I was spending some time in Nairobi, so I decided a little getaway to Zanzibar would be a fun adventure. We stayed at the Protea Hotel Zanzibar Mbweni Ruins, which is a part of the Marriott hotel group. It’s on the west side of island, very close to the airport, and only 15 minutes from Stone Town (the downtown area of Zanzibar’s main island). The hotel was very nice, and perfect if you want to use hotel points. If you’re looking to explore more of the island, or a very luxurious hotel, there are some other options all around the island.
We arrived late in the evening, so when we got to the hotel we checked in and went straight to bed. The next morning we decided to take a day trip to Nungwi Beach, which is the northern part of the island. I had read about the various beaches on the island and was keen to explore. The trip was a little over an hour – it’s about an hour from Stone Town. We arrived and had lunch at Nungwi Inn Restaurant & Bar, and then just walked along the beach until we found a place for our towels. It was a gorgeous, public beach. The sand was completely white, and there were wild cows that meandered across the beach at different points. It was absolute perfect.
The next day we decided to hire a boat to take us to this sand dune I’d be dying to go to. We had a car take us to Stone Town, where we walked around a bit and had lunch. It’s a cute little town, with some shops and cafes, but you can easily do it in a few hours. We walked down the Stone Town beach, and there are dozens of boats you can hire for less than $100 to take you to the dune and snorkeling. The sand dune is called Nakupenda (I love you in Swahili), and it is just a large sandbank about 20 minutes off the Stone Town beach. The boats that take you out there are mostly old fishing boats, so they can pretty easily make you seasick. But the sandbank is completely worth it. Since it’s just a sandbank, and not an island, when tide is high – the bank is under water. There’s no greenery on the bank – so it’s just about half a football field of pure sand out in the middle of the ocean. It is spectacular. There are these fantastic starfish, unlike any starfish I’d ever seen in the Caribbean. They are brightly colored and truly incredible. If there’s one thing you do in Zanzibar – Nakupenda sand dune is that!
We went snorkeling off the boat just a few meters away from the sand dune. There’s incredible reef right up to and under the dune, so it’s the perfect place to snorkel and see beautiful fish and coral. There are a ton of mini jellyfish, but according to our boat driver they don’t sting. We didn’t get stung and they were all over us, so I believe him! I’ve snorkeled a fair amount, but this felt completely untouched. It was as if we were the first people to see it – it was really special.
After we snorkeled a bit, the boat took us back to the beach, and we grabbed a cab back to our hotel. We got dinner at our hotel and sadly left the next morning. It was a very quick trip, but spectacular nonetheless.