Separated from the mainland by a channel only 35 km (22 miles) wide, and only 6 degrees south of the equator, this tiny archipelago—the name Zanzibar also includes the islands of Unguja (the main island) and Pemba—in the Indian Ocean was the launching base for a romantic era of expeditions into Africa. Sir Richard Burton and John Hanning Speke used it as their base when searching for the source of the Nile. It was in Zanzibar where journalist Henry Morton Stanley, perched in an upstairs room overlooking the Stone Town harbor, began his search for David Livingstone.
Today it attracts visitor’s intent on discovering sandy beaches, pristine rain forests, or colorful coral reefs. Once known as the Spice Island for its export of cloves, Zanzibar has become one of the most exotic flavors in travel when it comes to beauty that will make your jaw drop.
On its main island, Unguja, familiarly called Zanzibar, is Stone Town, a historic trade center with Swahili and Islamic influences. Its winding lanes present minarets, carved doorways and 19th-century landmarks such as the House of Wonders, a former sultan’s palace. The northern villages Nungwi and Kendwa have wide beaches lined with hotels
This tour takes you through fabled Stone Town where history appears to stand still. 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.
The Jozani Natural Forest Reserve is located in the central east region of Zanzibar island and is home to the rare Red Colobus Monkey, 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 Skye’s monkey’s, small buck and bush-pigs.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.
The history of Zanzibar would be incomplete without the cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, pepper and many other spices, which brought the Sultans of Oman and the beginnings of the infamous slave trade. They can be seen in the plantations just outside Zanzibar town, and a good tour includes opportunities to dazzle the senses with fresh spices. A detailed description is given about a variety of spices, and their uses in cooking and cosmetics. Visitors will be fascinated by the sheer number of spices produced and their incredible value for many ailments. This is also the cheapest place to purchase spices and spice oils.
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 snorkeling, 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.
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.
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.