Zanzibar is famous for its beaches, history, spices, but what about the real reasons to visit? What makes Zanzibar a place that touches the hearts of anyone who has the privilege to roam the beautiful island? The beauty lies in learning to kitesurf, dance, and eat with the locals. It lies in the experiences of the everyday moments.
My experience in Zanzibar consisted of wearing beautiful local sarongs, playing soccer and volleyball against the village residents, riding through the countryside in a Dala Dala (an open aired minibus), dancing to Diamond Platnumz, and playing charades trying to understand Swahili. Let me lay out the reasons why you should visit Zanzibar!
Learn further about local culture and how to travel Zanzibar through: The Heart of Tanzania – Meet Boi
Dance All the time Everywhere
The first thing I did when I got home from Zanzibar was add all my new favorite songs to Spotify. I have vivid memories of hanging out at our beach accommodation and one of our Tanzanian friends bringing out his speaker. Everywhere and anywhere is a party here. Him and a few other guys join in and start dancing to what I can assume is Swahili classics- I’m in awe of footwork I have never seen before. We are encouraged to join in and I have never felt so free and open to dance.
Another time we were all on an open-air truck rushing through the countryside of lush Zanzibar, and beat after beat came on and everyone was up moving and clapping and pure smiles. Normally I am one to be shy to dance and sing, but the environment was so freeing and welcoming. Seriously go to Zanzibar if you are drawn to music and dancing because your heart won’t want to leave.
Fly through the air while kitesurfing
During our stay we spent most of our time in Kiwengwa, right on the north side beach. This area is known for a huge community of kite surfers due to the windy shores. At any time you can see multiple kite surfers in the crystal blue water flying through the air with their vibrant kites.
There are several local shops on the beach where you can rent a kite/board and join the locals in the surf. During our stay, one of the fellow Americans took a day surfing in the water. Despite a bit of a learning curve, he was up in the air by the end of the session. Kitesurfing is a common activity among the locals which is a unique sport to the area.
Challenge the locals to a soccer match on the beach
Soccer is one of those universal sports that anyone can pick up despite any language or cultural barrier. After a long day, we decided to head to the beach to play good old beach soccer.
I have a distinct memory of standing along the crashing waves as the sun started to dip behind the palm trees. I look out to see my teammate running for the ball that got kicked into the water. In this moment I felt so much peace, I was doing something I loved, in a beautiful place halfway across the world.
Here I learned that we are all so similar, yet it’s our differences that make us unique and beautiful. I call for all lovers of soccer to pick up a game when you visit Zanzibar!
Make connections through practicing Swahili
One day my friend and I were watering the garden at the local school and two of the cutest girls came up to us with the biggest smiles. “Jambo” we both say as they approach us. (Jambo is the way many foreigners and locals greet each other). My friend and I look at each other and quickly try to think of any more Swahili we could think of. “Rafiki!” I say and the girl’s eyes light up. (Rafiki means friend in Swahili).
This one word created a bond between us four that we could not have shared without language. Practicing a new language is an enriching experience because it helps you learn about new world perspectives. All it takes is a word to make a human connection.
So how can you experience these things too?
I got the privilege to experience all of these beautiful moments through my volunteer trip with GIVE Volunteers. GIVE is a volunteer travel organization that collaborates with locally run projects in an culturally immersive fashion.
However if you are looking to plan a solo trip (Learn How to Get the Courage to Travel Solo HERE), family holiday, or any other style of travel – I got you! In order to get the most authentic cultural experience I always recommend staying in locally owned accommodations or finding a local guide to give you a more immersive experience.
Remember where the resort ends, the adventure begins! Of course always keep a good head on your shoulders, research, and keep your minds and hearts open to learning.