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Ultimate Guide to Volunteering in Zanzibar

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Written By
By Munira Maricar
Travel Writer
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Volunteering in Zanzibar is an opportunity to explore an exotic location, immerse in a rich cultural setting, and contribute to meaningful community and environmental projects. It’s a chance to make a difference while experiencing the unique blend of African, Arabian, and Indian influences that shape this beautiful island.

Zanzibar provides a range of volunteering options, including teaching, marine conservation, healthcare, women empowerment, and working with kids. These opportunities allow volunteers to contribute meaningfully while experiencing the local culture and environment meaningfully.

Zanzibar is not only known for its stunning beaches but also for its cultural heritage, including the historic Stone Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Volunteers can immerse themselves in local traditions, including music, arts, and the famous spice trade

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Visa Requirements for Volunteering in Zanzibar

For individuals interested in volunteering in Tanzania, including Zanzibar, obtaining the appropriate visa is a crucial step. 

  • Visa Options for Volunteers: Tanzania offers two primary visa options – the Online Visa Platform and the On-Arrival Visa Platform. Since visas are no longer issued at embassies following the introduction of the Online Visa System, volunteers are encouraged to use the online platform for application.
  • Eligibility and Application Process: The On-Arrival Visa is mainly for applicants whose nationalities are not in the Referral Visa category. However, volunteers are advised to apply online through the Official Tanzania Immigration website.
  • Passport Requirements: Ensure your passport is valid for at least six months with at least one unused visa page before applying.
  • Choosing the Right Visa: Most volunteers will require an Ordinary Visa, suitable for tourism, leisure, and volunteering activities. Note that American passport holders must apply for a Multiple Entry Visa.
  • Student Visa for Volunteering: If your volunteering is part of an academic or research program, you may need to apply for a Student Visa, the specifics of which depend on the duration of your program.
  • Fees: Be prepared to pay the visa fee, which varies based on the type of visa – $50 for an Ordinary Visa, $100 for a Multiple Entry Visa, etc.

Holding a visa does not guarantee entry. Volunteers must also meet all immigration requirements upon arrival and should be prepared to show a return ticket. Keep updated with any changes in visa regulations and conditions by frequently checking the Tanzania Immigration Services website.

What Do I Need to Prepare to Volunteer in Zanzibar? 

When preparing to volunteer in Zanzibar, here’s a numbered list of essentials to consider:

  1. Language Preparation: While English is widely spoken, learning basic Swahili phrases can be beneficial for daily interactions and showing respect for the local culture. Researching the language requirements of your chosen program is essential.
  2. Background Check Requirements: Zanzibar’s immigration services and certain volunteer program providers will conduct a background check as part of your application process. Allow ample time for this process, as it can be lengthier than expected.
  3. Passport Necessities: A valid passport is indispensable for international travel to Zanzibar. Always ensure that your passport is up-to-date and accompanies your visa.
  4. Vaccinations and Health Precautions: Consult a healthcare provider for necessary vaccinations. While Zanzibar is not a high-risk malaria area, taking precautions is advisable. Also, consider other vaccinations and health precautions based on the latest travel health advice.
  5. Travel Insurance: Obtain comprehensive travel insurance that covers health, travel delays, and potential emergency evacuations.
  6. Cultural Awareness and Respect: Educate yourself about Zanzibar’s culture, traditions, and customs. As the majority of the population is Muslim, dressing modestly and respecting local customs, especially during religious observances like Ramadan, is important. If offered by your volunteer organization, participate in cultural sensitivity training to better understand and integrate with the local community.
  7. Financial Preparation: Ensure you have access to funds. While credit cards are accepted in some places, having local currency (Tanzanian Shilling) is necessary, especially in smaller towns and for everyday expenses.
  8. Packing Essentials: Pack according to the climate, which is generally warm and tropical. Include lightweight clothing, sun protection, and perhaps a raincoat for the rainy season. Don’t forget personal medications and a first-aid kit.
  9. Emergency Contacts: Keep a list of emergency contacts, including local contacts from the volunteer organization, embassy information, and family contacts back home.
  10. Local SIM Card, International Phone Plan, or eSIM: Consider getting a local SIM card for easier communication within Zanzibar or ensure your phone has an international plan. If your phone is eSIM compatible, check if you can download and use an eSIM instead.
  11. Transport Arrangements: Understand the transport arrangements, especially from the airport to your accommodation and daily travel to your volunteer site.
  12. Backup Documents: Keep digital and physical copies of important documents like your passport, visa, insurance, and any medical prescriptions.

