When I was a wee sprite growing up on the Cloud I dreamt of the most exotic place I could imagine. That magical place was Zanzibar, a gorgeous archipelago of islands off the east coast of Africa in the country of Tanzania. The Zanzibar I’ve loved for decades is an unspoiled paradise that is welcoming to all visitors and a great place to see one of the most harmonious melting pot of cultures anywhere in the world!
Just 40km (25 miles) off the coast, Zanzibar has been occupied for thousands of years because of its gentle beaches, safe anchorage and strategic location. The Romans knew of Zanzibar and called it by the Greek name ‘Menuthias’.
Zanzibar has more exotic charms than a witchdoctor!
From 1698, Zanzibar and nearby Dar Es Salaam became part of the Sultanate of Oman, a relationship that lasted almost into the 20th Century. This relationship brought Zanzibar into the wider Arab and Indian world and gave the islands their characteristic multi-cultural feel. The British held Zanzibar as a protectorate, but not as a possession, until 1963 when the protectorate status ended. A few years later, Zanzibar became part of Tanzania but is an autonomous region of that country.
Your first view of Zanzibar might give you the blues!
Here’s a Pro-tip: The currency of Zanzibar is the Tanzania Shilling which is currently about 3000 to the GB£. Cash machines are located at the airport, in Stone Town and in Zanzibar City. While Zanzibar is a very good value, I’d recommend taking advantage of sparse cash machines to take a little currency that you can use throughout your stay.
As you would expect from such an exotic location, many of the attractions are related to the outstanding natural beauty of the area. Here are my favourite things to see and do:
Stone Town: This community holds so much historical importance to Zanzibar that many assume it’s the capital but nearby Zanzibar City is the actual seat of government. From the Old Fort and Forodhani Park to the Cultural Centre, this town has a marvellous history and is worthy of leisurely exploration.
What’s Homer’s favourite boat? Dhow!
Butterfly Centre: Take a guided tour of this sanctuary that features many native species of these gentle and ephemeral creatures. The beauty and serenity of these netted gardens will allow you to contemplate the natural beauty of the largest butterfly sanctuary in East Africa.
Local Beaches: some of the very best beaches in the entire world are in Zanzibar. My favourites include Nakupenda and Nungwi beaches. These beaches offer the scenery and serenity I longed for when I was a child!
Don’t monkey around with this sweet guy!
Here’s another Pro-Tip: Taking pictures of local residents without permission is considered an offence and rude. If you wish to take pictures, please ask permission and show proper respect.
I wonder if Dwayne Johnson has visited this restaurant?!
The Rock: The Rock restaurant offers luscious scenery and exquisite food! Literally located on a rock, it provides the freshest and best seafood recipes on this side of the Indian Ocean. The rock is a very small venue, so you must make reservations ahead.
La Taverna: This is your go-to spot for crispy pizza and other freshly made Italian dishes. It also features top international wines from different countries including France, Australia, Chile and South Africa.
The Beach House Restaurant: The view from this restaurant is outstanding! With reasonable pricing, fantastic ambience, and a good fusion of Arabic and Indian sub-continent cuisines, this restaurant in Stone Town is a fabulous choice for a meal!
Terrace Restaurant at Maru Maru: An excellent venue for a happy hour, this restaurant is a cool rooftop setting which is especially friendly to vegetarians.
Although known for its quiet character, Zanzibar has plenty of nightlife for those who are so inclined. Here are my favourites:
Garage Club: This is the capital of dance, drinks and fun in Stone Town. The Garage Club is where everyone in town comes to unwind to a proper mix of urban fusion. You can be guaranteed a great time here, irrespective of when you visit.
Red Monkey Lodge: This club offers a frenetic energy that sways to its own beat! For a great evening with bustling energy, the Red Monkey is a good bet. Be sure to book tickets way ahead of time because it is quite popular!
Gerry’s Bar: On the evenings when you wish for a relaxed atmosphere with a great view of the sunset, good music and affordable food, this bar is a great place to relax and unwind.
Beachside Bars and Lounges: Beach bars and lounges have sprung up around the islands. From Nungwi and Paje, to Kendwa and Jambiani, dance under the stars on these beautiful beaches until the sun rises.
When you are ready for some much deserved sleep, there are many fabulous places to stay. Zanzibar’s tourism is fairly recent so the resorts are comfortable modern and have a good track record of sustainability. Here are some of my favourites:
The seafood is like Zanzibar, fresh, spicy and wonderful!
Zuri Zanzibar Hotel: This hotel and resort offers a traditional African village feel and is the first High-design hotel in Zanzibar. Enjoy its lantern-lit jungle and the clustered thatched-roof villas with an Afro-centric vibe.
The Residence: Deep in the heart of the South West coast of the island, guests can enjoy carefree days in the private pool and soothing gardens with ocean views. It’s also an affordable option that feels luxurious.
In this age where a smartphone connects its user to the entire world, it is hard to find a truly unique location that offers an exotic allure. Zanzibar is a welcoming and relaxing locale that you will enjoy exploring!