Tanzania is a united republic, the result of a union of Tanganyika (mainland Tanzania) and Zanzibar (an archipelago). Although Zanzibar consists or several islands, the two main islands are Unguja and Pemba, with Unguja being be far the largest and most common tourist destination. In fact, is it most commonly just referred to as Zanzibar. Unguja is approximately 85 km long (53 miles) and 30 km wide (20 miles). It is located 35 km (22 miles) off mainland Tanzania in the Indian Ocean.

The island has a long history as an international trading center -largely spices, textiles, and slaves. These influences result in the culture being a mix of Persian, Arabic, Indian, African, and European (largely Portuguese) influences. This is the birthplace of the Swahili language and its exotic culture.

Zanzibar is known to have some of the finest beaches on earth, excellent SCUBA and snorkeling locations, and great deep-sea fishing. Certain locations have a great number of dolphins and offer the experience to swim with them in the ocean. There are no dangerous sharks in this area of the Indian Ocean.

Destinations in Zanzibar

Stone Town
The heart of Zanzibar, Stone Town, was constructed during the 19th century: a labyrinth of narrow alleys complete with palaces, mosques, and tiny shops. It’s noisy, busy, and not very clean – but it has a vibrant, exotic atmosphere that can be enticing! Stay here for a night or two – it’s often convenient for international flights – at one of the beautiful converted merchant’s houses, and look forward to eating out.

Northern Zanzibar
Two or three hours drive from Stone Town, the villages of Nungwi and Kendwa marks the northernmost tip of Zanzibar. The turquoise-blue ocean surrounds it on three sides; Nungwi has long been a magnet for visitors seeking paradise. Come for some good diving and beaches, and proximity to a lively village where there’s always a lot going on. Very little tide variation here is a big plus. The full moon party at Kendwa Rocks Hotel draws huge crowds.

East Coast Zanzibar
The northern part of the east coast of Zanzibar is lined with long, powder-white beaches. Offshore you find the magical Mnemba Island – the ultimate island lodge for those who can afford it.

Michamvi Peninsula and Southeast Zanzibar
South along the east coast of Zanzibar and the beach remains stunning: powder-white sand with a barrier reef, lots of palm trees, and a significant tidal range. The villages become a little sleepier and more relaxed as you head south, and Jambiani, in particular, is very relaxed indeed. For an authentic visit to a friendly village, you can’t beat it.

Southwest Zanzibar
Fumba Peninsula is south of Stone Town. Like the southeast of Zanzibar, this is a very relaxed and friendly corner of the island that has seen few visitors. Kizimkazi is known for its swimming with dolphins tours. Very large tidal variation in this portion of the island, you can experience no beach to 100m of beach during the same day. Offshore is the award-winning eco-resort on Chumbe Island.

Pemba Island
Pemba is a 30-minute flight northeast of Zanzibar. Though comparable in size, its economy is largely rural and agricultural. It’s almost exclusively Muslim, with people who are more traditional in their occupations, and more conservative in their approach. The shoreline has more mangrove forests, but the beaches it does have are wonderful. If you are in search of solitude this is a great fit. There are good snorkel/SCUBA opportunities here also.


Getting There

There is an international airport located on the southwest portion of Unguja – Abeid Amani Karume International Airport (ZNZ airport code). There is also a small airport on Pemba Island (PMA airport code — be careful if booking a flight, there is also a Pemba Airport in Mozambique). Flights to ZNZ flights can be found from Kilimanjaro International Airport, Dar es Salaam (DAR) Moshi Airport (QSI), Arusha Airport (ARK), from Serengeti (Seronera) Airstrip (SEU). There is also ferry service from Dar es Salaam to Ugunja (Zanzibar). To get to Pemba, you can get a flight on a small plane from ZNZ or DAR. There is also a ferry from Ugunja to Pemba.

Activities in Zanzibar

Who says that you need to do anything? After a Kilimanjaro trek or being bounced around on dusty roads on safari, doing nothing for a few days is an excellent idea (The Swahili version of Polynesian paralysis common in Hawaii). The perfect white sand beaches lined with palm trees are very relaxing. But for those wanting activity there is plenty to do. Recommended are the following:

Stone Town Walking Tour
Prison Island Day Trip
Spice Plantation Tour
Jozani Forest Tour
Sunset Dhow Cruise
Cheetah’s Rock Animal Rescue Center
Zanzibari Cooking Classes
Deep Sea Fishing
Ocean Canoeing
Swim with Dolphins
Kite Surfing
Jet skiing
Full Moon Party

All activities can be easilly booked through your hotel once you arrive. The exception being Cheetah’s Rock Animal Rescue Center visit which required advance booking. For details visit cheetahsrock.org.