We were keen for an end of winter exotic holiday and we decided to go to Zanzibar with our 6 years old kid. February-march is the end of small dry season here, so it was the perfect timing. This was also a vacation to celebrate Eric’s birthday; he was born at the end of February and there is no better present for us than wonderful days spent together, traveling to beautiful places.
How we spent 10 days in Zanzibar with our kid
Ten days are the ideal time to spend in Zanzibar with kids, to explore most of what the island has to offer, but to have time to relax as well. We did our research beforehand, decided on what activities we want to try and set an aproximate itinerary. We left enough time each day for the beach or pool, for Eric to not get too tired. If you go to Zanzibar without kids, you can group more activities in one day and you probably can do in one week everything we visited.
Our 10 days itinerary through Zanzibar looked like this:
Day 1 – Landed in Zanzibar in the afternoon, rented a car and arrived to our Paje hotel just in time for dinner
Day 2 – Relax by the pool and walk on Paje beach to recover from travel. The only activity scheduled for this day was lunch at the famous The Rock restaurant, to celebrate Eric’s 6th birthday. This was an amazing experience! Food at The Rock is delicious and so are the cocktails, and the view, atmosphere and service are worth the higher than average prices.
Day 3 – Jozani Forest and Zanzibar Butterfly Center
Jozani Forest is the smallest national park in Tanzania and the only one in Zanzibar. The main attraction here are Red Colobus monkeys, an endemic species that lives only on the island. You can visit the park in small groups and only accompanied by a guide, who explained us a lot about the vegetation and fauna and clarified all our answers. It was just a light walk, easy for the kid too and there is no special equipment needed. My recommendation is to go to Jozani Park in the morning, when the animals are more visible, as in the afternoon the usually go deeper in the jungle.
Right next to Jozani Forest we visited Zanzibar Butterfly Center, where we could admire lots of colorful butterflies. We’ve seen similar places in Colombia too, but it was still a nice experience.
Day 4 – Changu Island and Stone Town
Changu Island hosted in the past a slave prison and then it was turned into quarantine center for all the British colonies in the region, used mostly to fight against yellow fever. Now, the small island is dominated by Aldabra tortoises, a species originar from Seychelles. Eric was fascinated to see such gigantic tortoises for the first time and it was a nice biology lesson for us too.
Coming back to Stone Town port, we spent some time to explore the old city, part of UNESCO world heritage. It was extremely hot and the streets are chaotic, noisy and full of dust; it was quite difficult for the little one, so we took just a short walk. But if you want to know the city and its history, my recommendation is to get a guide to take you to the famous buildings and explain the interesting architecture that combines Swahili, European, Arab and Indian styles. You can find a guide at the information center at the old fort, right next to the harbor; having a guide it will also be easier to avoid very pushy locals that constantly offer their help in exchange for a small tip.
Day 5 – Nungwi
We wanted to go to Nungwi in the afternoon, to see the sunset of the beach. Before this, we stopped at Nungwi Aquarium, which is actually a natural lagoon filled with sea water during high tide. This is the home of several tortoises that need assistance (captured by fishermen, injured etc.) and that are periodically returned back to the wild. Before getting there I had some concerns about getting in the water with the animals, as it seems quite invasive; but I saw the tortoises live there is an environment very close to their natural habitat.
Day 6 – Snorkeling around Mnemba island
We started our snorkelling trip early morning, around 7 o’clock, to avoid the crowds and the mid-day heat. We saw lots of dolphins and then we stopped for snorkelling close to Mnemba shore; only the people who stay here are allowed to step on the island. Snorkelling in Zanzibar was a very nice experience, we could see lots of colourful fishes and the reef is quite well preserved. This was the first snorkelling experience for Eric and I was very happy to be able to do this together. He was a bit reluctant and scared at first, even though we practiced a bit in the pool the day before, but he enjoyed a lot the whole experience and was extremely impressed by what lies under the sea.
Day 7 – Spice farm visit
Visiting a spice farm was one of the first things I had on my list for Zanzibar. We did a similar visit a few years back, in Sri Lanka, but I found it more interesting now in Zanzibar. It was a great botanic lesson for Eric, something you can’t learn in school. We choose a tour Tangawizi Spice Farm, based on reviews we’ve read and it was an excelent choice. For about one and a half hour we observed, smelled and tasted various spices and aromatic plants, we ate exotic fruits and drank fresh coconut. Our guide, a nice and knowledgeable young boy, had a lot of patiente for all out questions and made the whole tour very interesting for Eric.