Remember, thorough preparation can enhance your volunteering experience and help you make a meaningful impact in Zanzibar.

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Make sure you have all your vaccines up to date before heading to Zanzibar!

Choosing The Best Volunteer Organizations and Opportunities in Zanzibar

Volunteering in Zanzibar is a significant decision, and choosing the right organization can greatly influence the impact you make and the experiences you gain. Here, we explore several reputable volunteer organizations that stand out for their ethical practices, community involvement, and positive contributions to the local landscapes, and share a few of our favorite volunteering programs in Zanzibar.

IVHQ

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Can you imagine a workplace better than the open sea itself?

Volunteering in Zanzibar through International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ) offers a fully supported, impact-driven experience that allows participants to make a difference while enjoying the natural beauty and cultural richness of the island. IVHQ offers flexibility with program durations ranging from 1 to 12 weeks, accommodating different schedules and commitments, and is open to participants aged 16 and above, making it accessible to a broad audience, including younger volunteers and families looking to volunteer together. The program fee includes various essentials like airport pick-up, orientation, accommodation, meals, and continuous in-country support. Run by locals, these projects are impact-driven, ensuring that volunteer efforts directly benefit the local community and environment.

IVHQ’s Zanzibar program provides volunteers with the opportunity to engage in two primary projects: 

  • Coastal and Marine Conservation in Zanzibar: Protect turtles and coral reefs while engaging in hands-on conservation, environmental education, and community outreach. The program is set in the stunning Matemwe area and is suitable for individuals passionate about marine life and conservation, seeking a blend of impactful work and cultural immersion.
  • Rainforest and Coastal Conservation in Zanzibar: This project offers a unique experience in the Jozani Forest, focusing on wildlife protection, including the endangered Red Colobus Monkey, and environmental education. Suitable for outdoor enthusiasts and conservationists.

GoEco

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Engage in marine research and community work in Zanzibar with GoEco

Founded in 2006, GoEco offers over 150 volunteer programs in 40+ countries, including Zanzibar, Tanzania, and their programs emphasize sustainability and responsible travel. Recognized as a sustainable operator, it has achieved significant impacts in education and wildlife conservation. GoEco’s efforts and achievements have been acknowledged in major news platforms and through awards, bolstering its profile in global volunteerism. As a volunteer, you’ll immerse in traditional ways of life, learn Swahili, and contribute to vital projects. This program allows you to explore Tanzania’s diverse landscapes, from the Serengeti to Kilimanjaro, and engage deeply with local communities, addressing educational and environmental challenges.

  • Zanzibar Teaching Assistant: This program offers a chance to significantly impact local communities in Stone Town, Zanzibar. Volunteers assist in teaching English and facilitating creative arts and fun activities for children. This immersive experience includes practical teaching experience, cultural integration, and opportunities for weekend exploration. Accommodations are shared in a traditional guesthouse, providing three meals on weekdays and two on weekends. Volunteers aged 25-70, with a recommended good level of English, can join for 2 to 8 weeks, with a program starting every Sunday and comprehensive support from GoEco.
  • Zanzibar Community Outreach:  This program is a fulfilling opportunity to assist in various local projects, including educational support and women’s empowerment in a village. The program, located in the scenic Jambiani village, involves teaching English, child care, and community projects like tree planting and school maintenance. Accommodations are provided in Kizimkazi, near beautiful beaches, offering a blend of volunteering and cultural immersion. This program requires a minimum 10-day commitment and includes comprehensive support, meals, and airport transfers.
  • Dolphin and Marine Conservation: This program in Zanzibar offers a unique opportunity to engage in marine research and community work, focusing on the local dolphin population. Volunteers participate in activities like swimming with dolphins, data collection on dolphin behavior, and creating awareness materials for marine conservation. The program includes beachside accommodations, meals, and an immersive experience in local culture and environmental efforts. With a minimum commitment of 10 days, volunteers can contribute significantly to marine conservation while enjoying Zanzibar’s natural beauty. 

