Warm sun, warm seas.
Because we’re lucky enough to live here on Zanzibar, we get to experience the island year-round, which means that we can give you a lot of insights into the best time to visit Zanzibar. We’ll admit that we’re a little biased – we’ve never had a day here on the coast of East Africa that we didn’t enjoy.
That said, Zanzibar does change with the seasons – although not drastically. It’s close to the Equator and surrounded by the warm waters of the Indian Ocean, all of which have an impact on Zanzibar weather. It’s difficult to exactly pin point when is the best time to visit Zanzibar as it’s deliciously warm all year, with two distinct rainy periods (March to May, and November to December).
A big factor in choosing the best time of year to visit Zanzibar is what you want to do when you get here. There are so many activities to choose from that you may not have time to try them all in just one holiday, but that’s okay – you’ll just have to visit us again another time.
If you’re heading to Zanzibar for the diving, consider taking the plunge between January and March. March marks the start of the ‘long rains’. It’s also when temperatures begin to dip a little after the more intense heat of summer.
More importantly, from an underwater perspective, there are relatively few other visitors – which means you get more of the ocean to yourself – and it’s a great time to see turtles, whales and sharks. You might want to avoid May, when windier conditions can cause reduced visibility. October, in contrast, is very calm, which is another reason why it’s part of the peak season on the island.
The period from June to October sees Zanzibar at its busiest, as this is generally reckoned to be the best time to go to Zanzibar. The weather is a little cooler (around 26°C on average) and you’re unlikely to get rained on – ideal beach weather, in other words.
The flipside is that the more popular beaches, and the tourist magnet of Stone Town, can become a little crowded. You may have to book in advance for certain activities, or be prepared to share them with more fellow travellers. Prices in restaurants and bars go up, as do the rates for taxis, car hire and guides. With more visitors on the island, it does mean that pretty much all operators are up and running, so you’ll have the widest range of activity options. During the peak season, you’re very unlikely to see any ‘closed’ signs (other than during the hottest part of the day).
If you’re coming to Zanzibar to be a part of a very cosmopolitan, fun-loving crowd, this is the time to be here. If, in contrast, you’re looking to get away from it all, or experience more authentic Swahili cultural moments, the two ends of the peak season might be a better bet. This also applies if you’re on a budget and need to count your shillings.
Fasts and festivals
As most Zanzibar’s people are Muslims, the timing of the holy month of Ramadan is also something to consider. The Islamic calendar is lunar, so the dates of this period of daytime fasting change each year. In 2018, Ramadan began on May 15th and ends on June 14th or 15th.
During Ramadan, you might find that Stone Town seems almost deserted during the day, and many shops and businesses will be closed. The end of Ramadan – the fast-breaking festival of Eid al-Fitr – could just be the very best time to visit Zanzibar. There’s a joyful, celebratory mood everywhere, with good-natured crowds spilling onto the streets. If you can time your Zanzibar holiday to coincide with this event, you’ll be in for an unforgettable experience.
Whichever time of year you want to experience Zanzibar, call Driftwood Beach Lodge on +255 774 236 455 or click here and we’ll make sure you have the best possible Zanzibar holiday.