ABOUT ZANZIBAR ISLAND

Located 35 kilometers off the coast of Tanzania‚ Zanzibar is one of the exotic getaway destinations in Africa. The picturesque island has rightly earned its name as one of the best islands in East Africa due to its prime location in the Indian Ocean.

Zanzibar consists of several small islands‚ two large islands‚ and an archipelago. It is a semi-autonomous region with a bustling populace and a thriving economy. It is well known for its spices and cloves.

The abundance of spice is not the only spicy thing about this holiday paradise‚ Zanzibar boasts a variety of wildlife species including the rare ‘Zanzibar red colobus’‚ ‘Zanzibar Serialize Genet’ and the’ Zanzibar leopard’. Its rich fauna is reflective of the region’s connection to the ice age. With clear turquoise-blue water‚ shallow sandbars‚ and exotic white beaches Zanzibar is a fantastic tropical holiday destination with a difference.

The Island is known for its relaxing atmosphere and laid back way of life and it reflects the cultural mix of ethnicities that came from eras of trade relations with several countries. Arab‚ European‚ Persian and African influences are rooted in numerous chapters of the island’s history. Explore some of its historic sites and towns including Nungwi‚ the popular resort town best known for its golden sand beach; and Paje‚ known for excellent kite boarding conditions‚ great diving and superb restaurants. If you’re looking to get an inside glimpse of local life‚ you should explore Stone Town‚ which is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Being the center of trade for Arabs‚ Persians‚ and Europeans for many centuries‚ Zanzibar is the home of some delightful architectural features including The Livingstone house‚ The Guliani Bridge‚ The Hamamni Persian Baths‚ Ngome Kongwe – The Old Fort of Zanzibar and The Old Dispensary of Zanzibar.

Although officially apart of the United Republic of Tanzania, Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous region. This means that your passport and visa status will be checked on arrival at immigration. You don’t need a specific visa to enter Zanzibar.

STONETOWN: FOOD MARKETS AND STREET FOOD WALKING TOUR

Find out what goes on in Stone Town when the sun goes down: explore the Darajani Market, enjoy a beer at Africa House sunset bar, and visit the night street food market at Forodhani Garden. Try out local foods and meet some new friends.

Take part in a unique 3-hour evening food tour in Stone Town. After hotel pickup, your tour will start at 5:00 PM at Darajani Market, where locals go to buy their fruits and vegetables. Experience the fun hustle and bustle of this busy market and admire the multitude of foods on offer.   Your next stop will be at the Africa House sunset bar, the best place to watch the sun go down. As you watch the sky change colors, enjoy some soft drinks or local beers made in Tanzania. Afterwards, explore the streets of the city, which has itself been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Hear stories about the city and see where the locals gather to celebrate events, watch football, or just have tea and play some games. Continue walking to Forodhani Garden, which hosts a popular street food market in the evenings. Try out local foods and drinks like Zanzibar Pizza, urojo soup, shawarma, sugarcane juice, spice tea, coffee, and more.   Your tour will end at 8:00 PM, at which point you’ll be taken back to your hotel.

Zanzibar’s main industries are spices, raffia palms, and tourism. Many residents also make a living from fishing and farming on the islands.

PRISON ISLAND

Changuu Island in Zanzibar goes by numerous different aliases – Kibandiko, Quarantine or more popularly, Prison Island. The Island, which is just a stone’s throw off the coast of Stone Town, has had many uses. Whilst originally being used to house rebellious slaves, it soon transformed into a quarantine station, and now a government-owned tourist destination.

Prison Island’s Best Bits

Giant Tortoises 

One of the main attractions of the Island is a Giant Tortoise Sanctuary. The tortoises were a gift from the British Governor for the Seychelles in 1919. Some of the tortoises are said to be over 150 years old and are truly humungous – it’s the closest thing to a dinosaur I’ve ever seen.

You can feed and touch the tortoises, from the huge 200kg ones to the small babies. It’s a fascinating experience and one of the highlights of Prison Island.

