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Zanzibar Diaries: Exploring, Indulging, and Savoring Every Moment

Tucked away off the coast of Tanzania, Zanzibar is like a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. With its stunning beaches and clear blue waters, it's the ultimate paradise escape. Wander through Stone Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and soak up the island's rich history and diverse culture. And let's talk about the food – fresh seafood, aromatic spices, and tropical fruits bursting with flavor. Whether you're into snorkeling, beach lounging, or exploring local markets, Zanzibar has something for everyone. Plus, it's all about sustainable tourism here, so you can feel good about supporting the community while you're soaking up the sun.

So, why did I visit Zanzibar? Aside from all of the reasons listed above, I chose to visit Zanzibar because I was yearning for a place to call home. I read all about their stunning beaches and farming initiatives. I read all about the history of the spice trade and how the locals have such an intuitive understanding and connection to the land. It felt like a place I just needed to visit. Have you ever had that feeling? That sharp intuition where you just know something is right for you. That's how I felt when boarding the flight to Zanzibar.

📚Before You Arrive

Here are two books you might enjoy checking out before your Zanzibar adventure:

  1. "Zanzibar: The Island Metropolis of Eastern Africa" by Abdul Sheriff - This book dives into everything Zanzibar, covering its history, culture, and why it's such a unique spot. From the spice trade to its colonial past, you'll get a deeper look into what makes Zanzibar tick.

  2. "The Zanzibar Chest: A Memoir of Love and War" by Aidan Hartley - This one's a personal memoir that takes you on a journey through East Africa, with a special focus on Zanzibar. It's got family secrets, a bit of mystery, and a whole lot of heart. Perfect for getting into the vibe of the island before you even set foot there!

Where to Stay?

Tulia Beach Resort - Pongwe, Tanzania. Photo by Jessica Nichole.

I want you to take everything you know about all-inclusive resorts and throw it out the window. Because Tulia Zanzibar is a resort in a league of its own. From the amazing staff to the meticulous attention to detail and personalized dining experiences, it becomes clear from the moment you stroll through those gates that this resort is top-notch. I felt like a kid in a candy store. I didn't know if I wanted to lounge by the pool with a glass of wine, recline in the beachside hammock with a book, or dive into lunch the moment I arrived. It's like I wanted to experience everything and nothing all at the same time. Lol.

Thankfully, I was staying at the resort for a few days, so I had time to experience it all. And by all, I mean a tour of the organic garden, a boat ride exploring the gorgeous waters, a refreshing morning workout session, a nighttime stroll on the beach, a glass of wine, and a bubble bath, etc. I could keep going, but I'm starting to feel like you get the picture. And yes, I got to enjoy all of that without ever needing to leave the resort!

The resort is outstanding, and the staff truly leave an indelible mark on your heart.

When I'm staying in a country for an extended period of time, I like to mix it up. I prefer staying in multiple cities/regions to get a true feel of the country. Emerson Spice Hotel is located in the heart of Stone Town. Pun intended, you are literally a stone's throw away from restaurants, nightlife, and of course, gorgeous beaches. Staying at this hotel is like staying in a piece of history. From the vast array of warm colors to the richness of everything, it feels opulent, historical, and majestic.

When traveling, I'm typically drawn to luxury boutique hotels because I get all of the luxury amenities I'm accustomed to but with a generous dose of culture. Also, boutique hotels offer a more personalized experience. For example, I arrived in Zanzibar after midnight, sometime around 1 AM. When I arrived at the hotel, the staff was ready and waiting. They prepared a late-night meal and had a bottle of red wine waiting for me upon arrival. It's like the staff wants you to want for nothing. They're ready to take care of all of your needs to ensure that you focus all of your time and attention on discovering Zanzibar and falling in love with all that it has to offer.

What To Do?

But what is there to do in Zanzibar? Geez, where do I even begin? If you're an adventure seeker and love wildlife, you must check out Cheetah’s Rock! It's an animal conservatory where they lovingly nurture animals in need and, when possible, return them back to the wildlife when they're ready. You can swim with the otters, get up close and personal with lions, tigers, and cheetahs. You also get to meet a pretty cool zebra who's learned some awesome tricks.

If you're looking for more history, you might want to spend an entire day exploring Stone Town. From the cathedrals to the sculptures, you'll learn everything about the spice and slave trade. You'll learn the connection between Catholicism and slavery steps away from local elementary schools. If you're lucky, you'll see children celebrating their soccer victories and running laps around their school with their teachers. The combination of childhood laughter and history makes you feel like you are truly a part of the community. I suggest taking a tour hosted by a local to discover some of the hidden alleyways where locals hang out after hours to watch soccer matches.

And of course, Zanzibar is one of the spice capitals of the world, so no journey to Zanzibar would be complete without a Spice Farm Tour. I'm talking from black pepper to jackfruit to wild mushrooms, nutmeg, ginger, turmeric—you will discover fields and fields and fields worth of spices and produce. I was fortunate enough to enjoy a meal overlooking the farm prepared by a local chef. The food was so good I thought the chef owned his own restaurant, but I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that he cooks everything in his house, then packs it to go for tourists who want a fresh taste of local cuisine.

What are we eating?

Secret Garden Restaurant - Emerson Spice Hotel. Photo by Jessica Nichole.

For all my fellow foodies, I've saved the best for last. After waking up in the morning, reading, journaling, and expressing my gratitude, it's time to eat. Lol. My first words, sometime around 10 AM, are typically, "What are we eating?"

The Nassor’s Tambi Prawns from Emerson Spice Hotel were AMAZING! I stayed at the Marriott for my last few nights. Thankfully, it's located in Stone Town as well, which meant I was able to walk back to Emerson Spice Hotel to enjoy their lunch menu. Trust me when I say, order anything off the menu and you will leave a very happy tourist. Which is no surprise since Zanzibar has an abundance of fresh produce growing locally and access to pristine waters. Their food is well-seasoned and freshly prepared.

Of course, you will find an abundance of seafood restaurant menus, but they're friendly to tourists as well and occasionally you'll see some "American" dishes such as burgers, french fries, grilled chicken, etc. However, I do suggest you try as many local dishes as possible. Once you return to the states, you will long for fresh seafood, ripe coconut water, and chapati! OMG, that chapati. It's a type of unleavened flatbread that's typically made from wheat flour, water, salt, and sometimes oil. The dough is rolled out into thin circles and cooked on a hot griddle or skillet until it puffs up and develops golden brown spots. In Zanzibar, chapati is often served alongside traditional Swahili dishes like pilau (spiced rice), biryani, or with dishes like nyama choma (grilled meat). It's a staple food that's enjoyed by people of all ages and backgrounds in the region.

Don't miss out on the vibrant Night Market at Forodhani Gardens! As the sun sets, this bustling market comes to life with an array of delicious street food stalls offering local delicacies such as grilled seafood, samosas, kebabs, and Zanzibar pizzas. It's a feast for the senses, with the tantalizing aroma of spices filling the air and the lively atmosphere of locals and tourists mingling together. Be sure to try the freshly squeezed sugar cane juice or the famous Zanzibar urojo soup for a truly authentic culinary experience.

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