Legend of Zanzibar: Intimate One-Week Cultural Tour

A 8 day trip to Tanzania 
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Ornate wooden doors lead you into traditional coral houses, and Persian and Omani designs meet with rich Swahili culture. Spice plantations tantalize the nostrils while slaving history provides poignant stories. Zanzibar is Africa’s most culturally diverse destination, an island with a myriad of influences and artistic obsessions. From its earliest trading days to the day to day life of today, this handcrafted tour offers an intimate journey into all the history and culture that Zanzibar can offer.

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General Information

Photos
Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Stone Town & Jambiani

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Stone Town – First Impressions of the Maze

Sounds will guide you from the rooftop, suggesting what is happening in the Stone Town maze. A little later there are church bells, and every so often there will be the tinkling of a bicycle bell or the gossiped laugher of chatting locals. Once you are upon the streets, you will be guided by delectable fragrances: cardamom, cloves, incense, burning charcoal, and sizzling seafood. So much will be happening, and it will be an entirely sensual experience. You will walk through lanes of coral houses, admire the thick wooden doors, and get lost in the maze.

This first day will be all about making your own impressions of Stone Town, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site of houses that have been constructed from coral. Over a thousand years of history can be found here, and the stories can go long into the night. You will need time to appreciate how unique this place is, and how the mix of influence has constructed something with a foot in many continents and cultures. After the ten-minute airport transfer, you will check into the hotel, and a guide will provide a brief orientation, so you know how to recognize the way back to the hotel. You will appreciate the atmosphere from the rooftop terrace and then head out to explore with Darajani Market being a superb first immersion into the conflicting sounds and smells of Zanzibar.

What’s Included: airport transfer, accommodation

Day 2: Stone Town – Exotic Spices and Zanzibari Cooking

Vanilla will impress your nose when you get close, cloves and pepper will send their aromas far into the air, and cinnamon and nutmeg will be quick to entice. Many people are surprised at how these spices look. Often times, people have only encountered these spices in their final form and never on the actual plant. For many centuries Zanzibar traded these spices. Traders brought them from far and wide, finding the tropical island climate ideal for their cultivation. While the Dutch were bringing spices to Europe from the South Pacific, the Persians and Omanis were getting their spices from much closer. You will visit a plantation and take a tour with one of the head growers through fields of spice and great swathes of fruit. You will then head out to a processing facility so you can see how the spices are harvested.

As you can imagine, such a pantry of fresh spices gave rise to a very fragrant local cuisine. Taking fresh spices into the kitchen, you will cook with a Zanzibari mama. Pilaf, which is a highly fragrant rice dish, will be the mainstay. Other dishes use all types of seafood, chicken, fruits, and vegetables, resulting in a somewhat intoxicating mix of flavors that you may find hard to categorize. It will have the rich fruitiness of Persian, the hearty appeal of East African cuisine, spices from across the world, and seafood that will be fresh from the ocean that morning. As your chef guide will tell you, it is true Swahili cooking.

You will walk off this slightly indulgent lunch on your way back in Stone Town, where the guide will show you some of the grandest examples of architecture. The House of Wonders will impress with calligraphic its patterns. The People’s Palace Museum continues a tale of Zanzibar’s eclectic history, while the Old Fort will make you think of the medieval age. As you walk around Stone Town, there will be a new story on every corner and that is why it is so important to have an excellent guide. Late Queen frontman, Freddie Mercury, was born in Stone Town, and three houses claim to be his childhood home.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 3: Stone Town – Traditional Dhow Trip to Prison Island and Its White Beach

Dhows are the traditional mode of travel along Africa’s Indian Ocean coastline and the Arabian Peninsula. These vessels are slow, sturdy, rounded, wooden sailboats that are ideal for taking large quantities of cargo and tackling ocean currents. You will set off in a traditional dhow this morning, sailing on the wind to islets and sandbanks along Zanzibar’s western coast. You can jump out and snorkel at a vibrant reef, take a walk on deserted white sand, and feel the wind breeze through your hair as the ocean sparkles azure and emerald.

