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White beach, palm trees and beach hotel in Zanzibar.
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  More about Zanzibar
Getting there
The most convenient way to get to Zanzibar (and Pemba and Mafia) is flying. There are daily scheduled flights from Arusha, Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. There are also boats from Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar.
Tanzania map
Tanzania map.
  Glossary
Safari glossary
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This page in Swedish
Go to www.savannen.com for this page in Swedish.
 
 
The coast:
Zanzibar
Many safari-goers combine their safari in Kenya or Tanzania with a beach holiday on the East African coast, where Zanzibar Island is the main Tanzanian destination. The island is situated in the Indian Ocean, off the Tanzanian coast, and offers white beaches, palm trees and pleasant water temperatures all year round, and good opportunities for snorkelling, diving and big game fishing.

Zanzibar has a long history, featuring sultans, slave traders, colonial rule and explorers such as Livingstone, Burton and Speke. Many visitors come to see Stonetown, the old Arabian style parts of Zanzibar Town, situated on the western side of the island, and to visit other sites around Zanzibar where remains from the long Arabian rule that has given the island its atmosphere can be found.

Zanzibar Paje Michamwi & Bwejuu Uroa & Chwaka Pongwe Kiwengwa Matemwe Nungwi Kendwa Jozani Forest Zanzibar International Airport (ZNZ/HTZA) Zanzibar Town and Stonetown
The slave trade, once a source of wealth to the island, has stopped since 130 years, but the spice plantations, another such source, are still there to see.

North of Zanzibar is Pemba Island, a prime area for diving, while Mafia Island, a beautiful but still sparsely visited beach island, is further south along the coast.

A good place for diving: Mnemba Island off north-eastern Zanzibar.

Beach holidays on Zanzibar Island
Zanzibar's main attractions are the beaches and the Indian Ocean, and most hotels are situated along eastern Zanzibar, which has the best beaches. New hotels keep opening, but they are not yet crowding up. Some concentrations of hotels can be found north of Paje, north of Kiwengwa and around (mainly to the south-west of) Nungwi. You can't expect to find yourself alone on the beach when staying in the major hotels, but in some hotels and in some areas, you may walk the beaches disturbed by no one.

Beach hotels
Most beach hotels and resorts are next to the beach (the beaches themselves are not private) and most, except for budget hotels, have swimming pools. Many beaches are affected by the tides, and you may prefer the swimming pool during low tide.

The major hotels have dive and watersport centres offering tours to good dive and snorkelling sites, dive courses etc. The best area for diving and snorkelling is probably Mnemba Island, a tiny island just off north-eastern Zanzibar, surrounded by great reefs.

Beach boys, haunting the beaches around for example Mombasa in Kenya, are rarely seen on Zanzibar.

Town hotels
Most visitors spend their full stay in a beach hotel or resort, but some choose to add one or two nights in Stonetown, to explore the town and its fortress, harbour, alleys and atmosphere. Some Stonetown hotels don't serve alcohol.

More about hotels on Zanzibar

Seasons and temperatures
The coastal climate is similar to the inland climate, but the coastal air is more humid. One or two showers during the day are not uncommon, but they pass quickly. The climate allows for swimming all year round. The temperatures during the hottest part of the year, roughly October to March, range from 30ºC/85ºF to 35ºC/95ºF. During the rest of the year, you can expect temperatures from 25ºC/77ºF.

The rainy season during April and May means that you can expect rainfall, and as these months are not very good for safaris either, you may want to visit the island during another time of year. The lighter rains usually coming during November shouldn't be a problem for visiting Zanzibar.

Visiting Zanzibar
Map of Zanzibar.Zanzibar is a part of Tanzania, which means that you can use the same currency (TZS, Tanzanian shillings) and the same visa for a mainland safari and for visiting Zanzibar.

From northern Tanzania
The most convenient way of getting to Zanzibar after a safari or a mountain climb in northern Tanzania (where you'll find for example Serengeti, Ngorongoro and Kilimanjaro) is flying from Arusha Airport (ARK/HTAR) or Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO/HTKJ).

From southern Tanzania
From a safari in southern Tanzania (Selous, Mikumi and Ruaha), you may fly from Dar es Salaam (DAR/HTDA) or book a flight from Selous or Ruaha to Zanzibar. There is also a boat service from Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar Town.

From Kenya
Safari-goers visiting Kenya can also combine their safari with visiting Zanzibar. There are daily scheduled flights from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO/HKJK) in Nairobi to Zanzibar. Your Kenyan visa isn't valid for Zanzibar; you need a Tanzanian visa for visiting the island.

Hotels
There are many hotels in Zanzibar Town, and many along the coast of Zanzibar Island, ranging from basic to luxurious.

Departure tax
When departing from Zanzibar by air, you have to pay a local departure tax. The tax is USD 30 for international destinations or USD 5 for destinations within Tanzania (both rates as of 1 January 2008). The tax can only be paid in cash in the airport, i.e. can't be included in tour prices.

