Zanzibar islands are a natural paradise on earth with stunning beaches and lush tropical forests. Situated in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Tanzania, Zanzibar is semi-autonomous but part of main land Tanzania. The islands were initially East African Swahili. However, due to foreign conquest of the islands first by the Portuguese in the 16th century, followed by the Turkish Arabs under the Sultan who ruled the islands until the 19th century when the Britain colonized much of East Africa, the culture of Zanzibar was largely influenced by Islam. Despite being the main religion, Zanzibar has a diverse culture comprising of East African Swahili, Arabic, European and Indian.
The capital known as Stone Town located on the wild west coast of the islands, clearly shows that with visible heritage such stone buildings, Arab and European architectural structures. The oddity of Stone Town, so remote from the ordinary African is instantly clear. You expect to find people who are traditional and wouldn’t feel the western influence. Yet, in a new lifestyle, Zanzibar its where the blowing hot winds don’t seem relevant and old ways do. Traveling to Zanzibar, you need to be mindful of the travel enjoy respect and be a responsible traveler.
When to go on Zanzibar Safari?
Zanzibar can be visited any time of the year for vacation because the tropical climate is warm and cool all year round. But, the islands experience dry and wet seasons.
The months of June to September fall in the longer dry season while December to February is the shortest. This time Zanzibar weather warm and cool due to less rainfall. As a result, the sky is clear and the waters are warm and you expect to find many visitors.
The conditions are ideal for sunbathing for those who to escape winter season from the west. It’s also the best time to do scuba diving.
On the other hand, during the wet season between March to May and November, the rains can be unpleasant for many. So, there are fewer visitors hence less crowds.
Where is Zanzibar?
Located in the Indian Ocean about 40 km2 from the coast of Tanzania, Zanzibar consists of over 50 smaller islands, the biggest being Pemba, Zanzibar (Ugunja), Mafia, Chumbe and Mnemba the best destinations for tourism. The weather is warm and cool all year round. But, influenced by monsoon winds which at particular times of the year cause alternating hot and cold weather.
Getting to Zanzibar can be done by ferry from Dar ES Salaam Tanzania or by air.
Why Visit Zanzibar?
One of the reasons why Zanzibar appeals to many is due to its beautiful beaches along the coast of the Indian Ocean such as Nungwi, Paje, Kendwa with hotels, bars and restaurants. These beaches are open to the public and provide best sports to relax on your vacation with their white sands, warm waters and beautiful tropical palm gardens. Visitors can do a lot of water sports such as swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving and much more.
The warm and cool tropical weather.
Zanzibar experiences two seasons, the dry and rainy season and temperatures don’t vary much as they are between 20 to 32 degrees Celsius throughout the year. This means that it doesn’t get colder or hotter which make Zanzibar ideal for western travelers. The coast of the Indian Ocean offers beautiful sunsets and sunrises.
Even though Zanzibar experiences rains in April to May and October to November, the sun permanently shines keeping the weather warm.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Stone town the capital of Zanzibar has a rich history and culture dating back to 16th century and marked by a fusion of influences from Portuguese, Sultans of Turkey and the British. Stone town tour immerses into the ancient heritage including Swahili stone buildings, forts, mosques, cathedrals, markets and former slave trade prisons and a mosaic of rich traditions such as food, arts and music.
There are several different spice plantations where 50 different types of spices are cultivated such as cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, cloves among others. This is not something to find in other parts of East Africa, therefore worth visiting.
Zanzibar is safe and secure.
Tanzania is one of the safest places to visit on African safari and so is Zanzibar because it’s part of the country. However, this doesn’t mean you should just be careless, walk at night alone or leave your valuables at the beach as you go swimming.
Adventure and water sport activities.
While water sports such as snorkeling, scuba diving, parasailing are the most popular, Zanzibar also offers exciting outdoors such as quad biking, biking, and nature walks in Jozani forests, birding, and horseback riding.
The culture of people.
The people of Zanzibar is another reason why you have to visit the islands. Despite Islam being the main religion, the atmosphere is still relaxed because of the diverse cultural background. This makes Zanzibar safe for visitors.
Historical and cultural sites.
Zanzibar’s capital Stone Town is a UNESCO world heritage site and home to several religious, historical and cultural heritage sites dating back to the 17th century. From the House of Wonders, old fort (the oldest building) to the former slave trade market, it’s important to immerse yourself into the Zanzibaris culture by taking a city tour. You will learn much more.
Best Beaches in Zanzibar.
As Zanzibar is defined by its location, on the shores of the Indian Ocean. Therefore, it has some of the best and beautiful beaches most of which are easier to access by a few hours away by car from Stone town.
Best for scuba diving, snorkeling and night life. Nungwi beach is located 2 hours’ drive from Stone town on the northwest shores and therefore gets the best sunrise and sunset. It is one of the most popular in Zanzibar because of its world class facilities and watersports. Visitors will find white sands lined by tropical palm gardens, resorts, night clubs, bars and hotels which practically guarantees a stress free beach holiday.
Kendwa, Kiwenga and Paje beaches.
Best for night life and swimming; these beaches are located on the eastern side of Zanzibar and are worth visiting for those who want to go swimming, partying and escape the crowds of Nungwi. Swimming is great because of the low tide waters. They are also a perfect option for families traveling together. Because the young generations can indulge in activities such as beach volleyball and soccer.
Located off the beaten path at the southern end of Zanzibar coastline, Pongwe is so isolated and best for those looking for privacy. The beach is surrounded by a reef of lush tropical palms and forests than any other. As a result, the waters remain calm and great for swimming. If you just want to be on the beach without doing anything, this is the beach to visit in Zanzibar.
