50 km off the eastern coast of Tanzania, a few degrees south of the Equator, the island of Zanzibar lies opposite Tanzania. This island not only offers breathtaking nature and scenery but also numerous activities and excursions to really experience the local atmosphere and traditions.
The island of Zanzibar is in the Indian Ocean, 50 km off the Eastern coast of Africa, a few degrees South of the Equator.
It joined Tanzania in 1964, known as Tanganyika at the time, and since then it has been a part of what is now known as the United Republic of Tanzania. However, it has its own Government, Parliament and President.
The largest town is Zanzibar, which includes the ancient part Stone Town. Among the many islands forming its archipelago, Unguja and Pemba are the most extended and inhabited.
The language spoken here is Ki-Swhaili, a result of the contact between the Bantu and the Middle Eastern civilizations, declared UNESCO World Heritage in 1960. English is also spoken, along with French and Italian. The most common religion is Islam and a very small minority of people are either Christians or Indus.
The island of Zanzibar is an extraordinarily beautiful place from the naturalistic point of view and was, for centuries, a crossroads for international trade between Eastern Africa, the Indian Ocean, China and Europe. This has turned the island into a place where different cultures cohabit harmoniously.
A tourist visa and a valid passport are required to enter the country.
Each home country has its own regulations, so we recommend having your documents checked by your Embassy or travel agency in advance before departure.
There are numerous airline companies which fly from Europe or Africa to Dar es Salaam (DAR), one of the main international airports in Tanzania or Doha (DOH). From the airport of Dar es Salaam it is possible to take an internal flight lasting about 30 minutes which will take you to the island, landing at Zanzibar’s International Airport (ZNZ).
From South Africa there are companies which fly from Johannesburg directly to Zanzibar such as Mango airlines (www.flymango.com).
Main airlines which fly to Zanzibar from Dar Es Salaam are:
Airport transfers can be booked before arrival. The vehicle will wait for you at the airport to drive you comfortably to your resort. Transfers can be paid online when booking.
Zanzibari cuisine should be sampled at least one in your life. In our resorts, you can experience evenings dedicated to local cuisine. Zanzibari cuisine is the product of diverse influences accumulated over the centuries and which can be traced back to the numerous cultures which have characterised the island’s history. The flavours are mixed with the gastronomic traditions of Arab, Portuguese, Indian, British and Chinese cultures.
A typical Zanzibari dish is spiced pilau rice. Other delicacies originate from the African mainland: manioc potatoes, boiled beans, sweet potatoes, roasted corn on the cob and yam.
The famous nut and date bread made with eggs and vanilla which is traditionally eaten at the end of Ramadan must also be tried.
If however you want to try something a little bit different, don’t miss out on shark in pepper, or “pwewa wa nazi”, Swahili for octopus in coconut milk prepared with curry, cardamom, cinnamon, garlic and lime juice.
Another equally traditional dish is “sorpotel”, a mixed offal and pork stew seasoned with curry spices. “Boku-boku” however, is a type of spicy meat stew cooked with wheat, ginger, cumin, chilli, tomatoes and onions. The famous Zanzibari pizza is also not to be missed.
For those with a sweet tooth, the spiced cake made with cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and chocolate must be sampled.
In general, spices are used in all types of cooking on the island and characterise destinations, flavours and colours.
Drinks must have their say too: try DAWA, a local cocktail that literally means “Medicine”. It is similar to Caipirinha but honey is used instead of sugar.
With visits to the House of Wonders, the Palace Museum (People’s Palace), Dr Livingstone’s House and the Arab Fort amongst others, it is a fascinating look at the essence of Zanzibar. You will see Zanzibar’s bustling market, winding alleyways, ornately carved and studded doors, two cathedrals and countless mosques.
A trip to the site of Sultan Barghash’s harem at Marahubi should also be included and rounds off an insight into Zanzibar’s huge history and vibrant culture. Stone Town has some excellent gifts shops with plenty of souvenirs and handicrafts to choose from.
A visit to Stone Town is not complete without a stop at the Forodhani Night Food Market. We suggest you arrive before dusk, and watch the space fill up methodically with chefs dressed in whites and tall hats setting up stands and grills. You’ll be able to test fish, squid, prawns, lobster, crab claw and seafood kebabs.
