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Zanzibar – A Tourist Destination in Africa

Zanzibar, which is an Arabic word for ‘the coast of black people’ is a major Tourist destination in Africa due to its beautiful white sandy beaches that are some of the best in the world; complemented by its warm equatorial climate. It is home to the rare Zanzibar Red Colobus Monkey, the green turtle, the Zanzibar servaline genet and the Zanzibar leopard –the island’s largest terrestrial carnivore. It is a true tourist attraction in Africa.

Zanzibar

Zanzibar is a collection of several islands (about 46 in number) but two stand out due to their size; that is Ugunja and Pemba. Ugunja is the largest and it is where the capital – Zanzibar City – is located. Actually, many people refer to Ugunja as Zanzibar, which is totally wrong.
The other well know islands in the Zanzibar archipelago are Latham Island and Mafia Island.

Zanzibar is known for its spice growing earning it the nickname; Spice Island. It grows black pepper, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. This made it a major trading route in ancient times and the discovery of ancient potteries at the island indicated they traded with the Assyrians. With help of Monsoon winds, Arabs, Indians and Persians sailed the Indian Ocean to Zanzibar for trade in cloves, ivory and slaves.

Apart from trade, in history, Zanzibar is known to have been fought over for territorial control by the British, Persians, Portuguese and Omani. It is where the shortest war ever recorded by man took place. It took 38 minutes during the Anglo-Zanzibar War for the British to seize the Beit al Hukum Palace.

It was on 26th April 1964 when Zanzibar and Tanganyika mainland united to form the United Republic of Tanganyika and Zanzibar. Later on 29th
October 1964 it was renamed the United Republic of Tanzania.

The fact that Zanzibar was a trading hub attracting traders from different races, its people are a mixture of different ethnic backgrounds. The popular languages spoken are English and Swahili. It is believed that Zanzibar is the birthplace of the Swahili language.

Zanzibar can be reached by air or by water. By air a domestic flight can be arranged from Dar es Salaam to Ugunja; there are no direct flight. It takes about 15 to 20 minutes to cross over at a cost of 40 to 60USD aboard four major airlines like Coastal Air, Fly 540, Precision Air and Zan Air.

By water, a boat or ferry can be used from Dar es Salaam, though you will have to go through immigrations.  There are two ferry companies and a number of boats that one can choose from to take you across. This can take 2 to 3 hours at a cost of 30 to 50USD depending on the ferry or boat.

Rose in Zanzibar

Zanzibar’s Main Attractions

After you finish the 28 miles from the Tanzanian coast, Zanzibar is a perfect place to spend a holiday and relax. You get an opportunity to learn its rich history as a trading hub especially in spices and slaves.

There is this place you would not want to miss once you have set foot on the island.

Stone Town

This is the most popular place on the island with fine building that are fusion on the Arab, European, Indian and Swahili cultures. Some of the special monuments in Stone Town are:

  • The Old Fort, which is the oldest building in all Zanzibar built by the Omani Arabs in 1699.
  • The house of wonders – a large and tall palace built in 1883 by the second Sultan of Zanzibar Barghash bin Said.
  • Opened in 1887, the Old Dispensary is an architectural beauty; a well decorated building in Stone Town.
  • St. Joseph’s Cathedral, built by the French missionaries between 1893 and 1899 is another master piece in Stone Town
  • Christ Church Anglican Cathedral was constructed in remembrance of David Livingston for his contribution towards the abolition of slave trade. The church was built on the site of the last slave market.
  • Tipu Tip’s House (a former slave trader) has a large decorated carved wooden door. It also has black and white marble steps which is proof of how powerful and wealthy Tipu Tip was at the time.

Doorway - Tippu Tip

Things to do in Zanzibar

Visiting Zanzibar needs prior knowledge of what to expect and the main places that should not miss on your list. These places should be on your list of sites to visit.

Prison Island

It is a 30 minutes travel from Ugunja island to Prison Island or Changuu Island. In the 1860s, Arab slave traders kept slaves they believed were hard to contain on the mainland; before they shipped them off or sent them to the Zanzibar slave trade market.

Later in 1893, a prison complex was built there though it never used to contain prisoners but rather patients with cases of yellow fever. In 1931 more buildings were constructed to increase the quarantine capacity to over 900 people.

