A visit to one of the islands of the Zanzibar archipelago is the perfect end to any Tanzania safari. What better way to relax after climbing Kilimanjaro, canoeing down the Rufiji River or gazing at grazers on the Serengeti plains, than on the endless white coral beaches these islands are endowed with?
For most people the name Zanzibar conjures up an exotic vision of turquoise sea, white sand and palm trees, and indeed these are present in abundance. Visit Zanzibar for yourself during your Tanzania safari, however, and you will see just how much more there is to experience. If you can tear yourself away from the idyllic beaches, you will find ancient Arabic culture, endemic Red Colobus monkeys, traditional dhows, aromatic spices, quaint alleyways, and bustling markets vying for your attention.
The archipelago consists of 3 main islands - Unguja, Pemba and Mafia.
Unguja is the Swahili name for the island that is commonly known as Zanzibar Island. The capital, Stone Town, consists of a maze of narrow alleyways, with ornate carved Arabic wooden doorways, hidden cafes, street markets and roadside stalls. Head away from town to Jozani Forest and you will see the endemic Zanzibar Red Colobus, or take in an unmissable Spice Tour to learn about the trade that put Zanzibar on the map! Finally end up on the white coral sand beaches, where you can find a secluded spot to relax and watch the waves. The snorkelling is sublime and the diving superb - a number of dive operators now offer PADI and NAUI courses so if you don't already dive, what better place to learn?!
Pemba lies just 50 miles to the north of Unguja, but is very different in character. Most visitors never make it this far and Pemba has a sleepy feel to it that makes a good antidote to the bustle of the crowds who flock to Unguja. The landscape is hilly and forested, the people immeasurably friendly and the culture rich. Unlike Unguja, Pemba is on a separate continental shelf, so deep-water fish abound and the diving here is world-reknowned. Currents can be strong so we don't recommend diving here to beginners.
Mafia, south of Unguja, is just opposite the Rufiji Delta. A short flight from Dar es Salaam or the Selous Game Reserve, it provides a sanctuary from the busy life of the mainland and Unguja. The diversity of marine life around Mafia is staggering, with sharks, rays, dolphins, whales, turtles and even dugongs found here, not to mention the countless species of colourful reef fish. From here you can take a traditional dhow to Kilwa and other spots up and down the Swahili coast, or just relax and enjoy the untouched beaches.