Zanzibar islands are a rare travel destination which genuinely live up to every expectation. Covering an area of 2,461 km2, Zanzibar is a mainly low lying island, with its highest point at 120 meters. It is 108 km long and 32km wide. It is +3 GMT during winter and +2 during summer time. Being near to the equator, the islands are warm all year round, but officially, summer and winter peak in December and June respectively. The capital of Zanzibar, located on the island of Unguja, is Zanzibar City, and its historic centre, known as Stone Town, is a World Heritage Site.
A separate state within Tanzania, Zanzibar Island consists of two large islands, Unguja (Swahili name for Zanzibar), and Pemba, and several smaller islets surrounded by coasts of rocky inlets or sandy beaches with lagoons and mangrove swamps and coral reefs beyond the shoreline. The island is without doubt the number one beach location in East Africa, an absolutely wonderful island of tropical white-sand beaches, lush plantations, an incredible history and a fascinating culture.
From exotic Stone Town with its fascinating labyrinth of narrow streets, to palm-fringed beaches and pristine coral reefs, the archipelago is a complete change of pace from the mainland with which it is linked as part of the United Republic of Tanzania. Zanzibar is the perfect way to round off a dusty safari on the Tanzanian mainland.
How to get there
It is located in the Indian Ocean, about 25 miles from the Tanzanian mainland coast, and 6° south of the equator. The island can be reached by air from Dar es Salaam, a 30 minute trip. Also there are flights at Kilimanjaro International airport which are direct to the island that take an hour. Also you can get to the island by boat from Dar es Salaam which takes 90 minutes.
What to see
Zanzibar used to be hard to reach with a reputation for being expensive and unfriendly. Not any more, the island now positively welcomes tourists and it offers facilities suitable to all tastes and budgets.
It’s main attraction is Stone Town with its traditional Swahili atmosphere and wealth of fascinating buildings, whitewashed coral rag houses, quaint shops, bazaars, mosques, courtyards, squares and the spectacular turquoise sea abounding in marine life, striking coral formations and edged by fine white-sand beaches. Although many places have become very developed, there are still some quiet and relatively unspoiled spots left.
Zanzibar's main industries are spices, raffia, and tourism. In particular, the islands produce cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and pepper. For this reason, the islands, together with Tanzania's Mafia Island, are sometimes called the Spice Islands. Zanzibar's ecology is noted for being the home of the endemic Zanzibar Red Colobus and the (possibly extinct) Zanzibar Leopard.
The island of Pemba is seldom visited and is very laid back. In addition to its attractive hilly terrain, the island offers an intriguing largely undiscovered culture, some attractive offshore islands and good diving.
The islands fascinating buildings, whitewashed coral rag houses, quaint shops, bazaars, mosques, courtyards, squares and the spectacular turquoise sea abounding in marine life, striking coral formations and edged by fine white-sand beaches are amazing sights. offer diving, snorkeling and game fishing to compare to anywhere in east Africa. And the clove and coconut plantations that cover the interior of the spice island, the dolphins of kizimkazi, the colobus monkeys of jozani, and the giant sea turtles of nungwi and those seemingly endless tropical beaches.
The Indian Ocean
Zanzibar's Indian Ocean offers world class watersports including scuba diving, snorkeling, deep sea fishing, kayaking, windsurfing, waterskiing and sailing on traditional local dhows. It is characterised by beautiful sandy beaches with fringing coral reefs that surround the East Coast which are rich in marine diversity.
The heat of summer is seasonally often cooled by windy conditions, resulting in sea breezes, particularly on the North and East coasts. Short rains can occur in November but are characterised by short showers which do not last long. The long rains normally occur in April and May although this is often referred to as the 'Green Season’ and it typically does not rain every day during that time.
Rare native animals include the Zanzibar leopard, which is critically endangered and possibly extinct and the recently described Zanzibar servaline genet. There are no large wild animals, and forest areas such as Jozani are inhabited by monkeys, bush-pigs, small antelopes, civets, and the elusive Zanzibar leopard. Various species of mongoose can also be found on the island. Endemic mammals with continental relatives include the Zanzibar red colobus, one of Africa's rarest primates
Its exceptionally diverse marine life- from hawksbill and green turtles, to deep sea species such as the napoleon wrasse, barracuda and shark.
There is a wide variety of birdlife, and a large number of butterflies in rural areas. Pemba island which is separated from Unguja island and the African continent by deep channels has a correspondingly restricted fauna, reflecting its comparative isolation from the mainland. Its best known endemic is the Pemba Flying Fox.
Where to stay
Zanzibar Serena inn: a fine beach front position, boasts of a swimming pool, bar, restaurant, coffee shop, curio shop, and business centre.
Emerson’s and green: large rooms with high ceilings, fans, good ventilation through traditional shutters with rooftop restaurant.
Africa house hotel: situated along the shangani waterfront, known for its balcony bar with great view and good food.
Mbweni ruins hotel: situated a few kilometers south of town off the airport road, lies in the grounds of the mbweni ruins. Private beach, swimming pool, nature trail, botanical garden, natural health centre.
Zanzibar beach resort: lies about 7km from the Stone town and 3km from the airport. Facilities include a restaurant, bar, disco, squash court, sauna, gym, swimming pool.
Beyt Al Chai: directly opposite the Serena inn. Wooden floors creaking with period character, spacious rooms, airy and traditionally decorated.
Tembo hotel: around the corner from the Serena, a beachfront position with access to the stone town good restaurant and swimming pool.
Clove hotel: rooftop bar offers a great view over the town and the hotel is very close to the waterfront.
Abuso inn: situated in the busy shangani quarter, offers large bright en-suite rooms with wooden floor.
Mtoni marine centre: situated in mtoni 4km north of the port, sushi restaurant and a swimming pool.
Chavda hotel: lies in the heart of the stone town, rooftop restaurant open to all comers with curries and seafood.
Dhow palace hotel: situated in the heart of the Stone town. Rooms come complete with Persian baths and lack only for sea views but with rooftop restaurant.
Safari lodge: it has a convenient location for exploring the old town and a rooftop restaurant is attached.
Garden lodge: situated on Kaunda road near the peoples gardens, simple but neat and friendly.
Island view hotel: on the road to the airport.
Hotel kiponda: a convenient location in the stone town close to the sea front, restaurant attached.
Karibu inn: on a narrow street parallel with Kenyatta road in the shangani part of town.
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