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Tanzania's Spice Islands
13 days from $5,715pp
Enjoy the superb snorkelling and diving in the Mafia Archipelago.
Relax on a private island complete with pristine white beaches.
Visit one of Zanzibar's famous spice plantations.
Explore Stone Town's winding streets, learning about the region’s mix of Arabic and African cultures.
- Dar es Salaam International Airport
- Dar es Salaam domestic terminal
- The Mafia Archipelago
- Songo Songo Archipelago
- Dar es Salaam domestic terminal
- Zanzibar Airport
- Stone Town
- Zanzibar Airport
Itinerary idea in detailOpen all Close all
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Day 1 The Mafia Archipelago
Dar es Salaam International Airport , Dar es Salaam domestic terminal , The Mafia Archipelago
Your flight will arrive at Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salaam today. After clearing immigration and collecting your luggage, you’ll be met by your driver who will transfer you to the domestic terminal for your light aircraft flight to Mafia Island, one of five islands in the Mafia Archipelago. You’ll spend about 40 minutes in the air before landing on a crescent-shaped splash of green in the middle of the turquoise Indian Ocean. The pace of life is ‘pole pole’ on this tropical little island populated by sleepy fishing and farming villages. The natural vegetation here is tidal mangrove forests and scrubby coastal moorlands rather than sandy beaches, and with few visitors the island remains refreshingly little affected by tourism. There are only a few accommodation options, and you’ll be met by your driver and make your way down sandy paths to your lodge for the evening.
Day 2 The Mafia Archipelago
Mafia is one of the best locations in the world for swimming with whale sharks. From October through March, the majestic 8 metre (24 foot) whale sharks gather at the surface of the water close to the island to eat plankton. You’ll hop on a boat and take a ride out to sea. The whale sharks return to the same waters each year, and are generally anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour out from shore. After giving the whale sharks some time to adjust to the boat’s presence, you’ll have the chance to swim and snorkel with these gentle giants.
Day 3 The Mafia Archipelago
Just five minutes east of Mafia Island by boat, Chole Island was once the capital of these islands and is a place where time seems to have stopped. The jungle-like stretch of land is home to ruins of the earliest settlement in the archipelago, and you can walk the maze of paths cut into the palm and baobab trees to explore the archaeological site. There is a crumbling but recognizable mosque and pottery shards in the sand, some dating back to Chinese and Persian origins. Chole Island is also home to a protected nesting site for the largest bats in the world, the flying fox. Afterwards, head back to Mafia and to the current capital, the laid back and welcoming town of Kilindoni. The economy on Mafia is based on fishing, and as you wander through the market you’ll see fishermen making nails to build dhows and selling their catch. There are fruit stalls, ‘mitumba’ (clothing) shops and spice vendors, as well as local eateries where you can sample authentic Mafian cuisine.
Day 4 The Mafia Archipelago
The glory of Mafia Island lies in its waters, and in 1995 the Mafia Island Marine Park was formed to protect them. The shallow reefs are perfect for snorkeling or learning to dive, and outside the bay are deep pockets for experienced divers with more than 50 kinds of coral and over 400 species of fish. Orange clown fish flit around and octopus stare up at you from their hiding spots while stingrays gracefully glide past. The tropical waters surrounding the island are warm and you can spend all day exploring the preserved reefs before heading back to your accommodation for your last evening. The deeper waters of the marine park are only safely accessible from mid-September through the end of February due to currents.
Day 5 Songo Songo Archipelago
It’s time to island hop today. You’ll fly southwest from Mafia to the Songo Songo Archipelago, a group of islands 140 kilometres (86 miles) south of Dar es Salaam, scattered with coconut palms and an important area for nesting tea turtles and marine birds. These islands are wonderfully undeveloped and only offer one accommodation, and you will feel like Robinson Crusoe as you are picked up at the airstrip by a scooter with a cart for a ten-minute drive to shore, where a boat will complete your journey to Fanjove Private Island. The island was previously used as an occasional fishing base but was otherwise uninhabited, and today there are six bandas spaced out along the beach. Each banda is positioned so that even with the doors wide open, all you see is vegetation, sand and sea. You’re on this wild island for the next five nights.
Day 6 Songo Songo Archipelago
Fanjove is a place to really slow down and detach from your daily routine, but there are plenty of ways to stay active and explore the island and its surrounding waters if you wish. Walking around the perimeter of the island takes about an hour and a half, and can be done island when the tide is high and along the beach when the tide is low. Kayaks are available at no extra cost and fishing trips offshore can be arranged. There are sunset cruises and opportunities to swim with wild dolphins. Thriving marine life and coral means that snorkeling and diving are fantastic options during your stay and can keep you entertained for hours.