Beaches

The serene sandy beach of Prison Island is a perfect place to relax. The beach is very peaceful as there is only one small hotel on the island, making it ideal to sunbathe.

If you’re a fan of snorkelling, you can take the boat into deeper water and explore a small coral area.

JOZANI CHWAKA BAY NATIONAL PARK

Discover Jozani Chwaka Bay National Park on a private tour. Departing from Stone Town, take a guided 2-3 hour tour of the forest. Explore the diverse habitats inside the park, and keep a look out for native wildlife.

After pickup from your Stone Town hotel, start the 35-minute drive to the national park. The 2,500 hectare park contains diverse habitats, including groundwater forest, coral rag forest, mangrove swamps, and salt marshes. Admire the different species of trees and look out for native wildlife, including rare red colobus monkeys. The park is home to many unique animals such as Ader’s duiker, Sykes’ monkeys, bush babies, over 50 species of butterfly, and 40 species of birds. At the end of your guided tour, you’ll be dropped off at your hotel in Stone Town. 

SPICE TOUR

On this 2.5-hour guided tour, immerse yourself in the heady world of the spices of Zanzibar. This tour will clarify for you why Zanzibar is called “spice island”: on this small plantation you’ll see where spices grow, among them cloves, nutmeg, vanilla, Zanzibar’s cardomoms, cinnamon, curry, menthol, pepper, tamarind, and ginger. You’ll also see tropical fruits such as papayas, mangoes, and jackfruit.   You’ll also learn the origins of spice plants and herbs, as well as some uses they are put to. For example, the neem tree leaves were used locally as a traditional cure for malaria and indigestion, while the iodine tree is still used to fight infections in wounds. The tour ends with a visit to the spice shop on the farm, where you can buy fresh spices to use in your cooking at home.

A GUIDE TO ZANZIBAR BEACHES

There are definitely worse problems than deciding which of the many Zanzibar beaches will be your slice of paradise. 

Being spoilt for choice you can’t really go wrong but with the variety of what there is on offer, some beach spots may take your fancy more than others. For your benefit, we’ve charted out an essential Zanzibar coast guide for every interested traveler.

If you fancy doing nothing more than witnessing white sand, crystal clear waters, and gently swaying palm trees, Zanzibar has you sorted!

How To Get to Zanzibar

  1.    A 20-minute flight from Dar Es Salaam Airport;
  2.    A 2-hour ferry ride from Dar Es Salaam Ferry Terminal;
  3.    A 90-minute flight from Nairobi Airport;
  4.    A 1-hour flight from Arusha or Kilimanjaro Airport.

Where to go on Zanzibar

As an archipelago of islands, there is no shortage of Zanzibar beaches to choose from when you’re deciding where to stay on Zanzibar.

Each region of the main island offers something a little different, so we’ve broken it down by region to help you find the best Zanzibar beach for your tropical vacation.

Northern Coast

A general rule of thumb is that the further north you go the less crowded it gets. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule especially when it comes to the more lively/party areas. Zanzibar’s north coast has a small tidal range and flatter waters. Popular beaches include Nungwi in the northernmost tip which hosts great diving spots, and Kendwa, which is known for its full moon and evening parties. Both beaches have their party sides and quiet sides and so can be suitable for anyone.

Off the north coast is Pemba Island. Pemba is home to small fishing villages, colonial ruins, and untouched beaches. This island has a less established tourism industry but does have some beautiful sights especially if you’re a fan (like us) of wild, untamed beaches. There are some great diving spots here catering for the advanced diver. Watersports, excursions to mangrove forests, and sunset dhow cruises are also available.

If you want a more thorough view of this spectacular area, the popular Safari Blue itinerary is a good way to see Nungwi regardless of where you’re staying.

