The Best Things to Do in Zanzibar on Days Off

Zanzibar is actually part of Tanzania, but looks quite different from most of the mainland! It is a tropical paradise that offers travellers a ‘paradise’ location to relax in. With its pristine white sandy beaches, turquoise waters, and rich cultural heritage, Zanzibar has become a must-visit destination for travellers from around the world. As a volunteer in Zanzibar, you will have Saturday and Sunday free to explore, or simply relax on the stunning beach! In this guide, we will explore the best things to do in Zanzibar on your days off, ensuring that you make the most of your time in this stunning island getaway.

Explore the Historic Stone Town

Old Fort of Zanzibar

Step back in time by exploring Stone Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the cultural heart of Zanzibar. Lose yourself in the labyrinthine alleys, marvel at the intricately carved wooden doors, and soak in the vibrant atmosphere of this ancient trading hub. Visit the iconic House of Wonders, the Old Fort, and the Sultan’s Palace Museum to delve into the island’s history and heritage. The city has a mix of cultures which make it such a unique place to simply wander around. Taking a city tour is recommended though, as you will get local knowledge and learn about the city, and it is much safer than getting lost in the small alleyways.

Enjoy the Sun on Zanzibar’s Beautiful Beaches

Zanzibar is renowned for its pristine beaches, where the soft white sand meets the crystal-clear waters of the Indian Ocean. Head to Nungwi Beach (this is where our turtle project is located), located on the northern tip of the island, for its picturesque sunsets and excellent snorkelling opportunities. Kendwa Beach, known for its lively atmosphere, is perfect for beach parties and water sports. If you seek a quieter beach experience, visit Paje Beach on the east coast, famous for its kiteboarding conditions. There are loads of cafes and restaurants to enjoy your food with a view.

Prison Island from above

Embark on a Spice Tour

Zanzibar is often referred to as the “Spice Island” due to its rich history as a centre for spice trade. Take a guided tour to one of the local spice farms, where you can see, smell, and taste an array of exotic spices like cloves, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Learn about their cultivation, processing, and their significance in Zanzibari cuisine and traditional medicine.

Dive into the Pristine Coral Reefs

Zanzibar boasts some of the best diving and snorkelling spots in the world. The surrounding coral reefs teem with vibrant marine life, including colourful fish, turtles, and even dolphins. Head to Mnemba Atoll, a marine conservation area, for an unforgettable diving experience. Whether you’re a seasoned diver or a beginner, there are diving centres and schools that cater to all levels of expertise.

Take a Dhow Cruise to Prison Island

Escape to the idyllic Prison Island, also known as Changuu Island, located just off the coast of Stone Town. Hop on a traditional dhow boat and sail to this peaceful sanctuary, famous for its giant tortoises and pristine beaches. Explore the old quarantine station, snorkel in the crystal-clear waters, or simply relax under the shade of swaying palm trees.

Prison Island

Visit the night market

Engage with the warm and friendly locals to truly experience the unique culture of Zanzibar. Visit the Forodhani Night Market in Stone Town, where you can try delicious Swahili street food, including Zanzibar pizza and freshly grilled seafood. Don’t miss the opportunity to watch traditional taarab music and ngoma dance performances, which showcase the island’s rich artistic heritage.

Discover Jozani Forest and its Red Colobus Monkeys

Venture into the Jozani Chwaka Bay National Park, a dense forest that is home to the endangered red colobus monkeys. Take a guided tour and walk along the wooden boardwalks, immersing yourself in the lush greenery and listening to the calls of exotic birds. Witness these playful monkeys up close and learn about the conservation efforts being made to protect their habitat.

Indulge in Swahili Cuisine

Zanzibar is a culinary delight, offering a fusion of African, Arabic, and Indian flavours. Sample the delectable Swahili cuisine, which combines aromatic spices, coconut, seafood, and fresh tropical fruits. Try traditional dishes like biryani, pilau rice, and samosas. Don’t forget to indulge in Zanzibar’s famous street food, including urojo (a tangy soup) and freshly squeezed sugarcane juice.

Zanzibar night market

Visit the Charming Spice and Fish Markets

Immerse yourself in the bustling atmosphere of Zanzibar’s vibrant markets. Visit the Darajani Spice Market in Stone Town, where you can find an abundance of spices, herbs, and traditional remedies. Engage with the friendly vendors, learn about their products, and even purchase some aromatic spices to take home as souvenirs. For a truly authentic experience, explore the fish market near the harbour, where you can witness local fishermen unloading their fresh catches of the day.

Sail to the Stunning Mnemba Island

For an unforgettable day trip, set sail to Mnemba Island, a secluded and pristine private island known for its luxury resorts and breathtaking beauty. Enjoy a day of relaxation on the secluded beaches, swim in the crystal-clear waters, or indulge in a range of water activities such as snorkelling, kayaking, and paddleboarding. Mnemba Island offers a serene and exclusive escape from the bustling mainland.

Experience a Sunset Dhow Cruise

As the day draws to a close, treat yourself to a romantic sunset dhow cruise along the Zanzibar coast. Sail aboard a traditional wooden dhow, as the sun dips below the horizon and paints the sky with hues of orange and pink. Marvel at the tranquil beauty of the ocean and coastline, while tasting delicious local snacks and refreshing drinks.

Volunteer in Zanzibar

vollie with students

Whilst Zanzibar is super tourist, poverty does still remain a significant issue in some areas. Our projects focus on meeting the needs and improving living situations for the local people. Why not combine travel with volunteering? Stay a little longer, give back to communities, talk with the local people, and come home with some truly amazing memories.

Check out all our Zanzibar projects and give back today!

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