Zanzibar is an exotic island smelling like vanilla and cloves. It is a part of Tanzania and a popular destination of lovers of beaches or water sports, but also of African safari visitors. Besides playing in the sea, the island offers other interesting activities. In the article, we summed up the best of them.  

The beaches of Zanzibar are bordered by palm trees and washed by turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean. The history of Zazibar is very rich, with alternating reigns of the Persians, Portuguese, Omanis and Britons. The last period of prosperity was also a period marked by the slave trade and the spice trade.

If you arrive from Tanzania, you will be surprised by the fact that the local mentality and culture differs a lot. You can go by ferryboat from Dar es Salaam, or by plane – the airport is located cca 7 kms from the center – check the best tips and trick how to find cheap flights.

Stone Town

Stone Town is an ancient center of Zanzibar City designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its name is derived from building material – coral stone, and there is a lot of it on the island. The city was formed by various cultures and religions, and thus many local houses bear architectural features of both Omani and British buildings at the same time. Unfortunately, heritage preservation is not one of the priorities of the city, probably due to financial reasons, which is the reason why the most of the sights are deteriorating. You can stay in nice Zanzibar Hotel.

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House of Miracles was in its time the tallest building in East Africa

The most interesting architectural feature is the massive Zanzibar doors. Most of them are older than the houses themselves. They are made of fine wood from the island and there are various interesting engravings on them. In any case, you cannot fail to notice them.

Stone Town Sightseeing Tips 

One of the most significant landmarks is the House of Wonders that stands right along the seafront. This palace was built in 1883 by the Sultan himself and in that time, it used to be the highest building in the whole eastern Africa. It was the first building on the island to have electricity, a lift and running water.

Across the street, there are the Forodhani Gardens, a park that comes to life in the evening, radiating pleasant atmosphere and giving off various scents. People meet around it and degust local dishes that hey sell at the stalls full of tasty food. Zanzibar pizza is one of the traditional dishes, which actually is a dough filled with minced meat and an egg.

The Old Fort is the Omani fort adjacent to the House of Wonders. Only perimeter wall and a huge amphitheater is all that was left from the original forth; today, the latter is used as a venue for concerts and social events. In the past, the forth was used as an execution ground, a prison, or a marketplace.

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Preserved amphitheater inside the fort Old Fort

Another building with typical colonial features is the Old Dispensary. The building is in a relatively good shape and, actually, it looks like a former hospital on the inside.

We literally came across the Hamamni Persian Baths by accident. In order to enter, you have to find the custodian who lives across the street. We were lucky because his wife was sitting by the entrance and was selling tickets. The Baths were built by the Sultan himself and in service until 1920.

They built the Anglican cathedral in the area which was previously used as a slave market. The cornerstone was laid in the same year the slave trade was abolished. The altar is situated in the exact spot where the whipping post of the market was.

Behind the cathedral, there is St. Monica’s Guest House, where you can find the museum of slavery. Small jail cells where they kept slaves in inhuman conditions are part of the exposition. On the yard, there is the memorial to remember the recent and sad part of Zanzibar history.

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Slavery Memorial in memory of the sad history of Zanzibar

Zanzibar and its beautiful beaches 

The shores of Zanzibar are very diverse. On the east of the island, the beaches nearby Paje and Jambiani are known as a perfect place for kiteboarding. The beaches located on the north part are bordered by coral reefs. The most beautiful beaches looking exactly like those in travel agency catalogues can be found on the north-east of the island, nearby villages of Kendwa and Nungwi. Those places are perfect for scuba divers.

We decided to set off to the Nungwi beach. To get there, we chose to go by local “bus” called Dalla-Dalla. Those are small microbuses crossing the whole island for minimum price. Obviously, expect that there is no set schedule for this kind of transport, and the buses are already full from the beginning of their route. Also, you should not count on having the whole seat for yourself, most likely, you are going to share it with a neighbor. Also, you can travel by cab, but it costs more and you won’t enjoy the journey as much.

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Beautiful beach Nungwi

In Nungwi, we picked a cheap but very good hotel called Homelans Swahili Lodge ( which was not located on a beach but the owner would give us a ride anywhere we wanted for free. Nungwi is a small village surrounded by beautiful beaches and crystal-clear sea and tourist from all over the world travel there. But they would stay in holiday resorts and around beaches, so you don’t come across any in the village, so you can enjoy the real Zanzibar.

eva_profilUnfortunately, I was down with a fever shortly after we arrived. We had planned to scuba dive and visit Paje but we didn’t manage to. After two days spent in bed, I didn’t feel much better and there was only a few days left till our departure. In an effort to save the rest of our vacation, we decided to come back to Stone Town and visit the local hospital, the Tasakhtaa Global Hospital. Even though I had been worried about going to the local hospital, it proved that it was unreasonable. The hospital was newly built, with high-quality facilities and the staff spoke fluent English. I was prescribed strong antibiotics, thanks to which I was much better the next day. Of course, I was not feeling perfectly well, but at least we could continue with our vacation.

Other activities you can do on the island

The Jozani Forest National Park is the only old-growth forest on the island which gradually turns into a mangrove. In the forest, you can admire various trees and already mentioned mangroves to which an experienced guide will call attention. The biggest attraction are small monkeys – the western red colobus – which are the endemic species. Watching them was unforgettable.

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The western red colobus on the tree

The Spice tour is the main attraction of Zanzibar. Visiting the spice island and going on the spice tour is literally a necessity. Around Stone Town, you can come across a few smaller farms where they will guide you through willingly and show you how they cultivate exotic spice. During the guided tour, you can see cinnamon trees, pepper vines, vanilla, Zingiber, nutmeg, cloves and other plants.

Prison Island will offer you delicate sand and bluish sea with the view of the shore of Zanzibar waters. It takes approximately an hour to get to the island and the voyage on motorboat is undemanding. Besides beautiful beaches, there is a preservation area for huge tortoises which they brought from the island of Aldabra of the Maldives hundreds of years ago. The island also offers opportunities for snorkeling or diving, however, we were not very impressed. You will find much more beautiful undersea spectacle on the north of the island.

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Feeding tortoises

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Travel guide to Zanzibar