Last Updated on September 11, 2023
I originally wasn’t planning on doing a spice tour in Zanzibar. However my hotel in Paje had a combined Jozani Forest trip with a spice farm tour, so I thought I may as well check it out. Zanzibar is known as the ‘spice island’ after all! I’m so glad I did, because it turned out to be one of my favourite day tours that I did in Zanzibar! Here’s what to expect from a Zanzibar spice farm tour!
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Spice Tour in Zanzibar
The trip was planned so in the morning I would go to Jozani Chwaka Bay National Park to see the Zanzibar Red Colobus Monkeys, and then I’d hit the spice farm in time for lunch.
The lunch was included as part of the cost of my tour. (For both it cost $70 USD, including the return transport from Paje. For a full budget breakdown, you may find this post useful: Is Zanzibar Expensive?)
Jambo Spice Farm, Dole
There are several different spice farms in Zanzibar, but I went to the Jambo Spice Farm in Dole, around 25 minutes from Stone Town. Was it a bit of a tourist trap? Yes, probably. But I loved it, my guides were very knowledgeable and I enjoyed learning about the different spices and fruits.
As I was travelling Zanzibar solo, my tour was private. I wasn’t made to join a group at the farm, instead I was given my own guide, which I really liked, as it’s a little bit more personal and you can ask questions!
As well as learning about the spices, we chatted about life in Zanzibar. He volunteers at the spice farm while studying tourism and business at university. He also had an ‘assistant’ with him. This was a younger guy, who didn’t talk as much, but he made fun ‘gifts’ for me (of course expecting a tip, but I really didn’t mind).
It was fascinating watching him make baskets, crowns, a necklace and a bracelet and ring out of leaves and flowers! I felt like a walking jungle by the end, but it’s all part of the experience!
Learning About Spices
The first part of my tour was wandering around the spice farm. My guide turned it into a bit of a game and in all honesty it made me realise how little I knew about what things look like in their natural state.
For the most part, things like cinnamon are mostly seen in powdered form in a jar or as a stick, in the supermarket…not as part of a leafy tree (I could guess that one by smell though)! And I only knew what the cocoa fruit looked like thanks to the scene in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory when the Oompa Loompa is dancing with a cocoa plant on his head!
He would make me guess by pulling off and crushing a leaf or cutting a small part of the plant and then encourage me to smell, touch or taste it.
My guide explained how different parts of the plants would have different uses. Whether it’s in food or as part of a natural type of medicine, cosmetics etc. Roots, bark, leaves and flowers all had their uses. Many people use and rely on these natural remedies.
fruit & spices I saw growing
I had heard that some farms only have spices and fruit that are currently in ‘season’, but during my visit at the end of September I saw (plus a few more):
- Aloe vera
- Iodine tree
- Red and Yellow Bananas
I learnt about how cloves are Zanzibar’s biggest export (along with seaweed), jackfruit is the biggest fruit in the world…it’s even bigger than a watermelon, bananas can also be red, coffee beans are actually yellow and cocoa fruit is yummy (the seeds are what is used to make chocolate).
Now, I’m a fan of eating chocolate covered coffee beans, so I don’t mind eating them in their crunchy bean state. When my guide showed me a wet, slimy, yellow coffee bean, I was of course intrigued by what it would taste like so I asked if I could try and eat it!
I can report back that it tastes nothing like its roasted version! (He did say not to actually eat it, but I was fine to bite into it and spit it out).
Of course like any tourist ‘attraction’ they want to show you different products. I have no problem in saying ‘no thank you’, if I really don’t want anything.
However, I did by a bar of aloe vera soap for 5000Tsh (around £2/$2)…they caught me at a time when I had got a little burnt the day before, so was up for trying aloe vera in a solid bar form! I also bought a teeny tiny bottle of ylang ylang perfume for 10000Tsh (£4/$4).
They had a whole range of different soaps and a couple of scents of the perfume that smelt lovely!
Along with the ‘cosmetics’ products, there was another stall with LOADS of different spices and flavours of tea and coffee.
I’m not too sure on the import rules, as they were little just in little sticky bags with a white label, it didn’t look like they had been properly processed (yes, I don’t live in Australia but I was obsessed with ‘Nothing To Declare’!). I decided to give these a miss, but I was very tempted by the flavoured tea leaves!
Next up is the coconut area (and another experience that you are expected to tip for). Another man demonstrates how you climb a palm tree just using a rope tied around your feet. He sings the whole way up and down and then belts out a round of Jambo Bwana, a song that I heard constantly in Kenya, but in Zanzibar, they adapt the words!
Once he’s down, he breaks open a coconut for you to drink. When you’ve finished the water, he scrapes out the flesh for you to eat. I personally love coconuts like this, but they can be a bit of an acquired taste!
Lunch was amazing as it was served with a lot of the spices and fruit from the farm. As mentioned, it was included as part of the tour price. Lunch was: a bottle of water, rice, coconut sauce, bananas in a slightly different coconut sauce, salad, spinach and tuna (although I’m not a huge fish lover of fish, so I only asked for the smallest piece).
I ate it all and was offered seconds but I refused, which I was glad about because..
At the end of the tour there was a fruit tasting section! Everything was so juicy and fresh and in a whole league of its own, compared to what makes it to our supermarket shelves in the UK. During my visit I was able to sample:
- Grapefruit (which was surprisingly NOT sour)
- Yellow banana
- Red banana (well only the skin is red. I don’t really like bananas but to me they tasted the same, but it is said that red bananas are sweeter)
- Cocoa (we only got to taste the pulp which was white, juicy and sweet!)
I was absolutely stuffed full by the end of my spice tour!
Booking The Zanzibar Spice Tour
There are several different options for visiting the spice farm in Zanzibar. I combined mine with a visit to Jozani Forest. However, I booked the tour before I realised that the monkeys hung out in the trees around my hotel. If I had have known this before, I think I would have skipped the National Park. Here are some similar tours:
For just a spice farm tour check out: Zanzibar spice tour from Stone Town,
This tour has the Spice farm tour with a traditional cooking class.
Or for a combined tour, this one includes a tour of Stone Town, the spice farm and lunch.