Mauritius Vs. Zanzibar: Which is Better?

Updated on 28 June 2018

This is a regular question on the minds of South African travellers seeking a beach escape on one of the Indian Ocean islands. The choice often comes down to these 2 popular options, but Zanzibar holidays are not the same as Mauritius holidays, so the short answer to the question is “it depends”.

It’s all down to your preferences, so we’ve broken it down to help make the decision a little easier.

zanzibar holiday package

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Getting there

Mauritius: If you’re in Johannesburg, there are daily direct flights to Mauritius on Air Mauritius and SAA, and every Saturday on BA Comair. Direct flights are also available from Durban and connecting flights to Mauritius depart daily from Cape Town. Direct flights are about 4 hours and connecting flights are about 7 hours.

Zanzibar: If you’re travelling from Johannesburg, there are direct flights to Zanzibar on Mango several times a week (usually Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday). Connecting flights to Zanzibar depart *daily from Cape Town and Durban. Direct flights are about 4 hours and connecting flights are about 10 hours.

*Note: flight schedules can vary throughout the year due to seasonality.

The winner: Mauritius for convenience all round, but Zanzibar for the price if you live in Johannesburg.

mauritius travel

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The visa situation

Mauritius: The island has been visa-free for South Africans since before the Dodo disappeared.

Zanzibar: The islands and the Tanzanian motherland are visa-free for South Africans.

The winner: It’s a draw. Both are visa-free for 90 days.

mauritius beach huts

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The vaccination situation

Mauritius: Apart from the usual routine and recommended vaccinations, you will not need any jabs to go to Mauritius.

Zanzibar: A yellow fever certificate is required and the islands are at risk for mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria.

The winner: Mauritius.

Read this: Yellow Fever Requirements for South African Passport Holders

mauritius vacation

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The accommodation

Mauritius accommodation has been in the tourism game for a long time, so boutique spa hotels and exclusive luxury resorts all offering a very western standard experience are the norm. But, although most of the accommodation in Mauritius leans toward the higher end, it also has a great collection of self-catering villas and bungalows that cater toward smaller budgets and a more easygoing island experience.

Zanzibar accommodation is a mix of olde world Arabic decadence and stylish island luxury. You will be able to find beach lodges, wellness retreats, 5-star resorts, humble chalets, independent hotels, and even a floating houseboat bed and breakfast. And although the service isn’t always on par with westernised destinations, the places and staff offer history and the kind of charm you won’t find anywhere else.

The winner: Mauritius if you want luxury, Zanzibar if you want personality.

jafferji beach retreat

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The beaches

Mauritius beaches are famously beautiful and have a great holiday vibe. You can expect yachts and paddleboarders floating by, families hanging out under palm trees, and people strolling along enjoying the warmth of paradise. It is also a popular honeymoon spot, so honeymooners trying out parasailing and candles add a nice touch of romance to the atmosphere.

Zanzibar beaches are just as lovely, but you are more likely to find white-sailed dhows perched on the shores and local fishermen bringing in their catch. Of course, there also many beaches where the sand is disturbed only by the tide and fringe of tropical trees. The surrounding islands, Pemba and Mafia, are even better for a private escape and living out your castaway dream.

The winner: It’s a draw. Mauritius is known around for its beaches, but many travellers have also gushed about how Zanzibar’s beaches are the best they have ever seen. You will have to decide for yourself.

See: The Amazing Beaches of Mauritius
And then: Where Are the Best Beaches in Zanzibar

zanzibar beach

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The food and drink

Mauritius is a multicultural island that has been influenced by the flavours of Asia, Europe, and Africa. You will be able to try unique dishes such as palm tree hearts and chilli salt fruit, but also familiar dishes such as curry and dim sum. It is also famous for its Creole cuisine and street food scene, so the dining options are plentiful. Who doesn’t want to be able to taste the world in one holiday?

Zanzibar prides itself on its fresh seafood and exotic spices. Although Zanzibar is definitely a paradise for seafood lovers, the distinct Indian and African influences will satisfy spice lovers. But there are also local dishes such as Zanzibar pizza and urojo which are unlike anything you have ever tried before, and a great experience if you are feeling a little adventurous with your dinner plans.

The winner: Mauritius because of the diversity, but seafood lovers will enjoy Zanzibar more.

Also read: 9 unique things to try in Dodoland
And this: 12 tantalising things to try in Zanzibar

zanzibar food

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The activities

Mauritius is super organised and definitely the place to be if you love water sports or are interested in trying them out for the first time. You will find the usual windsurfing, scuba diving, paddle boating, kayaking, and snorkelling, but also unusual additions such as glass-bottom boat rides, undersea walks, aquagym, and water polo. On land, you can fill your days with golf, biking trips, yoga classes, and shopping. And Mauritius also has several bars and clubs if you enjoy drinks and dancing after dinner.

Zanzibar is definitely more focused on rustic relaxation than Mauritius, though you will find a few amazing activities. You can take tours of the spice orchards, something very unique to this part of the world. Equally so is a trip to Stone Town, the ancient heart of Zanzibar which stands frozen in time. Zanzibar also has some unique wildlife like the Red Colobus Monkey which trumps Mauritius’ extinct dodo IMHO. Aside from these, there’s the usual kite surfing, scuba diving, and snorkelling.

Tip. If you have time and want to make the most out of your trip to East Africa, pair a vacation to Zanzibar with a trip to the mainland. The Serengeti and Kilimanjaro are well worth the extra effort.

