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 Also known as "Spice Island", Zanzibar evokes images of an exotic paradise with white palm-fringed beaches and turquoise coves, dreamy dhows with billowing white sails, and ancient Islamic ruins. It combines Arabic alleyways and historic monuments with coral reefs and excellent diving and snorkeling opportunities.



Zanzibar Dow Sunset
Photo by Sherrie Wenzel


Stone Town
Stone Town gives a glimpse of the essence of Zanzibar, the sights, sounds and smells of the market, restaurants, harbor and mosques. It is the cultural heart of Zanzibar, little changed in the last 200 years. Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, it is a place of winding alleys, bustling bazaars, mosques and grand Arab houses most of which were built in the 19th century, 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. This extraordinary place to explore with its ancient maze of narrow streets is a romantic hotchpotch of historic old stone buildings built close for cool respite from the tropical island sun; shaded by elegantly carved balconies, loggias and verandas that cling precipitously overhead.
The Archipelago of Islands
Most visitors to the Zanzibar archipelago visit Unguja, commonly known as Zanzibar Island. However, as you approach Zanzibar from the air you will see a wonderful archipelago of islands with tiny corral atolls and many islands to explore.For those wanting to escape consider one of these hideaways which offers a totally different experience to "Unguja or Zanzibar Island".

Ranging from the simple pleasure of Chumbe Island, and eco resort southwest of Stone Town to the luxury of Mnemba Island there are various overnight opportunities as well as day trips to islets just off Stone Town. These include Chumbe, Chapwani, Bawe and Changuu ('Prison') Island which was once the site of a gaol for misbehaving slaves. It is fringed with a beautiful coral reef, ideal for snorkelling, and has a lovely white beach for sun-bathing and also home to a family of giant tortoises, imported from the Seychelles in the late 19th century. Tumbatu Island, off the north-west coast of Unguja is one of the largest off-shore islands but has no facilities for tourists.

A private island - Mnemba Island is located near the north-east coast and surrounded by a rich coral reef, which is great for scuba diving and snorkelling and features luxury accommodation.

Pemba Zanzibar's sister island has beautiful beaches, natural forests and outstanding diving. Misali island, off Pemba's east coast, is idyllic and excellent for diving. Mafia, another island in the sun and no relative of the mob, is actually governed by mainland Tanzania but is not far from the Zanzibar archipelago.
Beaches & The Coast
Zanzibar beaches are paradise, unchanged over the years and interspersed with picturesque fishing villages, peaceful and remote where the sun shines on luminescent clear waters in a range of striking turquoise blues, and the sand is clean and bright and fine. The Zanzibar archipelago is surrounded by rich coral reef, which protects the shoreline and also results in wide flat shallows that are invariably subject to tidal extremes.

The northern peninsula of Zanzibar is truly stunning, unspoiled and the dhow building capital of Zanzibar. Take a tour to the sleepy fishing village of Ras Nungwi and see the traditional methods of dhow construction. The local villagers have built a turtle sanctuary where injured turtles and other marine animals are nursed back to health before being released back into the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. The East Coast with its endless swathes of sand, with a generally shallow gentle sea that opens to long walks on exposed sand when the tide is out. Bathe in shallow pools left warming in the sand as Crabs scuttle among the odd flotsam of shells and shapely coral, and colourful women sing and chatter together as they gather around their wide fishing nets, fully clothed and knee-deep in pale turquoise waters to survey their days catch.
Spice Plantations, Flora & Fauna
The history of Zanzibar would be incomplete without the cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, pepper and many other spices which brought the Sultans of Oman and the beginnings of the infamous slave trade. They can be seen in the plantations just outside Zanzibar town, and a good tour includes opportunities to dazzle the senses with fresh spices with detailed descriptions of the spice varieties used in cooking and cosmetics. The Jozani Natural Forest Reserve is located in the central east region of Zanzibar island and is home to the rare Red Colobus Monkey, which is endemic to Zanzibar. 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. Jozani is home to other species including Syke's monkey's, small buck and bushpigs. The elusive Zanzibar leopard (last sited several years ago) is said to feed here at night - perhaps this is why the reserve is only open during the day?! Jozani has an excellent nature trail and the guides are well trained and informative.