Which arguments are relevant to you when deciding where to plan your epic holiday? Is it the time frame you have, the budget or the level of adventure or relaxation you are seeking? My itinerary for Tanzania covers a combination of these requirements. The essence for me is to move smoothly and with a certain flexibility, without being too much fixed on a travel schedule. This is why I often book flights, 1-2 accommodations and in this case the safari in advance. I love the idea to stay longer in a place when I like it a lot of moving on when this is not the case.
Most of the accommodation can easily be booked through booking.com or Airbnb, once there. If I have a must-see hotel or restaurant on my bucket list, I take care of this reservation in advance. In this case, it was the Zanzibar Coffeehouse in Stone town! Are you a coffee lover as I am? Plan extra time to visit one of their coffee farms! Get more on that here. The farm is located at the foot of the Mbeya range in Southern Tanzania.
How to get to North Tanzania
Tanzania is easily reached via frequent air connections to Dar es Salaam, Kilimanjaro and Zanzibar airports. Get a direct flight from Zurich to Dar es Salaam (I bought a SWISS early bird for ca. 700 CHF) From Dar es Salaam you can fly either to Arusha (what I did) or to Kilimanjaro Airport. Find direct flights from Dar es Salaam to Arusha and from Arusha to Zanzibar for example with assalaamair. Absolutely recommend the airline.
How many days should I go on a safari?
The safari I choose took 5 days. 4 days are absolutely fine, too. Why not go for a personalized safari where you can choose for yourself, how many days to stay in a park?
This is why I recommend organizing it directly through a safari specialist. There are several tour operators that include different parks to visit. If you love hiking, don’t miss Kilimanjaro!
Choose an overnight in a tent in the camps for maximum adventure. Feel the animal life at night to truly connect to the wildlife. Believe me, the experience of hearing a buffalo eating grass just right behind your tent is priceless! The equipment is great and you get spoiled with delicious freshly prepared food.
In my opinion Tarangire, Serengeti and Ngorongoro national parks are the must see for your Tanzania Safari. The nature and wild life that you encounter here is unique since you get very close to the animal and you can feel the way they live very intense.
The budget for a group 5-day trip could cost around 1000 USD (tent overnight and entrance to the mentioned parks, food included). You can individualize your safari, too.
Get in contact with the local Ranger & Guide Deo from Sirini Safaris. His knowledge about the animal’s life is extraordinary. Having an experienced guide like Deo makes you feel safe every second. On top of that, he drives you at the right time to the most exciting wildlife situation you can catch! I appreciated very much having Deo as our ranger.
The safari takes place in a powerful and spacious 4×4 safari car with 7 passenger seats. We were a group of 6 which was the perfect size.
Did you know that a ranger has to drive at least 1.5 year as a co-driver through the parks before getting the official permit to be a Safari ranger? Furthermore, all rangers interact through the whole safari by walkie talkie to always be prepared where the next wild life situation is taking place!
The sunrise in the Serengeti park was one of the most beautiful ever seen. Get the feeling of these experiences in my videos and pictures!
Discovering Zanzibar in 10 days – Start in Stone Town
Start your Zanzibar holiday in Stone Town, the capital of Zanzibar. Get there from Dar es Salaam by ferry (costs ca. 35 USD) or by plane.
Stone town has its own charm, it’s a place where to feel the first Zanzibar vibes and get in touch with their cultural & food traditions. I recommend staying 2 days before heading north to the beaches. Stone Town is confusing in the daytime, it’s easy to get lost. At night time, it’s even worse because many of the shops used as landmarks may have packed everything away. I would not recommend walking around alone.
Things to do in Stone Town
- Discover the Forodhani Gardens Food Market in the late afternoon and eat your snack right at the waterfront while admiring the sunset. Try the Zanzibar Pizza from Mister Mango! The dough is made of water and flour and comes filled with either salty or sweet ingredients. My suggestion: avocado, tomato & cheese!
- Go for typical lunch or dinner at the place called Emerson Spice. Get a la carte Swahili BBQ. This very special atmospheric 19th-century house, built in Swahili-Arabian style, once belonged to the last Swahili ruler of Zanzibar and has been carefully restored
- Darjani Bazaar is the main bazaar in Stone Town. It’s an interesting place to go for a quick walk and buy spices, coffee and tea at very good prices. Don’t be scared of the smells there.
- Get lost in the narrow streets and stroll for souvenirs! Be ready to negotiate for your shopping. Find some unique handmade crafts or dresses created by local artists.
- Stop by for a selfie at Freddy Mercury’s house. Did you know he grew up in Zanzibar?
- Take a Spice Tour. Stone town is the perfect place to start the half-day spice tour. Get more from your local hotel or find more about it here.
- Sip on delicious ginger, cinnamon, star anise, cloves and chilli Tea or a spiced coffee at Stone Town Café
Beaches to see & places to stay in Zanzibar – Start north in Kendwa or Nungwi and move south by taxi
Start your beach holiday in the north in the place called Kendwa. Here you find kilometre-long sandy beaches that are not affected so much by the tides. Kendwa & Nungwi are well known for their luxury resort, so don’t be surprised to see lots of couples. There are backpacker hotels, too, that work if you are looking for fun & parties. The Kendwa Rock may be a popular one. Don’t miss the full moon parties at Kendwa Rock taking place Saturdays! Since I was travelling solo I found it a bit difficult here to find a good value for money hotel, not too much in the backpacker crowd & not too luxurious. Kendwa is close to Nungwi, which has a number of bars and restaurants. I stayed 2 nights in Nungwi and headed directly on to Matemwe.
