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“couldn't be better”

Eco & Culture Tours
Ranked #5 of 20 Tours in Stone Town
Certificate of Excellence
Attraction details
Reviewed November 6, 2012

my partner and I chose Eco and Culture Tours in 3 different occasions and we had a great experience.
The communication with Robert was excellent, prompt and professional even before arriving in Zanzibar.
We were suppose to do only the Safari Blue Tour which was a true apocalypse of beauty and the Spice tour which was exactly what it was described to us but we added a new Tour, the South east Coast of Zanzibar which is a "must do" tour since we started from the Mango grove, continued to Bweju and Paje beaches, had a great and informative tour in Jambiani and saw how rope is done by coconuts, had a great swim in Jambiani's emerald beach and then continued to Makunduchi and Kizimkazi villages.
Overall a great experience

1  Thank covaltio
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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73 - 77 of 137 reviews

Reviewed September 11, 2012

Having read good reviews on Tripadvisor on Eco & Culture Tours, as well as reading the descriptions of their tours on their website, we decided to use this company as our operator for our four days in Zanzibar - it also promised to reflect our values of sustainable tourism.

Big mistake.

While communication with Robert via email was helpful, precise, and timely, the resulting experience showed that it wasn't altogether honest.

If you are a veteran traveler to developing countries, you will find the remainder of this review helpful. If you have never left the Western world then you will probably not recognize the difference between what is promised and what is eventually delivered, and can therefore skip this review and read some of the better-rating ones.

The website as well as Robert promises an eco-friendly and intimate experience of the best Zanzibar has to offer. "Eco & Culture Tours through the day tours provides more enjoyable experiences through more meaningful connections with local people, and a greater understanding of local cultural, social and environmental issue." Many of their tours are aimed at cultural interactions with locals while enjoying activities such as snorkeling, dining, or sight-seeing. We were interested primarily in the Safari Blue day tour (as opposed to the Unguja Ukuu Boat Trip as it included more activities), the Spice Tour, and the City Tour.

This was the red herring. Upon arrival in Stone Town we made our way to the office and paid for the tour around 17:30, asking if we could be moved to two days in advance (the following day) since we were worried about the weather. Robert made a phone call to the tour operator (which is actually not part of Eco & Culture Tours) to see if there was room and then said he could do it. Yay! We cautiously asked how many people were scheduled for the next day and he looked at his computer and responded "at this moment there are 25". As the website didn't specify how 'shared' the day tour was we expected a number under 10 and Robert said that it was busy but that each boat would have 10 people in it. We weighed the option of more people against the possibility of bad weather and then agreed to join the next day.

There were 120+ people on the tour. Each boat had 20+ people.

It was awful. We felt like cattle being herded from one point to the next. Nobody seemed too happy with the situation - well, the Italians did but they behaved like they were at home anyway. We met two couples on honeymoon who were equally disappointed. We started with a 'scheduled' stop on the way to the first snorkeling site to see some dolphins (this for me was nice as I had never seen dolphins before). However they wouldn't let us in the water stating that the animals could become aggressive; I later found out that many private tours freely allow swimming with dolphins which made me very bitter indeed. The first snorkeling site was reasonably nice and had an underwater drop-off; many beautiful fish and some decent coral. However, you were barely in the water 15 minutes before they started hauling you in to go to the next site. This turned out to be a short boat excursion through a mangrove forest lagoon and then out again (without any decent informative explanation) for a quick trip to the next snorkeling site/rest stop - the sand bank island. While most opted to lie on the sand and soak up the sun, some of us preferred to snorkel some more and so they took us to a side of the island in the boat to snorkel - the side where all the waste and foam was gathering from the nearby islands. This was incomprehensible: there were plenty of clear water areas around the sand bank where people were swimming but for some reason we were taken to the sewage collection area to snorkel in filth! Needless to say, visibility was poor and the snorkeling experience terrible. After rushing us back on to the boat (people who were tanning on the beach got 20 minutes) we were raced to the lunch location. 6-7 tables for roughly 20 people each awaited us as well as a BBQ lunch. The food was decent though not spectacular, and was a welcome break from all the running around. The presentation of different fruits at the end was the best part. We then opted to try the canoe-like sailing boat (which is only a 10 minute ride - also not on the website!) which we had been looking forward to as my girlfriend is an avid sailor. We were the lucky few who could enjoy it as the third trip capsized and broke the outrigger. Finally there was a moment of peace as we sailed back to the starting point in the boats, enjoying the sunset and a beer - a nice visual experience seeing the armada behind us.

