Wondering when the best time to visit Zanzibar is? Zanzibar; it’s a magical far-off destination in name alone. And that’s before you even look into the amazing history of this nation. With settlers from far-flung locations such as Persia and a deep Swahili and Arab history, this rich trading archipelago is an incredible place to visit – not least for its awesome beaches and nature.
But with two dry seasons and two wet seasons, and two sets of seasonal winds blowing from opposite directions alternately, knowing the best time to visit Zanzibar can be a pain. Don’t worry, though; we’ve done the hard work for you. Cast your eyes below and see what works for you!
The Best Time to Visit Zanzibar
Weather in Zanzibar in January
Zanzibar in January is pretty hot. In fact, it’s the hottest month of the year, with average temperatures of 29°C. Even the sea is the same temperature, making it like swimming in a bathtub. Nighttime temperatures are around 25°C. Humidity is about 64%, which is pretty humid, but there’s not a lot of rain – only 3mm. January is actually the start of the dry season in Zanzibar, but there may be the occasional thunderstorm in the afternoons.
The kaskazi winds hit the north and east coast this time of year, making waves bigger, which in turn brings seaweed to the beaches. Watersports like kitesurfing are ideal with these breezy conditions.
Weather in Zanzibar in February
February is also really hot. It’s pretty dry too – in terms of rainfall, that is – but humidity levels are increasing. Clouds can build up, but generally, it’s one of the driest months of the year. Temperatures average 28°C but can easily push into the 30s; the sea is also very warm at this time of year, making February suitable for chilling on the beach.
The kaskazi is dying down come February, but it’s still better to head to the more sheltered south and west coasts of Zanzibar. It’s also a good time of year for excursions to Chumbe Island for snorkeling in the protected reef.
Weather in Zanzibar in March
With the winds virtually having disappeared by now, March is hot and humid. The beaches and seawater are balmy. Naturally, this brings a lot of visitors to the beaches, but March does also come with the drawback of unpredictable weather. The rainy season begins to reveal itself by the end of the month, which means more clouds, less sun, and occasional heavy downpours.
There are still good days, especially in early March, when the seas are clear and calm, making it prime diving time. But by late March, even hotels are closing; it’s the end of high season. However, this does mean that you can get a good discount on the accommodation that’s still open.
Weather in Zanzibar in April
April is the wettest month (401mm of rain). It’s the official start of WET season, so of course, there’s going to be a lot of rain falling at this time of year. The rains do, however, make temperatures a bit lower, but it can still easily climb above 30°C on these days.
The kaskazi winds which were bombarding the northeast of the island morph into the kusi winds that instead blow from the southwest. Days are typified by clear mornings, with pressure building up, clouds forming, and storms in the late afternoon. But sometimes it literally rains for days on end.
Weather in Zanzibar in May
There’s a lot of rain still in May across the whole of the island. The start of May definitely isn’t the best time to travel to Zanzibar, but by the end of the month, the rain starts to ease off, and downpours are less frequent. Bonus: visiting Zanzibar in May means quiet beaches and hotels at discounted prices, and it won’t rain all the time either.
The weather is still pretty unpredictable, though, so you might have to get used to spending some time indoors. On average, the temperature in May is 28°C (night: 24°C). And with all that rain, nature flourishes, with flowers beginning to bloom across the island.
Weather in Zanzibar in June
June is when the long dry season starts. Usually, it’s beautifully sunny, with daytime temperatures of 28°C and nighttime temperatures of 20°C. The kusi wind hitting the south and west coasts makes for ideal kitesurfing conditions, but not exactly top-notch lazing on the beach weather.
If you do want to spend time chilling on a slice of sun, sea, and sand, head to the northern end for calmer seas. June is the start of the incredible event that is sea turtles hatching – especially on Juani Island.
Weather in Zanzibar in July
By July, temperatures have dropped, hovering around 24°C on average with highs of approximately 26°C, making this one of the cooler months of the year. There’s plenty of sunshine to soak up and warm seas (also 26°C) to wallow in, though.
There’s not a lot of rain, humidity is at 60%, and it’s a pleasant time of year to visit. It’s a busy time on the islands, being the time of year for one of Zanzibar’s major festivals (more on that later). It’s also the start of the summer holidays in many countries, so holidaymakers start making their way here towards the end of the month.