Activities in Kendwa & Nungwi
- Enjoy a sunset on a comfortable hammock in the front of the bar at Sunset Kendwa (also known as the Sundet Bungalows Hotel) at Kendwa Beach
- Diving or snorkelling! The Scuba Do Zanzibar is a PADI accredited 5-Star Gold-Palm Dive Centre and recognised as one of the most professional, eco-friendly diving, snorkelling and Water Sports centres in Zanzibar.
- Book a tour with the operator Safariblue. Spend a day out on a traditional wooden boat (dhow) including snorkelling and a delicious Swahili seafood barbecue made fresh on an island.
I stayed 2 nights in Nungwi and headed directly on to Matemwe. Here you are not surrounded by any pushy beach boys that try to sell you souvenirs or excursions as back in Nungwi. I enjoyed very much staying at Sevi Boutique hotel which offers spacious and comfy villas and excellent local and international food. Get more on my experience with my travel guide here.
Activities in Matemwe
Go for scuba diving (the best times for visibility tend to be between June to October in the north and November to March in the south). The Mnemba Atoll is probably the most famous dive spot in Zanzibar. This is easy to reach from Sevi Boutique Hotel. Get in contact with your hotel manager to make a reservation, snorkeling will cost you 45 USD for a half-day.
Moving South! Paje – chill vibes southeast of the Island
A place southeast of the island I absolutely recommend is Paje. It is well known among kite surfers. I went to a yoga class located in the Paje by night Hotel. Very much recommend the Hotel Waterfront. Paje has a good choice of hotels offering value for money stays. As a solo traveller getting in contact with other travellers works very easy due to the chilled vibes and different communal spaces in Paje. In the evenings, there are several parties and events going on, if you are in the mood for some action! The colours of the sea seen here are imaginably clear. The beaches seemed endless to me! The Maasai beach boys down here appeared less pushy to me. I had the chance to get a lovely exchange of personal life stories with some of them. It makes you better understand their background and culture.
Activities in Paje
- I loved the choice of coffee shops, restaurants and bars in Paje! They are all located along the beach, so go for a walk and try them all!
- Sail the typical Zanzibar Catamaran and enjoy the wind blowing in your face
- Kite surfing is a must if this is your sport!
- Walk along the beach to Jambiani (about 30 min from Paje). There is a beach restaurant on a Pier belonging to the Spice Island Hotel. Get lost in their hammock overlooking paradise’s clear blue waters. This is your spot to get a drink and make a unique photo of your Zanzibar trip!
Don’t expect to see any sunset in Paje, the sun goes down on the other side of the island. You can take a taxi or dala dala (public bus) to Machamvi Beach. About 20 min. card drive. about travelling Zanzibar
Practical Tips for your travel in Tanzania
In general, I can say, that travelling solo in Tanzania is safe, I never felt in danger. Of course, be careful and avoid walking alone at night in dark/ remote places. Golden rule! When interacting with the Maasai boys insist on your price since they will always try to get a benefit.
Absolutely recommend booking some transfers in advance when you move from one place to the other at your hotel for example. Arriving at the ferry station can get very annoying having lots of taxi drivers hunting for a potential passengers.
Looking for a stay in Dar es Salaam before heading back home? Book your night at Slipaway, this place is known among expats and is peaceful to spent the last day at the pool and do some last souvenir shoppings before heading home. Ask your hotel for a city tour if you have still time left.
Visa: Some countries are exempt from visas, but for most people they cost $50 for a single entry – unfortunately, if you’re American your visa is $100. Work/volunteer visas are $200.
Money: The official currency is Tanzanian Shillings (TSH). Many hotels and tourist activities accept dollars and cards. I recommend to pay in shilling, since this is often cheaper. Be aware that there are not many ATM’s on the island, make sure you get enough cash in Stone Town when you arrive.
On some parts of Tanzania & mostly everywhere in Zanzibar people are mostly conservative, be respectful and make sure for example with dressing or taking photos (maybe ask for permission before) to not offend anyone or accidentally get yourself into trouble.
During Ramadan, it’s better to respect their traditions: No drinking, eating or smoking in the streets (or singing), and no public displays of affection.
You will notice a lot of poverty in Zanzibar. Most of the local people live in the villages constructed around the hotel resorts. As a tourist, you will always stand out and a lot of people will assume you have money and they’ll want your business. Being patient and respectful, I made the experience, that somehow they appreciate very much a discussion. Make them understand your intentions. I know, it’s not always easy, because they have one goal in their mind, and this is selling. But somehow it’s a good way to practice saying no!
“No thanks” in Swahili is “Hapana asante!”
A lot of people in Zanzibar say they’re a“Tour Guide”. They approach you with this to sell you a tour and often it’s a trap. If you want a good guide with great knowledge, ask your hotel or get in contact with pal Farid who is the best tour guide in Stone Town.
My very personal Tanzania experience
Travelling to Zanzibar made me notice a lot of discrepancies between the poor and rich. The island is full of luxury resorts with high walls dividing them from the villages where the local people live. Most people are poor and live in very simple habitats. But they recognize tourism is a way out of poverty, and so tourism is welcome. People give their best to let you remember Zanzibar as a place of joy and peace.
This is why I understand, that all of these businessmen have one principal goal when approaching. I had situations in my mind where I felt guilty because all of that was new to me. Though I am not rich! It was my first time travelling in a 3rd world country. But what I realized too, is that people here are happy and smile a lot more than many people back home. Thank you, Zanzibar for your good vibes. Hakuna Matata! All will be good.
Get more travel stories in my blog section here!