Zanzibar is as exotic as it sounds, as romantic as legend makes it, as intriguing as its past and as colourful as it promises to be. Once the trading centre of the whole of East Africa, the islands attracted Sumerians, Assyrians, Phoenicians, Arabs, Chinese and Malays. Sultans, slave traders and spice kings built empires, consolidated fortunes and began dynasties in Zanzibar. Go back and forth in history and the stories remain the same - of intrepid travellers, sailors, merchants and explorers who laid their lives on line to follow their passion to map the places no one had ever been to. They came in fragile fishing boats, in graceful dhows, impressive schooners and splendid ships to Zanzibar. Zanzibar was the starting point for the great European missionaries, adventurers and explorers - Livingstone, Stanley, Burton, Speke and Krapf who ventured into the unknown African hinterland. Modern Zanzibar attracts a different kind of traveller - one in search of the perfect holiday destination.
Zanzibar is an international terminus served by the national airline, Air Tanzania (TC) that connects it to destinations in Asia, Africa and Europe. Other international airlines also fly to Zanzibar. Airport facilities include shops, post office, bar and restaurant. A Departure Tax of US$20 has to be paid in cash before international departures from Zanzibar. The national carrier also serves on all internal routes, and has daily flights to Zanzibar. Privately operated light aircraft companies provide services between the mainland and the offshore islands of Pemba and Unguja (Zanzibar).
Ocean freighters, passenger liners, ferries and steamers connect the island of Zanzibar to other destinations in and around the region. Speedboats plying between Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar take around 2/3 hours one way. Pemba Island is connected to the mainland via Zanzibar. Schedules for ferry and steamer services can be obtained from the office of TRC at Dar es Salaam.
The island of Zanzibar offers plenty of options for places to stay to visitors. The accommodation choice runs from resort style luxury hotels to budget ones with basic facilities. The picturesque eastern coast of Zanzibar and Stone Town are the main areas where most of the hotels are centred. Stone Town has some of the old houses/mansions converted into hotels. While they don’t have sprawling gardens or sea views, they have a distinct character and charm of their own.
Essque Zalu, Baraza Resort & Spa, Sea Cliff Resort & Spa, and Serena Inn among many others is some of the resorts and hotels that you can consider on the island, if you want to relax and laze around in the lap of luxury. If you want to stay in an upscale accommodation that offers all the creature comforts and does not charge exorbitant price for it then you can try the hotels and resorts under the deluxe range. Some of the options that you can consider are Dongwe Club, Hakuna Matata Beach Lodge, and the Z Hotel Zanzibar, among many others. Each of them offers luxurious stay at affordable prices. In case luxury and deluxe hotels and resorts are expensive for you then you can try the mid-segment accommodation. Pongwe Beach Hotel, Chumbe Island Coral Park, Sultan Sands Island Resort, and Zanzibar Dolphin View Paradise among many others are some of the options that you can try under the middle range category. Plenty of options for budget travellers as well. Take your pick from hotels or resorts like Blue Oyster Hotel, Coral Rock Hotel, Mbuyuni Beach Village, and Tembo House Hotel among others.
Best Time to Visit Zanzibar
Generally speaking, any time between July and October or between December and March is good for a trip to Zanzibar though the peak season for Tanzania falls between January and February. Zanzibar has two main rainy seasons - the heavier spell begins around the end of March and lasts till May/June, the short rains begin in November and last until January – these periods are best avoided as the weather gets very hot and humid.
Stone Town, on the western shore of Unguja Island, is the seat of the government of Zanzibar and the capital of this region. The city is named for the large multi-story "stone" buildings in the old quarter. Unlike other houses in the region, the stone houses of Zanzibar were actually constructed with coral and mortar, not stone and were built in the boom times of the slave trade in the 15th century. Most of the old houses stand out for their remarkable doors – the famous carved and studded wooden doors of Zanzibar, the size and style reflecting the status of the resident. Around 1700 of these buildings can still be seen in old Zanzibar, an amazing hotch-potch of narrow alleys, old houses, mosques, ornate palaces and cluttered shops and bazaars.
