There are times when the beach calls your name. It stalks your thoughts and dreams. You are at work typing a project and you get sucked into reading countless wanderlust inducing travel blogs.
You close your eyes and imagine the sun hitting your face, the humid breeze on your skin and hot sand under your feet. Your wallpaper is a magnificent view of Bora Bora or the Phi Phi Islands.
That was me some months ago. I made last minute travel plans with a friend and Zanzibar caught our eye. From Kenya, it is a less than 2-hour flight including a stopover at Mombasa, the Kenyan coastal town.
This little modest Island is located at the Tanzanian coast a few miles from Dar Es Salaam. This island is known to be a perfect destination for honeymooners but if you are going with friends or travelling solo, you will still have the time of your life.
A closer look….
What I like about the island is the fact that you can find some decent accommodation for a great price. Because we were travelling on a budget, we hopped onto Airbnb and we got a nice place for the two weeks we would be staying there.
We stayed at Kiponda BnB which is located in Stone Town and we paid USD 30 a night for a double room. On two nights we paid USD 40 because there was the annual Sauti Za Busara Festival, which is a famous music festival in the island that draws people from all over the continent. (*If you would like some insights into Sauti za Busara festival, leave some comments down below and I will compile an engaging piece here to cover the cultural event*).
Flying to Zanzibar, the turquoise waters can be seen for miles above. It is like a warm welcome. You will want to stay in Stone Town because that’s where most of the activities are.
Because we had never been here, we wanted to explore on our own but we still wanted a guide to shorten our learning curve. Having a guide is not a bad thing. However, picking the right guide is the task. We found Azizi (@zanzibarguide on Instagram), a very fun, genial and down-to-earth guide who ended up being a friend to us. He gave us our itinerary beforehand and he picked us from the airport. He even sent us spices after the trip.
We wanted sand and sun and our itinerary included to going to the famous beaches of Zanzibar and I feel that I am well placed to bring you some information on some of the places we visited.
In this island, you get the perfect mix of ocean, sand, sun and fun. There are very many beaches because on the island and it is almost impossible to go to all of them in 2 weeks but you have to visit these.
This is one of the most common beaches in Zanzibar. You will find it hopelessly overcrowded especially during tourist season. Since we went in February, it was better but there were still people who were there because February is the month of love.
We stayed there for an hour or so before we decided to go to another beach. Closeby, you will find the iconic **The Rock Restaurant** which is a great restaurant constructed on a huge rock. However, if you want to eat here, you must reserve beforehand and be ready to spend because the food is pricey. Nevertheless, they let you go in to take pictures and even relax if you want to. In Nungwi, the beach is clean and not bad if you do not like droves of people obscuring your view.
Dongwe and Bwejuu
From the town of Paje, you can drive to Bwejuu. There are many hotels and lodges along the way and this is a tourists trail. People love this beach because it is less crowded but the disadvantage is the low tides. The road is so dusty and there are so many rocks so you need a car that can handle off-road terrain. This puts off many people and you can see from the numbers on the beach. I actually loved it here. We got a patch to swim and snorkel. There were very few people around so we also got to take great photos. Despite the rocks and dust, the view is amazing to and from the beaches.
This was my favourite beach. Although it was crowded, it was easy to get a spot for ourselves after walking. However, there are many kite surfers but the place is so beautiful. During the low tourist season, it is a dream. Make sure to visit. There are beautiful beach hotels for you to grab cocktails.
On the south of Zanzibar, you find Kizimkazi which is another quieter beach. The trick in Zanzibar is finding a place where most people do not frequent. There are secrets waiting for you to uncover especially if you find a local to help. We got here during sunset but it was too breezy for us to swim. We just sat and talked for a few hours then we took a very long sunset walk on the sand. We only met with two people for the whole 3 hours. The serenity and views were perfect. I even meditated for a bit.
We briefly passed by Kendwa Beach and hoped to return before our trip ended but we did not. However, Azizi mentioned that it was a relaxed beach worth a visit. It is to the West of Zanzibar. On the Western side is also Kiwengwa and Matemwe beaches.
Prison Island and Chaguu Beach
These beaches are on a small island near Zanzibar because you cannot visit Zanzibar and not go to Prison Island. On prison Island, you get a punch in the gut when you see the stark reminders about the Slave Trade in the 18th Century. We even went to a place where the treacherous waters hit the walls with so much force and that is where the slave masters would throw the rebellious slaves back then.
After the sadness that is the Prison Island visit, you need something to calm your mind. There is a beach on the island that is so beautiful. However, the waters are very rough and swimming here is a task. We had a nice lunch here as we had carried some food.
There are many sandbanks and you can ask around if you love them. It is always nice to dip your toes in the sand as the water closes in on you every minute. It is scary but exhilarating too.
Tips & tricks
Here are some tips and tricks to help you when you are visiting.
- Download a map and study it. You can also go to your Google Maps and plan a route to where you will visit.
- Do your research and ask your guide if you have one. If you are travelling solo, this will be a hard task because you will get people fighting for your attention. You will find people wanting to take you on tours even when the waters are rough just to get money.
- Sometimes, switch off your phone and camera and just be. Breathe in and breathe out. Really relax.
- Travel lightly and have a plastic bag for your electronics. You do not want to be the person with a huge camera in the middle of the ocean. Sometimes, you get water coming at you from every direction and by the time you are done, you are completely soaked.
- For the ladies, wear your swimsuit under your clothes because there are very few places to change. We would often wear a skirt, shorts or a dress over our swimsuit and that saved us so much. Because we went on the sunny season, clothes would just dry so fast.
- For the ladies: Get some slipper like sandals because you take your sandals on and off every time. Having a sandal with a buckle or many strings to tie will just be a hustle for you. Having sandals that you can just slip in and off is great.
- Get some beach shoes. This will help you out on rocky beaches. I actually stubbed my toe once and it hurt like hell.
If you have any questions leave them down below. I hope I have convinced you to add Zanzibar beaches on your bucket list. Yes or yes?