Yoga Travel Guide: Zanzibar, Africa

Zanzibar was a very much spontaneous, unexpected trip for me and to be honest it felt like no where else I had ever been. I will admit, I naively went without much vegan travel prep.

Plant based eating does not seem to be very common in Zanzibar but everything is definitely easily adapted and there are so many options to choose from; local fresh fruit and veg, rice and beans – but making it clear when you order is the part I found most challenging.

At times it seemed restaurants were just agreeing with me but may not have fully understood – so just be aware of that. Don’t assume that foods which are normally naturally vegan will necessarily be made that way here, putting mayonnaise in hummus for example. (Why??!!!)

I will admit that there were times I was skeptical whether the food I had was actually fully plant based, I ate some and didn’t eat others. It was a challenge on that front but I tried my best not to get too stressed out about it and just¬† ordered salad, plain rice and fruit when I had to – there seemed to always be hummus available (again watch out for the mayo-crime -against-hummus issue) and avocados in abundance so that was a plus. Oh and my peanut addiction may have got out of control and a cashew addiction I never knew I had seemed to develop ūüôā

There is no shortage of fresh, local fruit : bananas, mangoes, avocados, watermelon, passion fruit, vegetables. I picked up some delicious medijool dates in a supermarket (few and far between to get a fairly decently stocked one) and I also found soya milk (not ideal and full of sugar but if you’re not a fan of black coffee, it worked) and coconut milk. I used coconut milk powder which some places had. Be sure to try the Zanzibar spiced tea/coffee (basically the Zanzibar version of Indian chai).

 

Eating & Drinking

 

All the delicious juices and smoothies at Lukmaan.

 

Lukmaan

I ate here on one occassion and had some dahl and rice. It was okay but not the best – quite heavy, oily and there is so much food (veg and non-veg) that it isn’t the most vegan friendly of places if you’re looking for that. However this is an extremely popular spot for both locals and travelers like myself so check it out for yourself if you are looking for cheap and filling food – there is a lot to choose from.

What they do have is awesome juices and smoothies for super cheap! All freshly made in front of you and seriously tasty and filling. So I came here every morning when in Stone Town for a vit hit.

Location: Mkunazini,  Under the Baobab Tree, Stone Town, Zanzibar City, Tanzania

 

Green Garden

Although we didn’t actually get what we had ordered, the food was still delicious. Firstly the juices were divine – I went for mango, spinach, coriander and lime and it was so good on a super hot, African day.

We got a wrap made using a chapati, which was nice and fluffy – stuffed with hummus, avocado, grated carrot, salad and it was served with tahini and chips. Tasty!

We also some veggie pakora on the side.

The staff were really nice, the food was fresh and when I told them about the dietary requirements they were happy to accommodate.

Location: Mkunazini street; 767 Stone Town, Zanzibar Urban/West, Tanzania.

All the bananas at Stone Town’s Darajani Market

 

 

Zanzibar Bandas

I ate here pretty much everyday as I was living here. The staff were helpful and happy to make me fresh, vegan friendly food. They have a whole vegetarian section, which I know off by heart at this stage.

Some of my favourites were the hummus (obviously), the veggie burger was another regular on my plate (minus the bun as it was not vegan).

They made me some delicious soups – basil, curried coconut or vegetable. Also the vegetable masala curry with spiced rice is pretty damn good.

Fresh fruit, juices and smoothies are all available and musli or perhaps some veganized pancakes served with homemade jam if you are here for breakfast.

All of their food is delivered and cooked fresh and so can take some time to arrive to your plate but a great place for veggie food if you take a trip to the quiet and sleepy Matemwe beach. Plenty of non-veg options for the non-vegans also.

Location: Matemwe beach, Zanzibar, Tanzania

 

 

Zanzibar Queen Hotel

Another regular eating spot for me during my time in Zanzibar and as I taught yoga classes here. I’d usually arrive a few hours early to grab some delicious food and sit by their amazing pool.

Again be sure to mention that you are vegan, if you are. My staples were the green salad with olive oil, their guacamole served with chapati and this is where my cashew and peanut addiction came to fruition – as they serve freshly roasted, hot peanuts and cashews as a bar snack and never fail to satisfy.

They serve fresh coconuts and some great mocktails – the watermelon cooler and the Zanzibar spice were my favorites (I would ask for them without sugar and still found them sweet enough).

Lovely staff and gorgeous surrounds to hang out, swim, read a book or take a walk along the beach in front of you.

Location: Matemwe beach, Zanzibar, Tanzania.

 

 

Zanzibar Coffee House

Now I will admit the staff who served us here were not the friendliest on both occasions and it was quite disappointing as we really liked it here.

I will add it in for the fact that they serve good coffee and I had a delicious vegan friendly wrap (you will need to specify your dietary needs to the staff – don’t take it personally if they don’t smile! ) and my friend tried the cakes (not vegan friendly) and said they were to die for.