African Impact

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Help improve the educational prospects of children in Zanzibar

Volunteering in Zanzibar with African Impact provides a unique opportunity to engage in marine conservation and community development. Volunteers can participate in projects that not only contribute to local communities but also offer personal growth and adventure in a tropical setting. African Impact’s focus on responsible volunteering aligns with the needs of the local community, making it a fulfilling experience for those looking to make a meaningful difference. Some of their notable projects include:

  • Dolphin & Marine Conservation Volunteering: Participate in dolphin and marine conservation volunteering in Zanzibar and help protect dolphins during human interactions and boat tours. This program focuses on monitoring dolphin behavior, and coral reef health, and promoting ethical dolphin tourism. Volunteers also engage in conservation education, contributing to the sustainability of local marine life and communities. The program duration ranges from 10 days to 12 weeks.
  • Teaching & Adult Literacy Program: This program in Zanzibar offers volunteers the opportunity to contribute to community development while living on a tropical island. The program is focused on improving English literacy, vital for locals to secure jobs in the tourism-driven economy. Volunteers teach at local schools and an education center, offering free English lessons to adults. This initiative plays a crucial role in enhancing employability and supporting community growth.
  • TEFL Teaching Internship: For those looking to gain a TEFL Certification while volunteering in Zanzibar, this program provides a unique opportunity for TEFL students to gain practical teaching experience. Participants contribute to community development initiatives by teaching English to children in nursery schools and adults, including women’s groups, at the Education Centre in Kizimkazi. This hands-on program enhances employability in the tourism sector and promotes women’s empowerment, embodying the philosophy of holistic education and equal opportunities for all ages and genders.

Involvement Volunteers International (IVI)

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Help improve educational settings by restoring school infrastructure in Zanzibar!

Involvement Volunteers International (IVI) is an Australian charity and non-profit organization with 30 years of experience, specializing in overseas volunteering and having successfully placed over 20,000 volunteers globally.  Volunteering in Zanzibar with IVI offers a variety of meaningful projects that address crucial needs in the region. These efforts are crucial in regions facing challenges like poverty, health issues, and environmental threats. Fees include accommodation, meals, airport pickup, and comprehensive on-ground support, making it a complete and enriching volunteer experience. Volunteers have the opportunity to immerse themselves in the local culture, contribute to significant community needs, and explore the island’s stunning natural beauty.

Here are some of their projects:

