The main island of the Zanzibar archipelago is called Unguja, but is usually referred to simply as Zanzibar!
Zanzibar – the name alone evokes an exotic allure. Picture the archetypal tropical island with sandy beaches set in an azure ocean and lush forested hinterland, and you see Zanzibar. In reality, it is all these things and more. From Stone Town, the buzzing capital and busy port, to small lodges on quiet beaches, from sleepy fishing villages to contemporary all-inclusive resorts, you can find them all here. It’s not hard to see why Zanzibar is the ideal beach component to a safari and beach holiday in Tanzania.
Things to do in Zanzibar
- Relax – let’s face it, that’s why you’re really here! After and exciting, full-on safari you’re ready for some well-deserved R&R, and lying on a powder-fine beach lapped by the Indian Ocean is just the ticket.
- Watersports – that water is just too enticing to be ignored. Snorkelling and diving are widely available, with larger hotels and resorts also offering a range of watersports such windsurfing, stand-up paddle boarding, water skiing and sailing. Sea swimming is tide dependent but most beach properties have a pool so you won’t miss out.
- Eat – Zanizbari cuisine epitomises the cultural mix of the island with Arab, Portuguese, Indian and British influences all play their part in Swahili fare. Seafood is plentiful and fresh, spices are grown locally and add an extra frisson, and there’s lots of fruit used fresh, in desserts and drinks. It will set you taste buds into overdrive!
- Explore – Zanzibar is the perfect size for exploring. Wherever you stay you can reach other parts of the island: walk in Jozani Forest spotting colobus monkeys, tour aromatic spice plantations, visit a turtle sanctuary, take a dolphin watching cruise or visit the local village for a taste of island life.
- Stone Town – the capital has historic buildings, museums, palaces, cathedrals, mosques, narrow streets lined with shops, and plenty of cafes and restaurants. The waterfont Forodhani Gardens is the stage for the evening food market, popular with locals and tourists alike.
- Chumbe & Mnemba Islands – these small islands are both just a few kilometres off the Zanzibar coast and are ideal beach getaways for those preferring rustic island living to high-end luxury accommodation. Activities include nature walks and snorkelling by coral reefs among shoals of tropical fish.
- Sunset cruise – it may sound corny, but it has to be done! Step aboard your dhow, a traditional wooden sailing vessel, and cruise along the coast, glass of something chilled in your hand, as you watch the sun slipping down towards the horizon with the sky presenting a dramatic and colourful backdrop. It’s quite a way to round off a day, and, indeed, a holiday.
When to visit Zanzibar
In short, any time, though the months of April and May are the wettest and many hotels and lodges opt to close at this time. The temperature varies little, with days usually in the 30s.
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JUNE TO OCTOBER
- This is the long dry season and the most popular months with long hours of sunshine and not too hot
- The weather is good for sunbathing and sightseeing
- This is peak season and beaches can be busy
- Properties tend to book up in advance
NOVEMBER TO MAY
- Days in January and February are hot and dry
- In January and February the sea is clearest and excellent for diving and snorkelling
- The short rains in November have less impact than the long rains and are interspersed with sunny spells
- The months of April and May are very wet
- Some properties on Zanzibar close in the main rains
Where to stay in Zanzibar
Take your pick! There are small, family-run lodges, chic retreats, rustic hideaways, family-friendly hotels, glitzy resorts and historic mansions. With such a range of styles, sizes and levels, Zanzibar caters for all visitors.