Crusing into a Sunset on a Dhow in Zanzibar, Tanzania


A dhow is a traditional African boat that is often found on the Nile and in select other parts of Africa. It’s always a treat when you’re able to experience a dhow cruise. Today’s activity involved a sunset cruise on a local dhow boat, which was a pleasant way to spend an evening around Zanzibar.

This post is one chapter on our trip to the Republic of Tanzania and the Islands of the Seychelles. This trip was redeemed through Air Canada’s Aeroplan and enhanced through World of Hyatt and Marriott Bonvoy Elite Status. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

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Activity: Cruising into Sunset on a Dhow, Zanzibar, Tanzania

The highlight of today was that I had booked a sunset dhow cruise for tonight through the hotel. I had initially wanted to go through Vanora Zanzibar thanks to it’s fantastic Trip Advisor reviews. After several prompt and helpful back and forths by email, it turned out that their boat was going to be in dry dock during our visit and we wouldn’t be able to use them after all. We ended up booking cold and going through The Park Hyatt Zanzibar hotel. It was $60 USD for two for a “shared” boat with an option for a private version at a much higher cost. The payment was cash only and not able to be charged to the room. It seems to be the way things work around here. I was going to ask for a receipt but didn’t bother. After we were confirmed, the hotel staffer arranged to escort us to the boat at 5 PM.

As the meet up time rolled around, we met up with our guide and walked over the short distance to the dow dock. Dock was more of a misnomer (laughing). It turned out to be a wet launch with a small ladder up to the boat.

The “group” dhow experience only had one other French couple on it. They didn’t speak any English or Swahili at all so I did a fair bit of translating for the evening cruise. We headed out immediately past the House of Wonders and into the harbour.

The dhow had snacks and even an unlabelled house white wine. The boat host indicated that the owner was Italian. There were chili cassava potato chips on board in the local packaging that were really good with a nice mild spice

The dhow took us out past the harbour towards the mangrove trees on the north east side of town. The dhow used the sail almost 90% of the time, but they did have a motor on it to get us through some of the difficult spots.

We passed by the commercial harbour, including the fast ferries used to travel to Dar Es Salaam.

Our Tanzanian dhow host had a good chat with us asking us about life in North America. She had been fortunate enough to travel to Sardinia, Italy and was shortly headed to London, United Kingdom. She indicated that her parents had helped her buy a place in town.

On the way back, we had a mild sunset, along with many other water views. We had a light grey sunset for the tail end of rainy season.

We also happened to see The Park Hyatt Zanzibar from the water as we floated back into town.


The Livingstone Beach Restaurant:

We bid the hosts and our fellow traveling French couple good bye and ended up having a post dhow drink in the nearby Livingstone Beach Restaurant. I’d typically describe it as a dive bar. The interior was terrible and completely deserted but the outside was pretty neat. According to the Lonely Planet guidebooks, it used to be the British Consulate. It now offers a sandy chair outside under Indian Almond Trees that provided a great deal of shade.

I enjoyed a large Kilimanjaro beer to settle the rest of the day. All in all, it was a charming place under the streets while the heat of the summer cooled off ever so slightly.

By the time we were done here, it was about 8:30 PM. It took us a bit of time to get the bill. We ended up getting lazy and instead of venturing out to attempt to find dinner in a mostly closed Sunday town, we just ended up having dinner at the Park Hyatt. A local ginger ale (by Coca Cola company) of Stoney Tangawaisi with ice absolutely hit the spot.

My Thoughts on our Sunset Dhow Cruise :

The dhow cruise is always a treat when you’re in Africa. Although we had some shady and grey weather, it was nice to get out on the water for an activity. Although we missed out on Vanora Zanzibar, the current arrangement with the hotel with the Italian owner was perfectly reasonable and enjoyable.

If you’ve spent any time in Africa, do you think that a dhow cruise is a must do while you are in town ?

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