When you think of Zanzibar you think of clear blue water and white sandy beaches and it definitely does not disappoint! Zanzibar is actually the name of the whole Archipelago off the coast of Tanzania and Kenya. There are three ‘main’ islands in the area, Pemba, Mafia Island and Unguja- the island usually referred to as Zanzibar Island.
It is about 60 km’s (1.5 – 2 hours by ferry) North East from Dar es Salaam and has an international airport with flights usually stopping over in Kenya or Tanzania. There is lots to see and do on Zanzibar Island, here are a few to help you start planning your trip.
- Go to the beach
With calm, crystal clear water and powdery white sandy beaches, Zanzibar ranks up there with the best in the world as far as beach traveling destinations go. It might seem a bit obvious but a day (or a few) at the beach is a must. There are spectacular beaches all over the island with Nakupenda, Jambiani, Kendwa, Nungwi and Paje being popular choices. Or rent a taxi and explore a little bit- you might just find a secret, secluded beach!
- Diving and snorkelling
Diving and snorkelling around Zanzibar Island is world-class. The coral is colourful and pristine with many critters hiding around. You could see frog fish and harlequin shrimp nestled in the coral. There are many schools of dolphins around the island and plenty of opportunity to dive and snorkel with these amazing creatures. Some dolphin tours are not always ethically run so be sure to do some research on the service provider and their practices before you book!
- Kite surfing
Paje offer excellent kite surfing opportunities for those looking for some adventure. Imagine wizzing by, moved by the wind on spectacularly clear water with the sun shining down and the beach in the background. There are schools that offer gear rental and classes in this paradise setting. The kite season is from Mid-June to Mid-September and again from Mid-December to Mid-March.
- Spice tour
Zanzibar is known as the Island of Spices, so what better way to learn about the culture than going on a spice tour? There are a few spice farms that you can visit, all offering guided tours. You can walk along the plantations and learn about the spices and their medicinal uses. You can see how they grow spices like black pepper, cardamom, nutmeg, vanilla, cinnamon, cloves, chillies, turmeric, ginger and even coffee! To make it even more enticing you can see plants used in cosmetics like the lipstick tree and the henna plant.
There are also fruit plantations that grow star fruit, jack fruit, custard apples, bananas, papayas, mango, neem, hairy litchi’s, coconuts and Durian (the smelly fruit better known as a delicacy in Asia).
- Stone town
Stone Town is the main city on the island and it is definitely a place you would want to get lost in. There are plenty of bazaars and food markets to visit where you can find all kinds of strange and interesting products.
The Old Fort is best described as ruins which now houses an art gallery and curio market.
From stone town you can book a trip to Prison Island to see the giant tortoises. There is also an old colonial hospital, originally built as a prison in 1893, but turned into a hospital to contain the cholera and bubonic plague epidemics that affected the island’s population. The trips last about 3 hours and includes some time spent snorkelling around the island.
For those interested in history the Palace Museum and the Former Slave Market is worth a visit.
Zanzibar has this magical feel everywhere you go. From the unique and beautiful architecture (pay attention to all the beautiful DOORS!) to the flavours of the food and the smell of the spices lingering. The people are warm and welcoming with a fantastic sense of humour! It offers something for everyone, from foodies to adventure travellers, to those interested in history, and yes… even if you just want to lay on the beach with a good book.
*A version of this article first appeared at www.zafigo.com