Accommodation Suggestions

Luxury:  Mnemba Island,  Hideaway of Nungwi,  Star of the East,  Kilindi,  Essque Zalu

Medium:  Myblue Hotel,  Royal Zanzibar Beach Resort,  Gold Zanzibar Beach House & Spa,  Double Tree by Hilton,  Diamonds La Gemma Dell’est

Budget: Sunset Kendwa,  Langi Langi Beach Bungalows,  Amaan Bungalow,  Mnarani Beach Cottages,  The Z Hotel

North-East Coast

The northeast is the prime location for pristine beaches, diving, and top-end accommodation. With some of the best reefs off Mnemba Island, just 1km from the shore, you can find some excellent diving and snorkeling spots. Mnemba Island is also a nesting place for green turtles.

Accommodation Suggestions

Luxury:  Dream of Zanzibar,  Melia,  Matemwe Retreat,  Tulia
Medium:  Bluebay Beach Resort & Spa,  Neptune Pwani Beach,  Ocean Paradise Beach Resort,  Sunshine Marine Lodge,  Azanzi Beach Hotel
Budget:  Green and Blue Ocean Lodge,  Matemwe Beach Village

East Coast

The east coast is much more tide dependent compared to the rest of the island and is also more windy. This makes it great for those wanting to kite surf. 

Although you might need to walk a bit to swim or snorkel, the beaches here are still just as beautiful.

Accommodation Suggestions

Medium:  Pongwe Beach Hotel,  Pongwe Bay Resort,  Uroa Bay Beach Resort,  Paradise Beach Resort
Budget:  http://www.palumboreef.com/   ,  Samaki Lodge,  Seasons Lodge

South-East Coast

The tidal range is bigger here than other regions. There is a stunning barrier reef and lots of palms. Close to relaxed villages, it is a great place if you want to do as the locals do. For instance, we’d recommend a visit to the friendly town of Jambiani.

Accommodation Suggestions

Luxury: Zanzibar White Sand Luxury,  The Palms,  Baraza Resort & Spa,  Konokono Beach Resort
Medium:  Karafuu Beach Resort & Spa,  Anna of Zanzibar,  Breezes Beach & Club,  Hakuna Majiwe Beach Lodge,  Kisiwa on the Beach
Budget:  http://www.zanzibaroceanblue.com/ ,  Michaimvi Sunset Bay,  Arabian Nights Hotel,  Dougwe Ocean View,  Kichanga Lodge

South Coast

For the south, the general rule is that the further south you go the busier it gets, as more residents live in the southern region. Come here to dive into culture and spice tours. You’ll also find the Fumba Peninsula here which has two laid back lodges, and an eco-resort on Chumbe Island just offshore. Go snorkeling in the shallow-water reefs and you can spot turtles and hundreds of species of fish. In the south-west, you can visit Kizimkazi for a dolphin safari.

Accommodation Suggestions

Luxury:  The Residence https://www.cenizaro.com/theresidence/zanzibar
Medium:  
Fruit & Spice Wellness Resort,  Unguja Lodge,  Swahili Beach Resort
Budget:  https://www.karambazanzibar.com/ 

West Coast

The west coast is home to the historic Stone Town district which is a not to miss in our books. If you want history, spices, and delicious food (especially seafood) you’re in the right place. There are also great snorkeling and swimming spots if you go a bit further out from the coast.

Accommodation Suggestions

Medium:  Sea Cliff Resort & Spa,  Zanzi Resort,  https://chumbeisland.com/ ,  Hakuna Matata Lodge,  Fumba Lodge

What to Bring

Sunscreen, Sunglasses, Hat – the sun is much stronger here than other parts of the world so even if you think you’re not prone to burn we recommend slopping on some sunscreen and protective clothing for good measure.

Sarong, Shawl, Kaftan (or anything to cover up with) – Many dress conservatively in Zanzibar and it is important to also respect this and do the same. Thus it is recommended that when you are off the beach, cover up from your shoulders to your knees (this goes for both women and men). It gets very hot in Zanzibar so bring light airy clothes in light colours.

Enclosed shoes – you will probably be doing a lot of walking and exploring so make sure to bring more than just flipflops.  

Whether it’s before or after your safari adventure heading to the island of Zanzibar should definitely be on your Tanzania itinerary! 

Choose your holiday hotel in Zanzibar and we will help you to book in advance