Exploring Stone Town and beyond, Zanzibar

Our trip to Africa ended in Zanzibar, an island off the coast of Tanzania. We spent 9 nights here on our travels, 2 nights spent in Stone Town, 3 nights in the northern beaches and 5 nights enjoying a ‘real’ honeymoon in our luxury accommodation.

Getting there

We arrived by boat on New Year’s day, it was particularly cruel as we had a 7am ferry. So after camping in Dar es Salaam, we had a 4am wake-up call to pack away our tents (in the rain). We were kept up all night by New Years’ Eve celebrations and due to our early start, most of us on the tour decided to skip midnight. We actually celebrated New Year’s Eve at 9pm which was midnight in Kathmandu.

The ferry drops you off right in the heart of downtown Stone Town and surprisingly I felt pretty safe. I did have this dread of being on a boat in a developing county, flashbacks from our terrible ferry crossing on Lake Ometepe in Nicaragua.

Tip: Zanzibar is treated like another country so you will need to go through passport control on arrival. Be sure to have evidence of your Yellow Fever vaccination. Conveniently, you can get them for USD $20 on the border of Kenya and Tanzania (Kenyan side is better)… but we recommend you get it in your home country before you leave.

It is also possible to also arrive by plane as there is a small international airport on Zanzibar.

Stone Town

There isn’t a lot to do in Stone Town, but there are many little lanes to explore, lots of tourist shops as well as an interesting museum detailing the terrible slave trade that this city was known for. In addition to exploring Stone Town, you can head out to one of the many spice plantations just out of town to purchase fresh spices and get an understanding of where some of your favourite spices originate.

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Exploring the narrow streets of Stone Town

Exploring Stone Town

From the ferry terminal, we were able to walk to our accommodation, the Shangani Hotel. Although, it doesn’t have the best reviews we found the hotel to be quite nice. We had an upgraded room thanks to Intrepid Travel (as it was our honeymoon). Hotel accommodation was very welcomed after many nights of camping all across Tanzania. We had a beautiful room with a fruit platter and a private rooftop terrace with great views of the city.

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The rooftops of Stone Town

The first thing we did when we arrived was to eat brunch. We ended up finding our favourite cafe which we visited every day in Stone Town. Conveniently named Stone Town Cafe, it had a great courtyard, well-priced food, and fantastic coffee which was beautifully served, brunch for 2 people with coffee was TZS 17,000 (NZD$11). After eating it was nap time.

As vegetarians, we had no problems finding food to eat in Stone Town. Not all of it was great, we had a particular average dinner at a hotel called Africa House. but the views from the terrace were amazing. We would recommend going for a sunset cocktail.

Stone Town is best explored by foot. Many of the streets are too small for cars which makes walking around quite easy. Every turn treated us to more interesting doorways and many cute cats.

We visited the Old Slave Market museum. It is a harrowing experience walking through the old holding cells and market. The museum has a lot of history and there is lots of information shared throughout the museum.

Tip: Getting cash out was difficult in Stone Town, there were not too many cash machines and it is recommended you bring a friend for security. The cash withdrawal fees were also very high at TZS 12,000 or NZD $8.

Spice Tour

A quick bus ride out of Stone Town will get you to a Spice Plantation. This was included in our Intrepid Tour. It was interesting walking around the plantation, looking at all the spices. We had a local lunch at the plantation and we were treated to a singing coconut climber who provided the group with fresh coconut water and funky crowns. Be sure to purchases some of the fresh spices to bring home, make sure to haggle (just a little bit).

Shopping in Stone Town

The shopping in Stone Town is very good, there are lots of cheaper tourist shops but there was also some higher-end shops with beautiful clothes, soaps, jewellery, and scarfs. Many of the higher-end shops have fixed prices so don’t haggle here.

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Spice shopping in Stone Town

Heading to the beach

After Stone Town, the Intrepid tour took us to the Northern Beaches in Nungwi. This was the last stop on our tour. Although the beaches were much nicer in the north, Nungwi was pretty average. There was something that just didn’t feel right about this place. Our accommodation was pretty budget so we were glad that at the end of the tour we had booked into a luxury all-inclusive resort for the last few days. It was time for a ‘real’ honeymoon.

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The northern beaches of Nungwi
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Drinks on the beach during our last night with the Intrepid group

Luxury on Zanzibar – Melia Resort and The Park Hyatt

We spent 5 nights of our honeymoon at the Melia and what a treat! It was all-inclusive, so once we checked in we could have almost whatever we wanted. This was our first experience with an all-inclusive and it was awesome. After 14 days of camping and budget hotels as well as long bus trips and a tight schedule, we were ready to relax.

The next 5 days were spent in the following way – breakfast – poolside cocktails – lunch – beachside cocktails – pool – more food – more cocktails – dinner – final cocktail. We didn’t want to leave at the end of 5 days.

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Relaxing at the private Melia resort beach

To ease the pain, on our final night and because it was my birthday we stayed at the Park Hyatt in Stone Town. This hotel was beautiful, it had amazing architecture, excellent service and we had beautiful views of the harbour. Our room was the most amazing hotel room I have ever stayed in. It was pricey but defiantly worth it if you want to treat yourself.

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Bye Zanzibar

Leaving Zanzibar

We left via plane as we could get our connecting flight to Addis Abbas in Ethiopia (via Kilimanjaro). Zanzibar airport has very low amenities so our recommendation is to not go too early as there is nothing to do and very limited food, they did have free wifi though.

We really enjoyed our time in Zanzibar and it was a perfect place to end our time in Africa. To be honest, we won’t be rushing back to Zanzibar, it is just too far from New Zealand for a beach holiday and there are better beaches in the Pacific Islands only short 3hrs away, much easier than the 30+ hours to get home to Auckland…

For more on Tanzania check out Safari in the Serengeti National Park

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Hey look! We finally got to see the top of Kilimanjaro

 

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