Drinks / Food

It’s hot here most of the year.  You should drink at least one big bottle (1.5 ltr) of water a day.  Tap water is fine for brushing your teeth but not suitable for your stomach. You get bottled water at the hotel or anywhere else on the island.

Try a fresh coconut, it is rich in antioxidants. What you most probably know as coconut milk is in the freshly opened fruit actually more coconut water, delicious though, and the white “flesh” inside is very soft and easy to eat.  Anyone in the village will climb up a coconut tree for you and get you a fresh coconut, opens it chop chop (I still haven’t mastered that) and you drink it.

Beer drinkers will love this: Tanzania was a German colony. There must have been a few Bavarians amongst them since we have excellent beer in Zanzibar (and yes, I originally come from Munich!). The most popular brand is the “Kili” (Kilimanjaro), followed by Safari, Serengeti (the purest of the beers, without cornstarch), Tusker (all in 500 ml bottles but more hotels seem to stock nowadays the 350 ml bottles) and the “gourmet” Ndovu (350 ml). The locals drink beer “moto” (warm) – iiiieeehhhh!  Locals will love it when you order your beer in Swahili: Kili moja baridi (one cold Kili) or “baridi sana” (one very cold Kili). Numbers: 1 = moja, 2 mbili, 3 tatu, 4 nne, 5 tanu, 6 sita, 7 saba, 8 nane, 9 tisa, 10 kumi. Please do not drink and drive!!! Strictly forbidden here.

Wines and bubbly are mostly imported from South Africa.  Depending on the hotel or resort you stay, there may also be French or Italian brands.  You MUST try the cocktails!  Either with alcohol or virgin. There is also a large selection of spirits available. The locals drink Konyagi (sort of Gin but purely chemical, better stay away from it).  The fruit juices at the hotels are usually freshly made, simply delicious.

Food: The seafood you eat at dinner most probably still swam in the ocean in the morning. It ain’t get fresher than here.  Look out for “catch of the day” offers.

NB: Some of our seafood species should not end up on a plate because of their important role for our coral reefs / slow growth / over fishing etc. The Chumbe Island Team put together a beautiful pdf document with colour pictures “Sustainable Seafood Guide 2017” and a short explanation of each species, separated into Good Choices, Choices with Caution and Avoid eating. I gladly send it to you, just drop me an email (zanzibargaby@gmail.com).

In case you cannot open a pdf file, herewith the seafood species that one should avoid eating – the local name is in brackets:
– Parrot fish (Pono)
– Grouper (Chewa)
– Reef (red) Snapper (Janja, Fatundu, Tembo, Mbawa)
– Emperor (Changu)
– Spiny Lobster (Kambakochi)
– Sharks and Rays (Papa and Taa)
Thank you very much for making wise choices for a sustainable future of our seafood species.

Beef is imported frozen from Tanzania, Kenya or South Africa, the same applies to chicken.  Meat is served with the typical Zanzibar Pilau rice or any other conceivable way rice can be cooked, or with potato chips/French fries/pommes (for the Germans, jawohl).  If you have a chance, try to eat goat.  The Zanzibaris know how to cook it, yummy!!!

Potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, green peppers, cabbage, spinach, onions etc are mostly grown on Zanzibar.

And then there is the fruit: bananas, sweet (not acidy) pineapples, mangoes, mandarins, oranges, passion fruit, water melon, paw paw, avocado, jack fruit (in terms of physical appearance it tends to look similar to durian, but the jackfruit has a rough pebbly shell while the durian has a spikey shell. The insides look very much different, and the tastes are vastly different too, the jackfruit is more of a sweetish fruit) etc etc – fresher than you most probably ever had them before. If you buy fruit at the market, the motto “peel it, boil it or avoid it” applies.

Please refer to the chart below for the seasons of our delicious fruits.





31 thoughts on “Drinks / Food

  1. Hi Gaby!

    We will be visiting Zanzibar in October and will be staying in Jambiani (Mamamapambo) for part of the trip. We are considering booking the “honeymoon package” which would mean breakfast and dinners included. We love experiencing local cuisine and street food and are hesitant to book the all inclusive package as it might become a little boring to have breakfast & dinner at the same place every day 🙂

    I have heard though that there aren’t many options along this stretch, mostly other hotels offering overpriced mediocre food. Any tips and insight would be greatly appreciated!