Forodhani Gardens
In commemoration of the 25 years of Sultan Khalifa in 1936, the gardens were put in place and named Jubilee gardens.
These gardens are good for relaxation, offering beautiful sunset views, and music is played to soothe your mind.
In the evening, the place turns into a market from about 6:00pm to 10:00pm; where you can get affordable meals from several stalls serving drinks and food, with a good view of Stone Town and sailing dhows among many interesting activities.

Spice Tour
After an hour’s trip from Stone town, you will reach the spice plantations and with the help of a guide, you will see, smell and taste a variety of spices.  On display are perfumes and oils made from the spices. The process of making these products can be seen first-hand. The tour of these spice plantations can take two hours.

Palace museum
Once the palace of Sultan Seyyid Said from 1828 to 1896, royal stuff like banquet tables, clothes, thrones, portraits and other daily life accessories are still intact in this three storeyed building.

Palace Museum

Jozani Forest
The beauty of this forest starts with its tall palms and trees; and then the realization that each tree or plant is a source of medicine curing a particular ailment.
It is also known as a natural habitat for the rare red Colobus monkeys, and the rare and unique Zanzibar Sykes’ monkey.
The forest is also home to different species of beautiful butterflies and several bird species.

Red Colobus Monkey

The Rock restaurant 
It is one of the world’s most unique and beautiful locations for a restaurant in the world offering a 360 degree view of the ocean and its white sand beaches.

Despite the challenge involved in making a meal; it is made possible in superb style. Both local and international cuisines are prepared and served that include local spices, sea food, and local food.
The hospitality is excellent.

Dolphin Tour
The oldest mosque in East Africa is in a place called Kizimkazi. It is a renown fishing village and worth visiting due to the opportunity of swimming with the bottlenosed and humpback dolphins. This activity is scheduled from 7:00am to 10:00 am and the chances of seeing these beautiful creatures are above 80%.

 

Zanzibar Beach Resorts

Nungwi Beach
This is a popular place because the tide doesn’t head out far allowing all year round swimming. Much as it has many bars and restaurants ideal for partying along the beach, the atmosphere is always calm.

Paje Beach
If you are a water sports fan, this is the ideal beach for you due to the favorable kitesurfing and surfing conditions. This beach is quickly rising as the premier holiday destination in Zanzibar due to its lively evening parties yet cheaper as compared to other destinations.

Kendwa Beach
This beach is located in the northwest of Zanzibar and is popular for variety of water sports like kitesurfing and diving. They also offer the best local and international dishes and have good party scenes in June, July, December and January.

Accommodation in Zanzibar

With over 470 good hotels in Zanzibar, choosing good accommodation may be a tough choice. However, it depends on whether you want to stay in Zanzibar City or at the beaches.

The prices of the hotels vary depending on the class and number of rooms. Hotels always give discounts from time to time.
Zanzibar has nice accommodation to suite your budget from moderate to high end facilities to choose from.

Some of the affordable facilities include:

  • Lost & Found Zanzibar at USD 10 a night
  • Mau’s Place – Authentic Afrikan House at USD 17 a night
  • Ten to Ten Stone Town Zanzibar at USD 18 a night
  • Bweju Beach Palm Villa au USD 20 a night

The top reviewed places available to you are:

  • Kapengaro Beach Villas at USD 200 a night
  • Che che Vule Villa at USD 180 a night
  • Alibi’s Well at USD 100 a night
  • La Villa de Victor at USD 136 a night

The top luxurious hotels are:

  • Baraza Resort and Spa Zanzibar at USD 1,100 a night
  • The Palms Zanzibar at USD 1,013 a night
  • Tulia Zanzibar Unique Beach Resort at USD 837a night
  • Matemwe Retreat at USD 695 a night

Conclusion

Zanzibar Island is a hidden gem with its white sand beaches, sunshine, exotic Swahili dishes, hospitable people and luxury tourists resorts.
You are assured of enjoying jungle safaris, diving, snorkeling, fishing, beach games and massage.


26 thoughts on “Zanzibar – A Tourist Destination in Africa

  1. I loved our experience in Zanzibar. The Spice tour and diving there were really well worth the effort traveling to the island and it really puts the slave trade into perspective when one sees the cells and the monuments to the slaves in Stone Town.

    I do have a word of caution for anyone visiting the open air Meat and Fish market, this should be only for people with a strong stomach as the smell can be quite overwhelming. It has been on the cards for a return trip and I think I should give this a bit more focus.

