Zanzibar turned out to be a place that’s much more enjoyable when you have a list of things to do. And while I’m a “walk around and stumble upon things” type of traveler, I can admit that you simply can’t do that everywhere. I also kept track of most tours that pseudo-guides offered me on a daily basis, and I think it’s a great list for what to do in Zanzibar. Here are some things that you may want to do when you visit this island.
A safari is something you’ll want to plan before or after visiting Zanzibar, but it should be atop anyones list of things to do there. I highly recommend planning a safari beforehand so that you can end your trip while relaxing on the island. A Tanzanian safari is the one thing I didn’t have time for and the only thing I truly cared to do.
There are many national parks throughout Tanzania that allow you to see wildlife in their natural habitat. Take a full day tour through a park such as Ngorongoro National Park as part of a day trip, or spend a week or more tracking animals at various parks seeing the great migration. There are also parks located closer to Dar Es Salaam that you can take “game drives” throughout.
If anyone asks me what to do in Zanzibar, I can’t leave out Stone Town. While I spent a couple nights there, you can totally see it in a day. There are a couple 3 hour walking tours available, but you’re just as likely to be approached on the street by someone offering to take you around for a small fee. It’s truly up to you and while you’re there, there are some must sees along the way.
I accidentally ended up in the spice market because it’s all too easy to get lost walking through the alleyways of Stone Town. Zanzibar was one of the world’s leading producers of spices such as clove, nutmeg and cinnamon. This market is something included in almost all tours of Stone Town and I think it’s a cool way to buy souvenirs that you’ll actually use. Cooking is actually my least favorite activity so I left sans spices.
Because I don’t know when I’ll actually make it to Ghana or another major (former) slave port, the Old Slave Market was an important must see “attraction” in Stone Town for me personally. The Stone Town was host to one of the world’s last open slave markets, presided over by Arab traders until it was shut down by the British in 1873.
Although this too may be included in Stone Town tours, this is definitely something that you can see on your own. I just put in the location on my map and walked over from my airbnb. Before entering you’re required to go through security and then purchase a ticket at a counter. Your ticket (around $5) includes a guide that takes you around the market and will give you the history on structures, monuments, and even takes you into the chambers where slaves were held.
Jozani Chwaka Bay National Park
A day tour of Jozani Chwaka Bay National Park is a great option for those who don’t have time for a safari in Tanzania but still want to see animals. You can see tortoises that live in the mangroves, have a nature walk, and even spot rare, red colobus monkeys.
This is going to sound weird, but men kept trying to get me on their boat to take me to Prison Island. I could not walk along the water while in Stone Town without people alerting me that they had a boat…and that they could take me there. It wasn’t something that I cared to go off and do alone, but if I was with at least one person, I would’ve been the first person aboard. This half day tour not only allows you to learn about the island, but you get to swim and frolic with the ocean life. It’s a win win situation.
You truly have your pick of beaches when it comes to Zanzibar. When I was searching for the best place to set up shop for some sunbathing, Nungwi Beach came highly recommended, so that’s what I’ll speak on. It’s a gorgeous beach at the northernmost tip of Zanzibar. While it may take a couple hours to get there due to road conditions, it’s well worth the ride.
There are plenty of restaurants to choose from along the beach and most hotels have at least one restaurant on the premises. You’ll also have plenty of people offering you tours and activities such as snorkeling, so don’t worry if you haven’t scheduled anything in advance.