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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.