Zanzibar is a tropical island so it’s warm throughout the year averaging 26-28c. It is generally very humid and the hottest months are November-December, even though November has some ‘short’ rains. The main rainy period (so considered the ‘low season’) is April to June when I visited. Though it was always warm, we did have some cloudy days and we did have rain. If you are just coming to relax and enjoy the ocean, then I would not let this put you off. However if you are real sun-lovers wanting to soak up the rays on the beach then you may want to avoid this time…
As is so often the case, the mornings are calm and the wind picks up in the afternoon. I can imagine that this is very welcome in the hotter months as it cools everything down. But it does make sea swimming rougher than I was expecting. August is the windiest month and diving is not really recommended from August through to October.
(Zanzibar would be a fantastic destination if you wanted to learn to kite-surf as the water is warm. Breezes Beach Club offers Learn to Kite-surf sessions (2 hours per day for 4 days) though I suspect that you may need some more time to get reasonably proficient.)
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High & Low Tide
There’s a big tidal range across the whole of Eastern Africa (so this will be same at Lamu, Diani Beach and mainland Tanzania) so at low tide, you won’t be able to swim in the sea – as it’s too shallow. The only area which is less affected is the far north eg northern beaches west of Nungwi
Zanzibar is very close to being malaria-free because of a policy of six-monthly spraying of all buildings. So you are highly unlikely to get malaria here even. Mosquitos are a problem (especially when eating dinner as the restaurants are alfresco) so you should bring anti-mosquito repellant, bite cream and perhaps wear long trousers in the evening (compulsory for men at many resort restaurants).
Diving is best in the far north around the Nungwi area and Matemwe. BUT many of the resorts on the north-east are set on a slight cliff so though you have great sea views from the main areas, you have to walk down several steps to get to the beach – you can’t just walk out from your suite and onto the sand. Plus in some cases, the beach is practically non-existent so we recommend that you use a tour operator, such as us, who knows the different resorts.
These tend to be set at sea level so you can walk down to the beach very easily BUT because there is no elevation, only the front of the resort has the sea view. But the resorts often provide extensive ‘beachified’ area just above the main beach with loungers.
I always recommend a night in Stone Town so that you can learn a little about the culture and history of Zanzibar. It is easy to arrive before lunch and enjoy an afternoon city tour and then perhaps a Spice tour the following morning en route to your beach hotel. There are a good range of excursions available in Zanzibar including Stone Town, Spice farm tour, Green Panorama tour, Dhow cruises, Dolphin excursions. I stayed at Jafferji House and also visited the Zanzibar Serena Hotel (see my review here).
Right in old part of Stone Town. Very atmospheric with lots of character. Each room is very different and all have bathrooms with large stone baths as well as showers (with good water pressure). It may not suit people who prefer a conventional hotel room, but no shortage of character!
I liked it as you really had a flavour of Stone Town. The little shops were all around you and its very close to the House of Wonders which acts as a sort of museum for Zanzibar. The room was well-equipped with ceiling fans, air-conditioning (needed!) and lots of sitting space. The entry levels rooms were quite small however. I really liked the Sultans Suite with separate airy sitting room and brass bath as well as outside shower.
New sister hotel to its more famous relative in Mauritius. The hotel has a serene eastern ambience with great expanses of space – very elegant and calming. It is set in manicured gardens (which personally I don’t like as it seems somewhat artificial.) There are 66 free standing villas, some with garden views some with sea views (at a higher price of course). The Luxury suites are a massive 97sqm inside and 165sqm incl deck and private pool. There’s a sitting area and a bedroom with a very stylish bathroom with bath and indoor/outdoor showers.
The Prestige suites are all sea facing and are the same size as the Luxury suites just with a much bigger deck. Personally I am not sure that this is really worth the extra money. The Frangipani suites are two bedroom villas with a bedroom on either side of the sitting room. These are really for families and extra 1 or 2 beds can be added to sitting room. A nice touch is that bicycles at parked at each villa for people to get around under their own steam or you can summon a golf cart.
This was certainly a deluxe hotel but I had no feeling that I was in Zanzibar as opposed to Bali, Indonesia, Caribbean etc. It seemed lacking in soul…I preferred Baraza.
This is a friendly and ultra comfortable four star resort hotel set on a really lovely beach. Very homely feel to the hotel but all was well maintained. Set in gardens but these are more tropical and thus it felt much more natural to me. There’s a main bar, pool bar, main restaurant which is used if you have booked on DBB basis and small private restaurant (Sultans Table) which can be booked instead at extra cost. There’s a second private restaurant just for two – Tides Private Beach Restaurant – overlooking the ocean which is very popular for honeymoons and anniversaries. See my longer review here…
I was expecting Baraza to be a little ‘too much’ perhaps over the top. It actually isn’t, though of course it is the opposite of Breezes’ homely style. Indeed there’s an argument to say that you should stay at places which are completely different from home when you come on holiday.
The style is very Arabic set in lush tropical gardens. It looks truly amazing at night all lit up – very magical and straight out of Arabian nights…
Baraza Spa is winning aspect of Barazza and certainly one of the nicest spas that I have been to. It is decorated in the Arabic style and is wildly over the top but great fun! Lots of lanterns, lots of Arabic arches and gorgeous brass canisters.
There are two configurations – one bedroom villa and two bedroom villa. See my longer Baraza Resort Review here
The Palms was built a few years ago as the five star sister hotel to Breezes. I really liked the Palms and I think that it would appeal to a broad range of people. It is very small with only six villas. However what is particularly nice about Palms is that each villa has its own private ‘banda’ right on raised beach area behind the main beach, with steps directly down to the main beach. Here are two loungers, coffee table and a double day bed which is screened on three sides for privacy and also protection from the winds. This is a really nice aspect of The Palms. I suspect that alot of people simply hang out at their banda for much of the day. See my longer review here…