Zanzibar. Endless white sand beaches, crystal clear turquoise water reflecting the always-shining sun, romantic nights. Weddings and honeymoons.
I guess that is what most people imagine when someone mentions this island. It was the same for me. But the reality was unfortunately…different.
Zanzibar was the last destination of our trip and therefore it was supposed to be the nice ending of our travels. We were saving money during the whole trip to treat ourselves with some cocktails and delicious seafood there. We were so looking forward to be laying on the beach, swimming in the Indian ocean and just chillin’ after all the exhausting days of traveling on crappy African buses on crappy African roads. Well, our stay in Zanzibar wasn’t quite as we imagined it.
We spent the first day in Stonetown, the island’s capital. We went for a dinner and a hookah that evening. We got lots of various stuff from the stalls in the Forodhani gardens and then a hookah on a rooftop balcony. Both really cool, until I woke up at night feeling really sick, and then spent all night and all morning puking and sh***** in the hostel’s shared (!) bathroom. We left our hostel once I was able to stand up and walk and took a taxi to the Matemwe/Kilima Juu beach on the island’s East coast. The last kilometer of the road leading down to our lodge was very bumpy and you know that the African drivers have no mercy, so I got off the car like walking dead, lied on the beach cot and just spent the rest of the day there, trying not to die. Then Peter started feeling sick too, so we got a portion of plain rice for dinner with a glass of water. Wow. Classy. Goodbye cocktails. And goodbye seafood. …I can have some back home, right?!
The next day we still didn’t feel 100% okay, so our plain rice/plain toasted bread/occasional banana diet continued, and on top of that, the weather got really bad. It was raining! Rain on Zanzibar! During dry season! Whaaaat! Since the food at our resort was really expensive, we went for a walk to the nearest village, which was some 45 minutes away. On the way there, we felt more like in Scotland, the wind was incredibly strong, freezing cold and with black clouds above our heads telling us to go back as soon as possible.
So basically we spent our 3 days on Zanzibar eating rice and toasted bread, drinking water and tea and freezing under the blanket on the beach. The summary is:
Swimming in the ocean: 1 x
Hours of sunny weather: 4 (in 3 days)
Romantic walks on the beach: 0
Zanzibar or Scotland coastline?
But don’t get me wrong, if the weather is good, the Kilima Juu beach is actually very nice. I imagine it’s just perfect on a sunny day, it’s not touristy at all, so I recommend that, despite all. If you are looking for rather calm, quiet, people-lacking places, go for it. For parties and more buzz go either to Pongwe at North, or Paje in South. If you are traveling lowcost, don’t get mistaken by the prices in the resorts. Go for a walk to the nearest village and buy stuff there-the prices are normal Tanzanian prices (=low prices).
Again, despite what happened to me, I also recommend to try the food from the stalls at the Forodhani gardens, they have local Arab-influenced delights like kebab sticks, falafel, roasted bananas, roasted breadfruit, coconut bread and much more. However better don’t try any of the seafood which they offer, we were told by some locals that they might not be that fresh. It’s a nice experience but I leave it up to you-how your stomach will take it is not guaranteed. 🙂
A total must is the local market, a bustling place full of many different smells and colors. You will find all the different spices and essences that Zanzibar is so famous for. You will negotiate, make some good deals and walk out with a bag full of Zanzibar goods.
Stonetown was really nice; the town has a great vibe with all its cats, super narrow streets and Arabic influence.
Overall, if you are luckier than us, you will enjoy it. I wish you good luck.