Off the east coast of Africa lie the mythical Spice Islands of Zanzibar, seeming to float in the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean. A vacation in Zanzibar promises to be a historical, cultural, culinary and ecological experience. The islands –actually two large islands, Ungoja and Pemba, plus other smaller islands – boast a distinct ethnic history that bears witness to the many voyagers who passed through them for centuries: Arabs, Indians, Persians, Europeans, and Chinese. They each left their mark in architectural styles and culture that now contribute to Zanzibar’s charm.
Along with strong Swahili influences, the Zanzibar you see today is unique in every respect: language, cuisine, fruit and spices, furniture styles, fabrics, hand-crafted artifacts and jewelry, and the natural wonders that set it apart from any other island or seaside destination in Africa.
Here are 8 undeniable reasons why you should drop everything, pack your bags, and travel to Zanzibar:
1. Stone Town
This city’s “cool” claim to fame is as the birthplace of Freddy Mercury: if that is not enough to lure you, then there are dozens of other activities in Stone Town. The capital of Zanzibar, it has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Walk through its narrow labyrinth alleyways. The famous and beautiful Zanzibar doors with their intricate carvings and metal details are a photographer’s delight. Cafes peddle brightly colored tamarind drinks, and there’s a lively central market called the Forodhoni Market, where fish mongers, butchers and produce vendors sell their goods. Saffron – one of the world’s most expensive spices – is actually very cheap here. Stone Town is Zanizbar’s Mecca for avid shoppers, with vendors selling everything from jewelry to bags and accessories, and from clothes to artisanal crafts.
2. Gorgeous Beaches
Their pristine white sands, picturesque dhows bobbing off shore, and looming palm trees combine to create a spell of beauty and tranquility. This is truly the island paradise you have been dreaming about: The tropical waters make for good snorkeling and diving, too.
3. Delicious Cuisine
Whole fish grilled on open fire; tuna on skewers with chili dipping sauce; giant prawns with garlic; huge crab claws. Dine on a patio on the beach or, if you’re into street food, head to the Forodhani Gardens night market and get the seafood pancake, a crispy fried crepe-like dough with fresh fish, veggies, and an egg mixed in to bind it all together. The restaurants in Zanzibar offer tantalizing delicacies that combine the culinary heritage of many different peoples and cultures throughout the centuries. Finish off your meal with Tanzanian coffee – Africa’s best – offered in a variety of flavors.
4. Thrilling Water Activities
Zanzibar’s islands are composed of ancient, beautiful coral in reefs that are ideal for snorkeling and scuba diving. Shipwrecks have become a fascinating part of the coral environment where dozens of exotic fish have made their home. You can also try your hand at deep-sea fishing with professional guides. If you prefer something more relaxing, you can enjoy a dhow cruise in a traditional hand-crafted Swahili boat. A dhow cruise will give you some of the best sight-seeing opportunities available.
5. Weather and Climate
Thanks to its equatorial location, Zanzibar has a tropical climate allowing you to plan your vacation at any time of year. Even when it’s hot, cool breezes from the coast make the heat much more enjoyable. There is an average of 7 hours of sunshine every day. February is the hottest month, and temperatures average at 28°C (82°F) and July is Zanzibar’s coldest month at 24°C (75°F). April is the wettest month, with an average of 401mm of precipitation.
6. Delightful Accommodation
Whether you are looking for luxury hotels, back-packer hostels, campsite retreats or self-catering apartments, Zanzibar has a lot to offer. Some of the most luxurious hotels and resorts, such as Kichanga Lodge and Blue Bay Beach Resort & Spa offer exquisitely decorated rooms, sumptuous cuisine, and a host of facilities and activities to make your holiday dreams come true. If you prefer something less lavish, or are traveling on a budget, there are dozens of options around the island, in Stone Town and along the beaches. Guest houses, budget hotels, back-packers hostels...you can tailor your tour in Zanzibar to suit your budget.
7. Fascinating Exotic and Exciting Tours
A Spice Tour is a must, as the island is world-renowned for cinnamon, chilies, nutmeg, black pepper, ginger, cloves, turmeric, lemon grass, and many more. Visit the spice plantations and pluck them from shrubs and trees. Spices are also used as coloring, and you can see the vibrant clothing dyed using the colors extracted from spices.
There are a variety of other types of tours, as well. Quad biking tours take you to little Zanzibari hamlets that you can only reach by this mode of transportation. For a fascinating experience, you can visit the Jozani Forest Reserve, where the rare and endangered Red Colobus monkeys are being pulled back from the brink of extinction. Why not add a visit to the Seaweed Center in Paje to learn how women are being trained in seaweed farming?
Other fun excursions include:
- horse riding on the beach
Speak to tour operators in Zanzibar for information on any activities that you want to do there.
8. A Mix of Culture, Music and Museums
If you’re keen to experience and enjoy real Zanzibar Taarab music, the Culture Musical Club in Stone Town is one of the most creative venues. If you have weakness for discovering the history and culture, Zanzibar is full of historic museums and galleries. Places like; Zanzibar Gallery, Palace Museum, and Peace Memorial Museum will give you a wonderful insight into this amazing and culturally diverse island.
Zanzibar has something to offer every kind of traveler, from the history enthusiast to the eco-tourist and from the water-sports enthusiast, to the wildlife devotee. Start packing your bags for Zanzibar, and get ready for an unforgettable travel experience.
Originally posted on the Online Zanzibar blog.