There are many other interesting places on the island, like
• Mtoni Palace
It is built in the 19th century by an Arab merchant to accommodate 1000 people. The Persian Battis of Kidehi are remarkably well preserved domed bathhouses with deep stone baths. The Jozani Natural Forest Reserve is located in the central east region of Zanzibar Island and is home to the rare Red Colobus Monkey found mostly in Zanzibar.
• Pemba Island
Is the greenest of the islands of Zanzibar and actually looks like a floating forest; so lush is the vegetation on it. The Omanis established the spice plantations on Pemba and the islands produce 80% of the cloves grown in Zanzibar. Pemba or the ‘Garden of God’ has three main towns, Wete, Mkoani and Chake Chake. Archeological sites dating from 9th to15th century have revealed the ruins of mosques, houses, funeral pillars, coins, pearls and pottery fragments. Pemba is separated from the mainland by the Pemba Channel that goes to depths of 3000ft. Coral reefs protect both the island's eastern coasts from stronger currents of the Indian Ocean and allow over 150 species of corals to flourish here. Some of the reefs around Pemba Island rise to the size of towering cliffs. The waters are very clear with visibility up to 150ft at times and offer great fishing for game fish in the Pemba Channel.
• Mafia Island
This is lie 160 km to the south of the main island and is celebrated as the perfect place for big game fishermen to match wits with magnificent specimens of kingfish, marlin, sailfish and rock cod. Scuba divers love to frolic in its clear waters that are home to a rich variety of marine life including the dugong and giant turtles.
• Prison Island or Chumbe Island
It is fringed with a beautiful coral reef, ideal for snorkeling and a lovely beach, tailor-made for a lazy holiday in the sun. The island was used as a penitentiary for recalcitrant slaves but is now home to a family of giant tortoises, brought from the island of Seychelles over a hundred years ago.
• Stone Town
If Zanzibar Town is the archipelago's heart, Stone Town is its soul. It's magical jumble of cobbled alleyways make it easy to spend days wandering around and getting lost - although you can't get lost for long because, sooner or later, you'll end up on either the seafront or Creek Rd.Nevertheless, each twist and turn of the narrow streets brings something new - be it a school full of children chanting verses from the Quran, a beautiful old mansion with overhanging verandas, or a coffee vendor with his long-spouted pot fastened over coals. Along the way, watch the island's rich cultural mélange come to life: Arabic-style houses with their recessed inner courtyards rub shoulders with Indian-influenced buildings boasting ornate balconies and latticework, and bustling oriental bazaars alternate with street-side vending stalls.
Pemba has been overshadowed by Zanzibar, its larger, more visible and more politically powerful neighbor to the south. Although the islands are separated by only 50km, very few tourists cross the channel. Those who do, however, are seldom disappointed because Pemba offers an authentic experience that’s largely disappeared in the archipelago’s other half. Unlike flat, sandy Zanzibar, Pemba’s terrain is hilly, fertile and lushly vegetated. In the days of the Arab traders it was even referred to as ‘al Khuthera’ or ‘the Green Island’. The healthy coral reefs, the steeply dropping walls of the Pemba Channel and an abundance of fish provide world-class diving: the best in East Africa. Unlike Zanzibar, where tourist infrastructure is well developed, Pemba is very much a backwater. Other than a few multistar resorts, facilities range from fairly basic to nonexistent. Pemba remains largely ‘undiscovered’ and you’ll still have most things (even the lovely beaches) more or less to yourself, which is a big part of the island’s appeal.
