We’d heard mixed things about Zanzibar, a small island off the coast of Tanzania, in Eastern Africa – some of the people we know that had visited previously loved it (and their pictures certainly made it look gorgeous!) but we’d heard from other people that it wasn’t particularly safe or didn’t tick the boxes they were looking for as part of their African experience.
Though we were torn, a beach break before we hit mainland Africa appealed so we decided to give Zanzibar a go and we ended up being pleased we did! Beautiful and varied beaches, a relaxed coastal atmosphere, friendly people and a wide variety of animals certainly made Zanzibar feel like the right choice for us.
The clincher, however, for me was the draw of the wild bottlenose dolphins. No matter what else I do, dolphins seem to be one of those animals that never loose their allure, so when we decided to head to Zanzibar I was pretty excited to find out that we could swim with them… I was even more excited when we arrived to find the Southern side of Zanzibar is relatively untouched by tourists and that swimming with dolphins would only cost us USD20 each! Stretching our travelling money is one of the only things I love more than the actual travelling itself (because, woohoo, more holidays!)
We booked to stay at Promised Land Lodge (USD50 a night) which proved a beautifully relaxed backdrop for us to unwind in. The team at the resort were welcoming from the get-go and we enjoyed many conversations with the charismatic owner, Shebi, about life in Tanzania. Nothing was a problem (hakuna matata) and we were felt at ease instantly.
Ahead of time, we’d read some reviews complaining about ‘salt water showers’ but found the salty water to be due to the bores that the water is taken from – it’s far from sea water. Yes, you’ll feel a little salty whilst you’re there, but this isn’t uncommon for accommodation in Zanzibar and it’s absolutely worth it for views like these (especially considering the price we paid)…
This part of the island is sheltered and is the perfect spot for sunset watching, as you can see.
Our days were spent relaxing, munching on delicious food (with menus changing each day in response to the available ingredients) and of course, swimming with dolphins and at the beach. The beach is beautiful and best accessed off a set of steps at high tide (which when we were there was early in the morning and then again around 3-6pm) and the addition of a swimming pool (as of April, in the end stages of construction) will significantly add to the resort. Zanzibar itself was hotter than we experienced elsewhere in Eastern Africa so having the water nearby to cool off was definitely appreciated.
The morning of our dolphin trip, we were collected from the jetty at 6am and spent approx. 20 minutes motoring to our swimming site (with two other guests).
Before long, we were instructed to throw our flippers and mask/snorkel on and quickly dive into the water. How fortunate were we to be greeted with this…
(click to watch video)
Our swims lasted anywhere from about 45 seconds to 3 minutes, before the dolphins continued on their way; at which point we piled back into the boat and followed behind them. All in all, we managed seven or so swims of varying length before calling it a day and heading back to our accommodation.
If you do elect to spend time with these gorgeous creatures, be sure to get the earliest boat possible – we were the second boat out and definitely had better swimming opportunities than the other boats that arrived a little later.
We travel with our rash tops whenever we’re expecting to swim in the ocean and we’re glad we did – the water was filled with countless tiny fluroscent blue jellyfish and some slightly bigger translucent ones. I’m not a fan of jellies and by the end of the swim had a number of stings on my legs – the rash shirts protected our upper bodies from the stings and ensured my bikini top stayed on when we were flinging ourselves into the water! If you have on, be sure to pack it.
Zanzibar ended up being the perfect start to our East African taster and although it wasn’t 100% reflective of what we went on to see whilst visiting the mainland, Africa itself is so diverse that you wouldn’t find that anywhere.
Have you visited Zanzibar? If so, what was your experience like?
Stay tuned for details of our time visiting the Eastern coast before heading to Kenya and Uganda!
To get to Promised Land Lodge, the taxi drivers will try to charge you USD60 (we got it down to USD50), but we found out afterwards that Shebi could have booked our transfer for USD40. The resort itself is pretty remote, so it’s best to take a few good books and enough cash to spend on taxis if you’re wanting to go further afield.