The first half of today will be spent cruising, and the afternoon will be spent on Prison Island. You will disembark your dhow and find the shade of a languid palm. A guide will cook up a barbecue as you rest in the sun. You can walk across the island to the prison ruins, hearing tales of when it was a place of quarantine for the sick along with who was held prisoner there. The ruins are surprisingly photogenic as they wait beneath palm trees. Later, the beach will provide a leisurely afternoon in the sun. It is not often that you get to spend half a day on a near-deserted island. You will return to Stone Town as the burning African sun makes its daily descent into the ocean, and golden tones reflect up off the water.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 4: Stone Town – Remembering the Souls of the Stolen: Zanzibar Slave Tour

Stone Town grew wealthy from trading ivory for silk, tortoises for gold, and slaves for silver. They controlled nearly all of the eastward routes between Africa and Asia. In a Catholic cathedral, you will stand upon the old slave market, gaining a background to what took place. You will be able to see where slaves were measured and sold, and a little further through the maze, you will see the doors and houses of wealthy slave traders. Tippu Tip was the most famous and you will visit his home.

Less than 30 minutes outside Stone Town lie a series of ruins that are connected to the slave trade. Maruhubi and Mtoni are palaces that were never completed. Khole and Mbweni help to show how many different cultures once had authority here. As you descend steep steps, you will enter the gloom of the Mangapwani Slave Chamber. The Mangapwani Coral Cave is larger, and its entrance faces out to the ocean. This is a beautiful and secluded spot that you will find breathtaking. After all these stories Stone Town’s ambiance changes. From afternoon to evening, it becomes very lively on the streets. You may consider an evening at Forodhani Gardens where small barbecue stalls are enjoyed by locals and visitors alike.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 5: Stone Town to Jambiani – Artisans and Architecture Before the Beach

By now, you will have come to love the artistic details that make Stone Town special. If you only spend an afternoon here, it will be hard to see the details. In one afternoon, it will be hard enough to get your bearing in the labyrinth of narrow alleyways, so with so much going on, so much can be missed. After four days you will know your way around and the subtleties of Stone Town’s design. In such a tightly-packed town where it is impossible to look up and see beyond ground level, doors were an ostentatious status of wealth and power, and they still are.

You will meet with an artisan and explore the history and beauty of these doors, seeing how they are constructed and what the different flourishes mean. Traditionally, they have two iron knockers. These each make different sounds, so people inside would know if men or women were at the door. You will enter two other homes to see more of the Zanzibari interior. You will have also been enjoying this at your hotel: it will be handpicked for its preservation of traditional style. After lunch, there will be a complete change in the landscape. You will head to the beach, swapping the crowded, narrow alleys for the openness of white sand and the Indian Ocean.

What’s Included: accommodation, transfer, tour, breakfast

Day 6: Jambiani – Leisurely Day on the Beach

This day will be left free. You can take a walk along the sand from Jambiani to Paje, passing the odd fishing boats and a series of small, low-lying hotels. It will be tranquil here, even with the chatter of local women that are harvesting shells and seaweed at low tide. Around a mile from shore, a long, coral barrier turns ocean waters into a lagoon, making it a wonderfully warm and safe place to take a swim. There will not that much to do here, and that is part of the appeal: simply strolling on the beach, finding a shaded spot to lay around, and ordering drinks or food on a wooden promenade above the Indian Ocean.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 7: Jambiani – Rural Village Tour and Sunset Dhow Cruise

Zanzibari village life is completely different from that of Stone Town, which is a town that has always had wealth and power. Out in the villages, life is simple, yet filled with energy and laughter. You will meet a local guide and tour a village today, seeing how the houses are constructed on sand. You will also pay a visit to a local school where the children are always ecstatic to have visitors.

You will discover the local fishing methods and explore how things work out here, far from the extravagance of Stone Town. You will find a warm and welcoming culture that is often different when compared to the preconceptions visitors have about tribal Africa. It will be a relaxed half-day tour, and you will be invited to have lunch with a family as well. The afternoon will be free, giving more time to enjoy the beach. This evening you will sail, heading out on a dhow for a final Zanzibari experience.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 8: Jambiani to Zanzibar Town – Departure

From Jambiani it’s a 45-minute transfer back to Zanzibar Town and the airport.

What’s Included: airport transfer, breakfast

Price

Price 

Your custom trip package will include accommodations, transportation within the country, guided tours and activities, unique experiences, trip planning, and 24X7 support during your trip. 

Please inquire for a custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates!