I was sooo looking forward to sharing our Zanzibar adventure with you guys!
It’s one of my favorite trips EVER, and definitely the most spontaneous one, to date. 🙂 Bored at work one day, I was randomly checking out potential holiday destinations when I noticed that, for some reason, the price of plane tickets to Zanzibar had suddenly dropped. To this day I’m not sure whether it was a glitch in the system or was Oman Air running some sort of under-advertised promo. I communicated this to Khaled and, as a result, he surprised me by booking round trip tickets for the whole family. Now we only had to figure out where to stay and what to do there. 😀 It could be a tricky task when you plan to travel to Zanzibar with kids, and I’m here to make your life easier!
Zanzibar is a perfect location for relaxing beach holidays.
However, I feel that it’s always been overshadowed by better-known places, such as Maldives or Seychelles (I wrote about them HERE by the way, in case you’re interested in finding more about those destinations!).
There are also many misconceptions about Zanzibar. Some are pretty funny, some quite ridiculous.
“You’re taking your kid there?? But it’s a wild place!”,
“You will get robbed and possibly kidnapped!”,
“You will immediately catch malaria!”,
“Hotels there are substandard, you will come back disappointed!”.
Those were only some of the pieces of wisdom I’ve received when I shared the news about our travel plans. Funnily enough, most of it came from people who have never even traveled there. Well, I’ve got good news for you – none of those dark scenarios came true. On the contrary, we found Zanzibar calm, relaxing and definitely suitable for families with kids. 🙂
WHEN TO GO?
I’d say any day is a good day to visit Zanzibar! 🙂 And it’s not just my inner optimist speaking. Zanzibar actually IS a great all-year-round destination. For instance, temperatures tend to vary between 28’C and 32’C during the day all year round (which made it easy for me to avoid too many packing mistakes, yay!). The only thing to watch out for is the rainy season. Or rather, rainy seasons because Zanzibar has two of those. We planned our trip in May, which is supposed to be the end of the rainy season no. 1 (one that usually begins in March). Rainy season no. 2 falls (pun intended 🙂 ) between November and December.
All in all, we’ve experienced a fair amount of rain during our stay, but it didn’t spoil our experience, only made it more varied. Also, coming from dusty Doha, all the rain was a much-welcomed change to Qatar’s forever sunny weather!
If you’re traveling from outside East Africa, your only reasonable way to get to Zanzibar would be by air. For example, Qatar Airways is offering direct flights to Zanzibar from Doha. Those are quite pricey though! So if you’re looking for a more affordable (and still comfortable!) option, you could follow our path and travel with Oman Air. That would, of course, also depend on where’s your starting point. For us, it made perfect sense: a short flight to Muscat, 3h of layover and then a direct flight to Zanzibar. Overall, not a very tiring journey, even for a 3-year-old and a pregnant lady (I was 14 weeks pregnant with Danny when we traveled). 😉
One thing worth noting here. Zanzibar International (ha!) Airport is… something else.
A tiny building with a leaking roof and working air conditioning available only in the duty-free shop. I was so surprised that I forgot to take photos. They’re supposedly building a new terminal – not sure whether it’s ready yet. I’ve dug out a review by C Johnson (available on airlinequality.com website) and it sums the airport up perfectly. Brace yourselves!
I am lucky to have travelled to many remote places with small airports. Zanzibar is the worst airport I have ever visited. Arrival meant waiting for luggage in a barn in tropical heat as bags were hauled in 2 by 2. Departure started with queuing outside the airport for half an hour in heat for all passengers to put all their luggage through only 1 scanner. The entrance for this allowed only 1 person at a time to sort their stuff. Inside was hot, dirty and provided no information on flights. No one knew when planes were going or seemed to care. It would have made a good comedy sketch but this is an international airport handling thousands of passengers.https://www.airlinequality.com/airport-reviews/zanzibar-airport/
THINGS TO DO, PLACES TO SEE.
I have a confession to make. We’ve decided that this trip is going to be a typical beach holiday – I was pregnant with Danny and it was supposed to be sort of a “babymoon” (you can read more about this interesting concept HERE 😉 ). Because of this, we haven’t really seen much. The island has lots to offer though, even if you happened to travel to Zanzibar with your kids. 🙂 Keeping that in mind, I did complete extensive research before going, in case we change our minds once we’re there. And that’s definitely something I can share with you.
Zanzibar is famous for its gorgeous beaches. Have you seen the photos in travel catalogs? The ones with blue sky and palm trees growing by the edge of crystal clear water? It certainly really looks like that! So grab your cameras and prepare your Instagram accounts – you’re in for a treat!
No, not Dwayne Johnson (sorry to disappoint!). You might have heard of it, nevertheless. 🙂 The Rock is a restaurant built on a solitary rock in the sea. We were lucky enough to be staying less than 1 km away from it, so that’s one thing we’ve actually seen with our own eyes. 🙂 It looks pretty awesome, especially during high tide when the only way to reach it is by boat!
The older part of the main city on the island – Zanzibar City, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Rumor has it that it’s really easy to get lost in Stone Town’s narrow alleyways, I’ve also heard that it’s worth it. 🙂
The Spice Tour.
One of the things that Zanzibar is most known for is the spice trade. Therefore, it makes perfect sense to book yourself for a Spice Tour. Spice Tours will teach you all about… yes, you got it: SPICES, including what they taste like in a delicious local meal! It usually takes 3 to 5 hours to complete the tour, so it’s not too tiring for the kids.
Do you like monkeys? Almost everyone does. 🙂 And Jozani Forest is the sanctuary of the adorable Red Colobus Monkeys in Zanzibar. It’s also a great activity pick if you are in Zanzibar with kids – I bet they would be excited to explore nature!
