When people think of Zanzibar – a small island off the East Coast of Africa, they often think of five star resorts, beaches and a big hole in their wallets, but what most of them don’t know, however, that Zanzibar is an Island for travelers on any budget with so many activities to make.

I traveled to Zanzibar last year, and I can safely say that I found my personal slice of paradise on this island; perfect white sand beaches melt into crystal clear azure waters and the range of cheap activities is enough to keep even the most active people busy!

Don’t forget to carry your hat, sunglasses, sandals and light clothes since Zanzibar is hot and moist, most time of the year.

1. Sit back, relax and enjoy the beach

Zanzibar’s eastern beaches are amongst the world’s best. These quiet, beautiful beaches will not disappoint! The top 5 beaches to visit are as follows:

Miramont Retreat beach yard
Enjoying the beach

Nungwi: Nungwi is a village located at Zanzibar’s North West with a beautiful beach, an excellent choice for swimming due to the tide which doesn’t venture out too far.
Kendwa: This village is located next to Nungwi and is within walking distance. Kendwa has perfect white beaches and azure waters with an excellent selection of bars and restaurants on the waterfront.
Pongwe: A a perfect, quiet beach
Paje: This beach is located on the South East of Zanzibar and is a popular beach for water sports.
Matemwe: A stunningly quiet beach which offers a small selection of cafes and guest houses. Palm trees sway in the Zanzibar breeze and local villagers go about their daily lives

Pirison island old docking alley
Beach in front of our hotel

2. Visit Stone Town

Its architectural structures date back to the 19th Century when Zanzibar was a hub for spice and slave trade. A Zanzibar tour would take you through the slave trade and the Zanzibar Revolution, Old Fort, House of Wonders.
With stunning white washed buildings and culture, Stone Town is the heart of Zanzibar. With its multitude of historic sites, markets and tours, Stone Town will see that every day you spend there is packed with activities! When in Stone Town check out Mercury’s restaurant; this restaurant pays tribute to Freddy Mercury who was born in Zanzibar in 1946.

3. Pet the Giant Tortoises in Prison Island

Prison Island is only 20 -30 minute away from Stone Town by boat. It was constructed as a slave prison but when finished, the slavery was abolished, then it was turned into a camp where people with deadly diseases were sent. Nowadays, however, this stunning little island, is a natural reserve for giant tortoises.
One hundred years ago, the British governor of the Seychelles sent as a gift, four turtles who have settled very nicely here. So well that the island is now famous for its turtles. The oldest turtle is 198 years old and it is a star. We had so much fun with them.

Tortoise playing ritual
Feeding them on Prison island
Prison island

4. Smell the Spices on a Spice Tour

Zanzibar and spice is a story that dates from the 15th Century. Persian traders used Zanzibar as a base for voyages between the Middle East, India, and Africa. And from here on, the island became one of the most famous spice island. There are tours to the countryside were you can walk through spice plantations, smell and taste the spices. Discover how spices are grown and processed or how they are used in your dishes.

Hibiscus bracelet on a space tour
Nutmeg fruit
In a spice tour they made us feel like royalties

5. Swim with the Dolphins

A one-on-one encounter with dolphins is most likely to stay imprinted in your heart forever. Take a boat ride from the village in the morning when the water is still cool and the dolphins are still swimming in the shallow waters. You will have the chance to watch as the dolphins swim and play. In the presence of a guide, you can jump in the water with the dolphins and get acquainted.

Enjoying the dolphins

6. Snorkeling and diving

Zanzibar is excellent for diving and snorkeling. There are many different locations on the island where you can take a trip;
A recommended snorkel trip is to Pemba Island from Nungwi. You will sail to Pemba on a typical Zanzibari dhow boat which is an experience by itself…

Crystal blue

7.Take a Ride on a Dhow – Traditional Sailboat

The traditional sailboats are called dhow’s. Hire a sailboat to enjoy a Zanzibar style cruise on the Indian Ocean!

8.Red colobus

Jozani Forest is a 50 square km natural reserve where Red Colobus monkeys are based, which is a very rare species that live only in Zanzibar.
You will be delighted to see the lovely monkeys in their natural environment. To see how they eat, how they jump from one tree to another, or how they are carrying their little cubs.

Red colobus
Eating time

9. Visit a local school

In Zanzibar the level of poverty is very high, so the educational system is not very developed. For children of Zanzibar is a real luxury to go to school.
It is a great success that still they are studding.
Buy some pencils, notebooks and other school supplies and don’t forget about candies, the children’s smiles of happiness will be a lasting memory, and most important, it will be a life lesson for you.
We visited the school in our village and we were welcomed with greetings and songs.
The school had no doors or windows, but they were lucky to have benches, because in other schools they sat on the floor.
Once in the classroom, they showed us their notebooks and played with us.
It was an experiences that we will never forget.

Again in the classroom
They were so nice to show me their notebooks

10.Conect with the locals

When visiting Zanzibar, you should learn more about the local people. You will have the chance to see how they are living, to visit their seaweed farm, maybe to meet the village chef. You can learn how they thatch their roofs or how they bake their bred
A narrow dirt street took us to this village where there were some huts with no electricity or water system. When we entered the village, people started to come to us. We stopped to a local shop to buy some candies and started to give them to the kids. The word spread around and soon many kids gathered around us.

Lovely little girl
The children are always surprised to see them self
How to resit to theses faces?
A simple candy was highly apriciated

11.Try the local food, Eat Zanzibari Pilau and Biryani

Don’t miss out on Zanzibar food specialties– and don’t forget to judge for yourself which is better!

Calamari and rise

12. Watch the sunrise or the sunset…

Take a long walk on their untouched beach.

Sunset in our back yard

13.How about a kite-surf lesson?

The east coast of Zanzibar experiences the best of the north-easterly and south-westerly trade winds, and is ideal for watery fun!

14.Pick up the local lingo

Learn some important Swahili words like: Hakuna Matata or Jambo

A local cleaning his boat

15.Dine on the beach at candle light

Just have a dinner on the beach and you will have the entire Milky Way at your table

Our last night dinner on the beach Photo credit: Dan Mirica

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