Marta's Photo Album of Zanzibar, May 2010

May 2010

Getting there
We departed Johannesburg on the services of 1 Time Airlines at 08H45, with check in at the domestic airport at OR Tambo. Once we were through passport control, we had the opportunity of taking a look at all the new shops in the duty free area. After a short while we were well on our way towards Zanzibar. The staff on board are really great and make you feel most welcome. Refreshments can be purchased on board in South African rand or dollars. The sandwiches are fresh and really taste good.

We landed after a three and a half hour flight in Zanzibar. Upon arrival we proceeded to immigration control where we got our visas for 50 USD. After collecting our luggage we were given a warm welcome by Gallery Tours and offered facecloths, coconut juice and mineral water. A great feeling to be in Zanzibar.Our transfer to Mapenzi took around 45 minutes through the scenic Zanzibarian countryside.

Sandies Mapenzi Beach Club

Mapenzi is one of the oldest properties in Zanzibar, set on the North East coast and is sold on an all inclusive basis. The resort is laid out in lovely gardens, has spacious non smoking rooms all of which have been recently refurbished in charming East African style. The bar area is set high up above the ocean and serves a wide variety of colourful cocktails and drinks. The dinners are buffet style serving a variety of East African dishes together with Western style food. There is entertainment every night and this makes for a really enjoyable stay.

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The following morning after a wonderful breakfast we proceeded on our hotel inspections. We visited Diamonds La Gemma Dell ‘Est located on the North coast and is sold on an all inclusive basis. The grounds are well tended and have many interesting trees, one of which is the Indian Almond Tree. The pool area is close to the beach and there is a bar on stilts in the ocean where one can enjoy wonderful sundowners. Almost all of the deluxe rooms have a sea view and the deluxe villas have a lounge and kitchen with butler service. We then visited the new Hilton Double Tree Hotel. This hotel is boutique style, very informal and sold on a half board and all inclusive basis. This hotel is perfect for families as the layout is very compact. We enjoyed a lovely seafood barbeque overlooking the beautiful white sand beach and turquoise ocean . Both Diamonds La Gemma Dell ‘Est and Hilton Double Tree have good snorkeling on their doorstep. Our next stop was at Ocean Paradise, located on the North East coast. This stunning resort is decorated in traditional Zanzibarean style, with the rooms in rondavel shapes. There was an art exhibition which added to the lovely ambiance of the resort. We took our lunch at the restaurant which is set on the white sand beach. The food was buffet style and truly amazing. They served island style vegetable curry, calamari and red snapper kebabs, as well as tandoori chicken. The highlight was the grilled lobsters, absolutely amazing as one enjoyed them with the sea a few meters away. We then went on to visit Diamonds Dream of Zanzibar and Neptune Pawani. Both these hotels are near to one another and are built high up overlooking the ocean.

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Blue Bay Beach Resort and Spa

This gorgeous hotel is situated on the finest, white sandy beach on the North East coast.

The resort is nestled in acre upon acre of beautiful tropical gardens and is sold on a breakfast and dinner basis. There is a private pool set amongst the lush greenery. Most of the rooms have a magnificent view of the ocean and consist of a spacious bedroom with a four poster Zanzibar bed. We had a look at the new luxury Sultan Sands Island Resort adjacent to Blue Bay which is sold on an all inclusive basis.The combination of these two resorts means that guests can have access to 6 bars and 4 swimming pools. The gardens at Sultan Sands are awash with the colours of bouganvilla and fragrant scents of frangipani and jasmine. The spacious rooms are in traditional rondavel style.

Our set up for dinner at Blue Bay overlooked the ocean. We enjoyed a very festive barbeque style dinner with fresh lobsters amongst one of the many dishes served. The entertainment was fantastic with a group of very professional acrobatic performances. The music was truly out of this world.

