Written By: Kruti Patel
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again - Kilimanjaro is one long walk, but ain’t no walk in the park. Most of you will spend at least 6 days on the mountain. Those 6 days will be made up of roughly 4.5 days climbing upwards to reach 19,340 ft and then roughly 1.5 days to come back down. During those 6 days you’ll be walking about 8 hours a day, under every condition you can imagine from a humid rainforest to a frozen summit. Oh and did I mention no showers? You’ll be challenged physically and mentally every step of the way and when you reach Uhuru Peak, you won’t, even for a second, question if the journey was worth it. As you can see, getting to the top of Africa is going to require work, both before and during, so why not reward yourself with a trip to Zanzibar after?
So where is Zanzibar? Zanzibar is located in the Indian Ocean, just off the coast of Tanzania and is made up of many small islands with the two largest islands being Unguja and Pemba. It’s also a paradise, with white sand beaches and water so turquoise, you’d think it was a photoshop image color enhanced 10 times too many. Booking it (both literally and figuratively) to Zanzibar after Kilimanjaro is the perfect way to relax and recharge. So if you are considering a post Kilimanjaro Zanzibar trip (which you’d be foolish not to!) then read on for how to get there and what to do once you are there!
How to Get There:
Unless you are doing some kind of modified itinerary, on the last day of the trek you will reach the base of Kilimanjaro at no later than 2pm and most climb packages include a one night post climb stay at the tour operator’s partner hotel. So ideally you should book a flight out of Moshi the day after your climb ends (or you could do what I did and head straight for the airport and pray no one has to sit next you!).
The main airline that operates flights to Zanzibar from Moshi or Arusha, is Precision Air, and you should expect to pay around $300 for a round trip. When you search for flights, the main two options you will see are:
- Option 1: Direct flights to/from Kilimanjaro Airport (JRO) to Zanzibar International Airport (ZNZ), which is on the Unguja Island.
- Option 2: Connecting flight to/from JRO to Julius Nyerere International Airport (DAR) in Dar Es Salaam and then onwards to ZNZ
Depending on how you booked your international flight to East Africa, you may just want to book a one-way ticket to ZNZ, and then book a separate return flight from ZNZ to the airport you will be flying out of to get back home, in most cases Nairobi International Airport (NBO)
What I have described for options out of JRO also apply to Arusha International Airport (ARK).
Where to Stay:
The great thing about Zanzibar is that because it’s a small enough island, you can balance your stay with a few nights on the coast and a few nights in the heart of Stone Town, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and considered the soul of the Zanzibar Archipelago.
When I first arrived in Zanzibar, I spent 3 nights at Next Paradise. A nice small resort owned by an Italian couple. Once you enter the gates and they close behind your car as you drive in, you really will be in paradise. The resort is a bit pricey but after 6 or so days on Kilimanjaro, the indulgence might be worth it.
Afterwards I transferred over to Emerson Spice which is in the center of Stone Town. I was in awe of this hotel, every room had it’s own unique theme and well let’s just say pictures would never do it justice. With an extremely hospitable staff and ambiance unlike any other, I highly recommend staying here. In short, consider it a really cool local boutique hotel at a very reasonable rate.
These are the places I stayed, however there are plenty of accommodation options in Zanzibar that can meet both your preference and budget.
What to Do:
When visiting Zanzibar, you don't really need a tour operator. Finding activities, follows the same path as finding flights and accommodations in that you just need to do a bit of research. Below I’ve highlighted some activities to give you some inspiration, whether you spend your time on the coast or in Stone Town, there is plenty to do!
- Walking Tour of Stone Town: As you embark on your tour of Stone Town, it’s important to remember that although it is a UNESCO World Heritage site, it is also a community where real people live and work. So as a tourist you’ll need to be sensitive to the culture of the local people. You can either wander through the winding streets by yourself with a map, or you can book a tour with one of the local tour operators. Either way here is a great summary of places to visit while in Stone Town.
- Changuu Island: It’s a short boat ride from Stone Town to Changuu Island. It was once the island where misbehaving slaves were sent during the rule of the Sultans. The British then began building a prison on the island, but it was only used ever used as a quarantine for yellow-fever victims. Today's it's a great place for snorkeling, because it has a beautiful coral reef, and of course a picture perfect white sand beach for sun-bathing. To top things off, on the island you’ll find a family of giant tortoises, which were imported from Seychelles in the late 19th century! To get to the island you can hire a boat right out of the port in Stone Town (make sure you negotiate!)
- Cheetah’s Rock: This is a new place I’ve heard a few people mention. It’s neither “a zoo nor a wildlife sanctuary”...it’s just “something completely different”! And if you didn’t have a chance to do a safari while in East Africa, this option might be worth checking out.
- There are also local hikes but I didn't go on any considering I had just completed a 6 day hike!
- Best Italian food on Zanzibar for lunch is La Travena with great views of the ocean. Definitely get the pizza and their pasta dishes!
- Another cool experience is dinner at Tower Top, located on the rooftop of a hotel and the views are simply amazing. The food was decent but not greatest. I’d say go here more for a unique experience as they also have a live band and dancers during dinner. You'll have to make reservations in advance.