• Scuba Do
Tammy and Christian's five-star Gold Palm dive center has been operating for over 12 years and is one of the most forward-thinking and ecofriendly outfits on the island. Both are dive masters and Christian is the only Emergency First Response Instructor in Tanzania, while Tammy spearheads beach and underwater clean-up projects. Committed to the local community, they have a well-trained, professional crew of 10 dive masters and offer excellent courses and excursions. Groups of no more than 12 divers dive a range of 20-plus reef sites including Mnemba, which is reached in 30 minutes in their high-speed inflatables. Snorkeling trips visit both Tumbatu and Mnemba (US$45 to US$85), and they also offer budget and multiday cruises on their four-cabin catamaran. You can find them on the beach at Sunset Kendwa
• Seaweed Center
This social enterprise enables the women of Paje to not only harvest their seaweed – which is the island's second-biggest export – but also make a healthy living out of transforming it into desirable organic soaps, scrubs and essential oils. Head to the centre in the village for a fascinating tour of their farms and the processing centre where they dry and make the soaps. You can also have a go at making soap, while recharging with a surprisingly sweet-tasting seaweed smoothie. Bestselling take-home gifts include Pemba honey and citrus scrub, clove soap and bottles of pure coconut oil.
• Maisha Mazuri Horse Riding Club
This well-maintained stable with 13 sleek-looking horses offers a truly unique chance to get out and experience the natural tranquility and beauty of the interior of the island. Five-hour hacks through waving rice fields, dank coral caves and tropical scrub cost US$200. Shorter rides along the beach at Kiwengwa are also possible.
• Pemba Essential Oil Distillery
Visitors to this out-of-town factory can see the tanks where clove stems, cinnamon leaves, eucalyptus leaves; lemongrass and sweet basil are turned into essential oils. Check in at the office and someone will show you around. From July through February locals deliver their clove stems here. The tour may be a little lackadaisical, but the process is fascinating and many of the essential oils are for sale. To reach it head 10 minutes northeast out of town towards Machomani or take dalla-dalla 316.Clove buds are bought and sold in town at the Zanzibar State Trading Corporation warehouse, a short walk southeast of town just past the post office. Both places are best visited in combination with a spice tour, which can be arranged through all travel agencies.
• Kawa Tours
Aimed at benefiting and engaging Stone Town residents, these creative tours cover unusual historical and cultural ground. For example, the Ghost Tour looks at the slave trade and revolution through houses and locations believed to be haunted; the Kids Tour engages children in research and allows them to interact with local games; and the Cooking Workshop takes you shopping in the market and into the kitchen of a home cook for a lesson in regional dishes and local spices. As an extension to your new spicy repertoire, head out on Kawa's cycle tours to the spice plantations and learn to tell your breadfruit from your jackfruit. Or, venture out on the re-cycling adventure and see grassroots projects first hand. A great investment of time, and excellent value.
• Zanzibar National Museum of History & Culture
One of the most prominent buildings in the old Stone Town is the elegant Beit el-Ajaib, now home to the Zanzibar National Museum of History & Culture. It’s also one of the largest structures in Zanzibar. It was built in 1883 by Sultan Barghash (r 1870–88) as a ceremonial palace. In 1896 it was the target of a British naval bombardment, the object of which was to force Khalid bin Barghash, who had tried to seize the throne after the death of Sultan Hamad (r 1893–96), to abdicate in favour of a British nominee. After it was rebuilt, Sultan Hamoud (r 1902–11) used the upper floor as a residential palace until his death.
• Jozani Forest
Living among Jozani’s tangle of vines and branches are populations of the endangered red colobus monkey, as well as Sykes monkeys, bush babies, Ader’s duikers and more than 40 species of birds. There’s a nature trail in the forest, which you can follow with an information sheet (it takes about 45 minutes to walk), and to the south a boardwalk extends deep into a creek where you can walk through wild mangroves. When observing the monkeys, take care not to get too close (park staff recommend no closer than 3m) both for your safety and the safety of the animals. In addition to the risk of being bitten, there’s considerable concern that if the monkeys were to catch a human illness it could rapidly wipe out the already threatened population. Tour groups visit around 9.30am and 3pm or 4pm so if you want to avoid them arrive early or late, which are also good times to see the monkeys when they are active. Drinks and simple meals are available at the on-site cafe-restaurant.
