| 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There are many hotels in Zanzibar Town, and many along the coast of Zanzibar Island,
ranging from basic to luxurious.
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.
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
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
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.
The first humans arrived in Zanzibar some 3,0004,000 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.
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 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.
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.