Back in Stone Town, we immediately went to the office and expressed our concerns to Robert. He apologized for the miscommunication and stated that the website may indeed have not been as clear as hoped. Misleading would have been the better term. We told him that we were concerned about the Spice Tour we'd booked the next day and he assured us that it was private and much more in line with the Eco & Culture Tour philosophy.

Our guide and driver picked us up for this 4.5 hour tour and took us to a spice farm just outside of Stone Town near Bububu. The guide was able to answer all our questions and showed us all the spices we had hoped to see and more. We were indeed on a private tour but there were about six other private tours on the same farm at that time. We again felt like we were going through the motions, see the spices, gradually get covered in accessories made from plants like all the other tourists, eat the fruit in the fruit-eating area, visit the local shop to buy spices and soap, tipping everywhere possible, back in the van to the lunch area. While there's not much to be done about these circumstances, the bitterness from the Safari Blue experience clouded this one. The lunch, however, was magnificent. Made from various spices we had just tasted, and prepared at what seemed to be a local elder's back courtyard, we ate on the floor and had the most exquisite meal we had had our entire three-weeks in Tanzania and two months in Kenya! It was delicious. It was also the first time we actually felt the connection with local people and understanding of local culture so proudly promised by Eco & Culture Tours. However, the experience quickly turned sour again when we realized the guide was dropping us at Stone Town a full hour early without the visit to the Kidichi Persian Baths as stated on the website! We mentioned it to the guide who by now seemed to be in a hurry to get somewhere and simply raced us through the alleyways and left us standing at the entrance to the baths stating that we'd have to find our way back to the hotel when we were finished. Unbelievable. Even after expressing our concerns to Robert, and after his assurances, we were assigned a guide who cut short our tour, made it feel like 'another-day-at-the-office', and abandoned us before it was completed!

My girlfriend had had enough and said that I was too willing to forgive and too nice to see that the company was not delivering on what it had promised. I accepted her proposal to do the city tour with a guide organized through our hotel (Coffee House Hotel) instead of with Eco & Culture Tours which turned out to be a wonderful, flexible, intimate, and very much local experience - the best tour of the three we had done so far.

I don't know where Eco & Culture Tours went wrong, but it seems to me that they have gotten caught up in their fame and are resting on their laurels. What perhaps used to be an intimate experience with locals and local culture, has now become a tourist trap for Westerners who seem to have never left Europe or America and are delighted by anything exotic regardless of the price or how many people are sitting on their laps. The website clearly hasn't been updated to account for these changes.

My advice is to skip them altogether - if you're looking for the experience that they promise on their website, you're much better off not booking anything in advance. Simply arrive in Stone Town, do a city tour through a local guide organized by your hotel (request that he is officially certified) and then ask the guide for the best way to organize the spice tour or snorkeling/dolphin tour; they will most certainly be able to help you meet your requirements with local contacts. We met a few couples who had done it this way (but who also had about a week in Zanzibar) and whose stories made me regret throwing good money after bad with Eco & Culture Tours.

20  Thank Sander F
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed September 8, 2012

After deciding on a last minute trip to Zanzibar during high season, I began to panic as every hotel I emailed turned out to be full, pricey ($750+ per night) or just didn't respond at all. Then I stumbled upon Eco + Culture tours, which has a unique perspective on the island, focusing on tourism that supports and celebrates the local culture – both in its service offering and by donating a percentage of its profits to the island. I fired off a quick email asking for help. Outlining some activities I was interested in and and the overall tone of the vacation I was looking for, I had a response within two hours – complete with suggested agenda and links to accommodation options to approve. The selections Robert and his team made delivered perfectly against the brief I'd outlined. We had everything booked, and fees confirmed, within 24 hours. And the price tag was very reasonable!

