Few names evoke such a romantic image as the ‘spice island’ of Zanzibar.
The capital, Stone Town, is home to a fascinating maze of narrow streets, whilst the islands pristine beaches provide visitors with reef-protected warm waters for a wide range of activities, or simply doing nothing.
The historic part of Zanzibar’s capital is UNESCO World Heritage listed and the cultural heart of the island. This coastal city is a real mix of cultural influences, with labyrinthine alleyways, Sultan’s palaces, weathered historic buildings, intricate architectural details and bustling market stalls – a real assault on the senses.
Visit the House of Wonders, Stone Town’s largest building, built in 1883 for the second Sultan of Zanzibar, and now a museum dedicated to Zanzibar’s history and culture. Wander around the old forts and vibrant markets, and visit the site of the former slave market. Then head to one of the rooftop restaurants for a bite to eat or a refreshing drink.
Zanzibar’s stunning palm-fringed beaches surrounded by warm Indian Ocean combine perfectly with a safari on mainland Tanzania, or a beach holiday in its own right.
Amongst the island’s best are beautiful Nungwi at the northern tip of the island, Matemwe in the north east and the whole coastline down the east of the island to Makunduchi in the south. There’s also several smaller islands set offshore including Mnemba Island, a private oasis. Spend your days soaking up the sun, diving and snorkelling amongst the Zanzibar’s world renowned coral reefs, trying your hand at watersports, or being pampered with spa treatments during the day and wining and dining at night.
It’s also worth taking a tour of the traditional farms found inland from the beaches where Zanzibari’s have grown cloves, cinnamon, vanilla and nutmeg for hundreds of years. Discover where and how the spices are grown and how they have influenced local cuisine as well as providing essential exports for the islands.
ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW
- Arab traders used Zanzibar as their base to launch slave-raiding expeditions in the interior of East Africa. It was then the central market place for the highly profitable slave trade.
- Queen front man, Freddie Mercury, was born in Stone Town, Zanzibar. Mercury was a Parsi, and spent his upbringing on the island and India until he reached his mid-teens. This led to him being dubbed Britain’s “First Asian Rock Star”.
- As well as tourism and raffia (used for textiles, ropes, roof coverings) Zanzibar’s economy is dependent on the islands spices - cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and black pepper.
- Bottlenose calves normally stay with their mother until the age of 1.5 – 2 years but can stay for as long as 5 years. They have a life span of more than 40 years. They travel up to 100 km a day in search for food.
- The Zanzibar International Film Festival is the largest cultural event in East Africa, giving out 12 international awards presented by 5 international juries.
- The shortest war ever recorded by man is the Anglo-Zanzibar War where the British bombarded the Beit al Hukum Palace and after 38 minutes, a ceasefire was called.
- Tanzania is the home of the coconut crab. This, the largest crab in the world (and reportedly one of the most delicious), can be found on Chumbe Island off Zanzibar