Visit Zanzibar

Zanzibar is a small long-form wiki article about the city in Tanzania known as Zanzibar that was originally created on Wikipedia. It has been re-posted to this blog where it continues to grow and develop. The aim of this blog post is to provide an easy access point for visiting Zanzibar, as well as information about other things you can see, do or learn in East Africa.

What You Can Do:

Pemba Beach

Visit the great beaches on Pemba, relax at a spa on Unguja, have a coffee in the capital of Stone Town, or taste some local rhino horn inside Kilimanjaro Park Zoo.

Stone Town

Stone Town is filled with ancient Arab architecture, some of which has been turned into shops and restaurants serving traditional goat curry. Travellers can tour the stone pathways of the Old Fort with their walls covered in Arabic writing and their roots planted deep in time. The island also holds Zanzibar's biggest market where tourists often buy spices such as nutmeg and cloves to take home as souvenirs. The island also holds the country's oldest mosque, a bombed out Crusader castle and a conservatory in Stone Town for the hard-to-find flower called jasmines.

Why You Should Go There

The beaches on Pemba are particularly popular with Westerners. The island's arid climate means there are no resorts or hotels, but the landscape is beautiful.

Zanzibar was one of the first stops on Julius Nyerere's African tour in 1964. In 1983, Zanzibar became a semi-autonomous region of Tanzania, although it still had no real government until 1997 when the two halves of Zanzibar became an autonomous republic and a province in its own right. Zanzibar is now one of Tanzania's leading tourist attractions, and offers foreigners an insight into East African culture that few other places can offer.

Best time to visit Zanzibar

The best time to visit Zanzibar for tourism is from March to May and again from September to November. When the weather is less humid and the temperature is cooler, you'll be able to enjoy Zanzibar's beaches, hotels and restaurants more than during the other seasons. If you like the heat, anytime in between December and February would also be a good time to visit Zanzibar but remember that it gets very crowded during this time!

Zanzibar is a great snorkeling location

Things to pack:

Snorkel gear, Mask and Fins- the currents around Zanzibar are too strong for snorkeling so you may need some fins.

Sunscreen, hat with a wide brim and sunglasses-both the sun and the sand are very strong here. "Tanning" is an important part of Zanzibari culture so don't look like a tourist! If you can avoid it, do NOT go to beaches without sunscreen. You can buy sunscreen on the island or in large towns but it's not as effective as what you would use at home.

Dress modestly (headscarf or pants/shorts for women, long pants and shirt or t-shirt for men)-the locals are very religious here. It's not intruding at all; just respect their culture. Locals will be offended if you wear revealing clothes on the islands' beaches, malls, etc. Women should keep their shoulders covered and do not go topless on the island, no matter how warm it is.

Money belt-Zanzibar is a developing country so pick pocketing is common here. You don't want your passport stolen on your vacation! You can buy money belts in many travel stores before you leave home or in large towns on the island.

Layers of clothes-Zanzibar is in East Africa, which means the weather can be unpredictable. Most days are in the high 70s or low 80s but you could wake up to a torrential downpour. Pack light layers you can easily put one on and take off if the weather changes.

Water bottle-tap water isn't safe here so buy a reusable bottle for water! Most restaurants/hotels will have water available for free but be sure to ask to make sure it's not just recycled. You can buy bottled water at grocery stores if you run out of your reusable bottle and don't want to buy more until you get back home.

Snacks-Zanzibar is a developing country so if you're coming from America or Europe, be prepared for the food to be different. Its cuisine is a fusion of Arabic and African tastes and can be difficult to digest for Westerners because of the spices. If you have a sensitive stomach, pack some snacks you can eat when you're feeling queasy in your hotel room!

Good shoes-Zanzibar is filled with stone paths so make sure your shoes are comfortable. To get around Zanzibar, you can either walk or use a tuk tuk/taxi/shared taxi (in Unguja)/marshrutka (in Pemba).

Here's a list of things to do in Zanzibar:

1. Beach, beach, beach-Zanzibar's beaches are very popular with tourists. You'll need to find your own hotel or resort that can give you free access to the beach but there are plenty of options available on Pemba and one on Unguja. The beaches in Zanzibar are made from coral and sand rather than rocks so they're usually surrounded with palm trees which make for a nice, private setting.

2. Shamwari Game Reserve– this is a large wildlife park located in the eastern parts of Zanzibar where you can see rhinos, lions and other dangerous game and see them up close. The park is very expensive. If you can afford it, it could be an incredible experience.

Jozani Forest

3. Jozani Forest - this is a forest that blends into the national parks and reserves of Pemba. It's a great place to see animals and birds but be warned that the mosquitos are particularly bad here. Wear long sleeves and bring bug spray!

4. Stone Town-this is the oldest city in East Africa and it's surrounded by medieval buildings covered with Arabic writing. The island has several mosques and churches that are hundreds of years old as well as traditional houses where locals have lived in for generations. It's a fascinating place to visit.

5. Zanzibar City-this is where you'll find most of the shopping, restaurants and hotels on the island and it's relatively modern compared to other parts of Zanzibar.

6. Pemba Island-looking for something a little quieter than Stone Town? Pemba is the second largest island in Zanzibar and has gorgeous beaches on its northern coast and lovely beaches on its southern coast.

7. Stonetown Market-this is one of the largest open air markets on Pemba. While it's not as big as Tanzania's famous Kariakoo Market, there are still many crafts available for purchase at reasonable prices. This is also a great place to get an authentic Zanzibari meal for lunch or dinner!

Paje Beach

8. Paje Hill-this is a great lookout point on Zanzibar from which you can see Pemba, Unguja and the sea. It's located near Chake Chake (the main beach of Unguja).