From Mombasa to Zanzibar
We said goodbye to Diani beach and Mombasa with pain in our hearts. We could stay there forever but there is so much more to see still! But it was time for our road trip in Zanzibar
We flew from Mombasa, a small and very outdated airport. The flight was just over 30 minutes and we landed in Zanzibar airport, which was even smaller! Just as we entered the terminal, we were already at immigration for the Visa application. This is the most friendly immigration process we’ve ever seen! Fill up the papers, pay 50$, smile to the camera and you are good to go!
We were doubting if they would ask us to show a flight ticket out of the country (which we didn’t have), as it’s “mandatory”, or to show the hotel bookings (which we didn’t have either). But for once, everything went fine! As we go through immigration, we arrive to the luggage pick up point. No belts or screens to check where your bags will be. Someone just shows up and puts all the bags on the ground, for you to choose which one to take. No control at all!
First things first
Inside the airport there are just a few stands to exchange money; we had some Kenyan shillings left that we could exchange into 10USD. We went to the one stand where you can get a (overpriced) SIM card to have internet, much recommended because Wifi everywhere in the island is terrible or non-existent. Since we will be driving around, having data is very very handy. There are places to buy SIM cards in Stone Town, the capital. But besides that, the airport is the only place to get it.
We walk out to find the ATM on the parking. We got enough cash to pay the first accommodation and the rental car, and still have cash for a few days. This was about 340EUR, ehich equals to 900.000 Tanzanian shillings. And guess what? The biggest bill they have is a 10.000 shilling! (If you want to feel rich, come to Tanzania!)
Surrounded by a lot of locals, as we try to find where our rental car would be, someone comes to ask us what we are looking for. He helped us call our rental company Ola Ola Said. Soon after, our car was there and everything went smoothly with our little Toyota 4×4.
The first hotel and surroundings
After getting petrol, we arrived at the first stop of our road trip in Zanzibar, the wonderful Surfescape beach hotel, in Pwani Mchangani. The manager Niki came to greet us just after a kitesurfing session. We unpacked our bags, hung the mosquito net, and walked around to explore the place. A small but great private beach, and they even have a slackline!!!
We headed out to see the beach which is only a few meters away from the doorstep. We ended up walking towards the south side of the island. Luckily it was becoming low tie, otherwise we couldn’t walk too far! During our walk, we saw a few of those dreamy magazine resorts with amazing rooms, bathtubs with view to the Indian Ocean, like the hotel Melià Zanzibar. Further south we came across some better beach areas and we could see a lot of traditional Dhow boats, and a lot of kite surfers. This seems to be a paradise for kite surfers.
When the sun starts to set down, we head back to our hotel. Halfway back we come across the large pier of one of the Meliá Zanzibar, we took the stairs up (now with lower tide, not covered by water anymore) and walked towards the end where there is a beautiful restaurant and bar. Looking at the menu, it didn’t seem too expensive, so we might come for breakfast or lunch one day.
As in Diani and Mombasa, beach boys are everywhere trying to sell you whatever you are looking for, even if you’re not looking for anything! Thanks to our host from Diani, Ronny, we’ve already learnt to deal with them and politely reject their offers, that some times are scams or overpriced. Especially after we heard that Diani’s beach boys stole from Bidi Badu restaurant while it was burning down, instead of helping put the fire down! While we thought that the concept of a beach boy was mostly a negative name, here in Zanzibar they seem to be proud of it, as they came to us presenting themselves by saying “don’t worry, I’m just a beach boy!” Hmmm… a good one, or a bad one?
It’s been a while since we don’t go outdoors after 7pm when it gets dark, because of safety. Zanzibar seems to be much safer and we have the rental car which gives us so much freedom. We went to the Blue Fish restaurant near our hotel, just 4 minutes down the road. A wonderful choice! Lobster and fries for 7,50 EUR. A steak for less than 6 EUR, and fresh juices for almost nothing. During this dinner we took a look at the map and made a small plan for the coming days.
First thing in the morning, we will drive towards the north-east side of the island. And see if we can have lunch somewhere. After that we could go to the north-west side before heading back to our hotel. The day after we might go to the middle west side of the island, just above Stone Town. The next day is the day we need to leave our hotel. We’ll then head towards Paje in the south of the island, where later we will see more of the remote beaches and the south area of the island. We have no idea how it will go but we will figure out our best way!
If you are looking for travel guides for Zanzibar, don’t forget to check out this page.