Palm trees, white beaches, turquoise water, picturesque streets and a balmy tropical climate, Zanzibar is a stunning destination for photo productions of all sorts. It’s the perfect place for swimwear and lingerie shoots and also suits any production that needs a summery island feel.
So how easy is it to organise a film or stills production in Zanzibar?
There are a very few direct long haul flights to Zanzibar, but several airlines fly direct from Europe to Dar-es-Salaam on the Tanzanian mainland with a short connecting flight on to Zanzibar. It is roughly a 10-15 hour trip including stopover from the main European cities. It is better to obtain a visa in advance – they are available on arrival but it can be a time-consuming process.
Local roads aren’t in great condition, so you need to allow plenty of time to travel between locations on the island. Hire of minivans and 4×4 vehicles with or without a driver isn’t a problem.
There are some really fantastic hotels in Zanzibar, as it caters for those adding a luxury island break onto a mainland safari holiday. There are also plenty of hotels and resorts to suit more moderate budgets.
Filming permits are easy to obtain with the help of a production company that has established local connections, generally only taking about three days. If you are shooting in mainland Tanzania as well you will need a separate permit.
There is very little in the way of professional equipment hire in Zanzibar, so it will need to be brought in with the crew. However there is no problem clearing it through customs as long as a detailed list of the equipment with serial numbers is submitted along with the film permit prior to arrival. Your production company will take care of all those details for you.
Skilled crew will need to be brought in but there is plenty of hard-working if less experienced help to be hired locally.
The locations are varied and unspoilt: long white beaches, palm trees, picturesque dhows, forests, Stonetown’s winding streets with interesting carved doorways, balconies and architectural details and fascinating interiors too. For a dash of grandeur and history the Sultan’s Palace is available for hire.
When to go
The prime time for visiting Zanzibar is between June and October and then again in from December to March – these are the driest times with even temperatures and plenty of sunshine.
Zanzibar is currently more popular for photography productions than for film, but there is no reason not to go there for film productions too. There is a growing interest in film with an annual international film festival that is in its 16th year now and local production companies are actively working on opening up the island archipelago to more film productions.