The “Jambo” and “Mambo” are often just that, so it’s a good idea to say hello back. It might be initially overwhelming, but it’s nice to realize that so many strangers will take the time to acknowledge your presence and ask you about your day.
A ‘Shikamoo’, usually reserved for those you don’t know, your elders or superiors, is a respectful greeting that locals will appreciate.
Get on Swahili time. Time keeping is initially confusing, but actually makes a lot of sense. In Swahili culture, people start counting time at sunrise rather than at midnight which means that 7 a.m.
Western time is one o’clock in the morning Swahili time, and 7 p.m. is one o’clock at night. (This works because sunset and sunrise times are relatively constant year-round, since Zanzibar is close to the Equator.)
A trick to decipher this code is to imagine drawing a line directly across a clock face; three becomes nine, four becomes ten.
When arranging meeting, it’s best to specify the time of day you’d like to meet-morning, afternoon, evening, night-that way, even if your numbers are off, chances are you’ll still connect.
Greeting matter; Stop and say Hi: Swahili is an easy language to pick up, and the initial learning curve is quick. Learning just the basics will take you pretty far.
Don’t assume the constant street side attention from people is an attempt to sell you something, or trap you into taking some sort of tour-that does happen, but saying hello is also an important part of the local culture.
Get lost in Stone Town: The ancient city-declared a UNESCO culture heritage site in 2000-is charming, but it’s basically a maze. The act of receiving directions through the town’s winding alleys usually involves a series of confusing hand gestures and head nodes, and will probably not get you where you want to go any faster.
There are street names, sort of, but no one really uses them. The bright side is that Stone Town is small and safe, and not knowing where you are going is part of the experience. Locals are helpful, so you can ask for directions as many times as you want, but sometimes it’s best to let yourself get lost.
Choose your own adventure: Zanzibar has become host to a handful of East Africa’s most posh luxury resorts, which can be a jarring contrast to what is an otherwise quiet, economically-challenged islands (The average Zanzibari make less than $ 1 a day).
If you are looking for beach escape with other Westerners, head north to Nungwi and Kendwa, where you’ll find the same all-inclusive packages and beach discos you’ll find in most other warm parts of the world.
For a slightly more Zanzibari experience, try quieter towns like Bwejuu or Jambiani where your slice of island paradise is mixed with the rhythms of village life.
Zanzibar has two rainy seasons. Every year, there are the long rains and the short rains. On the heels of the blazing and seriously sweaty East African summer, Zanzibar’s long rainy season lasts roughly from Much until May.
Booking a trip during this period if you are set on a beach holiday is not a good idea; the islands get hit with some pretty epic monsoons that will quite literally dump on your beach time.
The short rains generally take place between November and December, but are not nearly as intense-they tend to show up in short and torrential bursts, then quickly fade back to blue skies.
Taste the world. Zanzibar has had many rulers over the centuries, and its long, tragic history has created one of Africa’s most interesting cuisines.
This is the original fusion food, a delicious mash-up of Indian, Arab, Chinese, Portuguese and African cooking traditions, all driven by the constant presence of spice (Islands, after all, where cloves, Cinnamon, Black pepper and nutmeg come straight from the sources.
Come out at night: Stone Town can look spooky at night when you first arrive9the dimly-lit collection of narrow streets and back alleys does not exactly invite aimless wandering by the uninitiated.
But don’t let the eeriness and travel advisories calling for extra caution after dark keep you confined to your room after sundown.
Stone Town is bustling with in the evenings, with kids out playing, couples strolling, and everywhere people feasting.
The central park-turned-night market, Forodhani Gardens, is packed with locals and tourist sampling the couple dozen fresh food stalls. Skip the skewers of shellfish, which may have been sitting out all day, and Zanzibar pizza, chased with sugar cane juice.
There’s so much more than just beach lounging: There is so much more than to do here! Some other trips you can take are;
- Visit the Jozani forests and have lunch at restaurant afterwards as they are pretty close to one another. The Jozani forest is one of the last remaining sanctuaries in the World of the red colobus monkey.
- Catch a ferry from Stone Town to check out giant tortoises that are nearly 200 years old on Changuu islands (famously known as Prison islands).
- Visit the Former Slave Markets Site. At the end of the 17th century, Zanzibar became the center of the Slave trade in East Africa. You can visit the old slave market remains, located by the Anglican Cathedral. Here you will see two damp and dark chambers which housed up to 65 people each who were waiting to be sold and the slave market memorial.
- Experience a sunset dhow cruise from Stone Town.
- Check out Mangapwani Caves.These caves were used illegal slave holding pens after the abolishment of the slave trade.
- Swim with dolphins at Kizimkazi.
- Go on underwater safari.
- Old fort memorial, build by Portugal for warfare.