The name alone is likely to conjure up images of spice markets, palm-fringed beaches and white-sailed dhows on a turquoise sea – and happily the reality doesn’t disappoint. Lying only a short distance off the Tanzania coast but at the crossroads of Africa, the Middle East and Asia, Zanzibar has long been at the centre of the Indian Ocean experience in East Africa and a Zanzibar holiday is a sensory experience par excellence.Go on spice tours, taste local dishes and walk the cobbled streets of the capital’s old quarter Stone Town, now a World Heritage Site buzzing with colourful back-street markets and local flavours. And then of course there are the Zanzibar beaches: perfect for anyone who simply wants to enjoy a lazily luxurious beach vacation – Zanzibar and its outlying islands are home to some of the finest beaches in East Africa as well as a number of its best dive sites.You won’t want for somewhere to stay either: one of the world’s most romantic honeymoon destinations, Zanzibar has accommodation that ranges from luxury beachfront cottages to exclusive boutique hotels and elegant spa resorts; parents on the other hand will be delighted by Zanzibar’s family-friendly hotels and safe-swimming beaches.

 

What to see:

There is a lot to see and to do on Zanzibar island. First and foremost, do enjoy the amazing white sand beaches especially at the north, east and south coast. The sand has the consistency of castor sugar! Zanzibar also has quite a lot of caves, e.g. Tazani near Nungwi. A tour company in Jambiani “Mambopoatours” offers excursions off the beaten track. Also do a village tour that are offered all over the island. The villagers don’t see tourists as intruders, to the contrary, they welcome foreigners. Please do make sure that you are dressed with a t-shirt and knee-length pants – Zanzibarians are 98 % Muslims and walking through villages in beach gear is disrespectful. A Zanzibar resident put together quite a lot of information on “Zanzibar Insider Buzz”, you can google it.

 

Zanzibar Island, a.k.a., The Spice Island, was an important stop in the Spice Trade centuries ago. Today, it is one of the few places in the world where saffron is produced, and many other Middle Eastern/Asian spices (cardamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, etc.) are grown here. Visit one of the spice farms where you can see how anise, pepper, cloves etc. grow; you can sample some of the exotic fruit grown on the island. And do check out the “lipstick tree”.

 

Jozani Forest has excellent nature trails, featuring some very exotic (and large) trees and plants. Even more interesting, though, are the Red Colobus Monkeys that live here. These Monkeys can only survive on Zanzibar, nowhere else in the world, since they need a diet of 70 different plants, berries etc. The Red Colobus Monkeys are a protected species. A major part of the entrance fees goes to the local farmers in the surrounding area. In the past, the farmers killed the Monkeys because they destroyed their crops. Ever since they are compensated for their losses, the killing stopped. They are very curious and playful and will likely pose for a picture. The entry fee (USD10) also include an optional visit to a beautiful mangrove forest which is highly recommended. You can take the local daladala from Zanzibar Town for TZS 2000 per person. They might want to charge you more (because you are a tourist). The official price for everyone is TZS 2000.

 

There are a number of historically important (and frankly, just plain beautiful) buildings in Stone Town, like The House of Wonders and The Arab Fort. It is easy to arrange a simple walking tour with a local guide who can teach you some history.
The market in Stone Town is one of the largest, most vibrant open-air markets anywhere. Here, you can find several varieties of bananas, “elephant garlic” unique to the island, the largest avocados you’ll probably ever see, and more. Prices are extremely reasonable. Even if you have no intentions of purchasing food, the spectacle alone is worth a visit. If seeing raw meat and fish covered in flies makes you squeamish, avoid that part of the market. Overall, pretty much all food that is not packaged in plastic is covered in flies.