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The following morning after a lovely breakfast we boarded the mini vans and began our tour to the spice farms. This is most interesting as you are shown all the spices and fruits that Zanzibar has to offer. The guide from Gallery Tours explained the history of the spice trade that Zanzibar is famous for. In days past, Zanzibar was known as a spice island, exporting cloves, vanilla, nutmeg and cardamom across the world. The spices were brought from Asia and South America and flourished in the tropical climate. A visit to a spice farm which is a tribute to the island’s past, gives you an insight into local life and to taste and smell the seasonal fruit and spices introduced to you during the tour. We then drove to Stone Town and explored the narrow cobbled streets observing the buildings which are made of limestone and clay. We visited the former slave market, Anglican cathedral in memory of Dr Livingstone and the Sultan’s palace museum. The city tour is very flexible and can be adapted to suit your interests, whether you love shopping, history or culture. The doors are fascinating and depict the trade of the person who lived in the house. There are numerous interesting tours that you can do including a sunset dhow cruise to Prison island to see the giant tortoises. We had a spectacular lunch at the Serena Inn in Stone Town. The hotel is traditional Arabic style with some stunning pieces of furniture. Our table overlooked the ocean with dhows gently drifting by. The buffet was fabulous and consisted of a variety of fresh salads, delicately prepared cucumber and mango with a dash of balsalmic and olive oil. There was chicken in coconut, vegetable curry and delicious tiramisu and chocolate mousse to follow.

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Baraza Resort and Spa

We drove to Baraza which is around 60km out of Stone Town located on the South East coast along the award winning Bwejuu beach, recently voted by Conde Nast as one of the 30 top island beaches in the world. This beautiful 30 villa boutique resort is a fusion of Arabic, Swahli and Indian design laid out in lush tropical gardens. There are beautiful antiques, hand made furniture and intricate brass laterns. The resort offers unparalled standards of luxury and is sold on either a half board or all inclusive basis. My villa had two bedrooms, the master one with a 7ft king size bed decorated in sumptuous fabrics and was ocean facing. The bathroom is a luxurious retreat, enormous in size with the most exquisite bath treatments to be enjoyed. The verandah area had comfortable loungers with your own private plunge pool. Dinner that evening was a gracious affair, with the menu inspired by Arabic, Persian, Asian and Indian cuisine. Breakfast the following morning was buffet style with fresh breads and divine omelettes and freshly squeezed juices. We continued the day having a look at Breezes Beach Club and Spa the perfect getaway retreat a stones throw from Baraza. The Resort overlooks a pristine white beach, rustling palm trees and has exquisite attention to detail and exudes understated elegance. Breezes Beach Club is sold on a breakfast and dinner basis. We walked along the beach to The Palms. This exclusive property combines effortless elegance with Zanzibari sophistication. This collection of only six villas, beautifully designed offers the perfect retreat for honeymooners. The resort is sold on an all inclusive basis and no children under the age of 16 years are allowed. After having had the privilege of seeing all these amazing properties we made our way back to the Baraza to collect our luggage for transfer by Gallery Tours to the airport.

We checked in at Zanzibar Airport without a hitch and waited for our flight departure at 13H30 to Johannesburg on 1Time. Once again the crew of 1Time were outstanding which made the short three and a half hour flight really enjoyable. We landed at OR Tambo, with the most gorgeous memories of Zanzibar.

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In Conclusion
Zanzibar is a true Africa experience with many accommodation options ranging from rustic to five star luxury hotels. The destination is warm and welcoming and suitable for honeymooners and families alike. Many diverse activities can be arranged from Zanzibar including safaris into Tanzania, sunset and dinner dhow cruises to Prison island, beach barbeques on deserted islands, or just snorkelling and lazing on the pristine white sand beaches. Stone Town is famous for the bazaars of handcrafted antique furniture, curios and carved doors. It is definitely a destination that you will want to return to.

General Info and Tips
Visas are currently required for South African passport holders at a cost of USD 55 payable on arrival. Your passport must be valid for at least six months after the return date. Yellow fever vaccinations are compulsory for re entry into South Africa from Tanzanzia. These vaccinations are valid for 10 years and can be obtained at a travel clinic, along with advice regarding malaria and other recommended precautions.

Zanzibar has a tropical climate with the long rains during April and May, with July to October being the ideal time with the temperature of 25 degrees.

Money changing facilities are available at most hotels, but the rate is slightly better at the airport on arrival. Travel with US dollars cash as these are also accepted for payments at hotels. The local currency is the Tanzanian Shilling. Do not convert more money than you need as Tanzanian Shilling cannot be exchanged for dollars or rands.

With Special Thanks
A very special thanks to all the wonderful people who made our stay in Zanzibar so unforgettable.