Mauritius Vs. Zanzibar: Which is Better?

A hobie cat in Mauritius vs a traditional dhow in Zanzibar

A hobie cat in Mauritius Vs. a traditional dhow in Zanzibar

This is a regular question on the minds of South African travellers seeking an Indian Ocean Island beach escape. The choice often comes down to these 2 popular options, and the short answer to the question is “it depends”. It’s all down to your preferences, so we’ve broken it down for you to help you better decide.

Getting there

Mauritius: If you’re in Joburg, there are daily direct flights on SAA and Air Mauritius and Mauritius flights once a week on a Saturday on BA Comair. Flights take 4 hours and aside from the BA Comair option, are at convenient times for connecting flights from other cities in South Africa. At certain times of the year there are twice weekly direct flights from Cape Town on Air Mauritius (around 5 hours) as well as from Durban (around 4 hours).

Zanzibar: If you’re in Joburg there are twice weekly direct flights with Mango, they leave at the crack of dawn on Tuesdays and Saturdays so travellers from other parts of the country have to fly in the day before and overnight in Joburg on the way to Zanzibar. They’re usually a great deal cheaper than the Mauritius flights though and take around 5 hours.

The winner: Mauritius for convenience all round, Zanzibar for price, but really only if you live in Joburg.

The visa situation

Mauritius has been visa-free for South Africans since as long as I can remember.

Tanzania, the country which Zanzibar is part of, in 2013 switched from a paid visa on arrival for South Africans to a visa-free setup making it easier than ever to visit the Spice Island.

The winner: It’s a draw

The accommodation

Zanzibar has a range of accommodation styles, while not as many hotels as Mauritius it does have everything from all-inclusive 5 star resorts to rustic bungalows without electricity or hot water on a secluded beach. The vast majority though will have a decent swimming pool, bar, restaurant, regular beds as well as hot and cold running water – so don’t think of it like camping on the beach.

Mauritius on the other hand has been in the tourism game for a long time and features resorts more in the mid-range and upwards. Consequently, you’ll regularly get a very Western standard experience in Mauritius compared to a mix of this and basic local-style lodgings in Zanzibar. It also has a much larger variety of 2, 3, 4 and 5 star hotels and resorts in addition to self-catering villas and bungalows and grocery shopping is a lot easier if you’re on that sort of meal plan.

The winner: For most it will be Mauritius in this category.

The activities

Zanzibar is definitely more focussed on rustic relaxation than Mauritius, though you’ll see a few unique activities here. You can take tours of the spice orchards, something very unique to this part of the world, equally so is a trip into Stone Town, the ancient heart of Zanzibar which stands frozen in time. You can also take a swim with dolphins or take a trip on a traditional dhow. Zanzibar has some unique wildlife like the Red Colobus Monkey which trumps Mauritius’ extinct dodo IMHO. Aside from these there’s the usual kite-surfing, diving, snorkelling and so on too.

Mauritius on the other hand is super organised and if water sports are your thing, this is the place to be. You’ll also find the usual windsurfing, diving and snorkelling but you’ll also find quirky additions like glass-bottom boat rides, undersea walks, aquagym, waterpolo as well as more in the way of kayaking and paddleboating. At many hotels you’ll find high tech gyms, yoga classes and even mountain-biking trips. You’ll also find a lot of familiar sites in town like South African coffee shops and restaurants. In summary, the activities in Mauritius are much more organised and closer to what you would find back home.

The winner: In sheer volume of activities, Mauritius wins hands down, in terms of a uniquely African experience, Zanzibar takes first place.

For kids

Mauritius is the one to start with here. There are a number of reasons this is a good choice for kids. Unlike Zanzibar, there’s no need for them to have yellow fever injections before visiting or to take malaria prophylaxis. The flights, especially for non-Joburgers are a lot easier than those to Zanzibar, requiring no changes or overnight stopovers. Mauritius is also exceptional for kids with many hotels boasting great kids facilities and some even offering nanny services. Hotels with kids facilities have kids clubs, pools and activities for them to take part in as well.

Zanzibar? You could say it has an old fashioned approach to parenting: your kids are yours to take care of, for the most part. Even some of the most family-oriented resorts will not have kids facilities. So if you were hoping to get a break from little Jimmy and Susie, this is not for you.

The winner: Mauritius, hands down.

