Tanzania offers all the attractions visitors are looking for in Africa. Located on the east coast of central Africa, it is a safari paradise, with idyllic beaches and beautiful hotels overlooking the sea. Tanzania boasts exotic wildlife and has the greatest concentration of animals on the planet. Here seeing lions, leopards, elephants, buffaloes and rhinos, among others, is guaranteed. Tanzania surprises even the most experienced traveler with its fascinating Masai culture and legendary places such as the Great Rift Valley, Lake Victoria, and three of the continents wonderful natural spaces: the Serengeti, the Ngorongoro Crater and Monte Kilimanjaro. And after an exhilarating safari in Tanzania, there is nothing better than relaxing on the spectacular beaches of Zanzibar. Known as the spice island due to its characteristic aroma of nutmeg, clove and vanilla, Zanzibar offers pristine beaches of fine white sand and crystal clear waters surrounded by exotic tropical scenery. Visit Stone Town, the island’s capital, whose historic center was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO for being one of the most representative cities of the Swahili culture.
Planning a first trip to Africa is exciting. That will make your adventurous imagination burst both positive and negative thoughts. A lot of ‘what if’ and a lot of ‘why not’.
Prior to booking the hotel and flights, I asked my friends who already been to Zanzibar and they all have the same stories and it always starts with- Amazing! I’m curious and a subtle adventurous. So why not?!
Do you need vaccines prior to your trip? Do they require proof of vaccine certifications?
When you travel out of the continent, it’s wise to expect the unexpected. Being far away from home means there is a risk of contracting disease. Just to be sure- my answer is YES. You should get vaccinated prior your entry to the continent. Authorities in the airport somehow doesn’t require you to present any documents of your vaccination but it’s always your responsibility to protect yourself.
For me, I had a yellow fever and malaria vaccine shot a week before of my departure. Remember to pack good health for your trip! As my doctor said, vaccines are your passport to adventure around the world. You may come into contact with different diseases based on the countries you are visiting, so better be ready.
Flights to Zanzibar.
Well, I can’t give a detailed answer for most flights unless if you’re coming from Dubai. FlyDubai (Dubai’s budget airline) has two direct flights for 5-6 hours from Dubai-Zanzibar. Other airlines like Oman Air, Emirates, Kenya Airways etc has one or two flights per day via Dar es Salaam.
Travelers to Tanzania require a valid Visa each time they enter the Republic. All visitors, except those with no visa requirement must obtain a visa prior to entry to Tanzania. However, to obtain a tourist’s visa for a single entry at any airport is also possible. I got my visa upon arrival for 50 USD (card only- no cash).
Arriving in my first African country is quite thrilling, it was pretty much excitement (a lot). Since we arrived mid-evening and the hotel is still kilometers away from the airport, we got picked up by the hotel’s private car. The driver welcomed us with his warm smile and greetings. The road was dark but somehow safe, and we had a smooth ride until we reached The Meliá Hotel Zanzibar- a luxury All Inclusive resort located right on the beach, on the northeast coast of the exotic island of Zanzibar.
The all inclusive Premium Room (for a price of less than 2000USD/2 pax for five days) is very spacious with canopied king size bed and fully equipped. It has a balcony that is facing to the ocean. The ambiance is very organic, tranquil and homey.
The entire floor plan is huge, because based on the size of the bathroom, it is same size as the bedroom plus the outdoor shower space! Double sinks, bathtub, separate spaces for shower and toilet and it even have a sofa seat in the middle and still there’s so much space. The outdoor shower truly got me, it even have a wooden bench.
The package includes most of the food or dining experience in all the restaurant (select parts are excluded both food and beverages). The Spice Restaurant offers buffet breakfast and dinner modeled after the traditional spice market found in Stone Town, the restaurant offers a relaxed dining experience that features an international mixture of cuisines with a distinct Arabian and African influence.
When we arrived we had our first dinner at the Spice Restaurant where they had a Tanzanian night complete with local cook set up on the garden ground ready to prepare a fresh dish for you. There was music and indigenous dancers, it was festive.
The following night we tried Aqua Restaurant that perched on the Cliff-side overlooking the magnificent Indian Ocean, Aqua prides itself on its excellent a la carte menu with a definite Mediterranean influence touched by African colors. They had the best seafood pasta!
We also tried The Jetty which is one of the landmarks at the Melia Zanzibar because it transports you out into the Indian Ocean. At the end of your walk you will discover the Jetty Bar and Restaurant ready to welcome you for pre and after dinner drinks and snacks. A journey through International cuisine with small portions from different countries. That night there was a DJ playing, together with our newly found friends in the resort we made the night so much fun through dancing and drinks.
Close to our villa is the Olympic sized infinity pool, its so blue and beautiful. The pool has a bar and restaurant as well, and is a perfect venue for light meals, sandwiches and snacks. The pool bar offers an extensive menu of cocktails, beers and other beverages.
