Tanzania's Spice Islands

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4.9 . Excellent
98%
Travel Style: Array Mixed
Physical Level: Walking or physical activity half to most of day - no carrying equipment. Easy
Lodging Level: Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels. Value (3*)
13 days
From: $ 5,745 $ 442 / day
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Overview

Highlights (Bullets)

  • Enjoy the superb snorkeling 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.

Short Description

With its white sands and turquoise waters, the Zanzibar Archipelago is an ideal place to unwind following a safari in Tanzania. You can spend your days snorkeling and diving among coral reefs, sailing on a traditional dhow and absorbing the Swahili culture. Our specialists, having visited Zanzibar Island, Pemba Island and the Mafia Islands many times, can help you plan a vacation to Zanzibar that takes in the archipelago’s highlights.

There’s more to this string of islands than basking on palm-fringed beaches. Once a hub for spice traders, history here goes back 2,000 years. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Stone Town, the Zanzibari capital, where you can wander winding alleys leading to spice markets and see piles of cinnamon and nutmeg lying in the sun. Exploring the green interior of Pemba Island, you might come across farmers tending their crops. And, on the Mafia Islands, watch as fishermen make and mend their nets in tiny coastal villages.

Style Private guided tour
See all the highlights and popular spots on a classic tour.
Itinerary Focus Classic Highlights
Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels.
Lodging Level Value (3*)
Flight & Transport Inclusions All internal ground transport
Start City Dar es Salaam International Airport
End City Stone Town

Itinerary

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

 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 m (24 ft) 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

 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 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

 The Mafia Archipelago ,  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 km (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

 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

 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

 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

 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

 Songo Songo Archipelago ,  Dar es Salaam domestic terminal ,  Zanzibar Airport ,  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

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

 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

Say goodbye to Zanzibar before being taken to the airport where you’ll catch your onwards flight towards home.

Availability

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Price From $ 5,745
Price Per Day: $ 442 per day

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Tanzania's Spice Islands

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I’ll use Audley for all my travel moving forward

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Ewan was fantastic in helping me arrange a US trip for me and my Fiancée. Gave me all the top spots and recommendations on what to do, when all I really had to start with was a broad idea of where I wanted to go.
The locations were perfect and the activities made the experience extra special.
I would definitely recommend Audley and especially Ewan to anyone looking for a more bespoke experience.
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Unfortunately, I can't review our TRAVEL experience with Audley Travel, but can comment on their non-responsiveness.

I contacted Audley as they came recommended by Wilderness Travel, the company we traveled with previously.

I left multiple messages for their regional specialist Adam -- voice messages through his co-workers (Alec and Jacky), email, website inquiry -- he didn't reply. I finally spoke to another specialist at the office (Lydia) and pressed her to not take yet another message for Adam, but tell me honestly if they are interested in working on our itinerary or we should move on. She then told me that they are busy. Well, wish they had some integrity to tell me on the first call, so I didn't have to loose time on trying to contact their "specialist".

p.s. They sent their automated marketing message with ALL their trips listed in response to my website inquiry. In this message they included: "When you are ready...". I replied that, indeed, we are ready, as I explained in my inquiry -- ready, know where and when we want to travel and are inquiring if you are interested in creating a private journey for us. No reply! Instead, they sent another marketing message the next day (and after Lydia already told us that they are very busy and won't be able to make reservations.) The second marketing message had no option to "unsubscribe". Again, I replied to that message and asked them to stop spamming me with marketing materials.

UPDATE: Audley's Client Experience Executive reached out to me in response to this review. She apologized profusely and wanted me to know that my "feedback is being heard". She said that she spoke with the employees' manager to "ensure mistakes like this don’t happen again and provide additional training to support their growth." She also promised to ask the marketing to delete my name from their marketing list. I took her at her word.

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Unfortunately Audley Travel are so arrogant they don’t believe anyone else can provide a better holiday at lower cost

I’m booking for South Africa and they simply can’t accept that another company can provide a better itinerary at a lower price - even to the point of asking for the other quote and saying this is usual practice in the industry!! ( rubbish) . Totally unprofessional behaviour. Furthermore , sending me emails knocking my choice of hotel and safari park while at the same time promoting hotels that clearly have issues as evidenced by poor ratings on the major sites

I use another well known travel provider that actually provide high quality at a decent price

Audley are simply interested in selling the highest price hotels etc that give them the maximum profit rather than what is right for you

They love themselves and keep on saying nonsense such as “ I’m really pleased with what I’ve come up with and hope you are too “

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Where do I start, a trip of a life time, with experiences and memories for all my family. Every detail of our amazing journey in Cambodia & Vietnam was exceptional. The key was the guides provided, local, knowledgable and flexible, they all became friends over our stay. Engaging in the culture, experiencing life from food to travel, to luxury and amazing people. I would like to thank Mark Hotham for creating such special trip with many memories, to all the guides, Sophea, Tien & Tan and the drivers. Will I be booking another trip with Audley - yes, my only problem is what location
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We were planning a special family holiday in Thailand to celebrate our Golden Wedding anniversary. We were a party of 11, coming from the UK and Australia at slightly different times.
Mark Hotham at Audley Travel helped us to put together the holiday of a lifetime. He helped us through the complexity of different start dates, advised on a suitable hotel and arranged a terrific trip to the Elephant Hills camp in the jungle.
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We have already recommended Audley travel to our friends and they will be our first choice of travel agency from now on.
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This was our first time using Audley to organise a holiday for us and Ewan did a simply fantastic job. From the very first contact call, where we explained what we hoped to see and do, to wishing us 'Bon voyage' as we stepped on to the plane, Ewan was always there, helping and guiding. He selected exactly the sort of hotels and experiences we were looking for as well as the flights and car hire in one seamless operation. We will definitely be using Audley again !
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Details

Flight & Transport Inclusions

All internal ground transport

Group Size

Private - your group only

Trip ID#:

TaSpAuTr

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