    Rich

    1. Richard, it is great to hear from someone that has made the trip to Zanzibar. The fact that you want to make a return visit is evidence that the beauty of Zanzibar cannot be exhausted in one visit.

      I am sure you will find the second visit more memorable since there are positive changes that are made regularly. For instance, the last time I visited they had not placed the monument of the slaves. You too will find something new; maybe the fish market will not affect you like it did the first time. But you have warned the rest. I hope they take the message.

  2. There are so many beautiful places that we have no clue about that it’s a shame they don’t get the exposure they deserve. Zanzibar seems to be one of this places and I am very glad that you are the first person I see to promote this place. It seems like an amazing touristic destination.

    1. Stratos,I am glad that you have discovered a new place on the planet that is ideal as a holiday destination. It is indeed an amazing place for tourists. 

      It is a Island that holds one of Africa’s best loved music festivals called Sauti za Busara. Some have gone ahead to dub it the friendliest festival on the planet. You may have missed the one that took place this year from 07th to 10th February 2019 but it is an annual event, so no worries.

  3. Wow, Zanzibar really looks good. Even that beach looks so clean and peaceful. I was planning to go to the Phuket, Thailand to enjoy some beaches but it seems I’ll change my plan to Zanzibar. Even the accommodation in top reviewed places don’t seem so expensive. However, I will definitely not stay in a luxury hotel which cost more than USD 600 per night. So, I think I will choose places like Kapengaro Beach Villas because USD 200 is an affordable cost for me. Thanks a lot for this article.

    1. Deraj, Zanzibar is indeed a wonderful place. 

      You get to enjoy the scenery of clear waters on all their beaches with the calmness that is unimaginable.
      I am glad that you have made up your choice to stay at Kapengaro Beach Villas, which is an excellent choice since you will be guaranteed of continental breakfast, WiFi, a kitchen to yourself and a beautiful living room.
      Your view of the Indian ocean is guaranteed too. 

  4. Thanks for a thorough review of the paradise Zanzibar, a place I have been waiting to visit for years. It has been on my bucket list, and due to time and money constraints, it has not been completed as of yet. I have heard so many good things about the place, I decided to dig down a bit to see more (and move it to the top of my bucket list perhaps).

    Based on the many attractions you have detailed and the images (beautiful), I can see that I have been remiss in not moving it up and getting this trip in before much longer. I love those beaches, and the resorts plus many sites to see make this a no brainer for me to add to my travel plans.

    You have provided all the important points in your review and I did not need to look any further to get more information. Thanks for your efforts putting this together, it really has helped me to decide to visit Zanzibar soon. It is such a lovely place and there is so much to do.

    1. Dave, I am glad that this article has gone a long way in making you reconsider the arrangement of your bucket list.
      I have tried to make the post as informative as I could but if there is anything that you may need clarity on, do not hesitate to get back to me. I will contact you in less than 6 hours. 

  5. Zanzibar sounds like a gem of a place to visit, one that I had never been familiar with before! The accomodation is extremely reasonable and the garantee of sunshine means a lot too. 

    From reading your article Zanzibar seems like a place that’s off the beaten track, which I think is great to get away from purpose build resorts specifically for tourism. I find it much more enjoyable to visit a lesser known place and just do my thing, thanks for a great article it was very enjoyable to read and you are clearly very well researched in your niche.

    1. Thank you Jack for your remarks. Zanzibar is indeed a good place to hide away from the troubles of your daily routine and interact with nature.
      The people there are hospitable which allows you to tour around with ease.

  6. That’s a wonderful review of a historic tourist centre in Africa. Never knew an historical tourist center like this is in the black continent. The different places shown in this article are just awesome.  I will really be a pleasure to visit the stone town, forodhani building, palace museum someday. 

    1. Olalekan, I appreciate your kind feedback. I hope this post gets to reach out to many to create the awareness needed to make such interesting and lovely places known. Zanzibar offers more than is seen in pictures posted and requires a personal visit to add on what is written. 

      I hope you generate a bucket list that includes Zanzibar Island, the Spice Island.

  7. Zanzibar looks amazing on your travel guide. I have never been there nor have I ever heard of it. But after reading your guide, I would love to visit Zanzibar. Hotels seems really cheap there as well.

    The Rock Restaurant will be my first place to visit in Zanzibar. It sounds amazing!

    Looking forward to my trip to Zanzibar and thanks for sharing this!

