Zanzibar Trip part I: Getting there, Accomodation, Surrounding & People

Today we present a summary of a kitesurfing trip to Zanzibar written by Filip (a team member of MySkyMap.com). The story is divided into 2 parts:

Enjoy!

Intro

I visited Zanzibar on 13-26 January 2013. The main goal of this trip was to learn more about that exotic island and Africa in general. My secondary gaol was to check out kitesurfing conditions there, as this spot is still relatively new on kitesurinfg maps and there are not that many opinions on the web. The few reviews that I found vary a lot, some being extremely positive and some completely opposite.

Getting there

After a lot of searching for cheap flights from Poland to Zanzibar I ended up booking flights from Berlin to Dar Es Salaam (Tanzania`s largest city) with Egypt Air for 630€. The flight takes about 12-14 hours, with a transfer in Cairo. There are some direct charter flights from Europe (Brussels, Italy, …) which are even less expensive, but it’s hard to get there from Gdansk (e.g. 500€ Brussels-Zanzibar found here).

From Dar Es Salaam to Zanzibar you can fly with one of local airlines for around 75$. The flight takes 20-30 minutes and you can buy your tickets just before the departure (I bought mine directly at the airport 10 minutes before the start). You can also purchase tickets by one of the online agents which is much cheaper i.e. around 100$ for a round trip e.g. here. The local airlines are: Precision Air, Coastal Air, Tropical Air and Zan Air.

Zanzibar airport

Zanzibar airport – most flights are operated by small aircrafts like these

When getting there I flew with Tropical Air and on my way back I used Precision Air. I liked Tropical Air more as the plane was very small (10 people max) and it flew low, so I could see all small islands etc. Precision Air is the biggest local airline and so are their planes.

For those of you who are interested in exact flight details here they are:

13.01.2013 - 14:45 SXF - 19:50 CAI
13-14.01.2013 - 23:30 CAI - 06:00 DAR
14.01.2013 - 07:20 DAR - 07:50 ZNZ
25.01.2013 - 20:40 ZNZ - 21:10 DAR
26.01.2013 - 01:15 DAR - 05:45 CAI
26.01.2013 - 10:20 CAI - 13:45 SXF

You can also check my flights on my flight map.

As a cheaper alternative you can go by ferry, which costs 35$ + around 10$ for taxi from the airport to the ferry terminal. The ferry itself takes 1,5h but the taxi drive can vary from 15 minutes to even couple hours in rush hours.

Zanzibar ferry terminal

Zanzibar ferry terminal – this is where you arrive when traveling by ferry

The last part of the journey is a taxi from airport to Paje. On the “official, government approved” price list that they show you it stands 60$. You can easily negotiate it down to 35$. If you have time and little baggage you can also try traveling by local buses (Dala-Dala), which costs 1-2$ (more on that later).

Luggage
Those of you who travel with kitesurfing equipment know that it may be tricky to get away without paying extra for oversized luggage. Luckily I managed that. Egypt Air allows 2 pieces of checked luggage, up to 23kg each. I packed my 2 kites, twintip board 135cm, harness, pump etc into a so called Golf Bag. Golf Bag is a regular quiver optimized for transporting kite gear but it has golf symbols printed on it. Most airlines have special rates for golfing equipment, so you can say you travel with your golf clubs. This may be more useful in Europe, because in Africa nobody cares :)
When flying with Precision Air I just took the second bag (huge backpack) as my hand luggage (they allow only 1 checked piece). Again – nobody cares.

Travel tips

  • Don’t be fooled by people trying to convince you to pay extra airport tax (10$) like I did on my way there. There’s no such charge.
  • Also, there are plenty of people trying to help you out with your luggage. It usually turns out that you need to carry it for max 50 meters or so, and they will ask for 5-10 $ for that.
  • If you wish to rent a car or a motorbike be sure to have an international driving license. Even that will probably not save you from paying some “tickets” during police control (there are many on the main roads).


Accommodation

During my trip to Zanzibar I stayed in Paje, which is a small village located on the east coast of the island. I chose Paje because it’s known as the best kitesurfing spot on Zanzibar, mainly because of the wide beach (even during high tide).

There are several hotels in Paje offering different types of accommodation. Most of them are located directly at the beach or very close to it. Depending on your needs and expectations prices may differ a lot. The cheapest place I found and stayed in was the New Teddy’s Place. It cost me 30$/night per single bungalow with breakfast. The dorm bed cost 17$/night. 30$ is not bad but I must admit I was expecting much lower prices, especially when considering living standards of regular Zanzibarians.

