Essential guide to Zanzibar Archipelago
Fifteen miles from the coast of Tanzania, the Zanzibar archipelago has everything you need for a relaxing time. Beautiful waters, wade-worthy sandbars and islands that are perfect for swimming, relaxing and lotus-gathering, Zanzibar leaves one spoiled for choice.
Here are some of the things you absolutely have to do in this island:
1. Stone Town – you’ll be hard-pressed to not have this mentioned in any guide to Zanzibar. The UNESCO World Heritage Site lives up to the hype and more. Influences from diverse places from Europe to Persia, Arabia and India, a sense of ancient history and its glories, narrow alleyways and streets all go on to create an experience like not much else. The House of Wonders should be on your list, as should be the old Turkish Baths. Pay special attention to the doors here. These are famed for their detail and embellishments, reflective of the country they are inspired by. If you’re in the mood for music, get to the Dhow Countries Music Academy for a sense of the local music, Taarab. It’s a unique combination of percussion, rhythm and poetry.
2. Spice Tours – Zanzibar was an important port in the ancient spice trade. It continues to draw the tourists thanks to its fragrant offerings to the world- spices. Spice tours are a lovely way to enjoy an immersive and educative trip. Learn about the spices, from the way they are cultivated and made ready for production, to the way they are used in various dishes of the country. Many tours end with cooking exhibitions where you can see the clever and careful ways in which the spices are used. Carry home black pepper, nutmeg, cloves, lemongrass, turmeric, and cinnamon to make your own meals even more flavourful.
3. Beaches – seeing how the archipelago of Zanzibar is made up of over 50 islands and more, the beaches of Zanzibar are a big reason why people flock to the island. The islands are sparsely populated and not as commercial and crowded as you might find in other places.
Go to Mafia and Pemba for snorkelling and diving that’s delightful. In fact, Zanzibar has some of the best dive sites in the world. There’s also deep-sea fishing and kayaking to keep you interested. Or, just hire a two-wheeler and drive around the islands taking in all the beautiful scenery. For a slower pace of life, get on the traditional dhow and go sailing.
4. Forest bathing – the new wellness trend is forest bathing and at the Jozani Forest Reserve in Zanzibar, you have ample opportunity to do this and more. Home to the endangered Red colobus monkey, Jozani Forest is also where you’ll find myriad butterflies. It’s an important conservation project and a part of Zanzibar’s only National Park.
5. Marine Life – If you want to see dolphins, head to the south coast of the country to Kizimkazi. Once on the seas, keep a lookout for humpback and bottle-nosed dolphins. If you go to the north of the island, you can see all the work done in the world of turtle conservation at Mnarani Natural Aquarium. Here, Green and Hawksbill Green turtles are taken care of and rehabilitated.