Local Tips and Culture

Pakacha Bungalows is nestled in the heart of Bwejuu village, a traditional fishing village with a slowly developing tourism scene. The drive from the main road to our hotel takes you past the school, mosque, medical clinic and local store (Mombasa Duka) and gives you a glimpse of local village life as you bump along the dirt road to our little hideaway.

Zanzibar is the birthplace of the Swahili culture of East Africa. The fusion of Bantu, Arabic, Persian and European heritages have created a unique and remarkable culture – from its language to its architecture, Zanzibar is ornate and elaborate, exotic and beautiful. While tourists are welcomed and encouraged to engage in local life, there are a few ways in which you can show respect for the culture and beliefs as you explore this incredible island.

Religion:

At over 99% Muslim, Zanzibar is a very conservative state. In general, Stonetown is more conservative than the beach villages and people are very devout. The mosque is the key landmark for every suburb and village, and on Friday afternoons many businesses will be closed for prayer until early evening.

Clothing:

For men, knee length shorts and a t-shirt is fine when you are visiting the village or Stonetown. For women, shoulders and knees should be covered, however you are not expected to cover your head or hair unless you wish. The khanga or kikoi (swahili sarong) is a very versatile piece of clothing and come in an unlimited range of prints, patterns and colours – local women use these as head covers, sarongs, skirts, wraps, baby carriers, blankets and more – and can be great gifts. In Stonetown there are many local tailors (fundi) who can make custom clothing using tanzanian and zanzibar batik cloth. If you are invited into a home, remove your shoes.

On the beach, swimwear (including bikini’s) is fine, however nude sunbathing is not appropriate.

Language:

Swahili is spoken in Zanzibar, Tanzania and parts of Kenya and Uganda. Due to the development of foreign owned tourism businesses in Zanzibar, many locals also speak Italian, English and Arabic. In rural areas such as Bwejuu, school children love to practise their English lessons with tourists they meet and will very cheerfully greet you.

Key Phrases:

Jambo – Hello

Mambo – slang greeting (What’s up)

Poa – slang greeting response (Cool, O.K)

Karibu – Welcome

Asante – Thank you

Tafadhali – Please

Nzuri – Good

Ndiyo – Yes

Hapana – No

Rafiki – Friend

Giving Back:

Visitors to Zanzibar often want to help or donate to the local communities that they meet during their time here. There are many worthy causes and programs to assist, and we encourage you to chat with us about the best program or recipient for your donation. For example, rather than giving pens and candy to the children in the village (who will ask you) we can arrange for school supplies to go directly to the school and into the hands of those most needy. For those interested in volunteering in Zanzibar, we can connect you with schools, medical clinics, construction programs and not-for-profit organizations where they always appreciate skilled hands. By staying at Pakacha Bungalows, you are choosing to support a Zanzibari business.

Health and Safety:

Prior to your departure, please ensure with your travel doctor you have all the necessary requirements for Tanzania. Malaria is very low in Zanzibar but more prevalent on the mainland of Tanzania, and all rooms are supplied with mosquito nets. Mosquito repellent can be easily purchased in Zanzibar. In Bwejuu there is a charity medical clinic which is suitable for minor illnesses and injuries. For anything more serious, there are a number of small private hospitals in Stonetown and major private hospitals including western-standard surgery units in Dar Es Salaam. Please ensure you have all required medication and insurance prior to arrival in Zanzibar as medication can be difficult to source.

The nearest Police Station (Paje) is 3km from Pakacha Bungalows. There is a high police presence on the main road between the coast and Stonetown, and it is normal to be stopped by Police when travelling by taxi – all taxi drivers must carry special tourist permits and will be checked. If travelling by private vehicle or rental motorbike/vespa, please ensure you have all your driving documentation on hand, as police are very happy to give fines (payable on the spot).

During the day it is safe to walk on the beach and through the village, however we do not recommend walking at night. Bwejuu is generally very safe however there have been robberies from tourists walking on the beach at night and leaving valuables on the beach while swimming. Eliminate risk by leaving valuables in your room, taking taxis at night or arranging an escort to walk with you.

 Nightlife:

In high season, the South East Coast comes alive as kitesurfers, tourists and locals hit the beach bars. Every night of the week hosts a different party somewhere along the coast line, from Jambiani to Michamvi, ranging from open mic nights to dance parties until sunrise. Pakacha Bungalows is located on a quiet stretch of beach and is not affected by noise, and is within an easy taxi ride to all the weekly events. Pakacha does not have a full bar and we are only licensed to sell beer and wine, however there is a liquor store in Paje and bars at our neighbouring hotels.

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