My private bungalow

My private bungalow

So I spent 2 weeks at the New Teddy’s Place and I was very happy with my choice. It’s ideal for backpackers and all “young souls”, who prefer good vibes over 5 star conditions. All bungalows have sandy floors and the bathroom is shared. The food at the bar is good and the prices very reasonable. The location is perfect for kitesurfers, as it’s very close to the beach. There are also several kite schools in the closest neighbourhood. But the best at Teddy’s is its staff – always friendly and helpful. Greetings to Nadja, Simba, Genius & Co.

Beach at New Teddy's Place

Beach at New Teddy’s Place

If you are looking for a fancier place, I’d recommend checking out Cristal Resort or Paje By Night. The first one is calmer and more luxurious. They have their private beach, with guards protecting guests not only from beach boys but also from other tourist trying to use their sun beds :) It’s a good choice for people who seek privacy and peace. Paje By Night is more busy, with a lot of tourists visiting their restaurant, pool and their kite school “Paje By Kite”. Both those hotels have swimming pools.

Surrounding

The village itself is quite small and located at the back of all hotels, spread between the beach and the main road. The entire village is a big contrast to what you see at the beach. Once you pass the local gift shops and go further to the heart of the village you will see poor houses, all build with concrete, stones, metal sheets and wood. They all look sort of unfinished to me. Although there is no plumbing or running water I did not feel any bad small, so I guess they handle their hygienic needs somehow.

Paje village

Paje village

Typical kitchen in Zanzibarian houses

Typical kitchen in Zanzibarian houses – no running water, no eletricity, just fire and basic tools. Here Roger is cooking octopus for me.

In the village you may find small shops for lost tourists, a local school, a police station and some very local dining places. Directly at the main road there are 2 supermarkets, where you can by basic cosmetics, drinks and even alcohol. This was a big surprise for me knowing that it’s a Muslim country. Close to the markets there are also Taxi and Dala-Dala stops.

What I liked about Paje and Zanzibar overall is that there is still a lot of people doing their regular work in the same way they’ve been doing it for hundreds of years. You will see a lot of people going out fishing everyday (or even night), women farming seaweed on special sticks in the sea or people picking up fruits from trees (it look so easy when they climb up a palm tree to get coconuts).

Boat coming back from fishing

Boat coming back from fishing

Unloading the boat

Unloading the boat – women carry everything on their heads. Here it is Today’s catch

Unloaded sailing boat parked close to the beach

Unloaded fishing boat parked close to the beach



People

Most Zanzibarians are very friendly and helpful. I had no problems communicating in English, not only in hotels but also at local markets, Dala-Dala stops etc. However, I believe it’s always nice to learn some common words in the language used by local people i.e. Suahili. Here are some basics that I picked up from locals:

Jambo – Hi, Hello; a local greeting
Karibu – Welcome
Asante – Thank you
Hakuna matata – No problem
Pole Pole – slowly slowly

I’m sure you will hear those a lot, especially on the beach when approached by so called beach-boys. Beach-boys are usually young men trying to sell you something e.g. fruits, islands tours, weed and more ;) They are always polite and seem very keen to know you better. All those conversations are quite similar but I enjoyed them anyway. Especially that they all have funny, “western” nicknames like Mr. Nicy, Captain J or Lil Wayne.

A separate category of beach-boys are Masais, who came to Zanzibar from the mainland to do, as they say, “Masai business”. Masai business is usually about selling their traditional clothing and jewelry. I wasn’t really interested in those things, especially that Masais don’t origin from Zanzibar.

Masai people playing football on the beach

Masai people playing football on the beach

A good place to get to know all of them is a Friday party at Jambo, where tourists are having fun with beach boys, Masai people, hotel staff, local hookers and many others ;)

If you visit villages that are not close to any touristic place you will still safe and welcomed. It will be less intense but bit closer to the real life. One thing will remain the same though – children approaching you from all sites. I did some research before coming to Zanzibar so I came equipped with hundreds of color pens that I gave away instead of money or sweets. Kids don’t usually have many toys so any new, colorful thing makes them happy.

Kids from a village far away from touristic places – very happy about the pens but got shy as soon as I took my camera out.

Kids from a catholic school – they are used to tourists and enjoy being photographed. They smile a lot, make funny poses and ask you to show them the pictures.




READ PART II: kitesurfing, other activities & costs >>


Getting there

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