Zanzibar Island is recognized as Africa’s exotic paradise, with some of the continent’s most gorgeous beaches. Zanzibar, also known as Unguja in Swahili sits on the Indian Ocean, about 35 km (22 miles) off the coast of East and Central Africa. Covering over 2,461 square kilometers, Zanzibar spans miles and miles of white sandy beaches lined with palm palms and surrounded by the pure turquoise sea of the Indian Ocean. Zanzibar, together with Pemba Island and numerous other smaller islands, forms the Zanzibar Archipelago. In 1964, the island was merged with Tanganyika on the mainland to form the United Republic of Tanzania.
However, despite being a part of Tanzania, Zanzibar retains its independence: its locals choose to identify themselves as Zanzibaris and they even elect their leaders and rule themselves. Zanzibar was originally dominated by the Portuguese who were later succeeded by the Arabs. The Arabs (controlled by the Sultan of Oman) governed the islands for centuries; which is why Islam is the major religion on the island. However, the Arabs were eventually driven from the island by the British. As a result, foreign occupancy and intermarriage shaped the island’s architecture and cultural heritage. There is a strong influence of African-Swahili and Arabic cultures. However, given the strong Islamic influences on the island, its people are more conservative and traditional than those on the mainland of Tanzania.
Zanzibar Island provides relaxed beach holidays as well as a wide range of activities, a vibrant culture, and a rich history. Its Stone Town, on the main island, is a historic commercial town with Swahili and Islamic influences. The town encompasses narrow streets lined with minarets, carved entrances, and 19th-century structures like the House of Wonders, a former sultan’s residence. On the other hand, Zanzibar’s other islands; Nungwi and Kendwa in the north feature long beaches surrounded by fantastic hotels. While visiting the island, you can embark on a spice tour or explore the magnificent coral reefs and swim with tropical reef fish. Zanzibar Island provides all you need for an unforgettable beach vacation.
Zanzibar’s economy is entirely dependent on the spices, raffia, and tourism industries. The islands are popular for their cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, and black pepper, which is why the Zanzibar Archipelago, along with Tanzania’s Mafia Island, is frequently referred to as the “Spice Islands” by locals. However, tourism in Zanzibar is a relatively modern industry, fueled by government marketing, which increased the number of visitors from 19,000 in 1985 to 376,000 in 2016. The islands are connected by five ports and the Abeid Amani Karume International Airport, which can accommodate up to 1.5 million people per year.
Zanzibar also boasts a maritime ecology that is vital for fishing and algaculture: the island has important marine habitats that serve as fish incubators for Indian Ocean fish populations. Furthermore, the endangered Zanzibar red colobus, the Zanzibar servaline genet, and the near-extinct Zanzibar leopard can be found on the island. On the other hand, some of the rising concerns across the Zanzibar Archipelago include pressure from the tourism and fishing industries, as well as wider issues like sea level rise induced by climate change.
Jozani Forest is one of Zanzibar’s most famous tourist destinations. The jungle is the world’s natural habitat for the Zanzibar red colobus monkey. Jozani forest lies in the island’s southeast in Stone Town and is among the lushest areas in Zanzibar. It’s simple to get lost and then discover the monkeys in the Jozani jungle. Many nature paths go through lovely woodlands, and the red colobus monkeys are not afraid to show their presence. When you visit Jozani Forest, you will walk across the mangrove boardwalk, and swamp forest, and see various bird species, animals such as bush pigs, suni antelopes, elephant shrews, aders duiker, primates such as red colobus monkeys, reptiles such as snakes, lizards, and chameleons, to mention but a few. After seeing Jozani, make sure to cross the street and explore the Mangrove Forest. I recommend coming to Jozani Forest before 9 a.m. because, after that, busloads of tour groups arrive and crowd the monkeys.
Taking a stroll through Stone Town, located on Zanzibar’s main island, is one of the most adventurous things to do in Zanzibar. Stone Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it was named after the 19th Century buildings of European, Indian, Arabic, and Swahili influence. And given its background, the town has a very rich history, and taking a stroll through the town allows you to explore its culture and interact with the local people. Stone Town is located in the heart of Zanzibar and because of its strategic location, the town is Zanzibar’s central point.
