The Port of Zanzibar.
The Port of Zanzibar.
The food markets on the waterfront.
Its very name conjures up visions of history, exotic culture, sandy, unspoilt beaches and clear turquoise water ... and that is exactly what you get.
Zanzibar is an independent nation, but politically linked to Tanzania. Its very name conjures up visions of history, exotic culture, sandy, unspoilt beaches and clear turquoise water perfect for snorkelling and scuba diving. And that is exactly what you get, along with wonderful weather, scenery, people and food.
Persian traders went to Zanzibar hundreds of years ago. They found fresh water and stayed. Today, 95 percent of the population is Muslim. It should always be kept in mind that modesty in dressing should be observed at all times, including not walking around in swimwear, or any clothing which could be considered provocative.
Zanzibar was once East Africa's only port, and its main exports were slaves and ivory, two things that now cause instant horror. This dark chapter was mixed with the more pleasant export of silk, spice, diamonds and gold, but those precious things attracted pirates, making for some colourful and bloody encounters. The rich aroma of spices still hangs in the air, but there are chilling reminders of its sinister past, contrasting rather strangely with its natural beauty.
The island is only 60 by 30km and, with poor roads frequented by donkeys, oxen and cattle, getting around can be slow but the scenery is beautiful.
Stone Town, the old centre and cultural heart of the island, is as it was hundreds of years ago. Its winding alleys, bazaars, mosques and Arab houses grand and imposing make for fascinating wandering. The original occupants of the houses were very competitive, the one-upmanship reflected in large, carved, brass-studded, wooden doors. There are 500 examples of carved doors, mostly on houses from the 19th century.
Stone Town is becoming dilapidated, but its maze of tiny alleys, crammed with people, bikes, scooters, bars and shops, make it one of the most interesting places to visit. You will see mosques, courtyards, a sultan's palace and fortress, and the market on the town's outskirts is a collection of around 200 tiny stores. It is a hive of activity from 7am to 7pm, with not much English being spoken. If you are planning to buy, it is a good idea to take an English-speaking guide with you.
The island's best and ultimate accommodation is the Zanzibar Serena, two historic seafront buildings in Stone Town. They have been magnificently restored with rich Arabian and East African influences. Rooms are comfortably air-conditioned, and dining is more like feasting, with a wide variety of culinary influences, making the most of fresh seafood.
The northern tip of Zanzibar is pristine, untouched, deserted and has kilometres of white sandy beaches and mint-green water. Diving is amongst the best in the world, and many people spend more of their Zanzibar stay under water than on land.
You can take the trip by joining a mini-bus tour, hire a car, cycle, or take a motor scooter. The journey will take you through pretty rural areas, past mud and straw huts, plantations of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg, and local residents happily working away in the fields.
Nungwi Beach is about 55km from Stone Town and is great for swimming and diving. Accommodation ranges from cheap bungalows around the pretty fishing village, and about 5km further on are some idyllically located, upmarket hotels. The ancient craft of dhow-building is prevalent along the coastline, and you watch the boats so crucial to the every day life of the locals being built as they have been for centuries.
Off the coast of Tanzania, a one-hour flight from Nairobi.
Adventure World has a three-day Zanzibar package, including domestic flights, transfers and two nights' accommodation with breakfast, starting at $1535 per person, twin share.
The Zanzibar Serena Inn has rooms starting at $670 per double per night, including breakfast.
Qantas flies five times a week to Johannesburg, with connections to Nairobi. Return economy airfares start at $2589 from the east Coast and Adelaide and $2322 from Perth, per person.
Please note prices are valid at time of transmission and to the best of our knowledge are inclusive of GST.
Adventure World: Ph: 1300 363 055
The Zanzibar Serena Inn: call Small Luxury Hotels of the World
Ph: 1800 251 958/(02) 9411 5532
Qantas: Ph: 13 13 13
For a safe and healthy journey, talk to the travel doctor
: 1300 658 844 or visit traveldoctor.com.au
Vaccinations: Yellow fever mandatory. Tetanus/Diphtheria, Polio, Measles booster under 30 years, Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Meningitis. Long stay: Hepatitis B/Rabies/TB. Malaria is high risk and anti-malarial medication is recommended. Take plenty of sunscreen and an insect repellent containing DEET.