Perfect Holiday in Zanzibar

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Jan 6th, 2012, 06:21 AM
  #1
BKP
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Perfect Holiday in Zanzibar

Better late than never! I've been putting off writing a trip report because then it means our holiday is well and truly over.

In October my husband, my 6 year old son, and I flew from London to Zanzibar via Nairobi. Our layover in Nairobi was about 12 hours. The fiancé of a work colleague who lives there arranged for us to use her driver. He took us to the Giraffe Center, the David Sheldrick Elephant Sanctuary, and the orphanage at the Nairobi National Park. The Giraffe center was the highlight. We got there just as they opened, watched as the giraffes lazily walked over for breakfast and had the place to ourselves. The Elephant Sanctuary was adorable but had to deal with some unhappy tourists. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and blame the heat! We should have listened to the reviews of the animal orphanage and skipped it. It did seem a bit sad and cramped. However, I'm so glad we didn't because we had such an interesting time. Several different schools were there on field trips. At least a hundred children or so. We were the only white people. At first the children watched us out of the corners of their eyes. My son could feel them watching him and he was uncomfortable. So I knelt down to talk with him and them. After a few hello, how are yous, they all pushed into to touch my son's arms and hair; he's bit ginger. It did freak him out a bit at first but once he understood they were just curious and to see them all laughing and smiling he relaxed and enjoyed himself as well. As we were walking out more schools were lined up to come in and he walked down the line, high fiving them all like he was some superstar.

In the evening we flew to Zanzibar. We landed in the dark so couldn't see anything -- no street lighting of course! But the road was terrible and my husband and I were both a bit worried. We shouldn't have been of course, our prearranged shuttle van dropped us off at our villa in Matemwe and our holiday truly began.

I'll finish the report in the next post.
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Jan 6th, 2012, 07:50 AM
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Part 2

I cannot say enough good things about the villa. Here's their website:
http://www.holidaylettings.co.uk/rentals/matemwe/54214
It was amazing: right on the beach, pool, daybeds, hammock, fully staffed with 3 housekeepers, a chef, a driver, gardeners, a sailboat and a motorboat and another driver for those as well. It was crazy. I've never been so well taken care of in my life. The sister of the owner lives two houses down and checked on us throughout our stay. The staff were amazing. The chef made sure my very picky son would always be happy and full. The gardener showed my son how to play all the different Zanzibarian games in the house. The motorboat driver took us snorkeling in some great locations but also helped us to have a little swim with the dolphins.

It really was perfect.

We appreciate that our son is pretty lucky to have such amazing experiences. We want him to understand that and to see that with that luck/blessings comes responsibility. A month before we left my son did a sponsored mountain climb and raised £500 for a charity in Zanzibar. While we were there we visited the nursery school that receives help from that charity. We brought jump ropes and stickers and had porridge with them. It was very sweet. Here's their website:
http://www.zanzibaraction.co.uk/

There isn't a lot of information about Zanzibar on these boards. I don't know if that's because not many people go or because most people check into resorts and relax. We did so much, Stonetown, Jozani forest, Jambiani, snorkeling, sailing, football on the beach etc.

If anyone has questions, feel free to ask. If not, I'll just say it really was a perfect holiday!
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Jan 6th, 2012, 10:16 AM
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Thanks for posting on Zanzibar! My fiance and I will be spending a portion of our honeymoon there in August 2012.

We are debating whether we should go to Jozani forest as reviews seem a bit hit or miss.

Also wondering how much time we should spend in Stonetown. Our flight back doesn't leave DAR until 11PM, so we are planning on only spending some time there on our last day. Would you say an afternoon is enough? We don't want to cut down on our beach time too much since it is our honeymoon. Are any of the tours in Stonetown worth it?

Appreciate any more details you'd like to give us. Thanks!
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Jan 6th, 2012, 10:21 AM
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Just being in Zanzibar is a "Holiday" and it is a nice short flight from Nairobi.

Thanks for the post
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Jan 6th, 2012, 12:27 PM
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Thanks for posting. Interesting to see the visit through your son's eyes. Very nice detail about donations and visiting the nursery school.
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Jan 6th, 2012, 12:51 PM
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Thanks everyone!