• Mtoni Palace
Built for Sultan Seyyid Said in 1828, Mtoni is the oldest palace on Zanzibar. It was home to sultan’s only legitimate wife, many secondary wives and hundreds of children. Located overlooking the sea, the palace was a beautiful building with a balconied exterior, a large garden courtyard complete with peacocks and gazelles, an observation turret and a mosque. Now only an artful ruin remains with grand, roofless halls and arabesque arches framing glimpses of tropical foliage and an azure sea.
Shopping in Zanzibar
The shops in the main market areas of Kiponda Street, Market Street, Malindi Street, Darajani and Mchangani Streets are still full of electronics, cosmetics, textiles, hardware and jewellery from Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and Dubai. Stone Town has shops that sell antiques and souvenirs for tourists like woodcarvings, pottery and paintings. The famous spices of Zanzibar are available everywhere but the best place to but them is on Kiponda Street. Whatever else you buy, don’t buy shells, corals, animals and animal byproducts that endanger the environment and destroy entire species.
Activities in Zanzibar
Zanzibar is reputed to have some of the best scuba diving in the world on the northeast coast amongst the coral reef structures that surround Ungula and Pemba. The protective reefs allow marine life to flourish; visibility is good all year round and average water temperature of 27C ensures a happy diving experience and an ideal opportunity for first time divers. Zanzibar is also renowned for excellent deep-sea fishing, the best time for catching really big game fish is from September to March. Mafia Island is the perfect place for big game fishermen who want to bag magnificent specimens of kingfish, marlin, sailfish and rock cod. Mafia Island has a protected marine park off Chloe Bay with an unbroken reef running the length of the island.
Eating Out in Zanzibar
Zanzibar has many places, in all shapes and for all wallet sizes where the weary traveler can rest a while and savor some excellent Zanzibar food, spicy, fragrant and deliciously fresh. Seafood is found in abundance, caught in the offshore waters that teem with lobsters, kingfish, prawns, squid, tuna, cod, marlin and crabs. Fresh vegetables, tropical fruits and the island’s many spices are used to their optimum best by the islanders, who have amalgamated many cuisines like Arab, Indian, Chinese and Malay to create dishes that are a gastronome’s delight. European dishes are also served for the less adventurous, as are a variety on other international cuisines. Entertainment options are restricted; there are no nightclubs or discos on the islands.
Festivals and Events in Zanzibar
The Muslim festival of Eid al-Fitr is celebrated with great pageantry at Makunduchi in Zanzibar in which men from the north and south flay each other with banana leaves, women sing traditional songs as the evening unfolds into a night of feasting and dancing. The Mwakakongwa Festival and the Tamasha Festival are held in Zanzibar every July.
Health & safety
Dangers & annoyances
While Zanzibar remains a relatively safe place, incidents of robberies, muggings and the like occur with some frequency, especially in Zanzibar Town and along the beaches, and there have been several recent violent robberies on east-coast beaches. Avoid isolated areas, especially isolated stretches of beach, and keep your valuables out of view. If you go out at night in Zanzibar Town, take a taxi or walk in a group. Also avoid walking alone in Stone Town during the pre-dawn hours. It’s generally best to leave valuables in your hotel safe, preferably sealed or locked. If you’ve hired a bicycle or motorcycle, avoid isolated stretches of road, and don’t stop if you’re flagged down in isolated areas.
Returning flight from Zanzibar to Chennai
Mumbai to Zanzibar (Oman Aviation (WY)
Zanzibar (ZNZ)WY - 717 L ClassDAR
DAR WY - 717 L Class Muscat (MCT)
Muscat (MCT) WY - 201 L Class Mumbai (BOM) (+1)
Cochin-Zanzibar (Oman Aviation (WY)
Kochi (COK) WY - 226 N Class Muscat (MCT)
Muscat (MCT) WY - 717 N Class Zanzibar (ZNZ)
Returning flight from Zanzibar to Cochin
• Return Air Fare,
• Airport Taxes,
• Return Transfers in Zanzibar,
• Accommodation on Full Board Basis,
• Transport while in Zanzibar as per Itinerary,
• Park fees where needed,
• He Cost of all the Activities and Visits as per Itinerary.
The Package Excludes:
• Purchase of personal and anything which is not quoted in the itinerary.
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