Zanzibar Island

Known as the Spice Island, the beautiful island of Zanzibar on Africa’s East Coast is bursting with culture and history, seemingly at odds with its idyllic geography of white sand beaches with palms swaying lazily in the sea breeze. Together this makes Zanzibar a fabulous place to explore as well as a dream to relax and unwind.

 

Zanzibar is the semi-autonomous part of Tanzania in East Africa. It is composed of the Zanzibar Archipelago in the Indian Ocean, 25–50 kilometres (16–31 mi) off the coast of the mainland, and consists of many small islands and two large ones: Unguja (the main island, referred to informally as Zanzibar) and Pemba. The capital is Zanzibar City, located on the island of Unguja. Its historic centre is Stone Town, which is a World Heritage Site.

 

Portuguese invasion and control of the Swahili Coast in the late 16th century ended the golden age of the archipelago, although the Omani Arabs returned to power less than a century later. Today, many of the winding streets and high townhouses of old Stone Town remain unchanged and visitors can walk between the sultan’s palace, the House of Wonders, the Portuguese fort and gardens, the merchants’ houses, and the Turkish baths of the old city. Daylong spice tours to working plantations offer visitors the chance to observe the cultivation of cloves, vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon, and other spices that have made the island famous.

 

Zanzibar’s coastline offers some of the best beaches in the world, but sand and surf vary depending on what side of the island you’re on. On the east coast, waves break over coral reefs and sand bars offshore, and low tide reveals small pools of starfish, small minnows, and anemones. Up north, ocean swimming is much less susceptible to the tides, and smooth beaches and white sand make for dazzling days in the sun.

 

The port city of Stone Town dominates the west coast, and although the beaches of Mangapwani, where slave caves are visible at low tide and nearby Bububu are less than half an hour’s drive away, a night or two spent on the east or north cost is well worth the extra hour it takes to drive there. That said, the Chole Island Marine Park just off Stone Town and nearby Prison, Grave, and Snake Islands make a refreshing day trip and a good break from exploring the winding passageways of the old city.

On the south coast of Zanzibar lies the Menai Bay Conservation Area, a sea turtle protection area for the endangered species that come to breed on the island. Roads to the southeast coast take visitors through the Jozani Forest, home to the endangered Red Colobus Monkeys one of the rarest primates in Africa. These monkeys are endemic to the island and with conservation efforts, are slowly recovering from the brink of extinction. The mature forests of Jozani form part of the island’s only National Park, where you can also see hundreds of different butterflies, numerous birds and a variety of interesting plants and animals.

 

The local markets and restaurants also offer a feast of fresh seafood – a treat definitely worth experiencing. There are many ways to enjoy these culinary delights – from fresh fish cooked on open fires on the beach to Lobster Thermidor at one of Zanzibar’s hotels, or spiced and served with traditional flavours and twists. Your taste buds will be awakened and constantly tantalised by the variety.

 

The people of Zanzibar are known for their friendliness, the locals are generally helpful and welcoming towards visitors. There is an island vibe outside of Stone Town’s bustle, a laid-back slow pace to life, and travel is relatively safe. Remember to be respectful of the Muslim norms, by dressing appropriately and not drinking alcohol in public places.

 

What to do in Zanzibar Island

Zanzibar has something for everyone – from exclusive five star experiences to family-friendly affordability. Suit yourself and your budget, whether it is the ultimate luxury that you are after or a laid-back beach shack; Zanzibar offers something for every taste and heart’s desire.

The magic of Zanzibar is that it is a multi-faceted destination, offering a unique blend of idyllic beaches, intriguing history, cultural diversity, tasty cuisine, exotic spices, and rich flora and fauna. In addition, it is a short ferry ride or flight away from Tanzania and Kenya!

 

WhEN TO VISIT Zanzibar Island

All Year round

HOW TO GET To Zanzibar Island

Zanzibar is easily accessible from Dar es Salaam by boat or by air, which makes it the perfect add-on to African safaris in the world-class game parks of Tanzania and Kenya. Zanzibar is easy to combine with Masai Mara and Serengeti Safaris making it ideal for beach and bush holidays in Africa.