When we planned our Safari to Africa, we decide that since we were traveling so far to get there, we wanted to see another area so we decided to add Zanzibar, the Spice Island, to our trip. We used credit card points and miles for all of this part of our trip except for the flights involving Zanzibar from the mainland. Here is our experience with points and miles to Zanzibar.
Note: credit card redemptions were correct at the time of publishing this post but may have changed.
We stayed at the Park Hyatt Zanzibar using two free night certificates. It was a category 4 hotel but is now a category 5 so I was happy that we went when we did. The rooms run for almost $400/night so that was a great use of a $95 annual fee. I am happy to pay a $95 annual fee on the World of Hyatt Credit Card when I can use the annual certificate for a free night’s stay.
We really enjoyed this hotel, especially the food, which was outstanding. This was unwinding time after our safari so we basically ate and relaxed by the pool. One of the most interesting aspects of this area was in the evening. A huge swarm of men would come to the area to swim and play with each other. They would wrestle, do flips, chant, and swim. The women were obviously not invited to this ritual as we only saw one or two, dressed in complete Islamic dress, that only watched. We enjoyed watching them have fun on this part of our points and miles trip to Zanzibar.
A highlight of staying in Stone Town was a tour of the area. The small alleyways were both gorgeous and dirty. The open market was definitely a place I discreetly held my nose while touring it. A highlight of the tour was definitely learning about the slave market that occurred in Zanzibar. Interesting and horrible. There is a definite Moroccan influence in this area, and it was all very interesting.
The only downside of our visit to Zanzibar was the leagues of mosquito bites we received, leaving us itching and quite miserable. I am always the first to get bitten (they love me) but they were actually pretty happy to get all four of us on this trip. We couldn’t even see them so we weren’t prepared.
Our measly Hyatt Explorist status did get us an upgraded sea view room and daily breakfast. The breakfast buffet with an omelet bar and pancake station was really nice. Outside of the United States, hotel elite status is valued more and I am always surprised by the upgrades.
We then stayed two nights at the DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Hotel Zanzibar – Nungwi using Hilton points. It cost us 35,000 points/night to stay here for rooms that ran about $225/night. I have to admit, after staying at the Park Hyatt, this was a disappointment. It was about an hour north of Stone Town, on the beach, and the location was gorgeous, though.
The food and room were just okay. We were again given a sea view room due to Hilton Gold status, free wifi, unlimited bottled water, drink tickets, and a buffet breakfast. It just was not near as delicious (not even close) as the breakfast we had in Stone Town. We also were given keychains with the name of the person who booked the room and the famous Doubletree cookies. Even in Zanzibar. Again, hotel elite status was honored more than it is in the United States.
We primarily hung out by the beach, played some cards, and swam in the ocean. It was a relaxing, if still somewhat itchy (still so many bites) experience. We were traveling just prior to the rainy season so it was humid and I think that contributed to the number of insect bites that we encountered. Again, the Tanzanian people in Zanzibar were lovely, happy, and kind. We really were impressed with the hospitality we felt everywhere on our travels in Africa.
From the Hilton hotel, we were picked up and taken to the Zanzibar airport for our flight to Dar es Salaam. This was only about 45 miles away. We got to Dar es Salaam too late to fly out the day we left Zanzibar so we had booked a night at a new hotel, the Element Dar es Salaam, for 13,500 points. This is a Marriott hotel so we ended up using points on this African trip for 3 out of the 4 main chain hotels. Having multiple types of points really helped us.
Our flights home were also on United Airlines. Again, they were in business class for 88,000 miles each. We started on Ethiopian for a flight back to Addis Ababa and then onto London. From London, we switched to my beloved United Polaris business class. The flights would have been about $10,000/person – not that I would have ever paid for them. Traveling to Africa is long though and the ability to travel in business class and sleep makes it so much more tolerable. Being able to sit and sleep in lay-flat seats was a huge help on our points and miles trip to Zanzibar. I never take this for granted.
I was so excited to get to London for our final layover and back to food and treats I was familiar with. The United Lounge there is really nice and it was great to almost be back “home” because it feels so familiar. As much as I love to travel, it always feels good to be going home.
I learn some lessons on every trip. This one was no exception. I am usually prepared with medications but I let that 33 lb. weight limit our African safari limited us to get to me and didn’t take a lot of things that I normally would. I had horrible allergies on this trip at one point and had to scrounge for allergy pills. Here are some of my other lessons learned:
Zanzibar on points and miles was a trip I will long remember. The ability to fly in business class and sleep makes all the difference when you are taking a very long trip. Although it still wasn’t a cheap trip, points and miles made it manageable. It was a priceless adventure made even better by the loving and happy Tanzanian people we met along the way. It is a huge reminder to me that “things” don’t make us happy. Human connection and the simple things in life are what really count.
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