Beach Bars and Braids: Nungwi Beach

Beach Essentials

Where: Nungwi Beach, northern Zanzibar Island, East Africa
When: July – Beautifully warm, avoiding all the storms
Happenings: Dhow-builders, nearby coral reefs, western beach bums getting “African braids”, and a turtle sanctuary
Remember to bring: 
Your favourite CDs. The barmen at some beach bars are so chilled out, they may play requests on the in-hut entertainment system

Where it’s at

In northern Zanzibar, approximately 40 miles from Zanzibar town, Nungwi is fast becoming a full resort set on yet another perfect white sand beach. It’s well worth the hour to an hour and a half bus trip to get here, even if the final approach road can be so bumpy at times, you’ll cling to anything that’s firmly bolted down. Any tour operator in Zanzibar Town can organise a minibus pick up from your hotel to Nungwi, otherwise you can brave the overcrowded locals’ bus leaving from Darajani Market in Stone Town.


The region has two rainy seasons: the rains are December to March, and are often accompanied by severe storms. The short rains are November to January. The best time to visit Zanzibar is between July and October.

Things to see and do

Swim and snorkel all day

At low tide, most Zanzibar beaches require a long hike just for a paddle. That doesn’t apply to Nungwi and neighbouring Kendwa, though. You don’t have to wear sandals or, heaven forbid, flippers to avoid rupturing your feet on a sea urchin en route to the water’s edge. Boat captains and dive centres will gladly arrange snorkelling and scuba trips to the technicolour reefs around Kendwa, as well as the Pemba channel.

Get a new hairdo – or a hair don’t

Even if braids are good enough for style icons like R. Kelly and David Beckham, they’re probably not going to change the average tourist into a style icon. But that hasn’t put off the hapless western travellers on the beach getting “African braids”.

The Caribbean of Africa

They really should sell ‘Zanzibar – no problem’ T-shirts in Nungwi. That’s because you often hear Rasta barmen saying “hukana mutata”. The Swahili phrase for no problem comes in handy when replying to your apologetic team mate who’s made a hash of their shot on the volleyball court.

Beach huts and bars

Eat, drink and party right on the beach. Stay in a thatched roofed bungalows, eat the local catch at a restaurant or lounge in a beach bar hammock. While reclining, thumb through western fashion magazines placed thoughtfully at the bar. In the background, funky tunes blare out from a speaker wedged in a palm tree. Bring your own CDs as some barmen are so laid back, they might play requests.

Dhow-builders and the turtle sanctuary 

Dhow-builders, the fish market and the turtle sanctuary jolt you back to reality, reminding you that you are still in Africa. Granted, dhows are beautifully hand carved boats, but resist the urge to just point and shoot with your camera. Please ask dhow-builders if you intend to take a picture, although further towards the lighthouse, the hawksbill turtles and pufferfish won’t mind at all if you snap away, but then you have to pay for the privilege of entering the sanctuary.


More information:

Zanzibar Net
Zanzibar’s travel network – essential information to plan your trip.

Paradise Beach Dive Centre
A one stop shop for all your underwater needs

Main image: Nungwi Beach, Matt Keiffer, Flickr Creative Commons

By Nadeem Saeed