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It would simply be remiss to not have Zanzibar as one of our six key areas in Tanzania as most visitors will add a Zanzibar beach extension to their safari. Easily connected from a safari in the north and south of the mainland, just the very name “Zanzibar” is evocative of an exotic place.
Zanzibar is an island steeped in culture and history. What is known as the Zanzibar archipelago is set in the Indian Ocean just off the mainland east coast of Tanzania. It is a place which attracted many peoples in the past from sailors to adventurers and traders from far and wide. Unguja island is the main island and more commonly known as Zanzibar island but the archipelago is made up of a further 3 islands of Pemba, Mafia and Latham, the last being uninhabited.
Mafia and Pemba are equally beautiful islands to visit for different reasons which will be explored in their own section. As well as boasting some of the world’s best beaches and diving, Zanzibar is also famous for its spices and is home to a delicious variety grown on the island’s many plantations. A spice tour is a must when visiting Zanzibar.
Zanzibar can be split neatly into culture and beach. The cultural element lies in Stone Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The old historic town is quite small and can easily be explored on foot in a morning or afternoon. Get lost in a labyrinth of winding alleyways occasionally opening out into bustling marketplaces fringed by beautifully carved wooden Zanzibari-style doors with an unmistakable Arab influence, due, in part to the Omani rulers of yesteryear. Stop for refreshments and listen to the surrounding call to prayer coming from the many mosques located here next door to beautiful grand Arab residences, a large majority of which have been converted into lovely boutique hotels.
En-route north or East to the stunning white sand beaches, you may choose to visit the Jozani Forest Reserve if heading south out of Stone Town. Jozani is home to the rare Kirk’s red colobus monkey and Aders’ duiker. If heading north to Nungwi or East to Matemwe, stop en-route to explore a spice farm and maybe have lunch there. The beaches are endless with fine white sand fringing warm turquoise clear warm waters. Diving here is incredible or maybe just snorkel between beach walks.
For something extra special, head off the better known track to just off the north-eastern coast of Zanzibar where you’ll find Mnemba Island – an idyllic private island featuring luxurious accommodation and some of the best diving in the world with breathtaking scenery and rich marine diversity.
The traditional rainy season of Tanzania is April and May. This is when planes stop flying into parks and reserves and many safari lodges therefore close. Zanzibar, however can be accessed even during these rainy season months. However the best time to visit is perhaps July through to November but it gets very busy, particularly in August. There is also a 2 nd peak time from mid- December through to Mid-January when most hotels on the island charge a seasonal supplement as it can be hard finding a room on the island during Christmas and New Year.