The hotel has very long fine (very fine..literally) white sand, very calm water and crazy low tide moments. Mostly, during the day the water gets so low that you can see mostly the sand bed from a kilometer away. Our favorite spot after taking breakfast from The Spice Restaurant is the Gabi Beach. About one kilometer (that’s how much space has the hotel property!) from the Main Lobby, golf carts can take you to the Gabi Beach. Golf service car available every 15/20 minutes.
The powder white sand of the Meliá Zanzibar beach provides a dramatic natural entrance to the resort’s beautiful Gabi beach restaurant nestled quietly in the palm trees. Comfortable sun lounges draped in soft towels are arranged under the palm trees to allow you to enjoy your “own piece of paradise”. Beach volleyball, canoeing, and life jackets are available for guest use at the beach club for an extra few dollars. The Gabi Beach is one of our favorite place in the hotel to hang out the whole day, sunbathing with pizzas and lots of cocktail. On our last night, we had our buffet BBQ dinner set up in the beach. Three of our newly found friends during our stay is also celebrating their birthdays so we had an amazing night.
All in all. The foods that are being serve in each of the restaurants are top on its quality. So much selections and are prepared amazingly. Truly worth it. Services are outstanding, very warm and welcoming, and the team are truly amazing.
What to do in Zanzibar?
The hotel is so exclusive and you cannot easily go out on your own unplanned, even accepting outsider guest or from different hotels. They always need to ask confirmation for security.
The entire hotel property is so huge, they even have their own poultry yard and greenhouse. If you’re into outdoor jogging, there’s the beach side and the property pathway or mini road that covers the entire hotel vicinity. For sports; Beach volleyball, a tennis court, table tennis, gym and sauna, aqua gym, kayaking and kids club (if you’re traveling with family).
For outside hotel activities, you can easily book any of the offerings at the hotel’s concierge but for ours we got a great deal from tour agents at the beach. Here are the list of things that you can do in the island:
- Stone Town City Tour– although we skipped this part as we opted to spend more time in the hotel, but it’s your choice to experience it. Experienced guides will show you the historic charms of old Stone Town, from Town market, Slave Market and Slave Chambers, National Museum, House of Wonders, Old Fort, Sultan’s Palace, Livingstone House and many more. It’s an old town and are use by the locals, so don’t expect it as clean as the museum in other countries. But of course you can consult your guide prior to departure to tailor make a tour in order to optimize your day.
- Jozani Forest– boasts a rich diversity of native wildlife, including swamp forest, evergreen thicket and mangrove. Red Columbus and Sykes Monkeys can be seen frolicking amongst the exotic indigenous flora. Spend a day wandering through the forest and discover its hidden secrets. Morning excursion recommended as you can commonly spot more monkeys!
- Prison Island- takes approximately 30 minutes to get there by boat. The prison on this island was built in 1893, which was later used as a quarantine Hospital. It has a frangipani lined path around the island where the former patients took their evening walks. Apart from the prison ruins you can also see the beautiful peacocks and the enormous giant tortoises, some of which are over a 100 years old. On this little paradise one can also swim, snorkel, sunbathe or just relax and enjoy the peacefulness that this beautiful island has to offer. Half day trip in the morning will be fine.
- Spice Tour- offers you the opportunity to indulge your senses with a kaleidoscope of smells, tastes and textures. From the punch of the chili to the refreshing succulence if green coconut flesh. It also provides you with the unique chance to purchase those exclusive spices straight from the source.
- Blue Safari– one of the highlight of our stay. We were picked up from the hotel along with other guest from the hotel and other hotel. Then we drove for almost an hour going to the other side of the island. We reached to another beach where a native boat was waiting to take us on a sand bank in the middle of the ocean that is only visible for a couple of hours (Mid-noon). We had the best time there swimming not until the rain poured and we are forced to leave and sailed (under the rain) to our next island destination, which is not very far. The island is where all the tour groups go for lunch, and the tour package includes and amazing seafood lunch (with lobster!). After our lunch we explored the Kwale Island– climb an ancient baobab tree, walk along the beach, view coral formations and discover hermit crabs scurrying about. Then we sailed to the nearby lagoon through one of the two narrow entrances and found a natural swimming pool that changes with the tide. The lagoon is a haven of still and calm and just perfect for a swim. I enjoyed swimming there. The sky cleared up and we sailed back, but on our way, we stopped in the middle of the ocean to snorkel. The water is so clear and underneath is abundant with so much beauty. I must try!
After the safari, we drove back to the hotel but along the way our group decided to sea the sunset in Nungwi beach. And our request was granted, we stayed for a couple of hours by the beach drinking and enjoying the view, it was amazingly beautiful. Best part was, we gain new friends who are very chill and fun to be with. Truly unforgettable.
Meliá Zanzibar is built on a 40 acre estate with a beautiful beach of pearlescent white sand lapped by warm ocean waters, 300 meters long, situated at the very end of the property to procure the perfect combination with nature.
The resort is ringed by a natural coral reef, making bathing a relaxing and safe experience.
The hotel is around 45 minutes from the international airport of Zanzibar, and the capital city Stone Town, a Unesco World Heritage site.