Five Things to Expect When Volunteering in Zanzibar

In the final instalment of our ‘Five Things to Expect’ blog series, we’re heading to the spectacular and idyllic island of Zanzibar…

If you missed our previous two blogs on what to expect when volunteering in Ghana and Kenya, you can find them in the News section of our website.

An authentic experience, away from the tourist trail

Zanzibar is famous all over the world for its pristine, white sandy beaches and sparkling turquoise waters, which attract hundreds of thousands of tourists each year. However, beyond the tourist resorts and idyllic scenery lies a different reality. A large proportion of the population survive on less than 75p per day, and life can be very difficult. 

As a volunteer, you’ll have an authentic experience of Zanzibar as you go beyond the tourist trail and immerse yourself into the community where our partner projects are based. In fact, our trips are as authentic as they come – from the staff who look after you, to the accommodation you stay in, we source everything locally to ensure you have a meaningful volunteering experience. 

A slower pace of life

Similarly to our other host destinations of Ghana and Kenya, you may find that the pace of life in Zanzibar is a bit slower than we are used to in the UK! 

Once you’ve learnt to adjust, we’re sure that you’ll enjoy the chance to slow down and unwind as you immerse yourself in island living. So, relax and go with the flow – you’re on Africa time now! And don’t worry, our friendly team are always on hand if you need them.

Tantalising smells…

Zanzibar is known as ‘The Spice Island’ due to the wide variety of spices that are grown there. Cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and black pepper are all produced in Zanzibar and exported all over the world. In fact, spice farming is a major part of Zanzibar’s economy, second only to tourism.

Zanzibar’s history of spice trading goes back many centuries to when the island formed part of a sea trading route between India, mainland Africa, Malaysia and Portugal. During this time, spices from Asia were transported to Zanzibar on boats sailing on the monsoon winds.

Cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and black pepper are all produced in Zanzibar.

Spice farming received a boost in the 16th century when Portuguese traders imported a variety of plants and spices to the island. When the Sultanate of Oman gained control of Zanzibar nearly two hundred years later, the Omanis realised that the island’s regular rainfall and warm climate made it ideal for growing spices, and spice plantations were established.

On our Taste of Zanzibar Weekend, which you can opt to add to your trip package, you’ll have the chance to visit a local spice farm, where you’ll learn how all these spices are grown as you enjoy the incredible smells and tastes of one of Zanzibar’s most profitable exports. However, spices aren’t just for tourists! Zanzibaris use lots of spices in their cooking, which gives Zanzibar’s cuisine its unique, rich flavour.

Stunning snorkelling opportunities 

Zanzibar’s sparkling turquoise waters are world-famous, and our adventure activities give you plenty of opportunities to explore the island’s spectacular marine wildlife.

Our Zanzibar Islands Adventure Day combines history and wildlife as you get up close and personal with vibrant sea life, tropical birds and giant tortoises. You’ll sail through the water on a traditional dhow boat, from which you’ll enjoy guided snorkelling sessions as you search for vibrant corals and tropical fish. After this, you’ll sail to Prison Island – named after a prison for rebellious slaves that once stood on the island – where you’ll meet the giant tortoises who now call the island home. 

Our Ocean Safari also gives you the chance to enjoy guided snorkelling sessions alongside Zanzibar’s stunning marine wildlife. On this adventure activity, you’ll go in search of the playful dolphins who can often be found in Zanzibar’s waters, and sample some of the freshest seafood and tropical fruits imaginable. You’ll also have plenty of opportunities to sit back, relax, and enjoy the feel of the white powdery sand under your feet.

Dolphin spotting on our Ocean Safari!

A unique culture with diverse influences

Zanzibar’s rich past as an ancient trading centre, and its varied colonial history in the hands of Portugal, Oman and Britain, has contributed to the island’s unique culture. Traders and colonisers brought a multitude of ideas and customs to the island over the years, and many of these diverse influences can still be seen today. 

Carved wooden doors can be spotted throughout Stone Town.

When wandering through Stone Town’s ancient streets, for example, you’ll spot Arabic, Indian, European and African architecture side by side. Keep your eyes peeled for elaborate carved wooden doors – arguably Zanzibar’s most famous architectural feature – which represent status and wealth. Older wooden doors are often decorated with passages from the Koran, while those that were carved towards the end of the 19th century incorporate Indian motifs and designs.

For more about Zanzibar, check out our previous blog, or to learn more about our host destinations, click here.