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lmavolio Jun 16th, 2007 10:30 AM

Spice Tour vs. Stone Town Tour in Zanzibar?
Hi All - If you only had time for 1 tour while in Zanzibar, which would you choose - the Spice Tour or the Stone Town tour? Also, what do you actually do on the Spice Tour? Is it worth it to try to fit them both in?

I will be in Zanzibar for 4 days total - 3 full days at the beach and 1 day in Stone Town.

With our day in Stone Town, it appears we may only have time to do 1 of these tours, so trying to decide what to do with our time...Also, not sure where the Spice Tour takes you and if it would be feasible to do that tour on an afternoon during our beach stay. I don't know much about the Spice Tour, but I'd be curious to hear feedback from anyone who has been on it and if you thought it was interesting/worth it...Thanks everyone!

LyndaS Jun 16th, 2007 11:11 AM

Hands down - Stonetown is my opinion! An incredible place to visit - so much history and culture, I loved it. Twisting, turning alleys, wonderful architechure (wish I could spell that word), interesting stories areound every bend.

The spice tour was good, but no comparison, IMHO to Stonetown!

The spice tour is somewhere about an hour out of Stonetown (not too much in distance, just took a bit with the traffic). I'm not sure which direction we went though to get there, but I would imagine that you could do it from one of the beaches just as well.

If you need a walking guide for the history or culture of Stonetown, or just not to get lost, let me know, our guide we had was excellent, and has since beome my email buddy!

Leely Jun 16th, 2007 12:45 PM

Stone Town tour. No question. I thought my spice tour was pretty lame. Just my opinion, of course.

Have fun!

Leely Jun 16th, 2007 12:48 PM

Oh, I should clarify: I did <i>not</i> take a Stone Town tour. Like you, we just had time for one or the other, and my traveling companion really wanted to take a spice tour. We both wished we had toured the town instead. It was confusing (and hectic) to try to see it without a guide in the late afternoon heat. Normally I'm not a big tour person, but this was one case where I really would have appreciated something organized.

hguy47 Jun 16th, 2007 02:28 PM

We did both, and I concur with the others that Stonetown is more interesting and educational.

Abbyo Jun 16th, 2007 02:44 PM

LyndaS, I would love to get the contact info for your email buddy who could give a tour of Stonetown. We arrive there Aug.14

LyndaS Jun 16th, 2007 02:58 PM

No problem Abbyo - his name is Mussa, here is his email address - (not a link, you will have to rekey in standard format...)

mussa_shaaban at hotmail dot com

Just let him know you are from the Fodors board and that I gave you his address. He is a wonderful, warm person, and a great guide; he is just starting up his own tour &amp; guide business now.

On another note, are you joining us on the 7th - we'd love to meet you &amp; your family!

viaggi Jun 16th, 2007 03:25 PM

What do you do on the Stone Town tour that you couldn't do on your own? We are planning on staying in Stone Town for a couple of days (as we are not huge beach people) so I was thinking we probably wouldn't need an official tour. Am I missing something?

Leely Jun 16th, 2007 03:55 PM

viaggi, if you try to see the sights early, before it gets ungodly hot, at your own easy pace, then you should be okay. We tried to do it in the afternoon (post-spice tour), and were really frazzled. There are many, many people &quot;fly-catching&quot; (for unofficial tours, to get you to come into their preferred shop, etc.) and that made it hard for us to concentrate on getting from point A to point B. When you're already with a guide, I think you're less likely to have people wanting to be your guide. It just felt like a big hassle in that heat. Maybe I just have a low tolerance for that kind of thing and that kind of weather. It was a shock coming right after safari where everyone is taking care of your every need constantly. The shock of the real, I suppose.

But in my dream Stone Town tour, I also have a guide who is well-versed in the history of the island, particularly in terms of the eastern slave trade. Not to mention juicy colonial scandals and Freddie Mercury trivia. :D

lmavolio Jun 16th, 2007 05:58 PM

Thanks for the feedback everyone! Looks like if I only have time for one tour, Stone Town is it!!

Lynda S, do you know how much your guide charges for his tour and roughly how long it lasts? I will definitely e-mail him...