Weather in Zanzibar in August
Another cooler month, but this is the last month where the temperatures are “cold.” It’s never too hot, and humidity isn’t that high, so it’s pleasant. The kusi winds start to die down in August, so the sea becomes a lot calmer, and it’s a much better time of year for laying out on the sand on beaches in the southwest.
But the sea still can be rough beyond the reefs. Turtles are still hatching in August – it’s a fantastic sight to see! August is a prime fishing month if you’re into that. It’s also bustling, with hotels getting booked up left, right, and center.
Weather in Zanzibar in September
Cool, but starting to get warmer, September is a lovely, relaxed time of year to visit Zanzibar. There’s usually a slight breeze, but the seas remain calm – and warm (26°C) – so diving is a good option if you’re visiting in September.
In particular, the ocean around Mafia Island – with visibility of about 25 meters – is terrific for spotting whale sharks. Being such a great time to go to Zanzibar, naturally, it’s pretty popular this time of year; in fact, it’s even busier than August, so you’d better book in advance if you want to stay in your dream spot.
Weather in Zanzibar in October
In essence, October sees the same kind of weather patterns as September: lots of sunshine, warm air, and sea temperatures (both around 28°C on average), little rain, around 60% humidity, and not a load of strong winds. In fact, October is the least windy month in Zanzibar. This makes it a great time of year to laze around in the lagoons and the sea.
Sunshine, sunshine, sunshine. You can even spot dolphins swimming through the calm seas off the coast of Ras Kizimkazi, and those whale sharks are still making their way around Mafia Island. It’s still a great time of year for diving, snorkeling, and all the other beachside fun you could ask for.
Weather in Zanzibar in November
November is the short rainy season. Throughout the month, 226mm of rain falls, which is very different to September and October. This means there are fewer visitors to the islands. That temperature is still pretty warm though, with an average of 28°C, but the humidity is creeping up (around 69%).
The sea is still like bathwater. Even though it’s rainy, it’s much less heavy than the long rainy season back from April to May. Weather can be unpredictable, though, so be prepared.
Weather in Zanzibar in December
During the last month of the year, all of Zanzibar is sprinkled with showers, but as the month goes on, those become a lot more sporadic. It amounts to just under 200mm of rain. You can expect daytime temperatures of 28°C, with highs of 35°C in some parts.
The kaskazi winds begin to get up again, and seas can get a little rough on the north and east coast of the main island; the south, east, and southeast are much more sheltered. It’s a popular time of year, because who doesn’t want to spend Christmas in Zanzibar?
Festivals in Zanzibar
Zanzibar Festivals between December-February
From December 6-9, it’s time for the Zanzibar Beach and Watersports Festival. Being an island destination with plenty of beaches, it makes sense that Zanzibar would host a festival like this one. Naturally, it’s four days of celebrating life and culture on the beach, with music to boot.
During the festival, there’s also a lot of watersports – obviously. Expect kitesurfing, beach football, beach volleyball, and even… hang on, goat racing? Yeah, that happens too. And when you’re hungry (or thirsty), there are plenty of stalls to refresh yourself.
Christmas is obviously a thing in Zanzibar, but being a prominently Islamic island, it’s confined mainly to hotels and resorts where tourists congregate.
In January, Zanzibar celebrates Revolution Day. It’s held on January 12 every year and commemorates the end of 200 years of Arab dominance of the island; celebrations go long into the night and are particularly lively at Forodhani Waterfront.
Centered around Zanzibar’s Stone Town, Sauti za Busara is a festival that celebrates the amazing vibrancy that is African music. It goes on for three days in February, and sees 400 performers from all over the continent play funky tunes from Africa’s diverse musical genres – from Afro-pop to taarab.
Zanzibar Festivals between March-May
What is meteorological spring in most Northern Hemisphere countries is Zanzibar’s wet season. A lot of hotels close in April and May, which – combined with the rains – doesn’t exactly make this the best time to visit Zanzibar.
March is low season, so there’s not a lot going on. However, it also happens to be pineapple season, so you’ll get to try some of the sweetest pineapples you’ve ever tasted if you happen to be in Zanzibar in March.
April celebrates Unification Day. Held on April 26 each year, this day marks the union between former Omani territory Zanzibar and former British colony Tanganyika that in 1964 led to what is officially called the United Republic of Tanzania – “Tan” from Tanganyika and “Zan” from Zanzibar. Makes sense. Obviously not as big of a deal as January’s Revolution Day.