The cost

Zanzibar‘s small airport handles only a few flights from places like Joburg, Nairobi, Dar Es Salaam and Addis Ababa and a couple of seasonal flights from Europe. Its resorts lie on the rustic end of the luxury scale (though there are a few on the high end). It’s often plagued by power cuts several months in length (though hotels have their own generators). Let me be clear though, none of this detracts from the atmosphere or experience, but it does mean that on the whole it’s seen as less attractive to the majority of the European play-it-über-safe package holiday-makers. This means that its prices are on the lower end with 7 night packages at budget resorts from around R8,000 – R9,000 per person sharing inclusive of flights from Joburg. Mid-range resorts will be around R10,000 – R12,000 for the same sort of package.

Mauritius is a different animal altogether, perfecting the art of the half-board and all-inclusive package holiday and slick and modern resorts. It also has many regular direct long haul flights on it’s own national airline from cities all over South Africa, Australia, and Asia. Then there are other airlines with direct flights to the likes of Dubai, Paris and Frankfurt too. In summary, it attracts a large number of international tourists, and the prices reflect the demand. A 7 day budget resort package including flights will cost from around R11,000 – R12,000 per person sharing with a mid-range package from around R13,000 – R14,000 upwards.

The winner: Zanzibar.

The verdict

Again, it really depends on what you want and if you can do both in your lifetime, then do it! In Mauritius be prepared for luxury, a wide range of activities and much more of a resort atmosphere. In Zanzibar, expect a more rustic, laid back experience. Both are awesome, but for different reasons.

If you’d like a price for a package holiday, mail our agents on travelbar@travelstart.com and remember to include:

  • When you’d like to travel
  • How long you’d like to stay
  • How many adults
  • How many children (and their ages)
  • Where you’re departing from
  • What sort of accommodation you’re wanting (budget/mid-range/luxury)

Need an up-to-date package quote?

You can call our agents on 0861 878 278 or +27 21 468 4380 between 9am and 5pm weekdays and 9am and 5pm on Saturdays. You can also pop them a mail by clicking here.

Our Readers Comments

  1. Air Mauritius actually fly to and from Cape Town three times per week all year round and have done so for about a year or more.

    • Hi Dianne, currently Air Mauritius are running twice weekly flights between Cape Town and Mauritius. It’s true that they’ve been running them for a while now, they have though, in the past adjusted the schedule for Cape Town which is why we’ve chosen to say “at certain times of the year”. If you can find a flight on our site at the time of year you’re wanting to travel – then go ahead and book, if you see it, it’s valid 🙂

  2. Need more information on Zanzibar

  3. Mauritius is well worth the extra cost over Zanzibar . Zanzibar is too African . Power cuts are the norm . Roads are pot-holed . Bribery is rife and movement is severely curtailed . All residents do however have water borne sewerage . At low tide they do it on the beach and at high tide it is flushed away . Take lots of whiskey it is an essential requisite after each swim in the lagoon .

  4. We recently also had to make the choice between Mauritius and Zanzibar and we ended up opting for Mauritius, because you dont have to take Yellow fever shots or Malaira tablets when traveling to Mauritius.

  5. Have been to Mauritius and recently to Zanzibar. Zanzibar was lovely but very dirty and the food is really not good which was surprising as they have all the spices at their disposal. We even ate in a 5 star hotel and it was not nice as well as being very expensive. You need to take really cheap throw away shoes as your shoes get destroyed in Stone Town and on the coral. The snorkelling is nice but not wonderful. The people are fantastic. Friendly and helpful and speak English and a lot are fluent in Italian as they go to night school because they have so many Italian visitors. As nice as it was Mauritius wins hands down. Much more of a restful, relaxing holiday.
    But don’t just give Zanzibar a miss it was a whole new and different experience. Very much Africa!

  6. Please send me info about Zanzibar. Best time to visit, summer or winter…

    • Hello Ilse, you will be able to get all that information here: http://www.wordtravels.com/ with regards to the best time to visit, weather, etc. You can also contact our agents on 0861 878 278/+2721-468-4300 to assist with this booking or to find out which packages we are able to put together for your budget.

  7. Which do you think is best for deep sea fishing

  8. Who has the best nightlife (bars, cocktails, people walking in the street) Mauritius or Zanzibar? Thanks

    • Hi Nicolas,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      I would go with Mauritius. Nightlife in Zanzibar doesn’t really extend past the hotel.

      However best to go onto Google to see what is out there and see which Island would would apply to you most.

  9. Ive read to posts in your blog and they really informative. Some of our favourite destinations is Maurtius and Zanzibar, its always a tough one choosing. I think for those flying from JHB is easier to go to Zanzi than those in CPT and its normally a dealbreaker.

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