 

Seaweed Center (Seaweed industry development project), (Paje, East Coast, Zanzibar), ☎ +255 772 37-18-44, [1]. 3% of the world’s commercial harvest of Seaweed is taking place in Zanzibar island. The industry has ~15,000 women seaweed farmers. The Seaweed Center is a socially responsible business that provides female seaweed farmers in Paje, Zanzibar with opportunities to improve their personal standards of living and develop economic activities that benefit the entire community. The project comprises a factory and gathering site to produce soaps and creams from seaweed that are sold locally and begin to be distributed throughout East Africa. Tours are available, showing the life of seaweed women, the work and the value added activities.

 

What to do:

Stone Town

The inner city was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000, is a most unique city. Blending Moorish, Middle Eastern, Indian, and African traditions and architectures, it is possible to spend days winding through Stone Town’s labyrinthine alleys. That said, a day will give you plenty of insight. The inner city is small and can easily be explored by foot. It is estimated that 85% of the historic building fabric (coral stone) of Stone Town is irredeemably lost. Only very few of the old magnificent buildings shine brightly, i.e. if they have been converted to (boutique) hotels, clubs, or restaurants. Most buildings are in bad shape and the rough sea climate has taken its toll on the structure.

 

While in Stone Town, you can shop for souvenirs, drink the occasional tea, or visit the few city’s historic sites. Be aware that -being close to the equator- even the little alleys may offer little shade/protection from the sun. Water is also important and can be bought in plenty of stores along the narrow streets.

 

The House of Wonders is currently closed due to reconstruction work (Oct 2014). It carries this name because it was the first house in Stone Town to have electricity, running water, and an elevator.

 

Former Slave Market (Entry fee is TZS7,000 – this fee includes a guide (Oct 2014), who you may or may not tip). This is the site of the old Slave Market. The museum only consists of slave chambers (one for 50 men and one for 75 women and children), a memorial, and an Anglican Church built on the site of the tree that served as whipping post. Unfortunately it provides only very few information on the history of the building or slave trade in Zanzibar. Apart from the slave chambers nothing is left, as a hospital has been built into the old market. However, you can go into the holding chambers in the cellar to see how this wretched piece of history played itself out in small dark dungeon-type cells. The property was purchased by Dr David Livingstone (one of the biggest proponents of the abolishment of slavery) who wanted to turn the grounds into a haven after the atrocities committed there by the Oman Arab and British slave traders.

 

In the tourist areas around the waterfront, Kenyatta Road and Shangani Road, you will be beset by all manner of papasi, touts and others wanting to offer you taxis, spice tours, music, gifts, etc. A polite but firm No, thanks usually doesn’t do the trick, and can get exhausting. Best thing to do here is to keep walking and wander into the more residential alleys where you won’t be disturbed.

 
Around Stone Town:

Spice tours are being offered by many companies, they take you out to a spice farm, where your guide will show you how things like cinnamon, jack fruit and kukurma are grown, and will let you taste most of them. Be wary of buying them on the street, in which case the tout might just take your money without a booking. Another common scam is for a tout to follow you into (or give you directions to) the office, in which case the tour price will change from USD10-15, with you paying the commission.

 

If you have a car you can just drive to the Kizimbani area yourself, where plenty(!) spice tours are offered. Again, depending on your bargaining skills you may be able to get it for TZS22,500 (two persons) plus the tips (6000).
[Surfing on the Southeast Coast] Surfing is getting more popular on the island. The Southeast Coast offers a variety of surf spots for different level surfers. Guaranteed uncrowded surf in crystal clear warm waters with a consistant waist high wave for beginners and shoulder to head high wave for advanced can be found on the island. The reefs are flat and beginner friendly in some sections and can be gnarly with sea urchins if you do not know the spots. Self exploring missions are not recommendable. For a good surf experience in Zanzibar a guide is essential. Aquaholics Zanzibar [2] is the only surf school on the island and offers trips for beginners, intermediates and advanced surfers. A variety of surf boards is available to rent.

 
Nungwi:

Deep Sea Fishing with ” Hooked on Fishing” in Nungwi in the North Coast.

