Destinations, Food, Zanzibar

Flavor on a Dime, Luxury on a Dollar: Favorites From A Dozen Days in Zanzibar

November 16, 2012

During our dozen days in Zanzibar, we managed to find delightful meals, new friends, comfortable accommodations, and perfectly pulled espresso shots, some for the price of a few pretty pennies, others at cost of shiny gold coins. For those planning a visit to Zanzibar, enjoy our mini cheat-sheet of favorite activities in Stone Town and beyond, and for those of you reading along for armchair travel, enjoy the peek at life on this colorful island. I so wish we could’ve packed you along in our suitcase!

Colorful Street Food – Fodorhani Gardens Night Market
Favorite fare: Coconut potato soup with fry bread dumplings: 1,000Tsh ($0.62 +/-)

This outdoor market on the Stone Town waterfront crawls with visitors looking for a bite and vendors looking for a mark. Strike one on the grilled octopus (especially compared to octopus later in the trip), but absolute home run on the coconut potato soup Ted learned about from a friendly fellow named Ahmed.

Freshly-squeezed sugar cane juice; grilled octopus and seafood galore

Plates piled high at Fodorhani Gardens Night Market

Best Slice of Real Life – Soccer Game at Amaan Stadium
Tickets, transportation, and tip: 30,000Tsh ($19.07 +/-)

Speaking of Ahmed…Ted met him at the night market, and a recommendation for coconut potato soup turned into a friendship. They swapped stories and when Ted heard Ahmed was heading to a local soccer game the next day, he asked if we could tag along. Ted offered to pay for his ticket and transportation in exchange for guide services. We hopped a daladala (local mini-bus taxi) from downtown and headed for Amaan Stadium in the outer stretches of Stone Town. It was an early season game, an eye-opener, and a nostalgic flashback to Argentinian soccer with Kaylea and Portland Timbers fun with Bryan and Alyssa!

Pretty sure I was the only female in the stadium…

Bonus: Two ice cream cones + Zanzibar-grown peanuts. Total price: 3,500Tsh ($2.22 +/-)

Best Sports Drink Since Before Sliced Bread – Street Vendor Coconuts
1,000Tsh ($0.64 +/-)

Whether on the beaches of Brazil, the streets of Zanzibar, or among the stalls in Thailand, there’s nothing we love better for a quick rehydration fix than a fresh coconut hacked open and presented with (or without!) a straw. (P.S. I think fresh coconuts deserve another Swiss-Family-Robinson mention. Brothers – do you agree?)

Favorite Farm Tour – Eddie’s Market Propagation Project
Free, just near the main market.

While walking through stalls trying to avoid a bit of the rain, we spotted Eddie capturing runoff from a tarp to water his young passionfruit vine. Talk about creativity! This genius farmer has rural property where he grows a variety of fruits to sell in the market. Here in the city, though, he starts his plants in the soil below dripping air conditioners, gleaning free irrigation from Stone Town office buildings. Unless you knew to look, you’d never notice his little orange and mango plants springing to life amid the dust and rubbish.

Authentic Cooking School in Zanzibar – Octopus Curry with Salama
Ingredients, gas, charcoal, and tip for Salama’s time: 50,000Tsh ($31.78 +/-)
Bwejuu, Zanzibar – contact for email address

This one receives a full post! Absolutely better than I could’ve ever hoped for – a full day of shopping, cooking, and sharing authentic Tanzanian food with my new friend Salama. Cooking schools listed in the guidebook felt a little fishy, so I asked around and found a woman in the little town of Bwejuu who was game to spend the day teaching Ted and me what she knew about the real food of Zanzibar.

Won’t Break-the-Bank Breakfasts – Stone Town Café
15,000Tsh Avocado toast, Banana Crepes, Spiced Coffee and Spiced Tea ($9.53 +/-)
Shangani on Kenyatta Road, just past the old Post Office and above Stone Town Café

Yes, creatures of habit, we two. Many delicious breakfasts here. The spiced avocado toast (picture in the first Zanzibar post) and banana crepes became a favorite morning ritual during our first week in town.

A Home-Cooked Meal – Two Tables
25,000Tsh per person ($15.89 +/-)

This Stone Town family has been hosting guests at their in-home-restaurant-table for 21 years! Our friend Emma visited 16 years ago and said we must try finding it for ourselves. A buzz at the front door prompted a head to pop out from the second story window: the fellow called out and took our verbal dinner reservation. That night, after arriving early enough to spending time downstairs with the owner’s granddaughters, we climbed to the second floor balcony dining room. Seated across from a French couple honeymooning their way from Kilimanjaro to Zanzibar, we ate a multi-course meal of fruit juices, vegetable soup and flat bread, lentil curry and fry bread, spiced King Fish cutlets with potatoes, mixed vegetables with coconut, lime, chili, and garlic sauce, fresh coconut curry accompanied by the most delicious tuna we’ve ever tasted, fresh-harvested Tanzanian rice, and a perfect dessert of plantain with cardamom and coconut milk…

Romance Above The Rooftops – Emerson Spice Hotel
US$25.00 per person, plus drinks
Tharia Street, Kiponda, Zanzibar

We’d say it’s going all out, but for one of Conde Naste Travel’s top picks of 2012, the prices for a gourmet meal and accompanying sunset meals still seemed like a steal. A set menu of spice and flavor featuring fresh and colorful fruits of the land and sea, served by candle lantern light while diners watch the sunset glow melt from rooftop silhouettes into the sea.

