Zanzibar (or, Unguja) is an Indian Ocean archipelago off the coast of Tanzania. While the larger island of Madagascar and the beaches of Kenya and South Africa remain ever-popular with international tourists, this semi-autonomous island state flies below the radar. Only 22 miles from Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar is the perfect destination to connect with East African culture while you reflect on your mainland safari experience.
The natural starting point for your Zanzibar stay, Stone Town is the oldest part of Zanzibar City. As an example of a traditional Swahili trading town, this myriad of alleyways and bazaars constitutes a lesser-known UNESCO World Heritage Site. Plucking elements from Swahili, Indian, Arab, and European architecture, the buildings are fashioned from coralline ragstone and mangrove timber before being lime-washed. Spend a night at the Emerson on Hurumzi or at least make a reservation for the Emerson Zanzibar Tea Ceremony where three types of spiced tea is accompanied by savory appetizers and Zanzibari sweets.
This dense complex of jungle and wetlands is home to the rare red colobus monkey, a species endemic to Unguja. Nature trails weave you through the greenery where you can also expect to spit dancing butterflies. It’s hoped that some Zanzibar leopards might still dwell in the forest although it’s possible that they have been driven to extinction. Tourists are welcome to explore Jozani Forest independently or with the support of a wildlife guide.
In addition to Zanzibar and Unguja, this aromatic island is also known as the Spice Isle. A large variety of spice plants were introduced to Zanzibar during the 16th century, with farms remaining in operation to this day – although the focus has shifted toward tourism. Spice tours are a sensory experience where you will encounter cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, turmeric, vanilla, cardamom, and chili. These excursions include a visit to a plantation, a guided farm tour, a tasting, and a lunch. Naturally, you can coincide a spice tour with a stroll around the spice bazaars of Mji Mkongwe.
The northernmost tip of Zanzibar is the location of some of the finest beaches. Nungwi Beach is a white-sand strip ideal for swimming, snorkeling, and diving. Once you’ve had your fill of water, the beach is lined with seafood restaurants and fish markets where you can pick up a fresh catch and a sundowner. By contrast, Bwejuu Beach and the lagoon of Michamvi supply a more isolated setting.
This beautiful island offers a supply of upscale accommodations that fuse creature comforts with the spirit of Zanzibar. Suites, bungalows, and villas at Zuri Zanzibar are adorned with artisanal features and local artwork. Subject to the chosen unit, you will have an outdoor shower, private Jacuzzi, or exclusive patch of beach.
andBeyond Mnemba Island pushes the luxury up a notch with private island accommodations. Twelve palm-frond “bandas” are available and all guests receive a personal butler service. In-room massages, yoga sessions, and a tailored culinary experience complete the barefoot luxury lifestyle.
If you are contemplating a safari to see the Big 5 in Tanzania, consider elevating your vacation with a trip to Zanzibar. Contact me and we will create the perfect East Africa travel itinerary.