My first post about Zanzibar, which you can find here, was all about things you need to know and useful tips related to transportation, how to get there, safety, food and such. I’ll go on today with some more useful information related to where to stay and how to find the perfect accommodation for you, but I also want to bring up the less glamorous faces of paradise.
Where to stay in Zanzibar?
In terms of accommodation, Zanzibar has a little bit of everything for everyone. Depending on how you want your vacation to be, you can choose to stay on the South-Eastern part of the island, where the white sand beach stretches for about 20 km between Jambiani, Paje and Bwejuu. There are a lot of restaurants, bars, coffee shops and tavernas along the beach, but because of the size of the beach it doesn’t feel crowded. Paje is a very popular spot for windsurfers. On this side, at low-tide, the water goes down a lot, maybe more than 1 km, so it’s impossible to swim during some parts of the day.
Another important beach of the island is on the North-Eastern coast, spreading for another 20 km between Kiwengwa and Matemwe. This is a more laid-back area, with mostly 4-5 stars resorts. It’s also popular for diving.
Nungwi and Kendwa are the most popular and crowded beaches, located on the northern tip of the island. It’s a great spot for watching the sunset and the tide is not so strong here, making swimming possible all throughout the day.
The prices for accommodation in Zanzibar vary depending on location and type of establishment, but they are generally quite affordable. There are plenty of options on booking.com, just make sure to read the reviews carefully.
My personal recommendation is the place we stayed at, Ananda Beach House. The owner is Ciprian, a Romanian guy who fell in love with the place and decided to settle there. He has another accommodation option in Bwejuu, a villa with a pool and restaurant, so if you want something more luxurious and don’t mind it not being right on the beach, Ananda Villa is a great option.
Ananda Beach House
For me, Paje beach was love at first sight and I knew that that’s where I want to spend my whole trip. The water, the sand, everything about it just screams ‘paradise’! I was already following Ciprian for a while and I knew that his beach-front property, Ananda Beach House is where I want to stay. I mean, dipping your toes in the perfectly white sand the minute you step out of your bungalow and having this view every morning… What more can you ask for?
The property is literally on the beach and it has a main house with a kitchen and two hostel rooms, two beach-front bungalows and two double garden bungalows. The garden is ‘paved’ with the whitest and finest of sands and it has plenty of sunbeds, swings, benches and a hammock where you can just chill and take in all the surrounding beauty. And that’s exactly what I did most of the time, I just laid on a sunbed, staring in awe at the million shades of blue of the Indian Ocean. I had to remind myself to breathe every now and then…
We spent the first two nights in one of the beach bungalows and the rest of the trip in a garden bungalow. While the beach bungalow is very traditional and picturesque, we actually preferred the garden one as it was more spacious and bright.
The accommodation was situated in Paje village, one of the biggest villages of the island. Unfortunately, for various reasons, I didn’t get to go out and explore it, I only took some photos just outside the property and filmed a very shaky video from the car.
However, I can tell you this: life outside the tourist areas is not so paradisiac. This is the ugly side of Zanzibar and any other underdeveloped country probably. We go there and have a wonderful time and spend our time in resorts where there is running water and electricity and it all seems like paradise. But these people don’t live like that, most of them live on the edge of extreme poverty, in unsanitary conditions, without access to running water or electricity.
There’s a lot to debate on this topic and I’d probably never get to a conclusion, but while we’re at it I do want to open up a discussion about our attitude towards these people.
During one of the group trips that we took, we passed by a beautiful little girl just sitting on the steps of her house. She was so beautiful in her clean school uniform that for a moment I was tempted to take a picture, until I saw her scared little face. However, this did not stop two other ‘ladies’ from the group to stop and take selfies with her, as if she were some sort of a curiosity in a freak show.
I tried to limit the pictures I’ve taken of people from that moment on, just took a few for documentation purposes and only when it felt OK to do so. I’m not saying we shouldn’t take any pictures of people or the bad parts, but just to try to do it in a more considerate way. Be modest, be humble and treat them like human beings. Their appearance or way of life might seem strange or different for us, but it is what it is and diversity should be celebrated, not turned into a freak show.
Bugs and other animals
Another uncomfortable subject, I know, but I received a lot of questions so I though I’d go into a bit of detail. I talked about mosquitoes in my previous post, and I explained that there weren’t that many. However, this is still Africa. It’s bound to have some bugs here and there, some of them outside and yes, some of them will visit you in your room (the little guy pictured below did not visit our room, he was a good boy and stayed in that bush for the whole time:) ). We had lizards, cicadas and some type of flying bugs in our room and we pretty much were the delight of the maintenance guy who had to come and save us every time we came out of the room screaming our heads off.
On the beach, there were a lot of tiny albino crabs, very ugly if you ask me, but harmless. We once saw something resembling some sort of a water-snake in the water. All in all, it wasn’t too bad with the bugs. if you ask me – some of us were more scared than others, I’m not giving out names, but let’s just say it wasn’t me 😉
There are a lot of stray cats on the island, some of them seem to be well cared for, but some of them were in really bad condition, especially the ones in Stone Town. They come and beg for food at restaurants, but a lot of the time they just want to be pet and given some attention. Please don’t hit them, as I’ve seen many people do. If you don’t like them, just gently push them away, or better yet give them some food, servings are usually large enough to spare some.
There are a few dogs as well, but not that many as from what I understand Muslims think dogs are impure or something like that. Apart from that, there are some type of weird Zanzibari cows strolling around the beach sometimes. They are a lot smaller than a normal cow and have a hump on the back. The calves looked especially funny to me, they are something like a mix between a large dog and a wild boar.
I know some people don’t want to talk about any of the less positive aspects of travelling or about locations in particular, but I think it’s important to know what to expect so you can have a perfect vacation.
So, if you made it this far, congratulations! I promise the next article will be all about beaches, white sand and turquoise waters!