Zanzibar for the Backpacker: Paje Beach

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White sand beaches and a few dashes of spices and culture provide an ultimate island paradise. Zanzibar was our first stop in Africa. A sheltered prelude to five weeks in Africa, but an introduction to local foods and people. Many make Stone Town their first stop in Zanzibar, but why do that when you’ll find the hustle and bustle of crowded dirt alleys and frenzied street markets and shops all across Africa. The real reason to go to Zanzibar is to relax on a quiet beach. Grab a drink, lay in the hammock, soak up some rays, eat, sleep, repeat.

How to relax on the beach in Zanzibar
How to relax on the beach in Zanzibar

But when we started looking for accommodation, I found rates much higher than I expected with most places hovering around the $300 / night range. Crazy. So I dug deeper and found the east cost of Unguja (the main and largest island of the two islands of Zanzibar) littered with more affordable accommodation. So that’s where we went and boy were we happy. If you’re considering a trip take a look at a few of these backpacker hotspots.

Paje

Paje became our home away from home for 7 nights. The beach has several accommodation options within 1km of each other so if you don’t like having a plan just show up and negotiate a price. A few highly rated, popular spots:

Early morning sunrise
Early morning sunrise

This beach is pristine with the closest thing to a nuisance are the immigrated Maasai trying to sell you things from their over-the-shoulder ‘shops’ or the kids who will drink all of your water, thirsty after splashing around in the water. During some parts of the year this is a haven for kite surfing with several outfitters along the strip willing to charge you western dollars for rentals and/or lessons.

During low tide, the ocean nearly disappears turning what seems are miles of water into a fine, sandy mud. When this happens the locals come out to fish or tend to their seaweed farms. But be careful! Stingrays hide underneath the sand and if you’re unlucky a nasty sting will leave your leg numb and you’ll have some difficulty walking for a few days. This really did happen to a girl while we were there and a local was left sucking the poison out of her foot and crushing up some of the ‘local medicine’ (some sort of plant) to provide some anesthetic to the area.

One of the many seaweed farms along the coast
One of the many seaweed farms along the coast
A stranded boat during low tide
A stranded boat during low tide

Around Paje

There are several other beaches around Paje that are also popular with backpackers. Most notably: Jambiani and Bwejuu.

Jambiani

Just 6km down the coast from Paje, this sleepy fishing village can offer a little more privacy if your budget allows. The top rated places I looked at are running $10 – $20 higher than Paje for comparable digs.

  • Jambiani Whitesand Bungalows (single $50 / double $70)
  • Dude’s Guesthouse¬†(double $50)
  • Ndame Beach Lodge (single $50 / twin $75 / double $95)
  • Jambiani Guesthouse (twin $50)
  • Zanzibar Fairytale Guesthouse (double $70)

Bwejuu

3km north of Paje and practically in walking distance (sharing the same beach) is Bwejuu. We didn’t get a chance to visit, but one traveler noted that you could spend your days there watching the palms trees sway without speaking a word to anyone else.

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