See: The Great African Experience: Tanzania Calling

The winner: In sheer volume of activities, Mauritius wins hands down; in terms of rare experiences, Zanzibar takes first place.

mauritius shopping

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For kids

Mauritius is a great holiday destination if you are travelling with kids. Apart from them not needing a yellow fever injection or malaria pills, the flight time is a lot shorter and direct flights from certain cities are available. Many hotels in Mauritius also have great kids’ facilities and offer nanny services. Hotels with facilities for children have kids’ clubs, pools, and activities to keep them entertained.

Zanzibar is more suitable if you are travelling alone, with friends, or just with your partner. Along with vaccinations, the flights are longer, which could be quite a distressing experience with unhappy kids in tow. There are also a few family-friendly resorts, but many of them are not equipped to look after kids. It does, however, have great wildlife encounters that kids would love.

The winner: Mauritius.

Also read: Tips for Flying With Children

mauritius with kids

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The cost

Mauritius attracts a large number of international tourists, so often the prices reflect the demand. But with tons of amazing half-board and all-inclusive Mauritius holiday packages available and flights leaving regularly from most cities in South Africa, it is easier than ever to experience the ultimate island getaway for a whole lot less. Travelling to Mauritius can be expensive, but it is definitely possible to experience a dreamy honeymoon or tropical escape if you plan it right.

Zanzibar is considerably less developed so finding cheap flights, accommodation, and all-inclusive Zanzibar holiday packages is much easier. Flights can often be found for about R4,999 and packages for two people for about R25,000. The general cost of living is also considerably cheaper. However, Zanzibar is by no means a rundown island destination – it also has a number of exclusive beach resorts and hotels that will offer an exclusive private island experience and charge you accordingly.

The winner: Zanzibar.

zanzibar island

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zanzibar fishermen

Image courtesy of @jafferji_beach_retreat via Instagram

The verdict

The verdict: Again, it really depends on what you want.

Mauritius is sugar and spice and everything nice. It has a more touristy feel and there are fewer opportunities for exploring beyond the island, but Mauritius is the place that conjures up dreams of searching for waterfalls, drinking cocktails, and golden afternoons frolicking on the beach. And it does for a reason. It is a heavenly place with an abundance of activities and world-class resorts that make it a popular destination amongst people wanting an effortless holiday of relaxation and luxury.

Zanzibar may be less developed and a bit rough around the edges, but it is loved for its culture, interesting experiences, and ornate architecture. It is widely popular with people wanting a more rugged and authentic experience. Zanzibar also gives you the option of exploring the other two main islands that make up the archipelago and the mainland. Zanzibar has a magic about it that is hard to explain but becomes unforgettable throwback stories and inspires fantasies of romance and adventure.

Both are awesome, but for different reasons. So if you can do both in your lifetime, do it!

mauritius holiday

Image courtesy of @chriscorbetphoto via Instagram

Related articles:

The best time to visit Mauritius
The best time to visit Zanzibar

Featured image courtesy of @benedetta.lecci via Instagram

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Our Readers Comments

  1. Id like to go to Zanzibar. Ive been to Mauritius. Id be on my own, any recomendations please?

    • Hi Celest,

      Great to hear from you.

      Should you wish to get assistance in receiving a quote and making a reservation, we have a team of Travel Experts that would love to help.

      You welcome to pop them an e-mail letting them know what you looking for, rustic, something with more night life, or you looking for luxury and secluded. Or where the best water sport and snorkeling are.

      Send them what you looking for along with dates and budget and one of our agents will be happy to help.

      You can e-mail them at: live@travelstart.com

      Look forward to hearing from you.

  2. I’ve been to both. They are very different experiences but for me Zanzibar is tops. I loved the rustic little beach bars playing reggae music all along the beaches. None of this in Mauritius as most beachfront properties occupied by expensive hotels. Mauritius is far more commercial and developed whereas Zanzibar has a rustic charm – I loved the Arab architecture of Stone Town. Snorkellingbin Zanzibar was way better than Mauritius. Having said this, when we visited Mauritius last year at an all inclusive resort it way exceeded my expectations.

    • Hi Wendy,

      Wow! Thanks for the awesome feedback, given the best of both Islands ❤️

  3. Mauritius is prone to cyclones in the summer months which could ruin your holiday. Outside of the resorts there is nothing specially on the east coast. Which forces you to but expensive hotel food. And as for the water sports you are risking your life – not only do they disregard safety precautions by taking you to depths over your certification level they take you depths over recreational scuba levels and then there was the dolphin and catamaran outing that they refuse to cancel and refund you in class 2 cyclone warning weather. (Threatening with the coast guard should get you your money back)
    Outside the touristy areas Mauritius is really poor and almost look like townships.
    So no Mauritius is not all white beaches, palm trees & coconuts

  4. Mauritius is for the holiday maker and tourist, Zanzibar is for the traveller; I’m not really surprised that the Capetownians prefer Mauritius, not that many of them are actually interested in seeing how the other half live….
    Furthermore I have walked around Stonetown in the dark, unaccompanied after midnight and felt safer than I ever would in Port Louis…

  5. For me Zanzibar wins hands down…for all round goodness that is.

    Just on principle, I refuse to pay R9k on a 4 hour flight to Mauritius. It’s cheaper to fly to the far east or somewhere a lot further – in fact, once I even got a cheaper flight to Australia.

    So I’ll skip Mauritius because I’m not a big fan of getting ripped off

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

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

  9. 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.

  10. 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!

  11. 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.

  12. 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 .

  13. Need more information on Zanzibar

  14. 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 🙂

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