I really enjoyed Jozani forest. Your entry fee covers a tour lead by a very knowledgeable guide. It was extremely humid and we started dripping the moment we came under the tree cover! I was raised in seattle so have a thing for trees and forests. My son didn't enjoy it as much. He would rather spend more time on the beach. Also, after seeing all of the exciting animals in Nairobi he was underwhelmed by the monkeys. After the monkeys we toured the nearby mangrove forest. Again, having a thing for forests, I dug it but my family was DONE! The husband of the sister of the owner of the villa is a doctor and he really enjoyed Jozani because of all the medicinal uses of the many plants. So, if your interests sway that way, you should go, but if not -- more beach time!

We spent an afternoon in Stonetown and that was enough. We didn't go on a tour. Neither of my boys, the big one or the little one enjoy tours so we usually do it ourselves. We did go to the market and bought our food for the rest of the week and a few souvenirs. On my own, I would have loved a tour, but I still don't think I'd need to spend more than a few hours. We ate at Mercurys (my son wanted pizza) and it was pretty touristy but had nice seating with a lovely view. As the sun was setting local boys came out and were doing all sorts of gymnastics on the beach and were fun to watch.

My other advice is to be certain of your money details. Is your resort prepaid? Do you know how much money you will need while you're there? I believe there are only 3 ATMs on the island, all in Stonetown and they have a tendency to run out of money. We planned on bringing most of our money in cash with us but we spent more than we intended in Nairobi. Our trip into town was a few days after we arrived and we barely had the gas money to get to the ATM! We ended up using the ATM at the bank and were okay. Most people on tripadvisor advocate not using cards on the island because of pretty rampant theft.

Last bit of advice: Sunscreen!! I don't know where you're from but I swear a different sun shines on Zanzibar. We brought a bottle of 30 SPF with us but burned through that in just a few days and my husband and son still got sunburned. We bought another in Matemwe but think it was expired for all the good it did. We bought two more bottles in Stonetown (€20 each!!) that were 50 SPF and were okay. I'd also bring a bottle of aloe Vera after sun cream. Just in case!

Have fun! I'm jealous that you're going in 2012. I keep talking about going back but my husband always wants to see something new so we'll see . . .
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Jan 6th, 2012, 12:58 PM
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Femi -- thank you for saying that. We always travel with our son and are used to people telling us that it's wasted on him. They're sort of right, he doesn't remember visiting Rome when he was two. As an adult, I don't know how much he will remember of Zanzibar at 6. But I do know I'll remember. I also know that we experience places differently because of him. I'll never forget one of our best times in Zanzibar. We were coming in from sailing and a few boys from the village were waiting for us. One was the son of the man sailing the boat. My son's eyes lit up at the sight of boys his own age. I ran into the house and grabbed a soccer ball. By the time I came back a few more boys appeared. More and more boys showed up. At least a couple dozen and we played football with them, on the beach and in the water, for at least an hour. That wouldn't have happened if it had just been my husband and myself.
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Jan 6th, 2012, 02:37 PM
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Just back from week in Zanzibar. Loved our time at Echo Beach Resort. We have never stayed anywhere where we have been so wonderfully cared for. When my husband wanted coconut water, someone climbed a palm tree and got him fresh coconut (and peeled it for him, of course). Lovely time there. But..so hot!!!! Alex the fab manager made me a local cloth dress to help me stay cooler. The excellent scuba instructor gave our 4 teen kids a scuba lesson in the pool and the next day took them scuba at the coral reef!!! Yes, we all got sunburned with sunscreen and shirts. The resort made special food when a kid only wanted pasta or something not on menu. Great! But we did spend one night in Stonetown. Probably our views were affected by the extreme heat. IMHO Stonetown is better for a 2 hour visit rather than a stay. We did take a tour and there really is not much to see. Our guide was not good...his English quite limited and his enthusisam less. Plus he wanted more money than the agreed upon price. We stayed at the new Zanzibar Grand Palace Hotel which had great ac! The manager there was more than helpful. He got a doctor New Year's Eve to come to hotel to look at and treat my husband's infected arm. But Stonetown was our least favorite part of our trip to Nairobi, safari in Tanzania and then Zanzibar.
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Jan 9th, 2012, 02:26 AM
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Thanks BKP and Elainee for the additional input and all the great advice! We took note. So excited!
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