This study aimed to gain an understanding of the essence of play experience to children in Zanzibar, Tanzania. A phenomenological approach using the photovoice method was adopted. The study was carried out over 4 weeks, with 12 boys and 4 girls. Four key themes emerged from the analysis of 116 photographs: creative play, physical play/games, football and equipment play. The findings suggest that play experience in Zanzibar has aspects of creativity and resourcefulness, and influences from tradition, culture and poverty. Furthermore, that opportunity for play may differ for children in Tanzania, compared with children in Western countries. Unequal boy and girl participants, and the lack of representation of children with a disability were some limitations of this study. The occupational therapy profession may want to further investigate the opportunities for play for children living in developing countries. Additionally, it may be valuable to look at different aspects of play, such as its meaning to children from different cultures and its potential restorative value for children who have experienced traumatic events. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.