Stone Town grew from a small fishing village to the island’s biggest trading center. Because the island was colonized by several governments including Portugal, Oman and Great Britain, Stone Town has an array of cultural influences from Arab and Indian traders to British colonizers. However, the island gained its independence in 1963 and stands as an independent island. The town portrays narrow streets, ancient architecture, and bazaars. Tourists to Zanzibar can explore plenty of attractions including the Kidichi Persian Baths for Sultan Said, the Anglican Church Cathedral, the Peace Memorial Museum, Makasurani Graveyard for the past Arab Rulers, etc.
Zanzibar is locally known as the “Spice Island” because of its incredible variety of food spices produced and is one of Africa’s major producers of spices. The island produces spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove, among others. Spices were introduced to Zanzibar by Portuguese traders in the 16th century and on the tour, you will visit spice farms with a tour guide who will explain how the spices are produced, cultivated, and used. You will also get to smell and taste some of the spices, a variety of tropical fruits, and herbs such as turmeric, vanilla, coconut, black pepper, papaya, chile, jackfruit, oranges, cassava, and nutmeg, among others. During the trip, you will stop at a spice stand to purchase some fresh packaged spices.
The Seaweed Centre is run by a group of Zanzibar women who specialize in using the plentiful seaweed on the ocean’s coasts to create items such as smoothies, drinks, organic soap, and oils, you name it. You will meet the women and learn how they produce their items during your tour of the Centre, as well as have the opportunity to try a seaweed smoothie and see how it tastes. While there, you may support the ladies at the Zanzibar Seaweed Centre by purchasing some of their delicious items.
Explore the ocean by taking a sunset dhow cruise. Most dhows make certain that these boat rides are adequate to keep everyone engaged and happy. The dhow cruise departs around 4:30 or 5:00 p.m. from Froddhani Garden on Stone Town’s seafront and sails along the historical coast with the scenic beauty of the sunset, dolphins in the water, views of fishing villages, and snacks, fruits, seafood, grilled fish, and beverages on board, among other things. Supplies for the day include tasty snacks, sea cuisine (grilled fish, lobsters, octopus, and calamari), and drinks. When you arrive at these islands or fishing settlements, you may explore the surroundings or climb old baobab trees. During the voyage, you may see and swim with dolphins.
If you are fun of nature in particular, this is a must-see while on an African vacation in Zanzibar. The cheetah’s rock is home to some of Tanzania’s iconic animals including cheetahs, lions, striped hyenas, zebras, and other iconic African species. The facility gives guests a taste of what to anticipate while visiting Tanzania’s amazing wildlife parks. A professional guide will give you facts about each of the animals while you engage with and feed them while at the Centre. The Cheetah’s rock is located in Kama and is open on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays, between 2 and 6 p.m.
Zanzibar has some of the greatest snorkeling beaches in the world, including Mnemba Island, Tumbatu Island, Kendwa Reef, Prison Island, and Stone Town Reef, among others. More than 350 fish species and other marine creatures may be seen in the ocean around Zanzibar during snorkeling excursions. The experience involves swimming in cold water while wearing a snorkel mask. You will be able to see dolphins, jellyfish, parrotfish, clownfish, stingrays, turtles, squids, coral reefs, and marine species such as zebrafish, sea stars, batfish, ribbon eels, and leaf fish throughout the fascinating adventure.
Prison Island, also known as Changuu Island, was an uninhabited island until the Arabs arrived in the 1860s; the island then was utilized as a temporary refuge for slaves who were thought rebellious or capable of leading revolts. Before being sold abroad, the slaves were housed there; moreover, the island was frequently utilized to confine people who were ill during yellow fever outbreaks. However, when Zanzibar became a British protectorate, the Arabs were forced to sell the island, and a genuine jail was established. The jail was never utilized when it was completed and is today a magnificent resort.
In 1919, British Governor in Seychelles donated four huge Aldabra tortoises to the island as a tribute and by the 1950s, the number of places to visit in Zanzibar had risen into the hundreds. Nonetheless, later, trafficking lowered their numbers significantly, but they have since rebounded after the government created a vast cage to keep them secure. Some of the tortoises are said to be over a century old. After interacting with the tortoises, you may swim on the beach and appreciate the wonderful nature and bird life, especially the magnificent peacock. To get to the island from Stone Town, you must charter a boat and start on a 30-minute ride.
