Zan. Zi. Bar. WOW, is all I can say. The ocean was so blue and clear that you could see your entire body, including feet from the surface of the water. The sand was so soft and smooth like baby powder. The people were nothing but friendly. Their mango juice was freshly blended every day and had so much more depth to it, with a slight tart flavor. Everyone just seemed at peace. And peace we found, within the island and eventually within ourselves. An island that we thought was small, we found that no amount of time could ever be enough to explore it all. Let me pause this cheeky introduction and dive right into the review. Unless you do want me to continue (which can be arranged for another time haha).
Flight & Accommodation. My brother and I booked our round trip flight from Nairobi to Mombasa to Zanzibar with Fly 540. I had heard about the new airline and from what I remember they had a good rate of about $300 roundtrip. We had no issues on our flights going to Zanzibar which were early morning flights so we can spend most of our day in Zanzibar, which is an island off the coast of Tanzania. However, our flight returning from Mombasa to Nairobi was hell. Our flight was supposed to depart Mombasa at 8:30pm and initially, they informed us of a one-hour delay. However, we never departed Mombasa until like midnight. This was due to a supposed engineering issue that they handled poorly as they were not even planning for our accommodation if the plane could not get fixed. Also, other passengers suggested that they could have bought us seats on another airline such as Kenya Airways which departed at around 9:30pm. Apparently Fly 540 is like the Spirit Airlines of Kenya so please avoid it if you can.
In terms of accommodation for our four nights in Paje (Southern Zanzibar), we had paid about $360 total for two double rooms that could house 4 people but only my brother and I ended up going so we paid the same amount for 2 full rooms. We could have probably paid less if we had alerted them earlier about the change. We did end up spending one night in Nungwi since it is the most touristy part of the island. We paid about $80 for one night in one room as hotel rates were more expensive in Nungwi. However, Nungwi is more developed and has many high standard resorts. Paje was more of a homey feel so we actually appreciated it more because it felt like a more genuine experience. Also, we engaged in way more activities in Paje.
Outdoor activities. On our first day in Paje, my brother played soccer on the beach with some of the local kids and we walked down the beach to see what all the different beachside vendors had to offer. The funniest vendor was the H&M store which had no correlation to the European fashion brand but instead stood for Hakuna Matata store. In Paje, the beach is full of colorful kites as Europeans love to kitesurf there. It was so popular, that you had to book a slot for lessons a day ahead. Therefore, we booked to do this our second to last day. It was a very cool experience but I forgot to wear my sunglasses that day so my brother enjoyed it more as he was better prepared. The full lesson is 9 hours and costs about 300 euros but my brother opted for a one-hour lesson for $35. It did seem like those who paid for the 9 hours were getting their money’s worth. We also went to a butterfly garden where we realized my brother is also much better than me at attracting butterflies. However, our favorite part was getting massages on the beach with some really fragrant coconut oil. For both of us, they were, hands down, the best massages we’ve ever gotten so much so that we fell asleep during the one hour. Nungwi offered horse riding on the beach but we missed their last office hour by trying to watch the sunset. I will say that the sunset was worth it as I also got henna tattoos while sitting on the beach watching day turn into night. Speaking of night, let’s move on to the nightlife.
Nightlife. We only experienced the nightlife in Paje as we were too tired to go out when we got to Nungwi. Dancing on the beach is always a good change of scenery from smoky clubs. The DJs we experienced in Paje were very well versed in music as they played everything from hip hop to dubstep to local music. My favorite local songs were Hodari by Mbosso and Jibebe by WCB ft Diamond. My brother also made friends with some of our hotel staff who were able to get us into the outdoor bars for the local price instead of the tourist price. I was also lucky that they loved to dance and were really good at it. The bar that my brother loved the most had pool tables as he loved to play pool/billiards. The same bar also had a fire pit and a dance floor that had been dug out of the sand which was really interesting. At both Paje bars, the locals were very well represented as customers whereas Nungwi most customers were white tourists.
Food. There were many different restaurants such as Italian, Thai, and authentic Zanzibar food. In Nungwi, we also found Indian food such as biryani at the resort we stayed at. However, our favorite place to eat was the famous Rock Restaurant. The most interesting thing about the Rock Restaurant is on the beach during low tide and in the water during high tide (water high enough that you have to take a boat to it). My brother and I arrived at the restaurant during high tide during sunset so we got the full experience. The quality of the food is just as extra as the location. I ordered a steak while my brother ordered spicy chicken skewers. Both were delicious and were followed by an even more amazing passion fruit cheesecake. Afterward, we lounged on the balcony while watching the stars. My brother has an app on his phone that identifies the different constellations which is pretty cool. I will say that the Rock Restaurant is quite expensive compared to other places on the island. I think with tip and everything, our bill was about $100 for two people. But despite that, I think it is well worth it as the view, service, and food is impeccable.
People. One thing that sets Zanzibari people about from others is that they understand tourism very well. Therefore, they do not steal or do anything that can jeopardize tourism. In fact, one of our hotel staff would identify the people on the beach who were doing bad business that could negatively impact tourists. They are also very easy going people in that, you cannot rush them to do anything. The stereotypical Tanzania saying is “kama uko na haraka, ungekuja jana” which roughly translates to “if you are in a hurry, you should have come yesterday”. So in that case, always communicate your plans ahead of time so they can be able to help you. For example, on our first or second night, we communicated that we would like to rent a car on our third day so we could travel to Nungwi. The hotel owner was very helpful in securing us a car and helping us get a permit. He was very knowledgeable about the island and was open to negotiation when I insisted on it. For example, the car we rented was on empty when we got it and we naively filled it up only to realize that we only used 25-50% of the fuel for our entire travel. As such, I negotiated that he cut the car rental price by about the same. Amazingly, he agreed and he apologized for the car not being fully fueled upon transfer to us. His staff was also very helpful as mentioned before in getting us local prices and they became like brothers to us. Easily enough, both their names were Abu.
As you can already tell, my brother and I enjoyed our time in Zanzibar. We will definitely be back one day. If you haven’t checked out my Kenya travel & trip review, please feel free to do so at the following link: Kenya trip. Thanks for reading. 🙂 ❤