A Heavenly Archipelago

Cocktail on a Zanzibar beach

Why heavenly? Picture a pastel string of islands resting off the coast of Tanzania, blessed with powdery sand beaches, world-class diving, and the magical touch of a world that moves to its own island rhythms. This is the spell that Zanzibar casts upon its fortunate guests.

Beneath these swaying palms, you can relax and dream away the days, or explore the timeless cultures still in play on this special island chain. Also known as the “Spice Islands”, a bountiful source of clove, nutmeg, cinnamon, and black pepper, Zanzibar still supplies fine spices to much of the world.

Visitors to these picturesque islands love to spend leisurely time on the beaches and then explore the neighboring fishing villages dotting the coastline. This enticing blend of perfect shorelines, quaint local cultures, and aromatic antiquity may be the allure that attracts so many to this spot of paradise in the Indian Ocean.

The Big Island

When many picture Zanzibar, they see only its largest island, known as Zanzibar Island, or by its traditional name, Unguja. This is Zanzibar’s historical, commercial, and cultural center. It is also host to many of the island chain’s lovely beaches. The snorkeling and diving here are excellent and you can discover a colorful marine world of undersea life, especially in the coral gardens off the coast.

Besides rainbows of tropical fish, you’ll find larger species like tuna, barracuda, manta rays, dolphins, and even sharks. Look for sea turtles as well.

Exploring inland, you’ll want to visit Zanzibar City, a traditional East African hub, established by the Sultan of Muscat in 1824. It has a long and storied history, including a regrettable past active in the 19th-century slave trade.

Stone Town

This historic quarter is a fascinating warren of tiny alleyways alive with the architecture and cultural influences of Arab, African, Indian, and European cultures and cuisines.

A dramatic remnant of historical Stone Town is the Palace Museum built for the sultan’s family. It is a series of buildings set on the waterfront and features furniture, paintings, and even the tombs of several of the local sultans.

Don’t miss the Old Fort, a 300-year-old fortress built by invading Arabs, overlooking the nearby ocean. Later transformed to serve as a prison, today the fort offers an open amphitheater and cultural arts gallery where local artists show off their work.

Perhaps the most elegant structure in Stone Town is the ornate Old Dispensary. With its pastel green latticework balconies, the structure invites closer examination and you can wander inside and through its bright courtyard.

Stonetown Zanzibar - Africa Kenya Safaris
Monkey at Jozani Forest in Zanzibar

A Series of Lovely Parks

Zanzibar Island presents still more pleasant surprises, like nature trails and close-up views of endangered wildlife.

At Jozani-Chwaka National Park, you’ll discover a forest thick with lush ferns and abundant trees. Here along the trails, you may see the Zanzibar red colobus monkey, bushbabies, duikers, and many colorful bird species.

Who doesn’t enjoy seeing turtles in their natural habitat? Take a visit to the island’s lighthouse and you’ll come upon the Mnarani Marine Turtle Conservation Pond. At this sanctuary set in a tidal pool, you’ll find many turtle species, including baby turtles, protected from predators.

If you are here in February, join the locals to help the hundreds of turtle hatchlings make their way across the beach and out to sea.    

More Islands to Visit

There are lots more islands that make up the Zanzibar Archipelago but the ones you might be most interested in are nearby Pemba and Mafia Islands.

Pemba, lusher and hillier is known as the “Green Island”. You’ll discover perfect little beaches here cozying up to lagoons and mangroves. But the biggest attraction is the opportunity for world-class diving, as the balmy waters host a colorful universe of marine life. Still an active producer of spices, mainly clove,  Pemba is just a 40-minute flight from Dar es Salaam. 

Lightly touristed, Mafia Island also has excellent diving by the reefs in Chole Bay where you may spot whale sharks and sea turtles. You can swim, snorkel, kayak, and take local boat trips to visit isolated islets. While most folks go to better-known Zanzibar, little Mafia Island is a perfect holiday secret.

Luxury beach furniture on a Zanzibar beach
Paintings at the Palace Museum in Zanzibar

Don’t Miss

Princess Salme Museum – Do you like romantic tales? At this quaint museum, in  Zanzibar Town, you’ll learn about the story of Princess Salme, a sultan’s daughter, who recounted her dramatic elopement in the 19th century with a German trader in her Memoirs of an Arabian Princess from Zanzibar.

Freddie Mercury Museum – Yes, in the heart of Stone Town, you will find the first-ever museum dedicated to the late pop star. Born, Farrokh Bulsara, Mercury grew up here and you’ll see photos, newspaper clippings, and the piano on which the rock idol learned to play.

House of Wonders – Built by a sultan in the 19th century, this ornate structure highlighted one of the wonders of the day, electricity and electric lighting.  

Survey: Zanzibar Beach

Zuri Zanzibar sail boat

Nothing is ordinary in this exotic mix of east African cultures, kaleidoscopic marine life, and heavenly beaches.

This is Zanzibar

No matter what you desire from your East African coastal vacation: sunbathing on tranquil beaches, exciting diving and snorkeling, or immersion in local history and culture, you will find your days filled with colorful and memorable pleasures on this glamorous island world. 

Join us at Zanzibar

Africa Kenya Safaris offers journeys to the Zanzibar Archipelago and other attractions in the region. Just contact us to get your safari started.

Here are some of our tours bringing you to Zanzibar.

Video & photo credits: Zuri Zanzibar Beach Hotel & Resort

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