Zanzibar also offers some of the most stunning beaches on the African continent, with each island featuring its own set of beaches and activities to offer. The beaches in Zanzibar’s western region have some of the most stunning sunsets, while those in the south are famed for having a large concentration of dolphins. Nungwi is perhaps Zanzibar’s greatest and most picturesque beach. Its gorgeous dunes and blue seas will captivate practically everyone who arrives. The Island also features a wide range of housing options, restaurants, bars, and clubs since it is where most island inhabitants travel for the finest parties and beach experiences.
On the eastern side of the shore, on the other hand, other prominent beaches include Kendwa renowned for its implausible nightlife, and Paje. All of Zanzibar offers gorgeous white sand and clear seas that are ideal for swimming and diving. To visit all of the beaches in a short period, it is critical to select a hotel that is strategically positioned to provide quick access to the various islands. Zanzibar’s beaches are open to visitors all year.
The Masai Market in the Nungwi community is a great place to explore and buy indigenous souvenirs, clothing, and artwork. The street market provides a chance to meet the locals and engage in amicable chats about business and life on the island. While exploring the town and market, you will see the Maasai’s distinct wearing styles, traditional homes, bazaars, schools, and playgrounds that will give you a sense of the islanders’ way of life. After seeing Nungwi Village, take to the night food market to have a sample of the native cuisine. Every night, these night markets spring up as local chefs begin to prepare roasted meat, samosas, pizza, seafood, and samosas, to mention but a few.
Zanzibar may be reached by air, with international flights or a domestic flight trip from Arusha, Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar airport, from whence you can get a cab to the hotel. You may also go by water, boarding a ship that runs daily between Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar, taking around 70 minutes.
Zanzibar is famous for its glorious weather that shines down on its white sand beaches and blue lakes. Although the island is good for tourism all year, some months are considered ideal for visiting Zanzibar while others aren’t. The months of June through October are considered the most popular for visiting Zanzibar. The weather is pleasant and consistent, with bright sunshine shimmering on the Indian Ocean, thus offering exciting beach holidays. This time also corresponds with Tanzania’s peak safari season, making the Zanzibar Archipelago a popular post-safari destination. Because of its consistent sunlight and mild Zanzibar weather, this tropical island is ideal for visiting most of the year.
Located south of the Equator, Zanzibar’s weather pattern largely resembles that of Tanzania, albeit it is always a little more humid, and rain in the dry season is less common than in the heart of mainland Tanzania. The major rainy season often lasts from March to April and May. Afternoon tropical rain showers are common and can be rather strong on any of the islands. The humidity is high, and daily temperatures range from the low to mid-30s.
Aside from its magnificent white sandy beaches, Zanzibar also has good accommodation options ranging from luxurious to budget lodges and hotels. The luxury hotels are of exceptional quality and provide spectacular views of the ocean. Some of the hotels and lodges are so nice that you may have to extend your stay. More so, Budget tourists and backpackers can also discover a plethora of motels offering decent self-contained rooms with views of the beach at reasonable rates. Below are some of the accommodation options in Zanzibar;
Currently run by Elewana, Kilindi is one of Zanzibar’s top resorts. Kilindi has been transformed by management into one of Zanzibar’s greatest two-person lodging alternatives. Kilindi is defined by its pavilions, which have two private plunge pools, enormous bathrooms and bedrooms, and spectacular vistas. There is also a family pavilion, and with an ever-increasing degree of service, it is without a doubt one of our top Zanzibar hotels.
One of the top Zanzibar hotels on the northern shore is Veraclub Sunset Beach. Located on Nungwi island, this wonderful hotel has a private beach, a communal pool, and a lovely park across the block, equipped with a restaurant, bar, and covered outdoor area. The solitude, beautiful views, convenient beachfront access, big accommodations, and helpful staff were all appreciated by most visitors.
The Zuri Zanzibar Hotel & Resort represents a new direction for Zanzibar hotels. it is large enough to be considered a major hotel, but with just 55 suites, rooms, and villas scattered among its gorgeous gardens and beach, it emits a confident aura of rich splendor. All sections are large, bold, and beautifully designed for elegant comfort, and they are available in several configurations and pricing ranges to meet a variety of needs and budgets.
White Water Rafting