After all, there only a few secluded resorts and no entertainment bars. Activities like snorkeling are done almost a mile away. This means everything is provided by the hotel from food to activities.
Best for culture and scuba diving. Situated on the northeast of Zanzibar, Matemwe is the longest beach on the islands with its local laid back fishing culture. Visitors can watch local fisher men cast their nets at sunset.
This stretch of white sands is best discovered by kite surfing offering you aerial views. If you want to do scuba diving, it takes about 1hour of kayaking to Mnemba Atoll island with access to coral reefs. This island features secluded luxury inclusive resort that has attracted some of the famous and wealthiest people in the world including Bill Gates and film star Tom Cruise.
There’s also accommodation on the waterfront beach such as Matemwe lodge. Other activities to do include snorkeling and kitesurfing and swimming.
Best for swimming with dolphins. Kazimkazi has two small islands merging together on the south of Zanzibar. These islands lie on elevated rocky reef which gives stunning views of the ocean. There are fewer resort accommodation options which are best for families including Residence Zanzibar and Ugunja lodge.
The best activity in Kazimkazi is to book a dolphin safari which offers a chance to swim with the adorable animals.
This is one of the top rated Zanzibar beaches with the biggest coral reefs and stunning white sand beaches on the east coast of Zanzibar. Plus, its only 1-hour drive from Stone town and Jozani Chakwa Bay National Park, making it ideal for excursions.
In addition to water sports like snorkeling, swimming, fishing, visitors can take day trips to the park. You are guaranteed to see red colobus monkeys during nature walks in Jozani forest. You can spend time hiking and seeing other wildlife in the park such as birds.
The best places to stay in Bweju beach include Baraza Resort and Spa, Breezes Beach Club, the Palms. These accommodations are great for honeymoon couples.
Best for coral lagoons and relaxation. Michamvi is situated on a remote peninsular east of Zanzibar. The area has the longest beaches next to those in Matemwe. But, due to its remoteness, Michamvi has about three resorts making it ideal for privacy seekers. These include Kichanga Lodge with a swimming pool, Konokono Lodge best for honeymooners and Hotel Z offering Asian cuisine.
What to Do In Zanzibar?
Visiting Zanzibar means exploring Tanzania by sea. Visitors have plenty opportunities from embracing water sports, nature walks sporting monkeys in Jozani forest, Stone town to spice plantation tours.
Snorkeling is available at most beaches and the best time to do it is during the dry season June to September. Visitors need to hire wetsuits or pack one.
Zanzibar is one of the world class scuba diving destinations. Because, the islands are close to some of the Indian Ocean reefs. scuba diving can be done at most of the beaches with deep sea dives, reef and off shore dives. The best time to do scuba diving in Zanzibar is the dry season June to August when there are less waves and under water visibility is good. Scuba divers can also go during the short rain months of February to April.
Traditional dhows boat rides.
Dhows are traditional wooden boats which were historically used by the ivory and slave traders before the invention of motorized boats. As mentioned earlier, Zanzibar is where the old ways are still relevant. It’s no surprise dhows boat rides are used giving visitors a chance to experience a voyage in the ocean in such a historical boat.
Stone town historical and cultural tour.
The capital of Zanzibar is home to some of east Africa’s best culture, history, food and fresh spices experiences.
Visit Jozani forest to see red tailed monkeys.
Jozani is the last remaining natural tropical forest with swamps on the islands. The forest is protected within Chwaka Bay National Park famous for its endangered red colobus monkeys. There are also species of antelopes to see as you take guided nature walks.
Budget Vs Luxury Holiday Safaris IN Zanzibar.
The range of hotels and lodges both in Stone town and throughout different beaches ensure that there’s something for every taste and budget. From guest houses, boutique hotels, to luxurious all-inclusive resorts. Visitors can easily find accommodations to suit their travel budget for your entire visit.
Honeymoon holidays in Zanzibar.
With beautiful beaches and water front resort experiences, Zanzibar has what it takes to be your perfect honeymoon destination. The only challenge is to choose which beach destination to go to. However, with several beaches, water sports, historical sites in Stone town, spice plantations, visitors will have a lot do beyond just the beach.
The Zanzibar islands are good for honeymoon holidays. Because of the presence of secluded resorts from high end all-inclusive resorts to moderate hotels.
To start with, Bwejju, one of Zanzibar’s most popular beach destinations is suitable for people who want to organize large honeymoon parties or weddings. Because it’s known for its party and couple friendly properties such as Palms Resort, Baraza Resort and Spa and Z Hotel.
Matemwe beach, with its secluded Mnemba toll Island is one of the most desired honeymoon sport for high end travelers. As the island gets you close to nature and the waters of the Indian Ocean with resorts that offer private beaches and pools. These include Sunshine Marine Lodge, Sevi Boutique Hotel and Mnemba Island Lodge.
Nungwi, known for its both affordability and yet still with some of the best luxury resorts. Nungwi is the liveliest beach destination where visitors will get in touch with the locals. There are family friendly resorts.
Being near Jozani Chwaka Bay National Park, visitors can take excursion to this lush forest which is home to the famous Zanzibar red colobus monkey. Moderate lodges here include Mnarani Beach Cottages, Beach Baby Lodge, Warere Beach Hotel and Sunshine Marine lodge.
High end accommodation include; double Tree Resort (luxury), Hotel Rui Palace Zanzibar, The Zanzibari and Sandies Boabab Beach Zanzibar.