  • Construction and Renovation in Stone Town, Zanzibar: This project is an impactful way to contribute to community development. Volunteers help improve educational settings by restoring school infrastructure, renovating libraries and playgrounds, and engaging in various construction tasks. This hands-on project is perfect for those who enjoy teamwork and practical work, offering a rewarding experience in a culturally rich site.
  • Turtle Conservation in Nungwi, Zanzibar: This program offers a unique opportunity to contribute to the protection of endangered sea turtles. Volunteers engage in various tasks such as cleaning tanks, measuring turtles, collecting seaweed, and maintaining the lagoon. This hands-on experience in a picturesque village not only aids in turtle conservation but also promotes awareness about the marine ecosystem. The project includes comfortable accommodations and local meals, making it ideal for wildlife enthusiasts who enjoy outdoor work and are passionate about marine life conservation.
  • Hospital Medical Support in Stone Town, Zanzibar: This project offers a significant opportunity for medical professionals and healthcare students to expand their knowledge and experience in a real-world setting. Participants work alongside local doctors and nurses at a key referral hospital, assisting in various medical tasks and supporting community healthcare. The project focuses on enhancing healthcare services for those with limited access, offering an enriching experience. The program is ideal for those in the medical field looking to contribute meaningfully to international healthcare.
  • Sports Coaching with Kids: This program in Zanzibar provides a unique opportunity for volunteers to teach and inspire children in sports. Volunteers work at local schools, encouraging students and enhancing their education through sports activities. This program is ideal for those passionate about sports, teaching, and making a positive impact on young lives. Located in the historic and culturally rich Stone Town, the project includes accommodation and meals, making it a fulfilling experience for volunteers interested in sports education and cultural immersion.
  • Childcare Support in Stone Town, Zanzibar: This program is an enriching experience for those who love working with children and aspire to make a positive impact in their early education. Volunteers engage in teaching and supporting activities at local childcare centers and kindergartens, focusing on English language skills and creative learning. This program is perfect for energetic individuals looking to inspire the future generation through hands-on involvement in a vibrant cultural setting. Participants contribute by assisting with classroom activities, creating lesson plans, and supporting local teaching staff, making it an ideal opportunity for those interested in child development and education.

Volunteering Solutions (VolSol)

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Gain real-world experience and enhance your CV to prepare you for your future career

Volunteering Solutions (VolSol), established in 2006, is known for its ethical and sustainable approach, providing volunteers with experiences that foster community development and cross-cultural connections. Their programs in Zanzibar allow volunteers to immerse themselves in local culture while contributing to significant community needs. The organization’s commitment to responsible volunteering is aligned with protective policies and environmental care, ensuring a meaningful impact. VolSol welcomes group volunteering and offers custom itineraries, ensuring a comprehensive experience. Post-completion, volunteers receive a certificate, and returning volunteers enjoy certain discounts.

Volunteers are provided with accommodation, meals, airport pickup, orientation, and in-country support. Here are the two programs available in Zanzibar:

  • Volunteer Teaching in Tanzania – Zanzibar: This program provides an enriching opportunity for those passionate about teaching English. The program aims to improve the educational prospects of underprivileged children in Zanzibar, where English proficiency is crucial due to the region’s dependency on tourism. Volunteers are placed in primary and secondary schools, teaching various English-based subjects and helping children enhance their reading, writing, and conversational skills through interactive methods like games, songs, and art. This program is particularly suitable for individuals looking to gain international teaching experience. Besides contributing to the community’s educational development, volunteers have the opportunity to explore the beautiful region of Zanzibar during their free time, engaging in local cultural and recreational activities.
  • Medical Volunteer Program in Tanzania – Zanzibar: This program offers a profound experience for medical students and qualified healthcare professionals. Volunteers get to work in various hospital departments, including maternity, gynecology, general medicine, surgery, and more. This program is ideal for those looking to gain practical healthcare experience in a different cultural setting. It provides a chance to learn about the challenges of a healthcare system with limited resources and to contribute meaningfully to patient care. The program is structured to include hands-on tasks, depending on the volunteer’s experience level, and offers an invaluable opportunity to observe and assist with a variety of medical procedures. It requires volunteers to be proactive, flexible, and passionate about healthcare. Volunteers must provide a criminal background check, and qualified professionals must pay an additional fee for certification by the Zanzibar Medical Council.

Your Adventure in Zanzibar Awaits!

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Your efforts in Zanzibar will leave lasting impressions on both the community and your own life!

Volunteering in Zanzibar offers an enriching blend of cultural immersion, community service, and environmental stewardship. Whether it’s teaching English, participating in healthcare initiatives, conserving marine life, or empowering local communities, each program presents a unique opportunity to make a significant impact while experiencing the beauty and diversity of Zanzibar. Volunteers not only contribute to the well-being of this vibrant island but also gain invaluable life experiences, develop skills, understand different cultures, and forge new friendships. As you embark on this journey, remember that your efforts in Zanzibar will leave lasting impressions on both the community and your own life. Your adventure in Zanzibar awaits, promising to be both transformative and unforgettable.