Also, for those of you who did take the Spice Tour, what did you do exactly and how was it? Trying to decide if I should bother with this, even if I do have the time, or if it's better to just spend more time in Stone Town. Thanks again everyone!

Jess215 Jun 16th, 2007 07:26 PM

Lynda. was your Zanzibar excursion part of the Micato tour?

LyndaS Jun 16th, 2007 11:35 PM

viaggi- ditto on what Leely said - it is hot, there are plenty of touts, lots of alleys, confusing streets - but most of all - a guide can tell you the history of the door you just passed by, or who lived in that building hundreds of years ago.

Leely, Mussa told us lots of stories on the slave trading days, a bit on the scandulous colonial era but nothing on Freddy Mercury!! I knew there was a reason to go back! Did he live there more than just his first year of life though? Did he go back?

Imavolio, no, I'm not sure how much Mussa charges, we went to Zanzibar last year on a Micato extension (just answered Jess's question too!). Mussa works for the company that Micato hires to be the guides for anyone who takes the Zanzibar extensions. But, he is also very keen on building his own clients and making a go of a business of his own as well. He'll do well, he is a great guide.

For the spice tour, it was raining cats and dogs, so we may not have got the full 'tour'. Basically they take you through the various spices that grow on the plantation - it was interesting to see how some of the more common spices grow - for instance I was surpirsed at how pepper grew! (previously I had given it no thought at all, but if I had, I would not have thought about buds on a tree!) There is some selection of spices to buy, but not as much as I figured there would be. But, you can also buy these same spices at the market in Stonetown - actually, they were cheaper in the market!

It's probably not fair of me to say this, because I have done it, but I'd skip it, and spend more time in Stonetown - or relaxing!

Jess, as mentioned abvoe, yes the tour was a Micato extension, if I recall, you are doing the extension aren't you? If so, request Mussa as the guide, he is a really good person. And, byu the way - you will LOVE the Serena. That is my dream place to go back to, to just sit and watch the ocean go by all day long. Well except for the time I am in the pool cooling off, or eating lobster in that wonderful open air dining room....

eco2 Jun 17th, 2007 05:37 AM

I did a spice tour back in 1999, and I enjoyed it. I didn't do a Stone Town tour -just explored that on my own - so I can't say one is better than the other. The details are a little shady but as I remember it, the tour was much more than a spice tour unless we did two tours in one...perhaps I am describing two different tours but it will tell you a little bit about what there is to offer there. I found it really easy to get this set up once I got there so no pre-planning was necessary. We got a tour of the island and spices on the island but we also saw other historic sites on the island including old baths and learned about the history and slavery. We also saw red columbus monkeys, we enjoyed a gorgeous beach and a nice traditional lunch, and we swam with dolphins off of an old fishing dhow. Like I said, this may be my memories from multiple tours so I am sure someone can correct me if I am confused....basic story is there is tons to do there and you can decide when you get there. Make sure to check out the gardens for dinner to experience Zanzibar to its fullest. Have fun!

Jess215 Jun 17th, 2007 07:23 AM

Lynda, thanks; you are a wealth of info as always. Your enthusiasm, too, keeps me going, as it seems like such a long time until my trip begins.

Jess215 Jun 19th, 2007 06:41 AM

What did you wear on the Spice Tour and to walk around Stone Town (if you are a female)? And what did the locals wear?

LyndaS Jun 19th, 2007 08:27 AM

Did you mean me, Jess? I started out wearing my incredible lightweight convertibles, but as it was raining cats &amp; dogs the first morning on our market/Stonetown tour, the hem got very wet and annoying. At lunch (back at the Serena) I changed into capris and wore those for the next 3 days - they are wonderful for Zanzibar - they are cool, the hem's don't get wet in the rain and they fit in with the 'dress modest' that everyone should take to do in Z'bar!

chimani Jun 19th, 2007 08:28 AM

I agree with whoever said you don't need a guide to see Stone Town. Half the fun is just exploring - expect to get lost.

I did a (the?) Spice Tour in 1992 and thought it was a great way to spend a day - brilliant. But maybe that's because I wasn't short of days!!

I think the point of the Spice Tour is that the day is an unknown quantity. It's all new information, and great fun.

But if you don't fancy spending a day less at the beach so you can do both - then, yeh, the town tour - why not?

Happy Travels.

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