Zanzibar is a beautiful place. I can’t stress that enough. And lucky for us in South Africa, it’s just 3 and a half hours away, you could practically skip the country for a long weekend there. I would definitely suggest a slightly longer trip, perhaps 5-6 nights so that you could split your time between Stone Town and a beach resort. You’ll need 1-2 nights in Stone Town based on what you like to do and then you should spent the rest at the coast and do your tours from there.
While we were at the coast, our hotel, The Residence arranged three tours for us. The Infamous dolphin tour, the spice tour and the Jozani forest tour. I loved all of them for different reasons. You could do these all on the same day but I preferred to do them separately so that we wouldn’t be too rushed.
The Dolphin Tour
Before Zanzibar I had read many horror stories of tour providers who were basically hurting these dolphins and I wasn’t sure I wanted to do it, but I was much more calm when I saw that The Residence had their own boat and crewman and wouldn’t be outsourcing the task. That way, if I felt the tour was unethical, I could easily complain back at the hotel. The idea of the tour is to go out on the boat and find dolphins. You can then get into the water and swim with dolphins if you want. I really didn’t trust my swimming and I was quite overwhelmed by all the other boats around so we just stayed on the boat and watched. It is quite incredible to see dolphins swimming next to the boat and that was enough for me.
The Spice Tour
I absolutely enjoyed the spice tour. Zanzibar has a long history of being the Spice Island and even though they don’t actually sell for production any longer, they use the attraction for tourists. Spice farms are set up by the locals and basically involve a tour through the various spice plants ending with a fruit buffet (my favourite) and an option to purchase their wares. The tour itself is very educational. I found it very insightful to see all the plants spices come from. The guide we had seemed to love greeting tourists in their native tongue and adding an American lilt to his accent. It was fun and he made the tour kind of like a quiz. At the end of our tour we were given a young coconut and were taken to the fruit buffet where we got to sample many exotic fruits we had custard apple, jackfruit, the sweetest grapefruit I’ve ever had, watermelon, amazing mango and more. It was fantastic. We then bought quite a few spices from the farm because we really wanted to support the locals directly. Make sure that you take Tanzanian Shillings with you because the exchange rate is not favourable at the store.
The Jozani forest
The Jozani forest tour consists of three parts; the sighting of the red colobus monkey, the mangrove and a trail. Because we were starving by the time we got there we chose to do the mangrove and the red colobus monkey sighting. The red colubus monkey is native to Zanzibar is a gorgeous monkey with a red back. Probably because of the constant tourism, these monkeys aren’t afraid of people and we actually saw them in a spot that was practically on the side of the road. I’m not sure how comfortable I was with how close I got to the monkeys but I ended up getting some great pictures. The Mangrove was quite beautiful. Your tour guide takes you through and explains the way the ecosystem works in very simple terms. I wasn’t wowed by the forest, but I loved seeing how different the forest was from the surrounding areas.
Zanzibar is incredible and I look forward to seeing what more tourism can do for the people of this gorgeous country.