Day 7 Songo Songo Archipelago
The food at Fanjove is fresh and delicious. Breakfast this morning will be fruit salad, toast, pancakes and eggs cooked to your liking, swallowed down with coffee and pleasantly sweet and tart passion fruit juice. Lunch will generally be on the lighter side and seafood based. Dinner is a multi-course seafood affair of whatever is fresh, from coconut and fish soups to fish curries and rice, and often has an Italian flair, evidence of the managers’ roots. If you don’t like or can’t eat seafood, the chefs on the island can accommodate any dietary requirements. A stay at Fanjove is a wellness retreat in many ways, offering complete and utter privacy, nourishing food, warm waters to swim and precious time to disconnect from your everyday life.
Day 8 Songo Songo Archipelago
One of the reasons that we love Fanjove Private Island is its status as an eco-lodge promoting sustainable tourism, creating jobs in local communities and bringing awareness to the importance of marine life. Everything is run on solar power, and there are no TVs, radios or internet connection. The guests of the six bandas and the staff employed to run the lodge are the only people on the island, an experience that is proving more difficult to find as travel becomes more accessible. It’s a special place where you can sleep with the doors to your banda wide open, lulled to sleep by the waves and the cool ocean breeze.
Day 9 Songo Songo Archipelago
We recommend at least five nights at Fanjove whenever possible, as it takes a few days to relax into island mode. Today is your last on the island, and you may want to go for a snorkel at high tide, swimming with parrotfish and pufferfish until you’re tired. Sunbathe on the beaches in complete privacy. Explore the rock pools and the cliffs exposed at low tide before heading out on a dhow to one of the sandbanks that are exposed for a picnic lunch. The island is breathtaking, with its tall palm trees lining the coast, untouched white sand beaches and crystal clear waters. Each day here feels like an indulgence of peace, quiet, relaxation, exploration, wildlife and fresh food.
Day 10 Stone Town
A boat will take you back to Songo Songo this morning, where you’ll catch a light aircraft to Unguja, a major island of the Zanzibar Archipelago and most commonly referred to as Zanzibar. Upon arrival at the airport, you’ll be met by your driver and transferred into the heart of Stone Town, a historical Swahili coastal trading port and now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Stone Town is the old part of Zanzibar City, located on the west coast of the island. You’ll check into your accommodation before having the afternoon to relax or explore. Stone Town is easily accessible by foot. We can make you a reservation for dinner this evening at one of the roof deck restaurants, where you can sample Zanzibari cuisine with its mix of influences while looking out over the old city, watching the fishing dhows sail into port and listening to the beautiful evening calls to prayer from the nearby mosques.
Day 11 Stone Town
Stone Town can be explored on your own, but to get a deeper look at its complex history it’s best to take a walking tour. Your private guide will meet you at your accommodation this morning and you’ll head off through the winding lanes and open markets of Stone Town. For many years, the city was a major port for the slave trade from mainland Africa to the Middle East. There are remnants of the former slave market and holding cells still standing. The Swahili architecture throughout the city incorporates elements of Arab, Persian, Indian, European and African styles, with noticeable features like large and ornately carved doors. It’s a dusty, magical place, and as you walk the streets you’ll pass many friendly Zanzibari locals manning their shops and talking to each other in the street. After the tour, you’ll have the rest of the day free. There’s always more to explore in Stone Town, or you could opt for a dhow cruise to watch the sunset with a cold beer.
Day 12 Stone Town
The prevailing winds of East Africa have placed Zanzibar directly on the Indian Ocean trade routes throughout history, and the abundance of valuable spices on the island coupled with its location meant that it was the hub of the spice trade for centuries. Cloves, cinnamon, turmeric, nutmeg and vanilla are grown here, and today you’ll visit one of the spice plantations outside of the city. Your guide will drive you to the plantation, where you’ll walk around and pick leaves, fruits and twigs to smell or taste. The spice plantations border villages, and as you pass mud-walled houses with palm leaf roofs, women crushing coconut to make milk and men huddled together hammering nails for dhows, you’ll get a glimpse into what everyday life is like here on Zanzibar.
Day 13 Return home
Stone Town , Zanzibar Airport
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When to go
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