Paradise Found: Nungwi and Jambiani, Zanzibar

This is it. I’ve seen heaven. I can die happy now.

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Zanzibar, as my friend said looking at photos, is not of this Earth. Between the sky and the sea, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many variations of the color blue.

The water is warm. The sand is soft and fine.

The rising and setting of the sun every day is guaranteed to take your breath away.

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Floating in those waters and looking up at the sky was a spiritual experience. Seriously. I’m not exaggerating. 

My biggest tip: run, don’t walk, onto the next flight to Zanzibar. 

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Getting there:

 

Flights

We had an 8:00am flight from Nairobi (NBO) to Zanzibar (ZNZ). At $351 roundtrip for a ~1 hour flight each way, this was one of the more expensive ticket items on the entire trip. But as you’ll see, it was so worth it! 

flight Mt. Kili
Get yourself a window seat and take in the views of Mount Kilimanjaro on your way over mainland Tanzania.

Visas

The tourist visa costs $100, payable by card or cash upon landing at ZNZ airport. The process at customs was a breeze and took no more than 15 minutes to get through.

Transportation on the ground

Taxis are easily found at the airport, and yes, everyone who works in tourism speaks English. Our ride to Nungwi was $40–not bad for a two hour drive! All the resort areas are a ways away from the airport, although you could totally stay close by to explore the city of Stone Town. For us, the beach was all we were looking for. But next time I’d be interested in checking it out!

Transportation once you leave the airport is tricky… the usual rideshare apps are null, and taxis aren’t readily available outside of the airport area. We smarted up eventually and kept the contact info of one of the taxi drivers we used, which allowed us to message him ahead of time to book our rides. Happy to pass his info along to you too! If you’re in Zanzibar and need to schedule a cab, contact Mohammed on WhatsApp (he was very nice and friendly!) at +255 773 048 854. 

Pro tip: The ATM situation is equally tricky. Get out all the cash you need when you touch down at ZNZ! Otherwise, you’ll require a long, pricey cab back to Stone Town to access one of the handful of ATMs on the island. Some resorts accept cards onsite, but I wouldn’t count on it! Cash is king, so come prepared. 


Nungwi:

pool

The vibe:

Definitely a little more touristy compared to Jambiani. Things operate in a way that lets you know this isn’t their first rodeo with the vacation crowd…they know what tourists want, and have it readily available. This area had more variety of options for daytime activities and nightlife. The tides were less dramatic too, so swimming was possible at most times of the day.

Where to stay in Nungwi:

This was the “treat yourself” portion of our 10 day trip. 🙂

We spent 2 nights at the Riu Palace Nungwi, for about $250/night. As an all-inclusive resort, the price quickly paid for itself between the onsite buffets and beverages. The grounds were stunning, the staff was amazing, and it’s possibly the best resort I’ve ever been to. 10/10 recommend!    

+ For budget travelers, an alternate option that held up in my search was Atii Garden Bungalows

What to do in Nungwi:

Honestly? We chilled tf out lol. This was a welcome few days of zen after such a whirlwind trip to Kenya. 

However, there was plenty to do if we wanted: 

  • Mnarani Marine Turtles Conservation Pond – you’ll see plenty of excursions on offer for this day trip. 
  • Overnight trip to Pemba Island – you’ll see it in the distance from Nungwi. Apparently it’s great for snorkeling, scuba, and is even more unspoiled than Zanzibar island. But idk, Zanzibar was more than pristine enough for me lol. 
  • Snorkeling – again, there will be lots of options for snorkeling excursions. 
  • Party at Kendwa Rocks – this resort hosts a monthly full moon party that comes highly recommended by some friends of mine. Since we went during Ramadan, there was unfortunately no party action. But I’m told this is the place to be for nightlife in general.   

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Jambiani:

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The vibe:

Tranquil, chill, even a little sleepy in the mornings and evenings. Depending on what you’re going for, you might find it a little too chill. But personally, I liked that it didn’t feel like a resort town and instead felt like the fishing village it is.

Jambiani was vibrant with local activity during the daytime, but very clearly less tourist-centric. This had its pros: fewer tourists, wide open beaches, and more local interaction. But the cons were less to do, no nightlife outside hotels, and the necessity that you be willing and able to entertain yourself during down time. 

Pro tip: It’s worth noting that Jambiani felt more traditional in terms of appropriate beachwear than Nungwi. No one ever said anything, and I’m sure it would’ve been “fine” if we did walk around in bikinis as obvious tourists. But unlike Nungwi, Jambiani felt less like the rules were tailored to us, and more like we should tailor ourselves to the rules. Local women and children walked the beaches of Jambiani fully covered in traditional Islamic clothes, so it would’ve felt weird to not wear a cover-up outside of swimming. Not so in Nungwi. 

Where to stay in Jambiani:

We stayed at Sharazad Boutique Hotel, after seeing the beautiful photos taken there by travel influencer @thespiritedpursuit. It did not disappoint! Quaint, intimate, beautifully decorated. I felt satisfied that we made the best choice with this option. 

With that said, drinks and food added up more quickly here. Still cheap by American standards…I think the lobster dinner converted to $25. But the prices are high for Zanzibar. If I had to do it all again, I might stay just one night in Jambiani and spend more time at the all-inclusive in Nungwi. 

+ For my budget travelers, an alternate option that held up in my search was Fun Beach Resort. 

What to do in Jambiani:

  • Swim endlessly in the warm, calm waters 😍 it doesn’t get old, I promise.
  • Kite surfing! This area is famous for it. 
  • Go on a Safari Blue tour. I got sick one day on this trip, and of course, it was the day of the Safari Blue excursion. 😦 It’s a little expensive at $75 for the tour, but Alexis said they had literally the best lobster she’s ever had. And it’s a lobster buffet! So that alone might be worth it lol. 
  • Interact with locals and make a new friend! There were far more Maasai people inn Jambiani than we saw in Nungwi, along with lots of local folks. You could connect more easily to everyday people in Jambiani, whereas in Nungwi it’s mostly other tourists you’ll be chatting with.

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If I had to pick just one destination, I would choose Nungwi–but only for that specific all-inclusive resort lol. I would actually choose the town of Jambiani for overall experience.

Zanzibar was a slice of heaven, and apparently we didn’t even experience it at its peak! The staff at Sharazad kept insisting that it’s party central around those parts any other time of year (we went during Ramadan). I look forward to finding out 🙂 next time!

 

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Zanzibar, you’re beautiful. My favorite place in the world so far.

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