The Best Deal in Town – Dulla’s Guest House
Double Occupancy: 25,000Tsh ($15.89 +/-)
Our Twitter friends Mike and Anne (@HoneyTrek) heard we were headed to Zanzibar and kindly shared some terrific tips, including Dulla’s email address and phone number. His private guest house was the perfect budget option for our first week in town. If you’re ever in the area and looking for Dulla’s contact, we’d be happy to share!

Lodging in Zanzibar for less than $20/night
Ted and Dulla

Remotely Speaking – White Beach Hotel
40,000Tsh ($25.42 +/-)
Bwejuu, Zanzibar

A few hours’ daladala ride from Stone Town, this cozy spot on the east coast of the island, just a few kilometers to the north of the village of Bwejuu, is an easy-going home base for early morning beach walks and long, lazy afternoons.

Beautiful Decadence – Zanzibar Coffee House
Double Occupancy: US$190

Our final splurge on Zanzibar! East-African beauty lovingly restored and furnished, with rooms named after everything good in the world: Caturra | Excelsa | Espresso | Macchiato | Moccachino | Bourbon | Arabica | Cappuccino.

We stayed in Bourbon, only too happy to enjoy the impeccably clean and calm room just a few flights down from their famous rooftop breakfast and a few flight up from the island’s best coffee shop.

Coffee from a Trained Barista – Zanzibar Coffee House
A couple of classy coffees 5,000Tsh ($3.13 +/-) – or complementary as welcome drinks and served with breakfast to Zanzibar Coffee House hotel guests
1563 Mkunazini  Zanzibar, Tanzania

Locally sourced Tanzanian beans give many Stone Town coffee shops a leg up to begin with, but finding a spot where baristas know how to pull perfect shots and foam milk to a balanced level of frothiness? That’s finding pure treasure.

Free Moments – Scenes from Around the City
No cost; open eyes and open hearts required.

Zanzibar proved an enigma.

A riddle.

Questioning motives, offering frustrating disappointments and genuine delights.

It certainly underscored that increasing amounts of money can’t buy happiness or authentic travel.

Perhaps in all this, we’ve learned the best way to see a place is to take a deep breath, let go of what we expect to see, and pay attention to the little discoveries all along the way.

Have you been to Zanzibar? Care to share any favorite memories?

Have you dreamed of visiting Zanzibar? Are you surprised by these scenes?

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  • Reply Jennifer November 17, 2012 at 10:20 pm

    Wow, the food looks so incredibly delicious and it is so inexpensive! Zanzibar wasn’t really on my radar, but after reading this it just might be added to our travel bucket list.

    • Reply Bethany ~ twoOregonians November 27, 2012 at 2:34 am

      I think it’s absolutely worth a visit, especially if you can combine it with other travels in the area. I met so many people who were coming to the island to relax and rest after more adventurous treks and climbs and tours. It’s a fascinating spot.

  • Reply Dalene November 17, 2012 at 11:14 pm

    You are successfully wooing me to Africa, and to Zanzibar…..

    • Reply Bethany ~ twoOregonians November 27, 2012 at 2:36 am

      Aw, thanks Dalene! I really do hope you get there someday. I’d love to hear what you think of it. I must say…I still haven’t been to Wisconsin, but between overdue visits to Ted’s extended family and your guys’ updates, we may need to plan a midwest trip once we’re stateside : )

  • Reply Stephanie - The Travel Chica November 18, 2012 at 7:14 pm

    Wonderful re-cap. I feel like I was there with you :-)

    • Reply Bethany ~ twoOregonians November 27, 2012 at 2:37 am

      There were just so many experiences and stories… Glad that you could come along for the whirlwind tour : )

  • Reply Lindsay November 18, 2012 at 8:18 pm

    I never dreamed of going there–didn’t know much about it–but I’m starting to dream of it now!

    • Reply Bethany ~ twoOregonians November 27, 2012 at 2:38 am

      I’d really just seen palm tree screen savers and spice market snapshots… It was so enjoyable to soak it all in in person. Hope you can make a visit one day!

  • Reply Bethaney - Flashpacker Family November 19, 2012 at 1:49 am

    Africa scares me a little but, if I were to go, I’m sure I’d be headed straight to Zanzibar. It looks amazing. The breakfast along could get me there!

    • Reply Bethany ~ twoOregonians November 27, 2012 at 2:40 am

      Hey Bethaney! No joke about the breakfast. Oh my word…just delicious. And I could wake up every morning for a month and drink their spiced tea. Such a treat to have so many fresh fruits and bright flavors…

    What say you?