Even the mere thought of white powdered sands or a sunset over the Indian Ocean is enough to convince most people to take a vacation, and this is certainly true for anyone with a particular interest in diving. After all, the east coast of the African continent, in particular, is synonymous with relaxation, blue skies, soothing environments, and an abundance of exotic marine life.
When it comes to flights and accommodation, this is also a realistic option which makes sense as most travel agents can source comfortable resorts with all of the above, right next to the ocean. Furthermore, these travel hotspots are most often accompanied by a wide variety of things to do such as boat trips, jungle treks, spa treatment facilities and world-class restaurants. And where are most people likely to turn to for all of the above? Well, in most cases, Mauritius.
At the same time, most South Africans seem to think that the options for a vacation of this kind start and end with Mauritius when the most incredible alternative is just as convenient to reach. In fact, the island of Zanzibar is also a much more affordable alternative, which offers up all of the above experiences and possibly even more besides.
Stone Town – the home of Freddie Mercury and a fascinating culture
Although originally known for more sinister reasons, the former slave trading center on Zanzibar was also the birthplace of Freddie Mercury and arguably one of the most interesting towns on the planet.
Featuring a maze of alleyways with craft stores, blacksmiths, shoemakers and hidden eateries, even the shopping experience is entirely different to anywhere else, while the local seafood is nothing short of sublime. That being said, there are fascinating remnants to be explored including the amphitheater, the House of Wonders and the chambers in which the above-mentioned slaves were once imprisoned. After dark, you will find the largest outdoor food market in East Africa, where locals and tourists congregate to enjoy lobster, prawns, sugarcane and local pizza but the truth is, there is so much variety and culture in Stone Town that you could stay here for several days and still only scratch the surface.
While Mauritius may have a similar beach experience and exotic feel to the Spice Islands, there is certainly nowhere that compares to Stone Town which is the starting point for all trips to Zanzibar.
Experiencing the North Beaches and endless water-based activities
As you might expect, Zanzibar is renowned for immaculate white beaches, lined with coconut trees and interspersed with stunning accommodation. However, in spite of the increasingly affordable packages for Zanzibar, the island is relatively quiet in comparison with Mauritius.
From Paje and Matemwe on the eastern shore to Pongwe in between, there are many resort options which feel isolated and surrounded by nature, but then the north of the island is arguably the best regarding beaches and conditions on the water. Nungwe and Kendwa are the common choices for most visitors, with the latter being the quieter of the two. However, there is a vast selection of luxurious three to five-star accommodations in both of these destinations, and the standard is up there with the most luxurious in the world. Situated on the beachfront and next to a host of water-based activities, these are also the best beaches for swimming in Zanzibar which is largely due to the sheltered nature of the northern peninsula and the lack of tidal currents.
While this may sound a little concerning, this sheltered nature has no bearing on the marine life, and whether you opt to snorkel amidst the colorful coral, enjoy a boat trip to see dolphins or scuba next to Mnemba Atoll, you are certain to uncover endless reasons as to why Zanzibar is regarded as one of the most sought-after destination in the world regarding watersports in general.
More than just an affordable alternative to Mauritius
Located a short distance from mainland Tanzania, Zanzibar is easily reached from Dar es Salaam, but for South Africans, the journey is also surprisingly easy. Combining luxury coach transfers and a comfortable 3.5-hour flight, Easy Trip is now offering incredible packages to all-inclusive hotels in Zanzibar. Departing on a twice weekly basis with the ever-reliable Mango airlines, South Africans now have more options than ever and not only has their smooth booking process made a trip to the Indian Ocean more convenient than Mauritius, but also more affordable and dare we say it, more rewarding too.