HOW TO MOVE AROUND?
There’s not much choice for you there, unfortunately. When you arrive, usually you will find a driver waiting for you, sent by the hotel or resort where you’re staying. If that’s not the case, your other option is taxis. In Zanzibar, there are plenty of companies providing taxi services, most of which can be booked in advance. What’s more, in most cases you’ll be able to agree on the fare in advance. Such companies often offer excursions and shopping trips as well, so they’ll get you all sorted for your stay. Tripadvisor carries reliable reviews of all major taxi companies in Zanzibar.
WHERE TO EAT AND WHAT TO EAT?
Seafood all the way! Zanzibar is a seafood paradise – it is a core of local cuisine, something all of the highly recommended eateries serve. The big chunk of restaurants on the island belongs to hotels or resorts, so you’ll most probably end up eating mainly at your accommodation. Certainly, if you’re staying in a secluded part of the island, it doesn’t make much sense to endure an hour-long bumpy taxi ride only to grab something to eat. Especially if you came to Zanzibar with kids.
We got lucky here, as the food in the resort we stayed in was AMAZING. Local cuisine with Peruvian influences (I wish to know how a did Peruvian chef manage to land a job there :D), with a standout dish of octopus carpaccio.
One restaurant that is really worth making an effort to get to is the Rock restaurant, which I’ve already mentioned before. However, there are only 12 tables available so if you’re planning to go, be sure to book in advance (you can do it HERE).
WHY IS ZANZIBAR FAMILY FRIENDLY?
First of all, the beach provides loads of entertainment for the kids.
I could spend half of my day listing out things that your offspring of any age can busy themselves with on the beach. Adam’s favorite activities included, but were not limited to:
— watching tiny crabs run across the beach (and running with them, “Mama! I’m a crab!”),
— recreating Villaggio shopping mall in the sand and “going shopping” with his toy cars,
— building sandcastles with daddy (duh!),
— inspecting rock pools during low tide to find some toddler treasure (“Look, mama, a baby sea urchin!”).
Most of the excursions are family-friendly.
They involve pretty basic activities, such as walking around and exploring nature. 🙂 Jozani Forest, Spice Tour and wandering the streets of Stone Town can be easily done with children in tow.
It will also largely depend on the hotel you stay in. We stayed in the amazing Baladin Zanzibar (read below!) and it was a paradise for a 3-year-old. He made friends with the owner’s daughter, played with puppies, got spoiled by the staff and had deep conversations with all the waiters.
WHERE WE STAYED AND WHAT WE THOUGHT ABOUT IT?
Our requirements for accommodation in Zanzibar were pretty simple: a family bungalow (as opposed to a hotel room), located as close to the beach as possible. I thought to myself that there must be loads of places that would fit the criteria. Well, yes there were, and that was part of a problem. I was simply not able to choose! In the end, we went for a place that offered draft beer (for hubby) and swing sun loungers (for me). Because that’s the kind of travelers we are. 😀
Enter: Baladin Zanzibar.
Baladin is a boutique resort located in Pingwe, on the South-Eastern part of the island. This, for me, was the only downside of the resort: it’s an hour-plus drive from the airport, in good weather conditions. When we arrived it was pouring rain, half of the roads on the island turned into rivers and it took us almost 2 hours to finally reach the resort!
It’s definitely worth the drive though! Pingwe area is pretty secluded, calm and green, with gorgeous sandy beaches. This was what we were after, as we wanted to spend this week away from the hustle and bustle of a big city (be it Doha, Zanzibar City or any other place with traffic, crowds and noise pollution. 😉 ) Also, Baladin happens to be located at the very same beach as the famous Rock Restaurant.
What about the accommodation itself?
Where do I even start? Baladin is by far the most amazing resort we have ever stayed in and I will continue to recommend it to anybody who cares to listen!
First of all, it’s very cozy – only a couple of bungalows and studios. I hate huge crowded resorts where it takes 15 minutes to walk to a restaurant and you are in constant danger of forgetting the way back to your room. Baladin is so far away from this. It feels exclusive, chic but with a relaxed vibe, and plenty of amazing surprises (hello, semi-outdoor bathrooms!). The pool overlooks the sea and there are plenty of sunbeds available – no need to wake up at the crack of dawn to “book” your lounger!
The beach is… right there. 🙂
Baladin is located ON the beach, which is pretty awesome for many reasons. For example, if you do not wish to be stalked by the “souvenir sellers”, just move 20m further inland and voila! You’re at the property of Baladin and nobody from the outside can approach you. 🙂 Also, this setup allowed me to use the resort swing loungers while watching my kid making sandcastles. Win!
But what really gives this place a soul are the owners!
Nicola and Rashid, a Czech-Moroccan couple of seasoned travelers, extremely nice and approachable people. Every day you can spot Nicola going around, chatting with the guests, making sure that everyone is having a great time. Rashid is usually hanging out at the bar, always available for a casual chat, greeting everyone with a smile. Certainly, that’s what I would call impeccable customer service. Heck, they even provided hubby with a shisha. 😀
All in all, Baladin is a great choice if you’re traveling to Zanzibar with kids. Everyone there loves children and it shows!
So where’s the catch…?
No catch! The only small disadvantage (distance from the airport) is not connected to the resort itself. Sorry haters, it was perfect! 😀
Me: “Do you remember Zanzibar?”
Adam: “Yes! You made me wear shoes in the water because of sea urchins!”
Me: “Yup. Anything else?”
Adam: “No… Mama, I want to go to Zanzibar and show Danny the little crab houses!”
OUR RATING – DESTINATION:
Family friendliness (general feeling)
Variety of activities for families ——
Overall experience —————————
OUR RATING – ACCOMMODATION:
Overall experience —