Beach hotel on Zanzibar Island.

Safaris from Zanzibar
Apart from the red colobus monkeys found in the Jozani Forest (where you can go on day tours), Zanzibar has little wildlife. You have to leave the island to see zebras, giraffes and other classic African safari wildlife.

The safari area closest to Zanzibar is southern Tanzania, where Selous and Ruaha are easily accessed by air. There are no scheduled flights to Mikumi, though, but you can get there by road or rail from Dar es Salaam.

Serengeti, Ngorongoro and other parks in northern Tanzania can be visited by air via Arusha, or you can fly to Arusha and do a safari by road from there. In Kenya, you may visit for example Masai Mara by air via Nairobi.

Saadani, a small park situated on the Tanzanian mainland coast not far from Zanzibar, may be visited by air or boat from the island.

More about Zanzibar
Tanzania is a union of two states: the mainland state TANganyika and the island state ZANzibar.

The state of Zanzibar includes two main islands just off the mainland coast, called Unguja (which is the island that is usually, and on this web site, called Zanzibar Island) and its smaller neighbour Pemba Island.

Zanzibar Island is low, about 85 km/53 mi long and 20 km/12 mi wide, covering 1,650 km2/637 sq mi. It's situated 40 km/25 mi east of Bagamoyo Town on the Tanzanian coast, just north of Dar es Salaam.

The island has a population of about one million, of which 400,000 live in Zanzibar Town. 99 % of the population is Muslim, the remaining 1 % Christian or Hindu. Most live from farming or fishing. Cloves and other spices, copra and seaweed are important export products, and the tourist industry has grown in importance during recent years.

History
The first humans arrived in Zanzibar some 3,000–4,000 years ago, and African mainland tribes started populating the island for real about 1000 A.D. They were soon joined by Arabian traders settling on the island. At that time, trade between the Arabian Peninsula and East Africa had been going on for centuries; slaves and ivory from the African inland was traded for textiles, weapons and other metal articles.

The Portuguese took control in the early 1500's, but lost it to the sultan of Oman in the late 1600's. Zanzibar became a British protectorate in the late 1800's. The shortest war in history, lasting for 45 minutes, was fought in 1896 between the British and the successor to the recently deceased sultan. The British used gunboats and troops to oust the successor, and installed a new and friendlier sultan.

Zanzibar became independent in December 1963. The ruling sultan was dethroned in a coup a month later, and after pressure from abroad, the island state entered a union with mainland Tanganyika in April 1964, forming The United Republic of Tanzania.

The slave trade
The slave trade was formerly the core of the Zanzibar economy. Slaves were brought in caravans from the African mainland to the coast, shipped to Zanzibar and there sold in the slave market in Zanzibar Town. The British, who gradually increased their influence in East Africa during the 1800's, were fighting slavery, and the trade was banned in the 1870's. This was followed by a ban on ivory trade in the 1880's. At this stage, the spice and copra trade hade already become an important source of income, and still is, both to Zanzibar and Pemba Island.

Pemba
Map of Pemba.Pemba Island is situated north of Zanzibar, and also has a history in the spice and slave trades. Pemba still has an important production of cloves.

The island is not as known among tourists as Zanzibar, and doesn't have as many good beaches. There are sights such as ruins, fortresses and mosques, but Pemba is mainly known for its diving. The dive sites of southern Pemba are world-class.

Pemba doesn't have much wildlife, but there are some endemic birds and mammals, such as a blue duiker subspecies, a vervet monkey subspecies and a fruit bat only found in Pemba. Like in Mafia Island, there is also an introduced population of wild boars.

Mafia
Mafia is situated south of Zanzibar, and has fewer visitors than both Zanzibar and Pemba. A marine national reserve protects the reefs, tidal banks and mangroves. Many visitors come to dive (the diving is considered to be very good), snorkel or fish for big game.

Mafia and the smaller islands in its surrounding archipelago have monkeys, some antelopes and a lot of birds. A local fruit bat species isn't found anywhere else in East Africa.

South of Mafia is Songo Songo, a considerably smaller island, which is surrounded by islands and reefs with a fantastic marine life.

Stone Town in Zanzibar Town.

Culture and people
The culture of the East African coast, including the islands, is a result from the meeting between African tribes and seafarers from far abroad. During the last number of centuries, Portuguese, German and British influences have been added to the older and stronger Arabian elements in the culture. Arabian traders started sailing to the East African coast more than a thousand years ago, and much of the coast has been ruled by sultans. Today the coastal population in predominantly Muslim. Swahili, the lingua franca spoken all over East Africa, originally came from the coast, and is a result from African Bantu languages merging with Arabic. Along the Kenyan and Tanzanian coasts, there are many examples of Arabian influences on architecture and settlements.

 
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Page updated 27 April 2013