourist seasons for Zanzibar usually run December through February. These are the hottest months of the year and also coincide with vacation months of Europe and America. Beaches may be more crowded and hotels more expensive.
Wildebeest Migration – If you’re planning a safari to view the wildebeest migration and want to combine it with a trip to Zanzibar, see the migration chart in our post on How to Plan an African Safari Vacation.
Ramadan – In short, Ramadan is a religious month of fasting during daylight hours. During this month, many businesses in Zanzibar may be closed, have limited hours, or a decreased amount of tours available. If you do choose to visit during Ramadan, try to avoid eating in public places during daylight hours. Click here for Ramadan dates.
Diving – We are not diving experts and don’t pretend to be, that being said, Zanzibar can have very drastic tides. You should contact local companies and get their recommendations on the best time to go. Diving in the North Coast is best from June through October and in the South Coast from November to March.
Weather – Knowing when the wet and dry seasons are may also determine when you may want to vacation to Zanzibar.
Zanzibar is a tropical climate and is located close to the equator, so there is little variation in temperature throughout the year. There are, however, two rainy seasons that mirror those on mainland Tanzania. The long-rain season — which ranges from mid-March to late-May — during which you can expect heavy downpours. And the short-rain season — which ranges from December to January — where you’ll see days consisting of short showers.
Areas to Stay
There are many different areas to stay on the island, depending on what you’re looking to do. The most popular resort locations are located on the North and East sides of the island.
Stone Town – The UNESCO World Heritage Site and former capital of Zanzibar is a must visit during your stay in Zanzibar. If history is what you’re after, then Stone Town is your place. It is a city full of history of where East meets West, culturally speaking.
North – With crystal blue waters and powdery white sand beaches, northern Zanzibar is home to many resorts. The resorts are perched up on small cliffs with access to the beach by stairs. During high tide the stairs lead you right into the water!
East – Some of the most pristine beaches featured in travel magazines can be found on the Indian Ocean side of the island. These beaches have a vast tidal range and can leave you walking a great distance to get back to your resort at low tide.
South – The South is not as renowned a coastline as other parts of the island. Many visitors head south for spice tours, snorkeling, or scuba diving off the shores.
West – There are not nearly as many resorts located on the West coast of Zanzibar. The Channel side of the island has deeper blue waters and are not as affected by tides as the Eastern side. Beaches tend to be much more remote, unless you are in Stone Town.
Activities in Zanzibar
Zanzibar has a vast array of activities for all sorts of interests. There are activities for foodies, history buffs, adventurers and more. There are plenty of sites you can book directly with online, but we recommend talking with your hotel or your safari tour operator. They may work directly with local companies and be able to give you a better deal than you could find on your own. Here is a list of a few popular things to do on the island.
Historical Tours – Stone Town tours (walking tours through small winding streets that take you through the old slave markets and museum, the Sultans palace, local markets, and the Freddie Mercury house, to name a few); Spice tours (learn about the spice trade and visit a working spice plantation).
Island Excursions – Take a opportunity to visit the other islands that make up Zanzibar! There are day excursions to Prison Island (visitors can see giant tortoises and snorkel); and Chumbe Island (A Marine Protected Area that only allows a small number of visitors daily to do guided walks through the forest and snorkel in a protected coral reef sanctuary).
Boating – Fishing (There are local game and deep sea fishing tours available); Leisure Sunset Tours onboard a catamaran; and Safari Blue Tours (tours that take you to see dolphins, sandbanks, coral reefs and more).
Adventure – Zanzibar has many activities for the adventurous type. Some activities include 4×4 Quads, Jet Skis, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Scuba Diving, and Snorkeling.
Food – Not only are there many local food tours where you can try local and traditional island food, but Stone Town is famous for their street food! Vendors line the streets and you slowly make your way down trying each one! If you prefer finer dining, or unique dining experiences, try eating at Zanzibar’s famous restaurant “The Rock”. The restaurant is located on a rock surrounded by water!
There is no doubt that Zanzibar is an amazing destination and would be a fantastic place to vacation on it’s own. Unfortunately, for many, it’s a little too far to travel. That’s why visiting Zanzibar after your East African safari makes perfect sense as the ending to your storybook vacation!
Is Zanzibar Safe?
“Safe” is a very relative term and we don’t want to give a blanket “yes.” Crime happens everywhere, and just like in most places you visit, Zanzibar is as safe as you make it. Wherever you travel to, you need to be aware of your surroundings. Pickpockets are always going to target those in touristy areas that are not paying attention. That’s true if you’re in Paris, France or Stone Town, Tanzania. Don’t flaunt valuables. Be cautious and don’t walk around by yourself at night in a city or on a beach you don’t know.
Safety also includes being respectful of the culture. Zanzibar is a conservative culture. Women should cover their shoulders, cleavage, and legs. Ask for referrals from your hotel, online forums, or other guides you have worked with if you are ever unsure.
Tips For Visiting Zanzibar
Malaria – It is important to take the necessary Malaria precautions when visiting Zanzibar. Consult your doctor and make sure you have the proper vaccinations, bring and wear bug spray, and use mosquito nets over your bed at night.
Yellow Fever – You must have your yellow fever vaccination prior to entering Tanzania. When you get your vaccination, you receive a yellow booklet that records your vaccinations. You must have this with you when traveling to Tanzania and Zanzibar.
Sunscreen – Zanzibar is close to the equator and the sun is very strong there. Bring plenty of sunscreen because it can be very expensive at the resorts if you run out.
Clothing – Zanzibar is a conservative culture. When at the resorts you may dress how you like, but outside the resorts be respectful of the culture you are visiting. Women should cover their shoulders, cleavage, and legs (at least past the knees).
Ramadan – As stated earlier, Ramadan is a month of fasting that a majority of the island follows. Eating in public during daylight hours can be considered impolite during Ramadan. Many tours and restaurants may be closed or have limited hours during this time too.
Taxis – Taxis don’t have set prices. You need to negotiate and agree on a price before getting in. Ask your hotel what a taxi should cost to get you to where you want to go.
Service – This is a more laid back island. You’ll get great service at many places, but it might not always be timely service. They are definitely on island time in Zanzibar.
Airport – The airport in Zanzibar is a small airport. Consider bringing a small fan to keep you cool, or get some ice cold water from the hotel before you leave, because the airport will most likely be hot and crowded. Plan accordingly!
Visiting Zanzibar After Your Safari
Zanzibar has a rich, colorful, and sometimes-tragic history made up of many different countries trying to take over control. The continuous battles are due to the island’s vital location and it being a major trading hub for centuries between Africa and Asia. Centuries of many different influences have created a very unique island, very unlike mainland Tanzania. The culture, the food, the architecture, and the stunning scenery make Zanzibar a must-see on anyone’s bucket list.
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