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.
The mystery of Stone Town and the beauty of its landscapes will enchant you. With the aroma of exotic spices filling the air and long, white sandy beaches bordering crystalline lagoons, a stay on this unique island is the perfect way to round of the trip of a lifetime.
This excursion takes in some magnificent gardens where you will see rare species’ of plants which are only found on the island, spices such as vanilla, nutmeg, and cloves, as well as medicinal and ornamental plants. You will be able to taste a variety of tropical fruits including some that are unique to the island. This is followed by a visit to the Persian Baths of Kadichi, built in 1850 by the first sultan for his wife, Sheherezade.
Once you start wandering through the streets of Stone Town, it won’t be long until you understand why this town was named a World Heritage Site by Unesco. The town has changed very little in 200 years. It has retained its charm through its winding alleys, bustling bazaars and its wonderful architecture, to be seen in the brass-studded, carved wooden doors. There is much to see and do in this magical town. You can simply meander through the streets or visit the market, Livingstone’s house, the Peace Memorial Museum – a testament to Zanzibar’s history – or the Palace Museum.
This natural forest is the only forest left on the Unguja, the larger one of the twin Islands-Unguja and Pemba- that makes up Zanzibar. The actual reserve is a small, much modified ground-water forest, which includes 12hectar plantation. Some of the striking features of Jozani include the unique Red Colobus monkeys, Sykes monkeys, Bush babies, Duikers, Hyraxes, possibly the rare Zanzibar Leopard, over 50 species of butterflies, 40 species of birds and snakes such as the Olive-grass snake and the Black-spitting Cobra. There is a visitor’s centre on the main road to the south.
Prison Island, also known as Changuu Island, is a 30-minute boat ride from the west coast of Zanzibar. The island was once used for the detention of disobedient slaves, and a prison was built in 1893 but was never used. This is an ideal place to relax, swim and dive. You may also catch sight of the giant tortoises that inhabit the island, some of which are over 100 years old.
Visit the small fishing village of Kizimkazi to the south of the island and take a boat ride in a traditional dhow. After around 15 minutes, you will be able to catch sight of the dolphins that have made the reef their home. If you keep your distance, you will even be able to swim with them for a while!
SOUTH EAST COAST
Long white, sandy beaches bordering crystalline lagoons and the clear, warm waters of the Indian Ocean await you for a day of relaxation.
The paradise-like beaches of Nungwi are some of the best on Zanzibar. You can visit a fishing village, spend your day relaxing on the beach, go snorkelling, or simply enjoy a meal at one of the many restaurants overlooking the waves of the Indian Ocean. And for those who are passionate about diving, this place is their idea of heaven!
Pemba island is situated 50 km north of Zanzibar, the island is in its infancy in terms of tourism.
Pemba is very laid-back and the people are friendly. Most of the beaches are small, due to the extensive mangrove forest which ring the island. Pemba’s major attraction is the coral reefs around the island. These are rated by many divers as the best in the world.
Mafia Island lies South of Zanzibar and is covered by coconut palms and cashew trees established by Omanis in their Zanzibari heydays It’s a superb place for deep-sea fishing and scuba diving. The coral formations are best off the small islands scattered around the main island, the best being the Okuto and Tutia reefs around Juani and Jibondo islands close to Chole Bay. The island is also notable as a favourite breeding ground for giant turtles, which come up onto the white coral sands to lay their eggs, principally on the uninhabited islands of hungumbili, Burukini and Nyororo.
Mnemba Island is an untouched atoll off the north-east coast of Zanzibar, surrounded by a tropical Indian Ocean coral reef. The only inhabitants of the island are lodge staff and guests, offering luxurious privacy and exclusivity. It is one of the three most romantic ocean destinations in the world. The island is an incomparable barefoot paradise where private cottages are hidden in the dappled shade. Spectacular tropical fish drift through the lagoons and fresh, delicate sea breezes.