With a driver and private tour guide to take us from one location to another, we saw different regions of the island in sets of three days. In Stone Town, we wandered the maze of streets taking pictures and shopping, and took days trips to do a spice tour, visit Jozani Forest, and see the AMAZING butterfly sanctuary (our favorite!). We then headed to Matemwe for some scuba diving and beach time while staying at the super relaxed, simple and welcoming Seles Beach Bungalows. They have the best chef in town and a perfect atmosphere for making new friends and napping in hammocks. Finally, we checked out the Fumba region, spending a little more to stay at the rustic-but-elegant Fumba Beach Lodge. Here, we drank fresh coconut water in a tree house, watched a gorgeous sunset, and met Mike, the resident watersport center manager and one of the best dive masters we've ever met (and we've done a lot of diving).

Everyone at the Eco + Culture team was welcoming, professional, fluent in multiple languages and made us feel completely taken care of. As a New Yorker with high expectations for service, I was duly impressed by their operation and highly recommend them for anyone interested in visiting the enchanting island of Zanzibar!

1  Thank Mehera O
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed September 5, 2012

As usual having read Trip Advisor reviews at home in advance we finally selected Eco Culture tours due to the great communication before arrival by various emails with Robert . Although we have evaluated alternative local Zanzibar tour operators as well at the end Eco culture tours was the number one . Without booking any fixed trip in advance the operation manager Rashid paid us a visit at the hotel (location Nungwi beach) in order to explain to us all facilities and excursions of which we could select an half or full day trip for two persons .
We took very good memories home of the private Stone Town tour with an outstanding guide Awesi . The combined full day South East coast tour such as Jozani Forest , Paje village and , Jambiani cultural village tour has been a great experience due to the assistance of guide Kassim . Even Robert had made in advance a reservation for lunch in the The Rock restaurant which is special due to the location itself. The driver Mohammed who took us in the car on these tours showed a very safe driving attitude and didn't take any risks on the road . We might go back next year with the family and planning other tours with this company such as spice tour , prison island , safari blue , nungwi cultural village tour .
The alternative tour operators in the hotel lobby were much more expensive for similar tour excursions . We cannot make any negative comment or recommondation to Robert and his team , even we were welcomed in the office after the city visit . Outstandig service Eco Culture tours company , thanks a lot .

Thank brusselsairlines
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 20, 2012

We booked with Eco & Culture Tours to go on a sunset dhow trip out of Stone Town a couple of weeks ago as a way to end a birthday on a high.

We were met promptly by a member of staff in the centre of town who escorted us down to the shore to meet our captain. A little early, we were asked to wait at the edge of a small, open workshop where men where using traditional materials, tools and methods to make new fishing vessels. It was a fantastic place to sit for a while watching how a boat like the one we were about to board is made - a clever way to enhance the tour.

We were introduced to the captain who led us to the beautiful, deep brown wooden boat and left us in the capable hands of two of his staff. They welcomed us aboard and cast off out onto the water.

The trip was excellent. The boat took us along the coast for about 45minutes and then back, with refreshments (a soft drink, some bombay mix and a samosa each) along the way. The deck-hands weren't too intrusive, telling us a little of what we could see along the coast and of the decline of fishing, but largely leaving us to enjoy our own company and the view of the sunset over the water.

The only slight let-down was the view. I don't know what we would have seen if we'd headed in the opposite direction around the headland and along the coast, but we spent a large proportion of the trip passing the big industrial harbour at Stone Town. Not only did this ruin the view along the coast, it also meant that a large number of commercial boats ruined the view out to see too.

But otherwise we really enjoyed the trip and would fully recommend it to others.

Thank EllieandAlexis
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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