The seats, space and decor is really nice and comfy to hang out in and they have a great rooftop terrace with indoor seating or you can sit outside and get rooftop views of Stone Town.

Location: Mkunazini, 1563/64 Stone Town, Zanzibar Urban/West, Tanzania

 

Lazuli Cafe

I really enjoyed our simple evening meal here, fresh and healthy food and the cafe itself is a lovely place to sit – white and blue walls and doors gives it a nice Mediterranean feel and the fresh food added to that.

The staff were nice, the food didn’t take too long to arrive and it is reasonably priced. As I said you have to be pretty pedantic in Zanzibar in general and ask what they have in their ingredients and not just assuming that the food which is normally made vegan-friendly is always the case.

When in doubt go for salads! I had a delicious salad with chickpeas, leaves, mango and other fresh veggies.

Location: Shangani District, Stone Town (at Kenyatta Street), Zanzibar, Tanzania

Lazuli Cafe at night

 

 

Accommodation

 

Jambo Guest House

I stayed here both times when visiting Stone Town – it is simple, low cost accommodation but in a good location (and right next to the Green Garden and around the corner from Luukmaan).

The staff were friendly and there was breakfast included – I usually just had some of the fruit and their masala coffee or ate elsewhere.

Reasonably priced and with a big fan and air con in the rooms for those extra hot Zanzibar days and nights.

Location:  Mkunazini St, Zanzibar, Tanzania

 

Asilia Beach Houses

I came to check this stunning space after hearing about the wonderful work they are doing for the local environment and community and I actually got a guided tour.

You can choose from one of their stunning chalet type rooms – the one I saw had an enormous four-poster bed, a beautiful spacious bathroom with robes made by their in house tailor and a loft style room with another sleeping space upstairs.

Then there is the private mini apartment room with it’s own chef and butler and a private pool overlooking the ocean. This space was really amazing – and the best part about it is that they are continuosly making great changes to have a more positive impact on their environment and on the community within which they are working.

You can feel that they are committed to everything that they preach. It is a really special experience for their guests, even the evening meal on the cliff edge tucked away at the end of Matemwe beach.

There are also daily yoga classes on offer here as well as a spa which uses as natural products as possible.

They have made the move towards not using any plastic straws and have organic rice straws available for those who really need a straw but otherwise they do not use them. They refill glass bottles from their water reserve to avoid and limit the amount of plastic bottles used. They control and limit food waste by asking guests at lunch time what they wish to eat in the evening, so as to prepare just enough. They donate money to the local community through different initiatives and guests are also able to donate if they wish.

They will be replacing their slippers/flip flops to biodegradable ones in their spa and rooms. They will be using fully biodegradable toothbrushes and plastic free toilet paper.

The manager was so welcoming, informative and spent two hours giving us a tour of the whole grounds and explaining everything they do here. The rooms are some of the most beautiful I have seen and the whole grounds of this hotel feels like being in an oasis of serenity and nature , even amidst the already relaxed Zanzibar life – this was a whole other level.

Location: Matemwe Beach, Matemwe 3275, Tanzania

 

Zanzibar Bandas

These are naturally made huts using palm frond and coco wood,  located right in front of the beach. Expect the sounds of the ocean to lull you to sleep (and maybe enter your dreams ) as well as the sounds of birds and monkeys surrounding your hut. It was such a treat to get to stay in these huts when I did. The rooms are spacious and airy with a grand, four poster bed and mosquito net which made me feel like I was in my own little tent at times when inside it.

The pool, surrounding hammocks and deck chairs are the perfect places to chill out for a few hours reading or watching the quiet life go by. I practiced yoga each morning in their wooden tower overlooking the ocean and taught a class in their upstairs lounge area, with cushioned seating areas for those days that the sun was too much.

The food is fresh and delicious and the staff are wonderful and always happy to help and welcome you with a smile.

Any practical help you need – be it within Bandas or with regards to trips or information about the island, organising taxis – you always had someone there to help you get it sorted or help you with your choices.

One of my favourite things here was the weekend music and even though I attended the concert more than ten times, I never got sick of the songs and I still sing them now back in Ireland. Friday evenings here are a lovely experience- nice food, great music and a relaxed atmosphere. Booking a table is recommended.

Location: Matemwe beach, Zanzibar

The beautiful Matemwe beach

Zanzibar Queen Hotel

See eating section for description of this lovely hotel, wonderful rooms available here as well as delicious food and beautiful surrounds.

 

Other things to do 

 

When a friend came to visit we decided to do some of the tours and trips available in Zanzibar.

We just happened to walk by Eco + culutre tours’ office. They were friendly and the guides were all super helpful and enjoyable company.

We did the sunset cruise, a short boat trip outside of Stone Town with some snacks (nuts and crisps) and we brought our own rose wine to enjoy a glass as the sun went down. A nice, relaxed trip and our captain James was great fun and full of chat but also left us to our ourselves when we were happy out and just enjoying this really lovely evening treat.

