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New Zanzibar Lodges – and maps

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In January we spent 10 days on Zanzibar visiting all corners (except the very south west).

CAR RENTAL:

We rented a 4WD Suzuki car from a friend ($45 per day unlimited km + fuel) and really enjoyed the freedom of our own wheels! It is important to buy a daily permit if you don’t have an international driver’s license. I used my VA license to get the permit – it took only 20 minutes.

We could avoid the resort buffet tables and visit the many local restaurants such as Cabs near Kizimkazi, and Door near Dongwe, as well as interesting places such as Rocky Restaurant.

The roads were not bad at all. They are working on the roads in the north and south east and it was a breeze to get from one area to another. The worse roads by far were in Kendwa when trying to reach the places at the beach!

The police checkpoints were no problems (the police were very friendly actually) and we never felt unsafe or nervous. The hardest part was driving in Stone Town but only because it is easy to get lost. The streets are very narrow and I was afraid of running over kids or knocking someone’s belongings off a wall – or scrape the car!

The locals don’t see many foreigners driving cars and they treated us with the utmost respect – none of the usual touting. I guess they thought we were too seasoned and they just ignored us!

The police pulled us over once because I was not wearing my seat belt (a big no-no). The usual East Africa conversation followed – big offence, have to go to court in the morning, have to drive to the police station right away to get my summons, may limit my chances to get a drivers permit in the future, and so on.

Well, we asked the official about his family and his children and suggested discreetly to make a $20 cash donation to his son’s school. 2 minutes later we were on our way with nor ticket nor summons!

ITALIANS:

I love Italy, I love Italians. But boy, were there many Italian visitors on the island! Families were staying for 10 days and longer at resorts such as Karafuu and the dozen or so other Italian resorts. How much Italian food can one eat in 10 days? The resorts tend to cater to the Italians and after a few days we were driving long distances just to find local cuisine!

At Chwaka Bay Resort we innocently showed up for lunch only to be shown the door – it is now an Italian Private Club! Even the Kempinski has settled on the Italian market it seems. The main restaurant had long pasta lines but not much else to write home about.

After a few days of pastas and far below par seafood at the big resorts, we went looking for smaller retreats and places where we could mix/eat with the locals. Thank goodness for our little car. Here is a list of some new (and not-so-new) places we discovered!

STONE TOWN:

We were very impressed with the Zanzibar Palace Hotel. Friendly, interesting, central and comfortable.

STONE TOWN ISLANDS: http://www.go-safari.com/Zanzibar/StoneTownIslandsJPG.jpg

Even the 2006 guide books for Zanzibar are wrong and out of date. Fortunately, we don’t rely on guide books and we are happy to report that there are 4 splendid island accommodations near Stone Town!

Chumbe: well-known and appreciated but no beach and a bit too far away for easy access to Stone Town. http://www.go-safari.com/Zanzibar/chumbe.htm

Chapwani: just 15 minutes away by boat with great food, and simple but comfortable accommodations. Lack of privacy may be an issue for some as the rooms are connected. Pool and high-tide beach. Snorkeling not as good. http://www.go-safari.com/Zanzibar/Chapwani.htm

Changuu: just 20 minutes from Stone Town. 2 styles of accommodation – we stayed at the deluxe cottages which are very private on the east side. The cheaper rooms on the west side are attached. Small beach is good at both tides. Pool. Average snorkeling. Good food in main restaurant. Lunch area is a bit busy due to day visitors. Giant tortoises are the main attraction! http://www.go-safari.com/Zanzibar/chumbe.htm

Bawe Island: Want a private island feel but cannot afford Mnemba? This is the island for you! Nice beach, wonderful sunsets, great snorkeling and diving, pool, large private bungalows, excellent food. About 25 minutes from Stone Town. Our favorite find of the 2 weeks. http://www.go-safari.com/Zanzibar/baweisland.htm

Next: the Kizimkazi Area

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