    All the best from Cape Town,


    • Hi Ann,
      There are quite a few typical Swahili eateries in walking distance of Mamamapambo, and also small guest houses with local Chefs and excellent food at reasonable prices. Also, a walk through the village will provide you with plenty of street food stalls. So choices galore!


  2. Dear Gaby,
    our trip to Zanzibar is approaching, just a week left.
    I made plans precisely according to your blog. One question concerning the Forodhani park you advised:
    – Do you think it’s safe to eat the street food on food stalls there? I mean in terms of freshness, preparation,…and our “sensitive” stomachs.
    Asante, you’ll have big words from me on TA when I return.
    Cheers, Dejan


    • Hi Dejan,
      The food at Forodhani food market is fresh. Walk around and check out the different stalls, take in the mouthwatering smells. That’s part of the experience. I have never had any bad experiences with ANY cooked street food here, be that at Forodhani or in the villages. If you have a sensitive stomach, skip the salads and rather stick to cooked food. Make sure you also get the freshly squeezed sugar cane juice, it is delicious.
      Enjoy your holiday on this beautiful island,


  3. Hi Gaby,

    Habari? One of the ethnic in Malaysia also use the same word which simply means ‘How are you?’

    After reading ALL your postings on this site, I have to agree with all your readers that this is the place to get all the information you need to know about Zanzibar. Much better since it came from an outsider staying/residing in the island. Your advice, tips and recommendations are more relevant to us visitors. And the best is your prompt reply and your in-depth knowledge of the island. I am sure you can give a detailed itinerary for a seven-day holiday in Zanzibar at your fingertip, if asked.

    In regard to this posting, I just have a simple question. When is the fruit season in Zanzibar?

    I have seen pictures of durian, rambutan, mangosteen and all sorts of tropical fruits available in Zanzibar. Most of them are seasonal, in Malaysia it’s usually Jun – August. Maybe Zanzibar can promote that period of time as Zanzibar Fruit Tour (if there are sufficient number of fruit orchards to participate, just like the Spice Tour).

    For your information, the best grade or variety of durian (King of Fruit in Malaysia) is ‘Musang King’ averaging MYR110 per fruit. That amount of money you can buy 73 cans of Coca-Cola 325ml can (@MYR1.50).

    I would love to go to Zanzibar during fruit season, if you can tell me when…

    Keep up your good work, Abby. And thank you.



    • Hi Qalam,

      Thank you so much for your comments. I am so happy that my blog, or whatever the proper term for it is, achieves why I wrote it: Anyone visiting this beautiful island comes well informed and prepared.

      Habari in the original Kishwali language means “what are the news”. Having said that, habari is also commonly used here as “how are you”. The correct meaning is irrelevant though, as long as the courtesy of greeting another person takes place.

      Thank you for your interesting question. In general: Fruits are available on the island all year around. For example mangos: we have so many varieties of mango, in different shapes, sizes, juiciness, that are ripe during different times of the year. But you are absolutely right, there should be a core fruit season. I will do some research on this and add the info to my webpage.



  4. Hi, we are traveling to Zanzibar for the first time and will arrive at 10:55 p.m. on Saturday, September 23rd. We are staying at Villa Tulia and have the meal plan that includes breakfast and dinner. We would like to stock up on beer, wine and additional food on the way from the airport. Because we are arriving so late we are assuming that the liquor and grocery store will be closed at that time. Are we correct in assuming this? And what would be our other options? Thank you.


    • Hi, bottle stores in Stone Town are only open during the day. I have no idea if there is a bottle store in the Matemwe area. You might want to send the manager/reception of Villa Tulia your requirements that they can organize for you whatever you need.
      Cheers, Gaby


    • Hi Farooq. Safi kabisa, na wewe?
      October/November is the little rainy season on Zanzibar. Usually we have an hour or so rains, sometimes a bit more, and then it’s blue skies and sunshine again. But it stays warm and even when it rains, you can swim in the warm Indian ocean. Having said that, the weather patterns changed here too. For example, it is already very hot here although it’s only September.
      Cheers, Gaby


  5. Thanks for the blog. Having lived many years in Tropical countries, including Indonesia,may I suggest that you correct the info where you say that Jack fruit and Durian are the same thing? Maybe when you wrote that, it was at the beginning of your stay and you were not familiar with them?


