Zanzibar is a romantic tropical island paradise approximately 35kms from Tanzania’s coast. It is the largest coral island off the coast of East Africa, and one of the best-kept secrets in the Indian Ocean. Zanzibar remains relatively unspoilt and untouched. Centuries-old sailing dhows sail the azure waters, and historic Stone Town has been proclaimed a World Heritage Site.
Once the commercial centre of East Africa (and the last place to abolish the slave trade), Zanzibar is now an idyllic holiday location, combining miles of white sandy palm fringed beaches with ancient Islamic ruins and warm, clear blue waters. The surrounding coral reefs are home to myriad colourful fish, excellent for snorkelling and diving. This unspoilt marine environment also provides fantastic deep-sea fishing, water sports and of course delicious fresh fish.
Nicknamed “the Spice Island”, the scent of cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, cardamom and cloves fill the warm air. Visit the spice plantations where you can see, touch and taste some of the island’s exotic spices and fruits.
The oldest part of Zanzibar, this World Heritage Site comprising 2,500 buildings of coral stone, clay and lime is a unique and fascinating fusion of Arabic, Indian, European and African architectures. It is a place of winding alleys, bustling bazaars, mosques and grand Arab houses whose original owners vied with each other over the extravagance of their dwellings. This one-upmanship is particularly reflected in the brass-studded, carved, wooden doors - there are more than 500 different examples of this handiwork. You can spend many languid hours or days exploring this historic town. Don’t miss the Slave Market, the Museum of Zanzibar and the Central Market, where you can haggle for carvings and other curios.
Zanzibar’s brilliant white sandy beaches, lapped by the warm azure waters of the Indian Ocean, are the perfect place to relax, and soak up the sun. There are more than 25 unspoilt beaches in Zanzibar, interspersed with picturesque fishing villages, where people live simply, their lifestyle almost unchanged for centuries.
Nungwi Beach at the northern tip of the island, is approached via a road lined with banana palms, coconut trees and mangroves. Here you can watch traditional craftsmen building dhows, and enjoy a variety of watersports, There is a fully equipped dive centre specialising in trips to the spectacular Mnemba Atoll.
Noteworthy beaches on the east coast include Matemwe, Pwani Mchangani, Kiwengwa, Bwejuu, Jambiani and Uroa – all with long uncrowded stretches of beautiful sand. To the west, Mangapwani beach is worth a visit.
Zanzibar also boasts several small offshore islands, ideal for a day trip. Prison (or Changu) island, Chapwani, Chumbe and Bawe are all popular with visitors.
The Jozani Natural Forest Reserve is about 35km from Stone Town, in the central east region of Zanzibar, and is home to the rare Red Colobus Monkey. These monkeys are full of character, and roam freely. They can also be seen at very close quarters just outside the reserve's perimeter and are incredibly photogenic. Other animals making the forest their home include Syke's monkey's, small buck and bushpigs. Jozani has an excellent nature trail and the guides are well trained and informative.
Zanzibar has excellent hotels, both in Stone Town and on the beaches. We always recommend that visitors combine a short stay in Stone Town, to explore the history and architecture of the isles' cultural heart, with a stay on one of the beautiful Indian Ocean beaches. The east coast of Zanzibar Island features several establishments on the beach, ranging from small and intimate properties to larger resort outfits. The eco-tourist resort of Ras Nungwi Hotel is located in the far north. Further afield, great lodges can be found on Pemba and Mafia Islands, and smaller islands such as Chumbe and Mnemba.