Day 8 – Relax by the beach for me and Eric; diving trip for Andrei
Day 9 – Reef walk at low tide
Reef Walk was the most special activity we’ve took in Zanzibar. The low tide unravels up to 2 km of beach where we could observe marine life not usually observable outside water. We also saw the algae farms, where Zanzibari women with colourful scarves grow the marine plants to be sold to cosmetics industry.
Day 10 – Leaving Zanzibar early morning
Our departure flight was early morning, so we spent the last night in Stone Town, close to the airport, for an extra hour of sleep
An important aspect of our holiday in Zanzibar was to rent a car, which allowed for extra flexibility and for a schedule exactly our way.
Where we stayed in Zanzibar
If you have enough time in Zanzibar, more than one week, I suggest you spend your holiday in two different places. People generally prefer the eastern coast, much more developed for tourists and with beautiful beaches. On the southern side, closer to the airport and the capital, it is more crowded; the villages are all transformed into small touristic locations, with shops and bars on large beaches. It is also a great place to try kite surfing. Moving north, you’ll find a different setup. The beach is fragmented by rocky areas, it is more quiet and hotels are not that close to eachother.
We spent 10 days in Zanzibar; we first stayed in Paje, one of the most popular touristic areas on the island. We got here quickly from the airport, very important after a long flight, especially with a kid, and we found nearby activities for a few days. }n Paje we chose to stay at Dhow Inn Boutique Hotel, a small hotel right next to the beach; you can find all the details about it in our dedicated article about accomodation in Paje. Then we went north, to AHG Waridi Beach Resort & Spa, in Pwani Mchangani. Waridi is an all inclusive style hotel, where we could just relax in the last days of our vacation. We have a dedicated articole about this all-inclusive beach resort in Zanzibar and about the time we spent there.
In my research, the north coast, with places like Nungwi or Kendwa, seemed more appropriate for couples or young groups of friends. But now I think we would have liked there too, with large beaches and not such a strong tide.
Food in Zanzibar
We love good food and trying local delicacies wherever we go. We found Zanzibar to be the heaven of flavours. No wonder it is called Spice Island! All the civilisations that passed the island throughout the years left a strong impact on local cuisine. But do not worry, kids, no matter how picky they are, will find food to enjoy in Zanzibar. Maybe they will even surprise you with they culinary choices!
We had seafood or fish on a daily basis, grilled or cooked in local Swahili style, which resembles a bit with Indian food. But since there are so many foreign tourists and most hotels are owned by Europeans, you’ll find international food in most places. We even had pizza and pasta, really good for a tiny African island. Pork is one a the few things that you won’t be able to find in Zanzibar, which is expected for a Muslim island.
But the most appreciated food here were the fruits; Zanzibar is dreamy for tropical food lovers! We had here one of the best mangos and passion fruits ever, and it wasn’t even main season for these. And coconut water was a must on a daily basis, perfect to hydrate on the topical heat.
Prices in Zanzibar
I try not to talk about the budget needed for Zanzibar, as each of us travel on its own fashion, which makes the budget significantly different. But I’ll leave a few prices (from the begining of 2022) to have an idea about the daily costs here, for food and activities:
- Car hire – 240$/9 days (including local permit)
- Trips: Prison Island – 25$/pers., snorkeling Mnemba – 20$/pers., diving Mnemba – 110$/pers., entrance Jozani Forest – 12$/pers., entrance Mnarani Aquarium – 10$/pers., spice tour – 10$/pers.
- Food & drinks: lunch/dinner in nice restaurant – 8-12 $/pers, botled water 500 ml – 0.4$, beer- 2-5$, coffee – 2$, fresh juice/smoothie – 2$, alcohol cocktail 7-10$ (5-6$ for Happy Hour)
- Fresh fruits on the road: passion fruit 0.8$/10 pieces, mango starting from 1$/10 small pieces up to 0.8$/large assortments, coconut 1-2$/piece.
In all souvenir shops you can negotiate everything, even the tours organized by locals. But for each we left something extra, like a tip, for the guide, depending on how much we enjoyed it. If you are a budget traveller, you might get even lower prices, as we usually chose convenient tours, suitable for a kid.