This week’s pick for Travel Tuesday even sounds exotic; that’s how great a destination this one is! Zanzibar, an archipelago—another sexy word—off of the east coast of Africa, is a semi-autonomous part of Tanzania about 25-30 km off of the mainland.
We are very excited to explore this place with you, so come take a look!
To get you started….
Zanzibar covers an area of around 2500 km2, and is comprised of two large islands, Unguja and Pemba, as well as a number of smaller ones. Unguja is considered the main island of the archipelago, and the capital city, Zanzibar City, can be found here.
The name Zanzibar originates from the Arabic Zanjibār (زنجبار), and this in turn comes from Persian Zang-bār (زنگبار), which is a compound word formed from Zang (زنگ, Black) and bār (بار, coast).
Zanzibar has a fauna that reflects its links with mainland Africa, and there are a few species that are actually endemic to the islands including the Zanzibar red colobus monkey of Unguja and the Pemba flying fox of, well, Pemba.
Languages spoken in Zanzibar are English, Arabic, and Kiswahili, a Bantu language and the first language of the Swahili people.
Other essentials you should know before traveling to Zanzibar: the currency is the Tanzanian shilling, the time zone is UTC+3, and cars here drive on the left. Zanzibar International Airport has been handling more commercial flights since 2011 although there are obviously numerous ferry services that can take you to the island from the mainland.
On to the other fun stuff!
You have your usual sightseeing tours, but there is 4WD, ATV, and off-road touring available as well. You can surf, windsurf, kitesurf, snorkel, and scuba dive,. For the less energetic, you can sit back, relax, and watch dolphins and whales do the energetic thing for you.
Stone Town, also known as Mji Mkongwe, is the old part of the main town of Zanzibar City, and you can spend many an hour soaking up the heritage and architecture here, including at the beautiful House/Palace of Wonders and Sultan’s Palace. While you’re in Stone Town, if you’re a Queen fan – or just a fan of good music, really, visit Mercury House. Okay, so it’s just a plaque on a wall, and there is still some controversy about exactly where Freddie Mercury’s family home was, but still. And if you’ve worn yourself out wandering around Stone Town then how about treating yourself to a visit to the Hamamni Persian Baths, or some retail therapy at Darajani Market, the city’s central bazaar.
If you want to learn more about the beautiful wildlife in Zanzibar, there are so many options. Cheetah’s Rock is neither a zoo nor a wildlife sanctuary, but aims to give visitors both an education and a close-up view of some beautiful animals. Mnarani is a conservation center for marine turtles that was established back in 1993, Jozani Chwaka Bay National Park is the only national park in Zanzibar, and quite small at only 50km2, but absolutely worth some of your time. Zala Park is a small reserve with a lot of animals to see, and if butterflies are your thing then go to the Zanzibar Butterfly Center.
Let’s take a look at some more outdoor activities. Zanzibar will spoil you with beaches, with some of the favorites being: Nakupenda, Nungwi, Kendwa and Paje beaches. The Forodhani Gardens are along a sea walk of Stone Town, and for a bit of history you could visit Changuu Private Island, also known as Prison Island, because it was used as a prison for rebellious slaves back in 1860.
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Dance the night away
Thank you, Van Halen. Maybe before we start dancing we could eat or drink something, yes? Emerson on Hurumzi is a tea house, and the Zanzibar Coffee House will satisfy any of your caffeine needs. The Silk Route is an incredible Indian restaurant, and The Secret Garden offers a Zanzibari cuisine themed à la carte menu.
Living Room is a kind of lounge bar where you can start your evening quietly, and Kajibange Bar and Guesthouse will wine and dine you then give you somewhere to sleep. If glorious sunsets are what you are after seeing why not do it with a drink in hand at either Africa House Hotel or Mercury’s, depending on the time of year of your visit.
As for that dancing, The Garage Club is a mix of club, house, reggae and pop, and Starehe is a more low-key affair with food and cold beer on tap.
So there you have it. A brief overview of the beautiful location that is Zanzibar; we don’t know about you, but we’re already packing our suitcases.