Officially part of Tanzania, Zanzibar is not just one island, but an archipelago made up of many small islands and two larger ones. The island that is typically referred to as Zanzibar, is called Unguja. Being the centre of the spice and slave route for centuries, the island is a true exotic infusion of cultures. The most prominent are Indian, Arabic, and Portuguese influences, mixed with African and resulting in cuisine and well-preserved architecture that is truly incredible. Stone Town, the informal name for the capital city, is where you will see this most evidently. It is also home to Zanzibar’s main airport, Abeid Amani Karume International Airport.
Aside from its incredibly rich history and beaches rated as some of the best in the world, a lesser-known interesting fact is that the singer of Queen, the late Freddie Mercury—Farrokh Bulsara—was born on the island. While most accommodation and things to do are located on the main island of Unguja, those seeking a quiet escape with almost untouched reefs and areas will find plenty of options on Pemba and Mafia islands, also found in the archipelago.
While the island has become synonymous with white sand beaches and crystal-clear waters, there are a whole host of things to explore. Visitors can walk from a 15th-century Portuguese fort to a 21st-century harbourside restaurant. There are also inland tropical forests to stroll through and even an international film festival that is hosted annually. A wide range of activities can be found to really enhance the experience, from the obvious seaside-based offerings of snorkelling, scuba diving, and deep-sea fishing to the more adventurous horseback riding and kite surfing. If travellers fancy a bit of traditional adventure, they can take a ride on a traditional dhow and see the island as locals have for centuries.
As with what travellers would expect to find around an island, marine life abounds and the chance to see them is high. Dolphin sightings are a daily occurrence, and it is not uncommon to see the blow of a whale passing through the channel. But intriguingly, Zanzibar does also have a few rare native animals. Incredibly, this includes the Zanzibar leopard, which is critically endangered and thought to be extinct until lately, as well as the Zanzibar servaline genet.
There are no large wild animals in Unguja. Forested areas such as Jozani are inhabited by monkeys—the Zanzibar red colobus, an endangered species—bushpigs, small antelopes, and African civets. There is a wide variety of birdlife, and an incredibly large number of butterflies recorded. Pemba is home to the rare Pemba flying fox.
Zanzibar has a wide variety of accommodations. From the chance to stay in ancient, well-preserved forts and dwellings in Stone Town to very modern hotels. From rustic huts and backpackers along the beaches to 5-star luxury and private resorts stretching across the coastline, there are accommodations available to suit any type of traveller.
Thanks to its location, Zanzibar has a tropical climate without any extreme variability in temperatures when compared to Southern Africa. The average daytime highs remain between 28 to 32 degrees Celsius, while the nighttime lows fluctuate between 20 and 25 degrees. The most popular time to visit is between June and February, outside of the wet season. This is also the perfect time to combine beach time with a safari on the mainland to create a Zanzibar holiday to remember.
|Time Zone||UTC +3|
|Language||Swahili, Arabic, French, English, and Italian|
|Power||British Plug and 220V/50Hz|
|Dress Code||Neutral for Safaris|
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Zanzibar has a tropical climate and is a great destination all year round. The most popular time to visit, however, is during the dry season between June and February.
Zanzibar offers an amazing array of accommodation options for every discerning traveller. From ancient forts and traditional houses to luxury hotels, private beach resorts, and rustic hostels, there is something to suit every budget.
Visitors to Zanzibar require a valid passport and a visa to enter. Visas can be obtained on arrival or from a local consulate in the country of origin.
It is always important to take into consideration the possible health risks when travelling to Africa. There are various tropical diseases in many African countries, so vaccinations for the most common risks are recommended. However, travellers should always check with their local Travel Clinic. Vaccinations for the following are usually recommended: hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid, rabies, and measles, Yellow fever is not required.
Tap water is considered unsafe to drink, so travellers should either boil/purify the water before drinking or stick to bottled water, which is readily available.
Zanzibar is an amazing destination for safari holidays with the whole family. The island is safe and fun, with a whole host of recreation for any traveller, children included.
Depending on the type of safari you opt for you, will depend on the level of fitness you’ll need. Walking safaris require a certain level of fitness, while guided game drives are perfect for any discerning traveller.
Most tour operators and travel agents will recommend purchasing travel insurance before arriving in Zanzibar. Most travellers include emergency air evacuation if they are travelling to remote areas of the country.
Driving in Zanzibar requires a permit issued by local authorities, as well as a national or international driving permit. The local permit can be arranged in advance by a Car Rental agency on the island. Cars drive on the left side of the road.
Zanzibar is a strict Muslim country, so when entering villages or the town, travels must wear loose-fitting clothing—below the knee, covered shoulders and if they can, cover elbows. Men should not wear shorts in the villages.