Jambiani - Zanzibar’s untouched gem

Published: 15 August 2011

Soft white sands. Turquoise waves lapping the shore. Heading to Zanzibar’s east coast after the cramped and bustling streets of Stone Town is like stepping into another world.

Away from the town, it’s easy to get a glimpse of life the real life of almost all the Zanzibarian people in the villages dotted along the coast and among the forests.

We found that the village of Jambiami was a good base for exploring the region. Much larger than its neighbours, Paje and Makunduchi, Jambiami boasts not only a post office but an internet café and tiny supermarket. The nearest ATM however, is still roughly an hour’s journey by car, so make sure you have money to spare unless you want to make the long trip back to Stone Town.

So, this may not be the right destination if you’re need something a little bit more than sun, sand and sea. Hakuna Matata is the way of life here, as any of the locals will try to tell you. After a long day of sunbathing, swimming, and generally doing nothing, campfires are lit along the beach for drinks, African dancing and drumming underneath the stars.

Trips out into the bay however, either to snorkel or to swim with dolphins, are also on sale quite cheaply, as are excursions out to visit Johanzi National Reserve or the old spice routes across the island. For anyone who can’t go a week without that adrenaline rush, parasailing is offered by a few companies up and down the coast.

The beach is lined with hotels and guest houses. Prices start from around $15 a night, but if you want the luxury of knowing that you’ll always be able to switch on the light then it’s worth shelling out for one of the more upmarket hotels with their own generators. In some of the more budget hotels, a constant supply of water might even be too much to ask- this is a very poor, rural area, and as you step on to the golden sands of the beach, it’s only too easy to forget that.

Small restaurants and bars are everywhere along the beach, as well as the more established food and drink of the hotels. If you’re willing to wait for an hour or so, these small cafés can give you freshly prepared, local meals at cheap prices.  Seafood is the speciality and is usually whatever the fishermen have brought in that morning.

If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, then you’ll find traditional Tanzanian goat meat served with ugali on most menus. Ugali – or ‘stiff porridge’ in Swahili - is white maize paste that you eat with your hands, squashing it into a ball like dough before dipping it in sauce. Years of British rule and mass immigration from India also means that chips and chapattis are seen as very much part of the national cuisine.

For sun seekers looking to relax, the Zanzibari east coast is nothing short of a paradise –  and a lack of basic infrastructure in the country means that it’s not yet over run by the problems of mass tourism.

For those willing to brave a little adventure, Jambiami really does guarantee a picture perfect holiday spot. For just how long the remote and peaceful beaches will remain untouched, however, is far less certain.