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. Day-long 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 Zanzibar’s rare Red Colobus monkeys and a number of other primate and small antelope species.
Explore Stone Town, the profilic cultural and historical heart of Zanzibar City, on this half day walking tour. You should not miss the opportunity to get to know this UNESCO World Heritage site and its unique architecture, visit a local marketplace, check out the church and memorial at the old slave market, admire the former home of the sultan, and do some shopping.
Visit the white sandy beaches and spectacular coral reefs of Prison Island on this day trip from Stone Town, Zanzibar. Take a short boat ride to the island and spend your day snorkeling alongside tropical fish, hiking and relaxing in the sun.
This green oasis of fascinating trees such as mangroves, spices and rare species like red colobus monkeys, blue monkeys, chameleon, bush pigs and Adders duikers, is a very special treat. This magnificent forest habitat and the unique species that live together in it are one of the last remaining eco-cultures of its kind in the world.
You will be taken to natural habitats where dolphin migrate and you can watch them from your boat or put on snorkeling gear and swim right alongside them in the Indian Ocean.
Yet another memorable experience. Cruising around the island on traditional dhow boats used to carry merchandise in the Red Sea and Indian Ocean back in a day, is a event you will remember forever.