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. Many hotels now have water dispensers in their restaurants with purefied water. The cost is much less than bottled water – and you contribute to protect the environment.

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.




20 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
    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


  4. 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


  5. 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.


  6. 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.


  7. 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!!!


  8. 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

    Liked by 1 person

    • 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).


  9. Hi There, loving this blog. Thank you. Myself and my partner are coming end April. Will restaurants still be open and operating?as I know a few hotels close over this period. Please also advise the estimated cost for a lunch and or dinner meal? And a bottle of wine? Just so we can gauge for spending money. Any assistance on pricing estimates would be appreciated. If you could also advise an idea on a taxi cost in UsD from Matemwe to the airport? And from Matemwe to Paje? Appreciate it. Thanks


    • Hi, you are welcome. Only a few restaurants will be open, most hotels close during rainy season. Additionally, it is Ramadan from 12 April onwards for 30 days, no outdoor eating or drinking. Cost of eating out depends on where you eat, local is much cheaper and recommended, you pay in Tzs. Hotel restaurants are more expensive and mostly charge in US$. Cost of taxi: read page “driving/getting around on Zanzibar”


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