The name alone is likely to conjure up images of spice markets, palm-fringed beaches, and white-sailed dhows on a turquoise sea. Zanzibar or “Unguja”, the Spice Island, has a history dating back to the 1st century AD when the Greek and Roman ships sailed down the east coast of Africa. The exotic island was a favorite of the Sultans of Oman in the Middle Ages. Zanzibar still exudes Middle Eastern charm which now blends seamlessly with the beat of Africa. Only a short distance off the Tanzania coast, Zanzibar is a perfect spot for beach relaxation after a busy wildlife safari.
Unguza (known as Zanzibar)
Unguja is the island that is commonly known as Zanzibar. It is the largest island in the Zanzibar Archipelago and lies 35 km (22 miles) off the mainland of Tanzania in Central East Africa. Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous region of Tanzania.
The island is flat and sandy with tall palm trees along the coast. In the north, you will find Nungwi and Kendwa, in the northeast, Matemwe, Kiwengwa, Pwani, and Mchangani, in the east, Michamvi, Bwejuu, Paje and Jambiani and in the west, Fumba and Makunduchi. These areas all differ. There is a huge variety of accommodation on the island ranging from exclusive luxury to rustic. Off the main island are some smaller islands that offer exclusivity and are perfect for honeymooners
Stonetown is the old part of Zanzibar City and is a fine example of the Swahili coastal trading towns of East Africa. The town retains its urban fabric and is a photographer’s paradise. Here one can enjoy spice tours, taste local dishes, and walk the cobbled streets of the capital’s old quarter. Stone Town is a UNESCO world heritage site with colorful back street markets and local flavors.
Chumbe Island Coral Park
10 km south of Stone Town, Chumbe Island Coral Park is an award-winning private nature reserve that was developed for the conservation and sustainable management of Chumbe Island. Here one can stay in a small eco-lodge and in addition to snorkeling, do nature walks and visit the historical monuments. The park has a protected reef and is home to 350 species of fish including turtles, sharks and dolphins, 60 species of bird, and the famous Coconut Crab.
Zanzibar’s only National Park and the largest area of mature forest found within Zanzibar. With mangrove forests and salt marshes, this area is an extremely rich mosaic of Zanzibar’s diverse natural habitats. It is a haven for wildlife, including rare, endemic and endangered species such as the Zanzibar Red Colobus monkey. There are only approximately 2000 of these monkeys left in the world.
Mnemba is a tiny privately owned island off the northeast coast of Unguja. Being only 1.5 km (less than a mile) long, this island is an exclusive escape. The offshore reefs provide excellent snorkeling and diving spots and the island is also a nesting site for the endangered green turtle. Although Mnemba Island is privately owned, the reef is open to everyone and is a popular day excursion from Zanzibar.
The lush and green island of Pemba is a 30-minute flight north of Unguja. Unlike Zanzibar which is flat, Pemba is hilly. The undulating hills and deep verdant valleys are all covered with a dense cover of clove, coconut, mango, and other fruit and crop plantations. Much of the coastline is lined with mangroves and lagoons. This is a quiet and exclusive island with magnificent natural beauty and some of the best diving in the world.
Best time to travel:
- Mid-March to Mid-May is a time of heavy rain. Still warm but very wet.
- June to October is the dry season with lower humidity. A good time to visit.
- November is the time of the short rains. An unpredictable month
- December has sporadic rain but in general, it is a very good time to visit.
- January – February is dry and very hot. A good time to visit and the breezes cool the island.
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