The Spice Island. Paradise beaches. Historic Stone Town. Zanzibar, an autonomous archipelago off the coast of Tanzania, is not only an interesting place to visit on holidays, but simply a beautiful one 🙂
There is a flight from Kigali to Zanzibar with Kenya Airways via Nairobi but we chose a cheaper option (and more convenient in terms of flight times): a direct flight to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania with RwandAir, and then a 15-minut hop to the island with Tanzanian airlines Precision Air. I half-expected it to be a tiny plane but was surprised to see a full-sized one: it turned out Precision Air flies from Dar to Nairobi via Zanzibar 🙂 Everything worked out very well, there were no delays, the luggage made it as well. At the airport in Dar we queued for the visa. It’s $50 for 90 days, you just need to fill an a short visa form, verify your fingerprints at the counter and wait for the visa to be printed and stuck in your passport (no need to bring photos, they scan your passport picture and use that, clever!). It didn’t take long at all, everything was pretty well organised. We then went through the transfer corridor to get onto the Precision Air flight. Zanzibar is an autonomy and you need to fill in an arrival form but there are no extra fees. I like how the form says “Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar”! 🙂 Seeing my passport, the customs officer said “thank you” in Polish to me, and I soon found out that there are lots of Polish tourists visiting Zanzibar 🙂
We were collected from the airport by a taxi, arranged by the hotel we had booked. Jambiani Beach Hotel consists of several bungalows by the beach, so it’s not really a resort hotel, it’s small and simple. It’s located in the south-east of the island and it took about an hour from the airport to get there. And this is the view that greeted us on arrival 🙂
We spent nearly 5 days in this tranquil place and were really sorry to leave! I think it’s a pretty good accommodation option in Zanzibar, if you’re looking for peace and quiet. We weren’t interested in shopping or a busy social life because that’s what we have on a daily basis. All we needed was a bit of privacy (not much of that in Rwanda!), and most of all – the ocean breeze and fresh air 🙂 We found this place on Booking.com and paid $345 for 5 nights, for two people, including breakfast, which I think was a fair price, considering what we got for it. The bungalow was spacious, comfortable and functional, there were two single beds and one double, all with mosquito nets, plus two ceiling fans rather than air conditioning (I liked that) and a large bathroom (although there was no shower curtain, but I’ve seen that quite a lot in this region so clearly it’s quite normal). The hotel also serves really good food (their hummus, chapati and guacamole were delicious), and they make nice cocktails too! 🙂 The most expensive items on the menu cost $10 (huge portions), but on average we spent $5-$7 per dish. Cocktails cost $5 and beer $3. One of the most interesting things I ate was octopus “curry” (the octopus was fresh from the sea, I saw a fisherman bring it in). Apart from the octopus meat, peppers and carrots, the dark, thick sauce, full of local spices, also contained… green olives! It was a surprising and very tasty combination. The staff were also super friendly. The owner is German but the person who actually looks after the guests at the hotel is a lovely, young French lady, Virginia.
Funnily enough, apart from us there were just two families staying in the hotel – both from Poland! 😀 Very nice people, and their kids were very well behaved and kept themselves busy all the time without bothering anyone. All parents had big books with them and spent a lot of time reading, and one of the mums read Harry Potter to her daughter, both curled up on a sunbed. It was a lovely thing to see 🙂
The hotel is located right on the beach, you just need to go down a few steps. Local sellers and ladies offering massage and henna walked past once in a while, shouting out invitations, but they weren’t at all pushy or rude when I didn’t want to buy anything – they just smiled, waved and walked on. It was fascinating to watch the tides from the sunbed. On the first evening the beach disappeared under water, but on each following day the tides came at different times and sometimes most of the beach was gone, and on another day you could walk into the sea for a couple of miles and just get your ankles wet. The afternoon was the best time for kitesurfers as the wind was picking up and they were able to fly their kites all the way up to the reef, visible far on the horizon. Zanzibar is a good place for beginners as the waters are relatively calm, and there were a lot of people trying this sport for the first time. One of the most popular places for lessons, as well as yummy cocktails and snacks, is Zanzibar Bar, a beach bar run by a Frenchman and his Dutch partner, both hippies around 50 years of age. The atmosphere in Jambiani was generally hippie-rasta: reggae playing from the speakers, people very relaxed, smiling, and no one rushing anywhere. I really felt those chill-out vibes 🙂 And it was really nice to see those smiles, as people here in Rwanda don’t smile much and tend to be quite reserved.
Right, so now it’s time for some more photos, and next time I’ll tell you about the Stone Town and the spice tour! 🙂