I wanted to write up about my time in Zanzibar (and quick stop in Nairobi) which was a relaxing end to my African adventure and a world of difference compared to the dusty environment of the Masai Mara. Zanzibar is a beautiful paradise with fabulous beaches, friendly people and plenty to do for the itchy-footed tourist.
To get to Zanzibar from the Mara meant spending a stop over day in Nairobi before getting a small plane from their local airport. Most package deals will include a driver for the day – really cheap and easy to sort through your hotel if not. I recommend getting any shopping done in Nairobi for any items you may have forgotten i.e. medical supplies as there are no shops in the Mara or Zanzibar. We had to go to a mall to buy extra deodorant, an iPhone charger and aspirin to last the rest of the holiday.
For souvenirs please try and buy these from local tribes when in the Mara or ask your guide in Nairobi to take you to a shop that supports tribes to ensure money gets back to the source. Please note that Nairobi is expensive. There is a huge difference between rich and poor and nobody in between. All the restaurants, hotels and bars are aimed at the rich and you will struggle to eat on a budget. We had a buffet at the Trade Winds Hotel for £20 a head and it was pretty poor but the views were fantastic – I even saw a rhino.
The other element of Nairobi that you will need to get used to is security. It’s not secret that there has been trouble there in the past so you will find that you will get patted down, scanned and questioned when entering any public building. Don’t make a fuss as it’s for your own good and not intrusive.
Travelling from Nairobi to Zanzibar meant another tiny plane. The local airports all seem to run private charter flights so be warned it is quite chaotic and flights seem to depart as and when they feel like it rather than keeping to an allotted time.
Arriving in Zanzibar is incredible as you will have to drive through Stone Town to get to your end destination. Stone Town is the main centre of business, full of markets, bustle and street sellers. If I’m honest the place looks like an ancient city or a place that has been bombed in the past. None of the building have fronts and all the paths are piles of rubble. I recommend a day trip here from your hotel just to soak in the atmosphere properly.
We stayed at Breezes resort Zanzibar www.breezes-zanzibar.com which we selected owing to it’s boutique feel. Guests were mainly couples/honeymooners and most had arrived there to relax after being on safari so you’ll have lots in common with other guests.
Breezes was beautiful and the staff were incredible. We stayed on a half board basis but often purchased food around the pool during the day. The food was a decent quality – not five stars but a definite four. Each evening was themed so sometimes there would be a gala dinner or a buffet. The hotel entertainment happened during dinner (most people seem to eat around 8pm in order to watch this) but once this is over there is nothing else to do except for drinking more or going to bed. We found that we went to bed pretty early most nights as drinks aren’t cheap – around £6 a cocktail and £4 a beer – not expensive but the costs can rack up if drinking each day.
The beaches at Zanzibar are paradise – white sand and crystal clear waters where you can wade out for miles and watch the octopus fisherman. Make sure you bring rock shoes though (available for around £4 from Sports Direct) as there are lots of rocks underfoot. Great waters for snorkeling and divers which the hotel was happy to organise.
The rooms at Breezes were also beautiful. Our sea view wasn’t obvious (you had to crane your neck round the balcony to see it) but the room and balcony were huge. A mosquito net draped over the four poster bed created both romance and was a necessity along with a much needed daily bottle of water. Air conditioning is great but not very quiet so bring ear plugs; also the curtains are very fine so an eye mask is also a good idea – sorry!
There are some cute touches at the hotel such as having to hang a coconut from your parasol on the beach to get drinks service and the way every member of staff shouts ‘jambo’ as you pass. The place itself is immaculate with the grounds constantly being tended and there is such a peaceful vibe which you’ll appreciate after being on safari. The only bad point is having such an early checkout of 10am and no rooms being available to use during the day meaning we had to shower by the pool and carry our belongings around with us.
If you do get cabin fever there are things you can do such as watersports, a trip to Stonetown, Prison Island, spice tours etc. Please stay away from the dolphin tour as these are more like a dolphin hunt which can upset the animals.
Altogether Zanzibar was a beautiful relaxing end to my African adventure and something I’ll remember forever.