Here, dear reader, is paradise. The whitest sands, the bluest waters, the nicest people, the ripest avocados – they all live in Zanzibar, Tanzania, which may seem like it belongs on a different planet but is surprisingly easy to get to (six hour plane ride on Kenya Airways to Dar-es-Salaam, approximately Rs 25,000 for return fare, visa on arrival). Book a ticket now, hop on a plane, and take your friends along. They will thank you for it.
The beaches in Zanzibar are gorgeous, but we suggest you stay in the twisting, crumbling lanes of Stone Town instead, former spice and slave trade capital and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Maru Maru and Serena Inn are good options if you’re looking to splurge, old, restored buildings tricked out with spas, swimming pools and staggering views (stay away from the pool at Serena Inn after sunset, the mosquitoes are relentless). We also really like The Africa House Hotel, more affordable but rich with atmosphere, located right in the middle of the town; bonus: it has a pretty rooftop bar that serves up decent cocktails. Budget traveler, try The Clove Hotel, run by two super helpful Dutch women, which serves up big breakfasts and bigger rooms. At under Rs 4,000 a night, it is awesome value for money.
Eat & Drink:
First, to dispel a myth: vegetarians will find plenty to eat in Zanzibar, and purists can even score some pretty decent Indian food, especially at the terrace restaurant at above mentioned Maru Maru hotel. Also visit the very popular Stone Town Café for breakfast, sandwiches, good quiche and the best avocado toast you’ve ever tasted. Carnivores, your most authentic and adventurous meal will be at the daily evening food market, carpeted with countless stalls serving up fresh seafood, kebabs and pancakes – stick with the cooked food, and you’re stomach will be fine. Archipelago is a popular restaurant with good daily specials, and don’t leave without getting a sunset drink at Mercury Lounge, perched on the edge of the prettiest pier on the planet.
Most of what you’ll buy in Zanzibar will be souvenirs (wooden masks, batik prints, large canvasses depicting elongated figures from the Masai), interspersed with laughably over-priced boutiques run by expats. There are, however, a few gems: A Novel Idea is the kind of bookstore writers dream of, where rare titles happily share shelf-space with mindless beach reading – they’re particularly partial to Nora Roberts – and an artist paints dreamy oils of sailboats in the back. Also check out Doreen Mashika’s fashion studio for some seriously lust-worthy dresses and bikinis in African cotton, but be prepared to pay a premium. You can assuage your guilt next door at the Moto store, stocking up on hand-made soaps and lotions, proceeds from which go to the Dada women’s collective.
If you’re anything like us, you’re going to spend most of your time in Zanzibar at the beach. There are several terrific options, and you’re hotel manager will be able to guide you on which ones works best depending on the time of the year, but definitely check out Paje Beach and Kwala Island, both about an hour away from Zanzibar. Also take a “water safari”, the best way to island hop, snorkel and see dolphins. Safari Blue is a good organization to go with. Scuba divers, this is one of the best places you’ll ever dive in. For when you’re not on the beach, rent bicycles and ride around the town. You’re guaranteed to get lost and find something amazing.
You need a yellow fever shot before traveling to Tanzania, and make sure you get it from a government facility in Mumbai. This Scouter had hers administered at Hiranandani Hospital in Powai and they assured her she could travel (the bastards). Result: twelve hours of quarantine at Mumbai airport. Not fun, but totally worth the magic that was a weekend in Zanzibar.
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