Sun and sea, beaches and scenery. Romance. Romance. Romance. For lovers, beach lovers and scuba divers there can be nothing better than a trip to a sunny island, and Zanzibar qualifies in spades.
Located 25kms off the shore of Tanzania in the Indian Ocean, Zanzibar offers a paradise bar none. Consisting of two main islands, Unguja is the largest and is generally known as Zanzibar Island. So far unspoilt, we can only hope that doesn’t change.
The water sports are sublime, with all the favourites, snorkelling, deep sea fishing, waterskiing, sailing on local dhows, windsurfing, kayaking and scuba diving with local dive schools. Gorgeous beaches, including Paje and Kendwa, endless sand and warm and gentle waves make swimming or diving absolute heaven.
There’s plenty to see here, too. Stone Town takes you back into history with sights including the Palace museum, the Arab fort, Dr Livingstone’s house and the House of Wonders. The busy markets are highlighted by a vast array of foodstuffs.
Through winding alleys with studded and carved doors, you will discover religious buildings including two cathedrals and lots of mosques, and a trip to Sultan Barghash’s harem in Marahubi should also be on the list.
The Daranjani market, known as Estella after a local countess, is very similar to when it first opened in 1904. Here Zanzibaris peddle their wares of meat, seafood and vegetables, spices and fabric, all in different sections, with a lot of haggling going on.
Zanzibar was part of the spice route in the 16th Century and is famous to this day for its cloves, amongst other spices.
The second one, Forodhani Night Food market is held at Forodhani Gardens, on the waterfront. The chefs in their traditional whites and chefs hats all standing behind grills, waiting to cook sublime seafood, lobster, crab, seafood kebabs, squid and prawns to order. The aromas are out of this world, so don’t eat before you visit.
Frequented by locals, you know you are getting good, traditional street food. Families bring blankets to sit and enjoy their dinner in the gardens after queuing by the light of gas lamps, woks and grills.
Tourists stick out like sore thumbs, with men in shorts and women being encouraged to cover up a little, respecting local culture. With this carnival atmosphere, it beats sitting in a formal restaurant hands down.
Ras Nungwi is the dhow-building centre of Zanzibar, a sleepy fishing village in the north where watching the traditional methods of building these boats is one of the highlights.
The whole area is home to stunning beaches and coral reefs, inviting and welcoming snorkellers and scuba divers. There is also a fascinating turtle sanctuary, with a hospital for injured turtles and other marine animals.
Kizimkazi, in the south of the island, is another fishing village where schools of bottle-nosed dolphins are frequently seen from the decks of boats a short way from the shore.
Swimming with these magnificent animals is also possible, and an experience that shouldn’t be missed. The 12th-century mosque, proclaiming the earliest confirmation of Islam in East Africa is also well worth a visit.
Prison Island lies a short distance from Stone Town, originally a jail for criminal or misbehaving slaves. Home to a family of giant tortoises introduced to the area in the 19th Century by Seychellois travellers, with a beautiful coral reef and white sand, it is popular for sun-bathing and snorkelling.
Getting close to nature is easy at the Jozani Natural Forest reserve in the centre of Zanzibar. Home to the rare Red Colobus Monkey which is indigenous to the area, these monkeys can be seen close up, roaming the area freely. The Skye’s monkeys, some small buck and bush pigs, also inhabit the park.