A memorial to the victims of the slave trade in Zanzibar.

The following day we got a tour of Stone Town and learned about the devastating history here with the slave trade and visited the museum – this is quite emotional but I would recommend it to get an idea of the tragic history about where you are staying. We also went to Prison Island and saw the Giant land tortoises – I will admit I was a bit unsure about this and if the tortoises are ethically cared for but they seem to be happy and I have been told that they are well looked after. There were lots of people there and taking selfies/photos with them which I am not a fan of. This was followed by some snorkeling nearby and a short tour of the old prison grounds on the island.

Lastly we went on the spice tour – I had already been to a spice farm in India but it is interesting and a fun experience to see the different spices and how they grow if you haven’t before.

 

Chumbe Island

I will write a full post about my experience here and how great it was. This island which is about 30 minutes boat ride from Stone Town and is an award winning nature reserve. Home to a coral reef sanctuary, a forest sanctuary and full of amazing wildlife. Everything on the island has been built using eco and environmentally conscious principles – from their eco huts and the pristine compost toilets. There is an array of locally and sustainably produced products for purchase-such as reusable water bottles, yoga mat holders, bags and other really well made products.

The thing I loved about my trip here is knowing that all of the money received through visitors to the island goes back into this project which supports educating young people, schools and people from all over the world who come here to learn and engage in conversations and study towards marine conservation.

I informed them that I ate a vegan diet (the day beforehand) and – WOW!- they prepared the most delicious meal I think I had in Zanzibar. It was full of flavour and many different dishes. Getting to sit and eat this meal with views of the Indian ocean and the faint outline of Dar Es Salaam on the horizon, truly added to this magical experience.

$90 for the day trip which included the boat ride from the Mnewa Ruins hotel, snorkeling  where I got to see stunning corals reefs  as well as reef sharks, sting rays and an abundance of colorful schools of fish.

Watching Chumbe Island from the top of the lighthouse.

Also included was the lunch, fresh juices and a whole range of teas and coffee available for self service whenever we wished – I had the lemongrass and the ginger.

After lunch we got a walking tour of the island where we got to see the coconut and hermit crabs, a 500 year old Boabab tree and a bird’s eye view of the island from the top of the lighthouse as well as learning about more about it’s history and current use.

They restrict the amount of visitors to the island but I would recommend a trip here if you got the opportunity and felt like investing your money to a worthwhile cause.

Yes, sugar cane juice fans – they also have it in Zanzibar!

 

Yoga

 

I didn’t get to attend any yoga classes myself while I was here unfortunately but I have seen posters around for teachers and classes in Stone Town and in Nungwi – and for sure during the high season (June – Feb/March) there will be classes available.

I taught daily classes at Matemwe beach.

Prison Island

Not a regular snorkeler , but embraced the beautiful ocean here and enjoyed it.

Practical Information

 

There is no hospital on the island, so come prepared with any medication you may need and bring good antiseptic things.

  • Malaria is a possibility here but I didn’t take anything (not recommending this), I brought some natural mosquito repellent and everywhere usually provides mosquito nets. I didn’t get bitten much but I did notice the bites pick up as it came closer to rainy season.

I got some delightful bites from spiders, from what I can gather.

         Hookworm is also an issue here so wear shoes.

  • Local water is not considered safe for drinking and so bottled water is the only option it seems. I’m really considering using water purification tablets next time I travel to places with unsafe drinking water to avoid the plastic bottle use. Has anyone ever used them?

 

  • Transport around the island is usually done in taxis, there is also the local buses known as Dala-dalas and there is also the possibility to rent scooters or bicycles. , if you feel confident to take on the roads. I didn’t rent a scooter while here as the cost was quite high for the amount of times I actually traveled long distances.¬† I wasn’t sure if I wanted to take on the roads this time – but having spent three months driving the manic Indian roads I don’t think their roads are much worse, if you are a confident on a scooter.

 

  • Local currency is the Tanzanian Shilling but American dollars are also accepted. There are no ATM machines in the rural areas (well there was none in Matemwe beach) so money can be withdrawn in Stone Town and there are also currency exchange places there. Most places outside of Stone Town have card machines and you can probably change dollars there but the exchange rate is a lot higher – this is also the same in shops and food places if you pay in dollars it is usually a lot higher than if you pay in local currency.

 

  • Travelling as a solo woman here felt safe where I was. I didn’t go very far and I always made sure I was in my hotel and off the beach before it got dark. You will have local men approach you or call at you along the beaches – be it to try and sell you things or to have a conversation, if I asked them to leave me to walk alone they would accept that. That was my experience during my trip there and I felt quite safe, once I got used to my surroundings.

 

  • You can obtain a visa at the airport which costs $50 for a 90 day visa. They are very strict about not staying longer than the 90 days so be sure to leave before your visa runs out as even one day over and you will have an issue.

 

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