Freshly pressed juices, like sugar cane juice and cassava, fried potatoes, chapatis, salads, beef skewers, falafel and Zanzibar ‘pizzas’ are further temptations. Forodhani Market is frequented mostly by locals. Forodhani has a festive, carnival-like atmosphere, so do not miss out to experience this event.
Once the site of a gaol for misbehaving slaves, the island lies just off the old stone town. It is fringed with a beautiful coral reef, ideal for snorkelling, and has a lovely white beach for sun-bathing.It is also home to a family of giant tortoises, imported from the Seychelles in the late 19th century.
This island is ideal for a day-trip with refreshments available throughout the day. It also has a small restaurant where you can enjoy freshly caught fish.
Situated on the southern point of the island, Kizimkazi fishing village is home to several schools of bottle-nosed dolphins which can often be sighted following a short boat trip from the village. If you are lucky, you may be able to swim quite close to the dolphins which can be a very rewarding experience.
Kizimkazi is also the site of a 12th century mosque, the earliest evidence of Islam in East Africa, and is thus worth a visit for both natural and cultural reasons.
The Jozani Natural Forest Reserve is located in the central east region of Zanzibar island and is home to the rare Red Colobus Monkey (pictured opposite), 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.
Tours to the unspoilt north coast always end up at Ras Nungwi, a sleepy fishing village on the northern tip of Zanzibar island. It is the dhow building capital of Zanzibar, so you will be able to see the traditional methods of dhow construction in action.
This area of Zanzibar has some fantastic beaches and nearby coral reefs which are ideal for diving and snorkelling.
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.
If you have been looking for that unique moment to be spent with nature, Nungwi may be the place to be. Visit the two Turtle aquariums in Nungwi, Mnarani Natural Aquarium and Baraka’s Turtle Aquarium and be prepared to make an experience that you will remember forever.
You will have the chance to see Hawksbill turtles (ng’amba in Swahili) and Green turtles (Kasakasa in Swahili).
Get a little taste of whom you may encounter by watching this video.
Busara music Jazz Festival
Busara music Jazz Festival is an international festival held every year in Zanzibar, particularly in Stone Town. It is a very characteristic event and the quality of the music is superb. Our resorts will be happy to organise a transfer from your accommodation to the event. Visit the website to find out more: www.busaramusic.org
Walking in the night
Walk along the beach at low tide under a full moon: a simple yet magical experience.
A ngalawa is a double outrigger canoe typical of the Swahili traditions of Zanzibar and the Tanzania coasts. It is between 5 and 6 metres long and features an outrigger float on each side to improve the vessel’s stability and allow it to be sail-powered. This traditional boat is well worth a short excursion.
Full moon party
If you want to experience the genuine local atmosphere, come to a Full moon party to take part in a truly native experience.
Shopping in Stone Town
Shopping in Stone Town is not to be missed and you will find many locally handcrafted items. Don’t forget to fit in a trip to the town before setting off home!
House of Freddie Mercury
Not many people know that Freddie Mercury was born in Zanzibar, where he lived until the age of 8 before being sent to India to study. Evidence of his presence is limited and not many people mention it. The only officially recognised dwelling is on the crossroads of Kenyatta Road and Gizenga Street in the heart of Stone Town. Today it is home to the Zanzibar Gallery, a souvenir shop. The only “distinctive features” are a gold plaque above the entrance which reads “Mercury House” and a couple of small display cabinets housing faded photographs.
The Forodhani Gardens are located along the sea front in the centre of Stone Town, near the Arab Fort and the House of Wonders. The gardens are very popular, particularly in the evenings when they host the famous Stone Town market.
Africa house Happy hour
If you are headed for Zanzibar, don’t miss an sunset aperitif at Africa House. This bar has been a popular haunt for enjoying an aperitif since the colonial era and is an experience which will take you back in time.
Drink Kilimanjaro beer
Kilimanjaro beer is a typical African beer which we highly recommend you try. Sipped at sunset, the taste is even better.