Zanzibar, an archipelago with so much character, history and stunning natural beauty, has been on my bucket list for quite some time and I finally got to experience this slice of paradise this year! This picture-perfect island is a true hidden gem and much more than a pretty beach destination. As I boarded the plane with on my first trip to to seeing the rest of Africa, I was excited to explore a corner of the world that I had never visited before and Zanzibar truly exceeded my expectations.
Here are 7 reasons why you should pack your bags and travel to Zanzibar now:
1. Breathtaking nature
As soon as you land at the airport in Zanzibar, you will know you’ve landed in tropical heaven. The endless view of coconut trees and green jungles is a sight you will see every single day of your trip, but wait till you catch your first glimpse of the crystal clear white sand beaches… Now that will surely take your breath away. I had to stop and stare for a while before I could jump in for a swim, because I really couldn’t believe my eyes. The beaches are so blue, clear and mesmerizing that I thought I was looking at a painting.
Jetsetter recommendation: Mango offer flights, which fly direct to Zanzibar (only 4 hours from South Africa).
2. The locals
What makes a destination extra special is the people you meet during your journey. In Zanzibar, the locals will make you feel right at home. It wasn’t difficult learning some basic Swahili expressions with the friendly locals around. Being greeted with a big smile and “Mambo” which means “Hello” is a norm everywhere you go. What I loved about my time there is that the locals are so proud of their heritage and eager to show you around.
Family at the spice farm
3. The history, culture and spices!
Stone Town, the old city of Zanzibar, is a Unesco World Heritage Site with a distinctive character and historical importance. Walking around in the city with Zantours made me feel like I went back to a simpler time with cute little shops, houses and kids playing in the narrow streets. One of the kids ran to me and gave me a beautiful little flower, which made me fall more in love with the locals. To enjoy the best panoramic views of this 19th century city, head to Maru Maru Hotel right in the center and grab some lunch at their rooftop restaurant.
Stone Town view from Maru Maru rooftop restaurant
The most unique experience I had during my trip was the spice tour. I had no idea what to expect and was so positively surprised with how interesting it was. Our guide took us to a spice farm and we spent a couple of hours smelling and tasting different plants, as he explained to us how each spice is made. It’s strange how we use some of these spices every day and have no idea what they look like in their natural form. At the end of the tour, we met a lovely man who introduced himself as “Butterfly”. I soon came to realize why, because he suddenly started climbing an extremely tall palm tree all the way to the top! He grabbed a fresh coconut for me and it was definitely the most delicious coconut I ever had.
Mr. Butterfly grabbing me a coconut
Jetsetter recommendation: Book a full day Spice & Stone Town tour with Zantours to get to know more about the heritage and culture of Zanzibar. Our local guide was so kind and informative and was able to answer all 1000 of my questions. They also offer all types of ground transfer options in comfortable air-conditioned vans, which I used throughout my trip.
4. The water activities
I made thousands of friends in Zanzibar and most of them were underwater! After seeing the turquoise beaches, I couldn’t wait to go snorkeling. One of my favorite action packed days in Zanzibar was with Safari Blue. We boarded a traditional Dhow boat and visited sandbanks and mangroves in the middle of the ocean, went snorkeling with thousands of colorful fish and came across so many families of dolphins.
Snorkeling with Safari Blue.
5. The wildlife
As an animal lover, close encounters with wildlife is something I adore. Zanzibar is home to a rare breed of monkeys called Red Colobus. You don’t even have to look very far to find them. As we were driving past the Jozani Forest, I spotted so many of them on the trees, but that wasn’t my closest encounter… On my last morning at Xanadu Villas, I was enjoying my morning coffee, when I suddenly saw a big furry friend jump onto the tree right next to me. I was so excited to get up and grab my camera that I scared him away quickly, but he still made my day.
Jetsetter recommendations: Visit the Jozani Forest to see more of the monkeys and Prison Island to see 200-year-old giant tortoises. and well my fave swimming with turtles at Nungwi beach
6. Spectacular beach resorts
If you’re looking to enjoy cocktails on the beach and get pampered from head to toe then Zanzibar is the perfect destination for you. I stayed in two different luxury beach resorts and never wanted to leave.
I first checked into Tulia Zanzibar Unique Beach Resort, which offers luxury villas along the coast of one of the most stunning turquoise beaches I have ever seen. The resort itself is so beautiful and green and the villas are tastefully designed, spacious and have a large outdoor terrace with lounge chairs and a hammock. You won’t need an alarm clock to wake up in the morning, because you can enjoy their superb breakfast on your terrace with the spectacular view of the beach.
Next, I checked into Xanadu Villas, a property with only 6 exclusive luxury villas. Mine was a two-story villa close to the beach with the bedroom on the second floor and an open space seating area, kitchen and a mini private pool on the ground floor. The highlight of my stay was the talented chef who was cooking up some of the most exquisite dishes I had throughout my travels this year.
Dinner at Xanadu Villas
Private dinner in Xanadu Villas
Bedroom at Xanadu Villas
7. The weather
Imagine enjoying all of these activities with warm tropical weather year round. The best months to visit are January and February which is the dry season and avoid the monsoon season from March till May. We experienced some rain during my trip in december, but it only made the stunning green landscapes even more beautiful.