  6. Hi
    I am visiting Zanzibar (Jambiani) in late October early December and had the following questions.
    Is it safe to have ice in bars and hotels?
    Also what about washed salads and fruits?
    your advice would be great


    • Hi, in good hotels and restaurants it is safe to have ice. In case of doubts rather don’t have any ice with your drink.
      I never had any problems after eating salads or fruits.
      Cheers, Gaby


  7. Dear Gaby,
    Thank you so much for this super-helpful blog of yours. Friends, hubby and I are arriving mid January 2019 in Zanzibar and I wonder if you know if we could bring alcohol with us. Thinking of a few bottles of wine and maybe some harder alcohol. Do you know if there are restrictions?
    Thank you, Anita


    • Hi Anthony,
      The local (Tanzanian) spirit is called Konyagi. Besides that, we have very good Tanzanian beer, such as Kilimanjaro, Safari, Castle and Ndovu. All other spirits/wine are imported.
      Cheers, Gaby


  8. heya.
    hope you’re well, I only recently came across your blog and absolutely love everything about it. thank you for taking the time out to keep us informed.
    I’ll be coming to Zanzibar in mid June and I just read they changed regulations for exchanges to 2013 notes. are they really strict on that? I have 1 $100 note dates at 2009. specifically asked for because of previous regulations. really annoying


    • Hi. Glad you like my blog, you are most welcome.
      I suppose these regulations have to be followed by the foreign exchange facilitators. You might want to go to a bank at your home country and exchange the 2009 note to a more recent note.


  9. Hi Gaby
    Currently in Stone Town. Finding it all fascinating. We ate at Emerson Spice last night. Food was good, however, found it to be over priced and almost a ‘tourist trap’. It came to 174 dollars for three with only one bottle of wine and three cocktails! Can you recommend anywhere we can get good Swahili food for a sit down dinner, where we won’t feel ripped off? Thanks Lorna


    • My favourites in Stone Town are Stone Town Cafe (I love their Swahili Octopus curry with rice) and Archipelagio (Swahili prawns!). For dessert, I usually go to Tamu icecream, try Hibiscus, Tamarind or Soursap ice cream – if available.


  10. We will be renting a house in Kiwengwa. Is it possible to buy alcohol, wine and beer in the local grocery shops so we can enjoy a drink on our own terrace in the evening? How much can we expect to pay? Thanks so much!


    • Better buy alcoholic beverages at ZMMI in Stone Town, Julius Nyerere Road (airport road), check google maps. I doubt that you can buy alcohol at shops in Kiwengwa. Not sure though. Maybe post your question on Tripadvisor Zanzibar Forum.


  11. Hallo!
    Ein echt toller Blog, ich kann gar nicht mehr aufhören zu lesen… Sehr hilfreich! Ich komme auch mit einer Frage auf dich zu. Mein Mann und ich fliegen Anfang Dezember nach Zanzibar und werden im Z Hotel in Nungwi wohnen. Wir haben nur Frühstück dabei, um die Restaurants vor Ort erkunden zu können. Hast du vielleicht ein paar Tipps für uns in der Gegend rund um das Z Hotel, bzw. generell in Nungwi? Und gleich noch eine Frage, ist ein Ausflug zu Cheetah’s Rock empfehlenswert? Danke!!!


  12. WOW! What a fantastic site for info on Zanzibar. Many kudos. I am a “chocolaholic”, so I am wondering if chocolate in any form – candy, bars, cookies, cakes, desserts (not ice cream) – is readily available and if so where? Eternally grateful, Shirley


    • Thank you Shirley. You can buy chocolate bars, candies and cookies at some shops here. If you want to stock up go to Mbweni Supermarket or Mombasa Mini Market (they actually are not “mini” but well stocked) in Stone Town, they are on Google Maps. Cakes and chocolate desserts you usually get at hotels and some restaurants. If you happen to be in Paje, check out Mapacha Cafe (as per my blog).


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