I’ve wanted to visit Zanzibar ever since I was a little girl aged seven. I remember curiously flipping through my grandfather’s stamp book, taking in the colourful little stamps from faraway lands. One stamp in particular caught my attention – it had the picture of a grand sailboat and bore the name of a country I had never heard of before – Zanzibar.
Even as I grew older, the fascination with Zanzibar never wore off. This exotic little archipelago tucked off the coast of Tanzania in East Africa remained on my travel bucket list.
Zanzibar is one of those magical, mystical places that only a lucky few ever get to visit. Off the beaten tourist path, this is one trip that will transport you through the centuries to a land so enchanting and vivid! As you step off your boat (or plane), you will be consumed by the smell of spices in the air, the sweeping white-sand beaches, the magnificent Persian architecture and shyly smiling locals.
The Zanzibar Archipelago is composed of two main islands, Unguja (colloquially referred to as ‘Zanzibar’) and Pemba, along with a host of smaller islands. The famous and historic Stone Town forms the heart of Unguja Island.
How Do You Get There?
Zanzibar is accessed from Dar-es-Salaam, the capital of Tanzania. Many ferries and catamarans take tourists to Zanzibar island, a beautiful ride of about two hours. For those who prefer to fly, there are flights from Dar-es-Salam (a 15-minute flight).
Interesting things to do in Zanzibar:
1. Visit Stone Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site
There’s something very special about Zanzibar’s heart, Stone Town—a UNESCO world heritage site. It brings together disparate elements of cultures of Africa, Arabia, India and Europe into one vibrant, vivid melting pot of colour and chaos. Stone Town has changed little over the past 200 years, bringing an air of timeless nostalgia.
Its magical jumble of cobbled lanes is something of a mystery – you never quite know what you will find around the next corner! From little children playing board games to an abandoned (yet magnificent) Persian bathhouse, a vibrant vegetable market or a tiny meandering alley that ends dead at a stunning blue lattice door, Stone Town is full of surprises. Exploring the area can take days – so put on your walking shoes and lose yourself!
On a more somber note, Stone Town was also one of the world’s last slave markets. Locals still tell stories of a heartbreaking past and its ghosts. Today, the imposing Angelican Cathedral sits atop the erstwhile slave market. It is believed that the altar was built over the market’s whipping post.
2. Dine in a restaurant in the middle of the sea
Your heart has got to skip a beat when you see The Rock restaurant in Zanzibar. Poised on a massive rock that rises from the Indian Ocean off the shore of the Michanwi Pingwe Beach in Zanzibar—this is a very special location indeed! Diners can reach The Rock by boat (during high tide) or amble through ankle deep seawater (during low tide).
In fact, Miss Wanderlust had featured The Rock as one of the most spectacular restaurants in the world!
Thanks to its priceless position, The Rock boasts of stunning views of the sea all around—vivid ocean hues that seem to sparkle in the sunlight! Enjoy a wonderful meal of local, fresh seafood. The Rock is magnificent at sunset—don’t miss the spectacular hues. Alternately, if you happen to be in Zanzibar on a full moon night, The Rock is a perfect place to go!
3. Encounter a protected species
Nature lovers will enjoy a visit to the beautiful Joazani Forest – nature trails that take you into the heart of some very exotic flora and fauna. The highlight is the opportunity to spot the Red Colombus Monkey, a protected species. These monkeys can only survive in Zanzibar, as they need a complex diet of 70 different indigenous plants and berries. The monkeys are cute, curious and playful, and meeting them will make your day.
Formerly a walled city, the picturesque fishing village of Kizimkazi is a must-visit. The village is home to a 12th century mosque, the earliest trace of Islam in East Africa. The waters around Kizimkazi are home to several schools of bottle-nosed dolphins and Humpback dolphins, a treat for visitors! Local operators can arrange trips where you get to swim with the dolphins or snorkel in close by areas.
For those who’d love more adventurous activities to get their adrenalin rushing, Zanzibar offers some spectacular scuba diving sites, with stunning corals and marine life to watch. Kite surfing at Paje Beach is an upcoming option and a recently opened surfing school imparts lessons to beginners.
5. Experience life by the Indian Ocean
If you’re truly looking for an authentic taste of life by the Indian Ocean, look no further than the island of Pemba. Unexplored virgin beaches with stark white coral power sand, swaying palm trees and stunning alcoves that open into the vivid blue ocean—do you need any more reasons to visit? Tiny fishing communities dot the coastline, as farmers harvest crates of fragrant mangos and fisher folk take their wooden dhows out at sunrise.
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