 

Kitesurf at the Ras Nungwi beach with [www.kiteboardingzanzibar.com]. Full equipment rental runs USD60 (half day) and USD90 (full day). Lessons can be booked (Group introduction of 3 hours at USD165 and private lessons (1h) at USD90). They also offer Kendwa beach and Matemwe kite beach.
Zanzibar Cycling Adventures takes you to some of the islands hidden treasures, offering cycling tours around the Northern region of Zanzibar. You get a bit of culture, history, exercise and fun… all on a bicycle!

 
Makunduchi:

Fishing with local Dhow with and “jumping” out of coral reef like a local,the most exceited feeling must try in a life time .

 

The East Beaches are popular among travellers. The sand is brilliant white, and the warm waters of the Indian Ocean are a deep teal. Here, you can:
Find plenty of opportunities for scuba diving; Rising Sun Dive Center [3] (based at the Breezes beach resort)
Kizimkazi Dolphin Tour For $25-$35 You can take this beautiful (but not necessarily moral) tour. This includes a ride from Stone Town to the village of Kizimkazi in the south tip of the island, a few hours boat tour that includes snorkelling and chasing dolphins, local lunch, nap on the beach and an optional tour to Jozani Forest (see above). The full tours leaves town at 08:00 and returns at 17:00 – a complete day of fun and a very memorable experience, especially for the dolphins.
Do not miss out on one of the best dives in East Africa.Spanish Dancer Divers [4] arrange daily trips to the famous Mnemba Atoll Marine Park for divers and snorkelers. Mnemba Atoll is known for having clear warm waters. Dolphin and Green Turtle encounters are very common, though not guaranteed.
Arrange for a ride on a local’s dhow (a carved, wooden boat).
Sit and stare at the water for hours on end.
Kitesurf is a popular sport in Paje Beach, where the crystalline lagoon waters and reef protection offer ideal conditions for both advanced and beginner kitesurfers. At full moon the lagoon maybe very full and conditions may be suboptimal. Zanzibar Kite Paradise offers beginning classes as well as rentals.

 

Kendwa Beach on the North Western coast is beautiful. Here you can swim during low and high tide, which is not always possible on the East side of the island. Just beware of the “Sea Urchins” that give a powerful sting if stepped upon during low tide. Kendwa offers lots of beach bars and restaurants serving everything from pizza to local curries. Kendwa Beach is also known for the Full Moon Party, arranged Saturdays just before or after a full moon. While not as big or extreme as those arranged in Thailand, the parties on Zanzibar attract quite a large group of people, especially when the full moon coincides with public holidays in Europe and North America (eg Easter and Christmas).
Africa house in the stone town was the old English club and explorers like Livingstone and Stanley relaxed in the bar and billiards rooms before exploring the main land. The billiards room now is an Arabic shisha smoking lounge.
 

Zanzibar Butterfly Centre, Pete village (1km before Jozani Forest Park), 09:00-17:00. The Zanzibar Butterfly Centre (ZBC) is a community and environmental project located in Pete village next to Jozani-Chwaka Bay National Park. ZBC has trained local people from the Pete community to farm the butterflies sustainably and buys their pupae for the netted garden. Revenue generated by tourist admissions supports ZBC with the project’s aims of poverty alleviation and conservation of the local forest. ZBC provides visitors with a unique and fascinating opportunity to learn about all the different butterfly life cycle stages close up in one of Africa’s largest butterfly exhibits. Visitors can enjoy an interactive tour with one of the knowledgeable guides in the tropical garden where hundreds of butterflies, all of which are native species to Zanzibar, fly freely.

 

Menai Bay Conservation Area Snorkel Excursions (Fumba Water Sports), Fumba (25 minutes south of Zanzibar airport), Menai Bay Conservation Area in the southwest side region holds very pristine and colourful coral reef systems with abundant sea life. Take a morning trip out to snorkel or dive in a traditional Swahili dhow then come back to an all inclusive lunch from Fumba Beach Lodge.