On a recent work trip to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, I decided that I wasn’t coming so close to Zanzibar and leaving without setting foot on it. The only problem? Time! I had only two nights to spend there and I wanted to see as much as I could. Here are my recommendations of what you can do in Zanzibar in one day if you’re up for some really fast-paced adventure.
Ok, first a short story about my flights. I flew on ZanAir and had to go into an office to check-in. Hint number two I would be flying in a small aeroplane. Did you read that correctly? Not a check-in counter with conveyer belts. Nope! An actual office. I handed my passport over to a lady who was working behind an office desk. My bag was taken by an elderly gentleman to go weigh it I assumed since they were speaking in KiSwahili. When my eyes followed the bag as it was leaving the office, she abruptly chimed in, ‘he’s going to weigh it.’ A number was mentioned. Something about ‘mbini’ which I assumed possibly meant twenty or something to do with (2) since it was quite heavy but I don’t know for sure and I didn’t want to ask because my weight allowance was 15kg. Hint number one that I would be flying in a small aeroplane. I waited to be told I had to pay for excess baggage and when she didn’t but rather gave me a store-like looking receipt which she said was a boarding pass (pictured below), I knew this was going to be quite an experience. As I walked past my bag which wasn’t tagged standing there in an orphaned state, she decided to offer me some relief ‘It’s ok. Don’t worry. We will take care of your bag.’ I said a little prayer and off I went through to the departure lounge. Quite smaller than I expected. I went to one of the windows to ask what happened now and I was told that an announcement would be made and either my flight number or my name would be called to board the aircraft. My name? Do you mean I could be travelling on an aeroplane all by myself? 😳 ‘Yes’ he said with a smile. ‘It happens.’ This will be interesting… I settled into a quaint coffee shop, bought a ridiculously priced Swahili phrasebook and had me a lovely cuppa.
Upon approaching the aircraft, I saw a couple with a boy child and one other gentleman and just like that, we were a party of 5 and a half including the Captain. And guess what position I was honoured with? 1st Officer. I don’t care who says what. All I know is that if it happens that I do not get my CPL, or PPL at the very least, this will go down memory lane as the day I was 1st Officer on a Cessna 207 for approximately 25 minutes of pure exhilaration. That’s my story and I am sticking to it. Oh did I mention that my backpack was placed in the nose of the aircraft? I felt a sudden panic attack come over me since the backpack contained my life (Work laptop, iPad, wallet, work permits, passports etc…) so when we landed at Abeid Amani Karume International Airport after battling some hectic crosswinds at the much capable hands of this former airforce pilot, I was happy to be reunited with my backpack.
My checked-in bag – nowhere to be found. Oh no! I asked the captain and he told me ‘hakuna matata’ a phrase I would hear a hundred times before leaving the spice island. He said to go into the terminal building and that someone would explain everything to me. At the baggage claim belt, a gentleman stood with my bag. Huge sigh of relief! It had a Coastal Air sticker on it so it got a lift from a different airline that departed before ours.
Tanzanian Shillings are the currency of use in Zanzibar although US Dollars are also widely accepted. Ensure though that if you bring your greenbacks they are the ones printed after 2006 since any printed before will not be accepted. When I was there the rate was $1 = TS 2 300 = R15.
For ease of excursions when pressed for time, my recommendation is that you stay in or very close to Stone Town since activities are centred around the city and tours to other islands depart from Stone Town. If you want some real quiet time out into nature, then you can head on to the north, east or south where you can lose yourself in the ample deep blue seas on offer – something I did not quite get to do much of – next time, soon! If your budget allows, you can also stay at one of the other smaller islands off the Stone Town coast such as Bawe or Chapwani Islands. I stayed at the Zanzibar Ocean View Hotel where my accommodation was $60 (R850) per night. I chose this place because it has a nice quiet beach and it was about 7 seven minutes drive to Stone Town.
You can use a flight or a ferry from Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar. The air ticket costs about R1000 – R1500 for a return trip and the airport is about a 7 minutes drive to Stone Town, a trip that will cost you about $10 (R150) with a taxi, a bit pricy for such a short trip. But you can negotiate your price.. If you are using a ferry from Dar es Salaam which takes about two hours at a cost of $35 (R520) for economy, and $60 (R850) for royal class, you’ll be glad to know it also docks in Stone Town. If you are flying from South Africa, you can use Mango Airlines (that’s if you can get a seat since tickets are often sold out) which has direct flights three times a week (Tue, Thu, Sat) at around give or take R9 000 a round trip.
Alrighty then, now that the admin stuff is out of the way, check out Part 2 on what to do if you only have 24 hours in Zanzibar.