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Old 9 Aug 2010
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A Few quick notes on Zanzibar: August 2010

A few quick Zanzibar notes:

For the full story of our travels, you’re welcome to have a look at the Blog on www.pictureafrica.org or http://africapicture.blogspot.com/. The purpose of this thread is to mention the places we stayed in Zanzibar, how much we paid and how we found it. I’ll also mention the annoyances of the country to hopefully prepare future travellers a little better.

Firstly, to enable you to reach Zanzibar overland, you will probably stay in Dar Es Salaam and will probably need to leave your vehicle in a safe place. There are NO camp sites in Dar. You can stay cheaply at the YMCA or YWCA, but their rooms are reportedly in a sad state of fitly disrepair.

We stayed at Kipopeo Beach Resort on the South Beaches of Dar. To reach this you need to take a ferry across the harbour which costs Tzs 1 000 for the vehicle and Tzs 100 per person, so less than R10 for two people in a car. Kipopeo is one of the furthest camp sites away, but only a 10 minute drive from the ferry. It was well priced ($5 pppn) for camping, had free Wifi (Slow) and decent and clean facilities. The beach itself was idyllic when we were there and constant security creates a feeling of safety in the area. Annoyingly, Overland trucks also favour the place, but it seemed that you could not escape them where ever you went. Kipopeo charges $5 per day to look after your vehicle when visiting Zanzibar. A taxi from there to the Zanzibar Ferry costs $20 regardless of number of people and a Tuk-Tuk Tzs 5000 (About $3)

We left our car at Mikadi Beach Resort. They charge Tzs 3 000 a day to look after it. Their camping prices are the same as Kipopeo. The atmosphere seemed nicer, their restaurant seemed a little cheaper, but no Wifi and they have salt water showers which put us off a little. The Tuk-Tuk from there to the city ferry was Tzs 3 000 as well, so a good deal all round. Leave early as it can take you up to two hours to catch this ferry!

From the city ferry to the Zanzibar ferry is a 1.2km walk. You will get pestered by a million and a half touts who will call you brother or friend and who will insist on trying to help you. My advice is to tell them you already have your ferry ticket as that seems the only way to get rid of them. We took the Flying Horse ferry. NEVER buy tickets from a place who does not display the prices as they will have long stories about port tax and charge extra for it. You should pay $20 a person for the flying horse. It leaves at 12:30 and takes two and a half hours to reach Zanzibar.

Zanzibar Stone town is divided into three parts as far as accommodation is concerned. The southern part of the triangle has places like Africa house who charges in excess of $150 a night a person. The northern part of the triangle has places like Zenji who charges $45 a double room and the eastern part of the triangle has places like Jambo Inn, The Haven and Mange lodge who charges $30 a double. They all include breakfast. We visited in the busy season and found many places full. We eventually stayed at Mange Lodge for three nights.

Everything you want to do in Stone Town can be organised by your hotel at no extra charge. You can try figure it out yourself, but you will get frustrated and pay the same fee regardless. Walking around Stone Town seemed really safe. We explored it to a great extend at all hours of the day and never had any issues. It’s relatively small with main arteries which you will start to recognise soon, so don’t be scared to be adventurous. You can’t really get lost as you have the sea on two sides and a main road on the third.

There is a great seas food feast on the sea front every evening. Just follow all the other tourists to find it. Be sure to ask the price of every individual item before agreeing to a plate of food. This way you can pig out and get stuffed for about $5 a person. It is well worth the effort! We also did a spice tour for $15 each. This lasted most of the day and included a local lunch which was fantastic. Your hotel will organise it if you want to do it.

Heading north from Stone Town can’t be easier. Once again, tell your hotel that you wish to go to Nungwi or Kendwa, or anywhere else on the island and they’ll organise the tourist shuttle for you. The cost is Tsz10 000 per person ($6.66) and we went to the northern tip of the island.

In Nungwi there are two budget places to stay: Jambo Brothers and Union Bungalows. They are right next to each other, charge the same, look the same and offer the same. They will start you off at some ridiculous rate which you can negotiate down. We eventually paid $35 a night for a double room including breakfast. Very important here is to open you shower before agreeing on the room. We did not and ended with a shower which had the water pressure of a runny nose. The room next door had a waterfall! They get full all the time, so it’s worth taking the early shuttle from Stone Town to be sure you get a place of your choice.

SCUBA diving:
Right… we were used to diving at Sodwana and found other places really expensive!!!! Zanzibar is no different. We walked around Stone Town to find prices and packages and then around Nungwi. There are more diving operations you can shake a stick at, but when all was said and done, East Africa divers (www.dive-zanzibar.com, I think) was the best. Their logo has a turtle in it and they are situated right next to Jambo Brothers in Nungwi. It’s German/south African run and their staff represents some 7 or 8 nationalities. They are phenomenally accommodating and professional and don’t’ charge more than the next place. You can ask for a 10% discount and pay $225 for a 6 dive package. The diving itself was really nice, but if Sodwana Bay is your bench mark, you might be disappointed. We did one day at Mnemba which is a national marine reserve and carries a $30 per person surcharge. The other two days we dived on local reefs off a Dhow which we actually found better. Shane’s reef was incredibly spectacular on both days!

Your place of accommodation in Nungwi will also organise your shuttle back to Stone Town and that will drop you off in front of your hotel of choice. We stayed at the Narrow Street Hotel for $40 for the room and were astonished by the jump in quality and facilities for $10 more a night. If your budget stretches an extra $10 a night, that price range is definitely recommended! Zenji Hotel has free Wifi, but their coffee shop also offers that if you buy a coffee. It was the fastest connection we had ever seen in Africa, including South Africa.

The ferry back to Dar offers two choices: The flying horse goes over night and costs $20. The fast ferry leaves at 9:30, 11:30 and 13:30, takes 1.5 hours and costs $35 per person. No brainer really. Once again, get your tickets from the official office who displays the prices and no one else.

The touts on Zanzibar are relentless and you will not be able to shake them! This is due to the fantastically clever proprietors of anything and everything who pay them commission to march you straight into their places of business. Whether you use them or not, you will pay the same price at your hotel or activity, so to make life easy, y9ou might as well use them. Make sure to explain to them that they WILL NEVER GET ANY MONEY FROM YOU EVER!!!! As they get their commission from the hotels.

US$ is king and all tourism related prices are advertised in it. To get US$ on the island you need to get local currency from an ATM and change it at a Bureau which will have a worse rate than on the mainland. My advice is to carry about $1 000 and Tzs 400 000 per couple per week. You’ll probably have change from that, but at least you won’t be caught without.
Dawie du Plessis
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Old 22 Aug 2010
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The YMCA in Dar isn't all that bad, and at TZS 25,000 / US$ 16.67 for a double room with secure parking reasonable value by Dar standards. Breakfast of tea/coffee, omlette and bread also included. It's basic, but certainly not filthy. They'll also look after your wheels while you go to Zanzibar for TZS 3,000 / US$2 per night, we left our car there and it was fine. The car park is fenced and has security, and the gate locked after 11pm. The cafeteria also serves good local food and is great value, with a filling meal coming in at around US$2.
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