    1. Wei, it is a pleasure reading your comment since you pledge to visit the continent. Zanzibar is a hidden gem but not anymore. With the Internet, information flow will put it on many people’s bucket lists and I am glad it is on yours.
      You are right about The Rock Restaurant, it is a magnificent place to be with its wonderful views. A great place to take memorable pictures and videos.
      See you soon Wei.

  8. Wow….Good job Edgar…You’ve got a “really living website”…It guided me about those nice places….We hope you will keep us informed about parks as well…Serengeti National park for example….Thank very much for your information

    1. Osca, you just looked at your computer and read my mind. I will be updating you on the latest about the Serengeti National Park, one of the 7 Natural Wonders of Africa and one of the 10 Natural Travel Wonders of the World.
      I will be guiding readers on the safari tours that they can use to allow them visit the Serengeti and also visit the Spice Island – Zanzibar. What a fulfilling experience it can be.

  9. The beaches, forests, and wildlife are simply breathtaking in Zanzibar. Much of Africa’s landscape is just out of this world amazing, and it’s always been a dream of mine to travel to the continent. Zanzibar definitely has its list of attractions, and Jozani Forest would be at the top of my list. Seems like an excellent place to connect with nature on a personal level, which is something we don’t get these days. My goal is to one day travel to each continent, and Zanzibar would be at the top of my list when it comes to Africa. Thanks for this article and the images provided.

    1. Todd, I am glad you find Jozani Forest (the natural pharmacy) captivating and is high on your list of places to visit. What makes the visit to that forest more easier is the boardwalk through the mangroves at the southern road entrance into the national park. The villagers (who know the forest so well) work as authorized guides for tours in the forest. Since the forest tour only lasts two hours, you will find the rest open for more exciting places to visit like the beach in Paje.

  10. Zanzibar looks like an amazing place to visit or live. I would love to check out Prison Island and also do the Spice Tour. I bet the food there is incredible. What are some of their most popular dishes?

    Your photos are absolutely amazing. The coast line photo blew my mind! I’d love to lay on the beach and read a good book.

    What is the fishing like in Zanzibar? What type of fish can you catch?

    I’m going to add this place to my bucket list!

    1. Charles, I applaud you for the decision you have made to add Zanzibar on your bucket list. You will have a great time at the Prison Island after the Spice Tour. You also enjoy Zanzibar’s special dish, the creamy and spicey coconut bean soup. It is ok to also try the Zanzibar spice pilau rice; I found it tasty.

      Since you are into fishing, the best time to come is between August and October. You will have a variety of fish to catch but the reef fish is in abundance.

      Come along with your camera to capture some wonderful pictures.

  11. Cool thanks for this review on Zanzibar – oh man this sounds interesting, I never knew of this beautiful place in Africa. Do you have any pictures or photos of the rock restaurant? or how about the beaches nearby? I would love to see a gallery if possible, thanks so much.

    1. Paul, beautiful places do exist in many places. It is upon us to share information so we all get to know these places.

      I have pictures of the rock restaurant and the white sand beaches which I will be sharing with you by email.

  12. Hi Edgar,Zanzibar is a tourist destination that I had never thought of, but after reading your post, it is clear that there are many exciting things to know there and seems that it is not very expensive, am I right?Besides everything is the land of Freddie Mercury if I’m not wrong!How safe is it for foreigners?

    1. Tommy, you are right. Stone Town, Zanzibar is the birth place of Freddie Mercury, the legendary popular music musician. Freddie and his family fled Zanzibar during the Zanzibar revolution in 1964 that led to the overthrow of the Sultan of Zanzibar. Since then, Zanzibar has been safe and you need not worry about your safety there.

      Be sure to have a nice time when you visit; and yes! The services are not expensive.

  13. Zanzibar appears to be a beautiful place to visit in Africa.  The beach and water are appealing.  The monuments for slaves remind people of a darker time in history.  A time not completely over as racism in the world still exists, and that is one of the reasons slavery exists in the first place.  The gardens sound relaxing and wonderful as well as the forests.  It would be nice to see a monkey.

    1. Tidbury, Zanzibar is indeed beautiful place worth your visit. The white sand beaches will relax your mind together with the gardens. Since you would like to see monkeys, brace yourself to visit the Jozani-Chwaka forest where the red colobus monekys live in troops, with a higher ratio of females to males. A troop size can comprise of 15 to 30 animals. 

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