Zanzibar Festivals between June-August
Though not a festival, it is almost like one. Beginning in June, baby sea turtles hatch on many of Zanzibar’s beaches. Getting in touch with a local NGO like Sea Sense can reward travelers with ecologically-friendly tours to Juani Island, where the hatching is at its best. It goes on until the start of September.
July is the time of year for a unique cultural festival – Mwaka Kogwa. This is a time when the ethnic Shirazi people of Zanzibar (and elsewhere along the Swahili coast) celebrate their New Year. That’s not the most interesting part: Shirazi people are thought to descend from the Shiraz and the southwest coast of… Iran. Yep, these people are Persian. It coincides with Persian New Year, which has its roots in ancient Zoroastrianism.
The festivities in Makunduchi, Zanzibar are definitely the best. These include women singing, men dueling with bamboo sticks, and setting a hut on fire. Why? Because setting one hut on fire wards away the chance of any huts catching on fire over the next year.
Also in July is the Zanzibar International Film Festival (or ZIFF for short). It’s an all-out art extravaganza, with workshops, screenings, and lectures held over a week for what is often called East Africa’s most significant cultural event. Cult films not just from Africa, but around the world – from Pakistan and Southeast Asia to Latin America – are shown for a true celebration of creativity.
When it comes to August, the big one is Eid-ul-Fitr. This Islamic celebration marks the end of weeks of fasting (Ramadan) – and what do you do after weeks of fasting? Feasting. Also in August – and the first few days of September – is Jahazi Literary & Jazz Festival; days mean poems, workshops, talks; nights are for jazz, of course!
Zanzibar Festivals between September-November
The open-air jazz concerts, performances and poetry readings of the Jahazi Literary & Jazz Festival continue into September. Catch some at the Old Fort in Stone Town.
As for October? It’s just a great month to be visiting Zanzibar between two rainy seasons. November is a mini-rainy season, but there’s not a lot of people visiting and not a lot of events going on, either.
When is the Best Season to Travel Zanzibar?
High season (June to October)
As mentioned, June is officially the dry season meaning your chance of a sunny day is exceptionally high. In general, this is the busiest time to visit Zanzibar and prices for accommodation will be at their highest. However, you are almost guaranteed sunny days. Most would say this is the best time to travel to Zanzibar.
Shoulder Season (November to March)
Tourism is lower during this time, but sunny days are likely and temperatures are still good. It’s technically the shoulder season, meaning you can likely score a deal before high season starts. (Just watch out for holiday pricing around Christmas and New Years).
Low Season (April to May)
This is when the rains hit Unguja island. Tropical downpours and flooding are typical during these months and because of this many hotels will shut their door. You’ll likely still have sunny weather, but I would expect to get wet during these months. In general, it’s not the best time to visit Zanzibar.
Book A Safari in Tanzania
Traditionally if you wanted to book a safari you’d have to go to a travel agent and have them book your safari for you. They made suggestions for camps and lodges then presented you with a large bill. Most of the industry still operates in this fashion.
However, Timbuktu is a new platform that allows you to select the lodges you’d like and see the pricing per day that way you can select the best itinerary for yourself. They will then contact the lodges and help you through booking your safari. With experts on staff, they can also provide suggestions and arrange the little details much like a travel agent.
Check Out Some Lodges in Tanzania
Kigelia Ruaha Camp
Kigelia Camp is located along a dry river bed beneath Kigelia Africana trees. Each of the six tents is the perfect size for two people to enjoy comfortable beds and an outdoor seating area.
It’s worth noting that there is also a family tent for children above 12 to enjoy with their parents. Each tent has a flush toilet and a classic outdoor bucket shower. All in an effort to preserve water a precious resource in the park.
Staying in these tents allows guests to connect with the wild. Falling asleep to the sounds of hyenas and lions in the night is a memory never to be forgotten
Sand Rivers Selous
The lodge was founded in the 1990s by a legendary guide Richard Bonham. The fantastic camp sits in an amazing spot in the Selous Game Reserve, where the Rufiji River makes a wide curve on its way to the Indian Ocean.
Eight thatched guest bandas, are set on raised wooden platforms that overlook the river. The rooms are open-fronted, low-key and permit the wilderness to drift into the villas. The sounds of the babbling Rufiji river are ever-present while hippos grunt happily along the river banks all day and night.
Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge
There are only a handful of lodges that are on the rim of the crater and we were lucky enough to stay at one of them – the Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge. The stone hotel blended well into the crater’s edge while the atmosphere of the lodge was relaxing and intimate.
We enjoyed the main lounge which featured communal fireplaces and great views of the crater with floor to ceiling windows. The focus of the property is obviously the crater. With numerous balconies around the property ensuring a serene spot to relax and enjoy afternoon tea or sundowners.
What to Pack for Zanzibar
Travel Water Bottle
Plastic pollution is a problem in Tanzania so it’s best not to contribute to the problem buying plastic water bottles everywhere. Bottles like the Grayl are great for purifying unsafe water!
However, we also love filtered water bottles in areas we’re uncertain of the water supply. Read more about favorite water bottle for travel in our post.
Chances are you’ll want a camera for your trip to Zanzibar. Our favorite pocket-sized point and shoot camera for quick trips are the Sony RX100V. It takes fantastic photos and video and is the size of your palm.
For more professional photographs we use our Fuji XT-3, and LOVE IT.
A cover-up is one of those beach vacation clothes you should always travel within your luggage. When packing for a day at the beach, make sure you don’t forget one. Not only do they look cute, but they will also protect you from the suns harsh rays.
Many establishments don’t allow beachgoers to wear just a swimsuit, so this is where the cover-up is essential. Most of my cover-ups come from Pitusa.
We both have rain jackets made by Arc’teryx. They are lightweight, durable, packable, waterproof, and windproof. Any rain jacket will do, but the top dollar ones will hold up and really help in inclement weather. If you’re looking for a more affordable jacket we’re big fans of Columbia’s outdoor wear for a good value.
If you’re wondering what travel necessities to bring to Tanzania then good walking shoes should be your top concern.
No matter what you will need a beach bag when heading to the beach. This is to throw in anything like towels, a book, a speaker, sunglasses, snacks, and sunscreen. As full-time travelers, we often use our daypacks for trips to the beach since a tote is unnecessary.
However, a classic tote that everyone has in their closet is a great option for those on short trips or live close to the beach. They also travel well as they can fold flat and lie in your luggage. For family beach goers I recommend a large yet durable beach tote like this one.
Skin cancer is for real! Don’t forget your SPF when traveling around Zanzibar. We recommend ordering some online before leaving the house as you will need it underneath the sun in the summer.
We highly recommend getting an eco friendly sun cream that does not contain harmful chemicals.
Make sure to protect your eyes from the sun. There are a lot of options for sunglasses and everyone should own at least a pair. It’s best to make sure they do have UV protection for the health of your eyes.
We made our first investment in quality polarized sunglasses with a pair of SMITH Optics Lowdown 2. Truthfully, not everyone needs to invest $150 in a pair of sunglasses, but they do make a huge difference from the crappy $10 ones.
Most hotels will provide you with a towel, but they often aren’t suitable or allowed on the beaches. I like to travel with a microfiber towel because they are light and fold up small, and they also don’t cling on to sand our dirt. Here are a few of our favorite travel towels.
Where to Stay on Zanzibar
The most exclusive of all the resorts on Zanzibar is without a doubt Kilindi Zanzibar. The resort is near Kendwa on the Northwestern part of the island and is one of the top Zanzibar hotels on the beach. Its large grounds give plenty of privacy to its 15 villas that pop up from a lush hillside. The white-washed domed villas feel like a sultan’s palace that should only be fit for a king or a pop celebrity. In fact, the resort was formerly the private residence of ABBA band member, Benny Andersson. It’s definitely the best hotel in Zanzibar for honeymoon vacations.
Park Hyatt Zanzibar
The Park Hyatt Zanzibar is an exquisite hotel delivered in a way only capable of a Park Hyatt and is easily one of the top 10 hotels in Zanzibar. The hotel finds a perfect balance between the brands signature look and the former palace that the main building now occupies. The interiors of the hotel embody the atmosphere of Stone Town with features such as intricate chandeliers, archways, lanterns, trellises, carved wood, and crown molding.
Essque Zalu Zanzibar
Essque Zalu is one of the best beach resorts in Zanzibar. This Zanzibar hotel is not for the faint of heart, at Essque Zalu bigger is better. It is one of the largest resorts on Zanzibar, but the intimacy of Zanzibar has not been lost. Essque Zalu Zanzibar sits at the Northern end of Zanzibar, close by to Nungwi Beach.
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