Zanzibar Travel Guide

Zanzibar Overview

The simple sound of the name Zanzibar immediately conjures up images of pristine, sun-soaked beaches and unspoilt islands, and the archipelago does a fine job in living up to all preconceptions. Competing with the Serengeti and Kilimanjaro for Tanzania’s number one spot on the tourist trail, Zanzibar is a dreamlike destination floating peacefully in the Indian Ocean off the east coast of Africa. For centuries a crossroad of cultures breezing in from Africa, India and the Arab world, the islands offer the chance to experience the sights, sounds and flavours of East Africa amidst the idyllic setting of tropical forests, pristine bays and a kaleidoscope of coral reef.

 
Comprising two main islands, Zanzibar (Unguja) and Pemba, plus a collection of islets, the order of the day on the archipelago is relaxation and plenty of it, something far removed from the hoards of trekking parties and roaring 4wd safaris common on the mainland of Tanzania. This is a destination to lose sight of the realities of modern life and enjoy the time-honoured traditions of East Africa and the islands natural beauty. Wander the old streets of ZanzibarIsland’s Stone Town, listen to the enchanting sounds of taraab music, visit a voodoo healer on Pemba or seek out a deserted beach of unbelievably soft sand, pausing only to capture another enviable photograph to show off back home.
 
Most arriving to this revitalizing paradise do so via the ferry service from Dar es Salaam which runs daily to Zanzibar island and several times a week to Pemba. Flights, although a more expensive option, are also available from Dar es Salaam in addition to Arusha and Tanga. Inter-island travel comes in the form of local taxis and minivans; however the majority of visitors find they have little reason to go further than a few blocks from the villages and their respective beaches. Those that do want to get around independently have the option of renting motorbikes or, for the environmentally conscious, cycling is a delightful way to enjoy the islands treasures.

Things to do in Zanzibar

Zanzibar Island (Unguja) - The most popular of the two main islands, the biggest draw of Zanzibar is Stone Town, a town made up of twisting alleyways, lively markets, mosques, ancient ruins, courtyards and whitewashed Arab houses that have changed little over the past 200-years. This is the heart of Swahili culture and a great place to wander aimlessly through the timeless streets. Although witness to some development, the beaches are also a delight, including Nungwi, at the northern tip, and Mangapwani on the west coast. Head for the east coast to Kiwengwa and Uroa for more secluded stretches of sand. Boasting the Jozani Chwaka Bay National Park and stunning coral reefs there are also plenty of opportunities for wildlife spotting and snorkelling and diving tours. Zanzibar Watersports is a good place to make enquiries about snorkelling trips and PADI courses.

 
Zanzibar Nightlife
Archipelago Café-Restaurant - Terraced restaurant serving up classic Tanzanian-Indian favourites and delicious cakes. No bar but they allow booze to be brought in.
Cultural Music Club - Traditional Zanzibar music club where the islands most famous Taraab musicians meet to sing, play and socialise.
Dharma Lounge - Laidback joint and the islands first cocktail lounge. Good spot for live music.
Mercury’s Bar - Waterside bar, named after Zanzibar’s greatest son, offering great seafood grills and a nightly music program.
Sunset Bar - Superb terrace bar and great sunset viewing at the Africa House Hotel.
 
 
PembaIsland - North of Zanzibar (Unguja), the island of Pemba is largely underdeveloped and maintains its rugged, densely vegetated landscapes. Far lesser travelled, this is the island to experience forested hills spilling out onto a mangrove-lined coastline that hides a collection of immaculate bays and spectacular beaches. The unspoilt beauty makes Pemba an idyllic island escape and a revered location for snorkelling trips and liveaboard diving adventures. For long associated with voodoo, the island is also popular with travellers arriving from East Africa to visit traditional healers and learn the trade of voodoo magic. Those who do make the effort to come here will find they have the island mostly to themselves and, with only a handful of hotels and little in the way of nightlife, a great place to walk and relax.
 
Island Hopping Zanzibar - For those that wish to see more than the two main islands, an island hopping tour is a great way to go, taking in the unblemished delights of islets such as Lamu, Mafia and Mnemba. Visiting these islands allows the opportunity to witness the contrasting landscapes, visit spice plantations, spot myriad wildlife and experience more of the unique island culture. 

Hotels in Zanzibar

Zanzibar Island Hotels

Mbuyuni Beach Village - Beachfront bungalows at the islands east coast village of Jambiani. Tel (255) 777 843 622.
Imani Beach Villa - Intimate beachside resort in Bububu, north of StoneTown and close to MasinginiForest. Tel (255) 24 225 0050.
Coral Rock Hotel - Range of stylish bungalows at Jambiani beach. Staff members are great for assisting with and booking tours. Tel (255) 776 031 955.
Dhow Palace Hotel - Elegant boutique hotel and swimming pool in the heart of StoneTown. Tel (255) 24 223 3012.
Ras Nungwi Beach Hotel - Luxury beach resort commanding a romantic setting at the islands northernmost village. Tel (255) 24 223 3767.
Waikiki Resort - Set in a lush tropical garden at the east coast village of Pwani Mchangani, this is one of the islands most idyllic resorts. Tel (255) 777 877 329.
 
Pemba Island Hotels
Pemba Crown Hotel - Classic hotel overlooking the main market of WeteTown in the islands northwest.
Kervan Saray Beach Lodge - Billed as ‘a place of rest’ it is tough to anything but at this resort. The sister company, Swahili Divers, offer well-run diving excursions. Tel (255) 772 659 805.
Fundu Lagoon - Luxury, remote resort on the islands south west coast accessible only by boat. Tel (255) 777 438 668.
The Manta Resort - Barefoot luxury overlooking the Indian Ocean. Prices are high but it might just be worth it. Check for online deals. Tel (255) 776 718 852.

Zanzibar Weather

Zanzibar Travel Resources

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