One of the world’s most beautiful islands, Zanzibar is a jewel of the Indian ocean off the coast of Kenya and Tanzania. From pristine white beaches, Arabian dhows, colourful bazaars, to a mystifying network of narrow alleyways – Zanzibar (known locally as Unguja) evokes mystery and romance.
Ruled in the middle ages by sultans, the narrow streets of the magical,ancient Stone Town are just some of the vivid reminders of the Island’s long and colourful history. The island lies off the coast of Tanzania in the Indian Ocean and its shores, once the launching grounds for the great European explorers Burton, Speke, Krapf, Reubman, Stanley and Livingstone as they set out on their voyages of discovery into the hinterland, are now populated by fishermen wading to their boat, brightly dressed women husking coconuts and children gathering seaweed.
Things to do:
◦ Lie on the beach! This IS one of the most gorgeous islands in the world, so seriously plan to spend a lot of your time here enjoying the sun and surf. Paje Beach is especially known for its “Fantastic white sands stretching for miles!” as is Bwejuu beach and Uroa Bay – a veritable island paradise …
◦ The Old Town – Walking through Zanzibar’s Old Town is like taking a time travel capsule – an incredible place that’s filled with history and the flavour of the sultans and kings who ruled this tiny archipelago centuries ago. While you’re there, visit “The tallest and most peculiar building on the island – the House of Wonders (Beit-el-Ajaib) and don’t go past the Malindi Mosque or the Hamamni Persian Baths. There’s also a chance to glimpse Zanzibar’s royal heritage at the Palace Museum (Beit al-Sahel) and finally you can relax and eat great food at “Forodhani Park.
◦ When you’ve had enough sun for the day, why not head out to The Zanzibar Butterfly Centre which showcases a wide variety of these stunning, fluttering insects that are a local fixture. The project itself was designed to give back to the community so you’ll feel good looking at the butterflies and giving back as well to the local people.
◦ Diving is a great activity to try on Zanzibar and the Spanish Dancer Divers is one of the oldest dive centers on Zanzibar that offers next to professional, safe and fun diving. The East Africa Diving Centre in Nungwi is another dive operator on the island, as is the Scuba Libre Diving Centre in Matemwe.
◦ Sandbank Picnic – Dhow Safaris – Take a full day excursion is suitable on a dhow – the traditional Arabic sail boats and indulge in a nostalgic voyage of great food, wonderful views of the sea and stories of sultans and an era gone by.
Where to stay:
If you want to get away from it all on Zanzibar, then Kilindi might just be the answer! The domed “pavilions”, which overlook Tumbatu Island in the north, are scattered across 52 acres and bordered by casuarina forest. Each pavilion has two rainwater plunge pools (with a waterfall inbetween), as well as domed living and sleeping spaces open to the sea. Designed by Neil Rocher (who also designed Shompole & Luangwa House, amongst others) in conjunction with some long-serving Tanzanian specialists, Kilindi brings a welcome dash of pizzazz to the island. http://elewanacollection.com/kilindi-zanzibar
◦ The Mashariki Palace
Once the seat of the Omani empire spanning a thousand miles, created by the first sultan of Zanzibar almost 200 years ago, Mashariki Palace, the Sultan of Zanzibar’s ancient palace, reopened as an elegant 18-room hotel in 2011. The decor is cool and minimalist with a traditional twist- echoes of its proud Persian, Arabian, Indian, Colonial and African influences. Try tapas and cocktails on the rooftop bar, gazing down at the bustle of the old town and out to the Indian Ocean. www.masharikipalacehotel.com