One of the best known tropical islands in the world, Zanzibar is an island with many faces. Steeped in history, surrounded by sparkling turquoise blue waters and snow white beaches fringed with palm trees dripping with harvests. The interior is a fertile land, best known for spices and fresh ripe fruits. But there is also a lot of life on the island. It’s National Park, Jozani, is home to a thriving population of red colobus monkeys, endemic to Zanzibar, black monkeys, the almost extinct Zanzibar leopard and a myriad of others, such as elephant shrews, bush babies and small antelope.
Visiting the island is sure to tick boxes for anyone, whether you are intrigued by its history, it’s culture, it’s food or its nature, or of course, just want to soak up the sun on a beautiful white beach. Perhaps the best way to experience Zanzibar is to dip your toe into all it has to offer. There are two ways to get to the island. Either a quick domestic flight or a ferry from Dar Es Salaam. Either option will bring you into Zanzibar City, formerly known as Stone Town. The city is a rabbit warren of small alleys and lanes, made up of old buildings framed by solid ornately carved doors and most with little balconies hanging over the lanes. The seafront area is filled at night by the food market, where one can troll past the many stands offering a selection of freshly caught seafood, shwarmas and other local foods. One can keep busy for hours wondering through the city. Visit the historical slaving sites, the old fort, dhow lane, the fish market and the birthplace of Freddy Mercury. Browse through the many shops filled with Tanzanite jewelry and local crafts or immerse yourself in the local museums. You can do all of this yourself, or take up an offer from one of the many local touts for a fully guided Stone Town tour.
Once you have taken in the Stone Town highlights start heading out of town to explore more of this incredible island. A half day tour to Prison Island is a great way to spend some time. The island has a long history and one feels the presence of its past as you walk through the remnants of the old prison areas. Giant tortoises look at you with a 100 years of memories in their eyes and the waters around the island are filled with vibrant colored fish and shallow coral reefs, just begging to be snorkeled. Any day can be perfectly ended with a sunset cruise on a traditional dhow boat, with its massive white sail billowing out in front as you run your fingers through the inviting Indian Ocean waters gliding past. A spice tour and Jozani Forest excursion will introduce you to the local farmers and their culture. You will see how they grow their rich spices and maybe buy a pack or two to take home. Watch the entertaining monkeys swing through the mahogany trees above you, twittering and chattering as they go. A sudden rustle in the forest floor close by draws your attention to a large black rodent with bright red feet. A Zanzibar elephant shrew gathering food within the fallen leaves.
Finally it’s down to the mangrove. An ecosystem in its own right, dense and healthy and filled with life. After such a busy few days it’s time to hit the beach. There are a variety to choose from in Zanzibar, most offering those soft white sands and turquoise waters ones sees in photos. Whilst the touts can be a nuisance you can always find a secluded spot somewhere to lay out your towel and enjoy soaking up some sun. Or, if you prefer the non sandy option, choose to hang by the pool within reach of the bar, serving refreshing cold cocktails.
The beauty of Zanzibar is that all of the above are within easy reach. With travel times between highlights usually not more than an hour, one doesn’t have to choose. This meets our Nomad opinion of “Do it all”. Why choose when you can experience all of this island gem.