Zanzibar Travel Guide
Introduction to Zanzibar
Situated off the coast of Tanzania, Zanzibar stands out from the mainland in its culture, as it has served as a trading post with a strong Arabic influence for centuries. While more Swahili-speaking Tanzanians have made the move to this vibrant place in the present day, it has a markedly different feel compared to Dar Es Salaam or Arusha.
With a checkered and rich history, plantations of spices everywhere and some of Africa’s most stunning beaches, coming here on a Tanzanian holiday is a must.
Cultural Attractions in Zanzibar
After getting settled, waste no time in exploring the narrow streets of Stone Town. The historical centre of Zanzibar city, there are many well-crafted structures built of coral rock that are just waiting to be discovered.
The most significant of these is the Old Fort, which was constructed by the Omanis in the 17th century to protect their economic interests from the colonial powers of Europe. It famously managed to fend off one major assault from the Portuguese, thereby helping to ensure the semi-autonomy of this island through to the present day.
The House of Wonders (so named due to its status as the first home on Zanzibar to have electricity and running water) is another worthwhile attraction, it is home to a museum on island and Swahili culture.
While these and other points of interest will hold your interest for days, make a point to visit the former Slave Market early on in your visit. As fabulous as Zanzibar was and is, there’s no escaping the fact that it derived a considerable portion of its wealth from the slave trade.
Here, captured Africans from the continent were herded together like cattle, shown off, and then auctioned off to buyers from all over the world. While the site of the former market lacks displays that would tell its story to those that would prefer to guide themselves, the cellars where these poor human beings were packed like sardines gives the mind enough room to imagine the horror of that time in history.
Being situated in the tropics, there is plenty of food that is grown on the island of Zanzibar and caught off its coast. You can check out all of it in its brilliance at Darajani Bazaar, which contains everything from tropical fruit to the spices for which this archipelago is famous.
Be sure to dress appropriately though; while the weather is steamy, and the beaches aren’t that far away, the local culture is a conservative one, making for uncomfortable confrontations should you walk in shirtless or with a bikini top on.
Other Attractions in Zanzibar
While it is primarily known for the architecture of Stone Town and the sublime beaches found along its coastline, Zanzibar is also a well-known breeding ground for sea turtles. Historically, they have been hunted for their shells and the meat that lay within, but with many species threatened or endangered these days, these activities have begun to be curtailed in favour of a focus on conservation.
Visitors can observe these efforts by paying a visit to the Mnarani Marine Turtles Conservation Pond, where local volunteers protect turtle nests, clean the beach regularly, and assist in other matters related to their long-term recovery. Visitors can interact with the turtles in the sanctuary by feeding and swimming with them, and guided tours are also available.
Of all the agricultural products produced on the island of Zanzibar, none are more famous than its variety of spices. Those looking to learn more about these products should pay a visit to the Zanzibar Spices and Heritage Centre, as it contains everything from vanilla to black pepper to cloves. The guides here speak excellent English, making this attraction an outstanding learning experience.
Finally, the beaches that ring the islands of the Zanzibar archipelago are some of the biggest tourist draws to this part of Africa. There are many dreamy strips of sand where you will be able to find your own personal paradise, but there are three beaches that are our personal favourites.
Nakupenda Beach is an easy choice for those looking for the perfect beach, as it has crystal clear water, local beachside cooks that prepare fresh seafood all day, and opportunities to swim with local pods of dolphins.
Next, be sure to visit Nungwi Beach, as its location at the northern tip of the island of Zanzibar will provide some of the best ocean views in a place with countless amazing vistas. This area is built up with a variety of resorts, making it a great place for those looking for amazing beaches and plenty of creature comforts.
Finally, Paje Beach is a must for those that love kitesurfing, as it is exposed to the open Indian Ocean, as it is on Zanzibar’s eastern coast. Even if you aren’t into that, the mesmerizing vistas (especially at low tide) and the sleepy fisherman’s village atmosphere makes it an amazing place to spend the bulk of your holiday here.