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Zanzibar in January

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Zanzibar in January

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By Vihann Van Wyk

Safari Travel Planner

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January marks the start of the short dry season in Zanzibar, a period of relatively hot, humid weather that builds gradually from late December and runs through to the beginning of March.

Prison Island, Zanzibar
Prison Island, Zanzibar

Average temperatures in Zanzibar remain pretty constant throughout the year, but January is one of the hotter months, with daytime highs regularly up to 35°C (95°F). Although generally sunny, there may still be the occasional afternoon thunderstorm in Zanzibar.

Fishermen and their dhow, Kiwengwa Beach, Zanzibar
Fishermen and their dhow, Kiwengwa Beach, Zanzibar

These clear quickly, however, and won’t disrupt you too much when enjoying a beach holiday in Zanzibar. 

Tropical exotic beach Sunny morning in Zanzibar on Jambiani white sands

With sea temperatures of up to 30°C (86°F), they’re unlikely to put you off swimming either but expect a few windy days as the north-eastern ‘kaskazi’ wind blows in Zanzibar in January. 

Mafia Island, Zanzibar
Mafia Island, Zanzibar

The north-eastern kaskazi is a major factor in choosing where in Zanzibar to holiday in January. Beaches along Zanzibar’s north and east coasts bear the brunt of the wind – a steady, stiff breeze usually between 20 and 30 km/h (11-17 knots). 

Tropical beach on Pemba Island, Zanzibar.
Tropical beach on Pemba Island, Zanzibar.

Wind and waves can also wash seaweed onto the eastern beaches, although many resorts make a point of clearing the bathing areas in front of their properties. If you’re a kite surfer, all this is great, of course, and the stable, moderate winds are also ideal for beginners. 

Zanzibar kitesurfers.
Zanzibar kitesurfers.

Paje very popular at this time of year, as is Kiwengwa, although it’s a bit more low-key. If you’re looking for something more sheltered, try Kendwa or Ras Kizimkazi. Day trips to the west coast atolls of Chumbe and Prison Island are also ideal at this time of year.

Zanzibar beach.
Zanzibar beach.

January is an ideal time to visit Zanzibar for a beach holiday with friends or family. 

Travel Tips
  • January is Zanzibar’s mango season, and the markets are full of fresh, ripe fruit. It also marks the end of the clove harvest in Pemba, with fragrant piles of the islands’ main export drying in the sun. January is prime time for swimming with whale sharks off Mafia Island, and the visibility is at its best over the coral gardens of Chole Bay.
  • Kitesurfing aside, January’s only real disadvantage is the kaskazi wind, which, although rarely so strong as to be unpleasant, can blow seaweed onto the eastern beaches and erode the sand along the northeastern coast. The seas may also be too rough for some off-shore dive sites, but there are always other options along the more sheltered west.

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