The name Zanzibar evokes images of mysterious alleyways, fragrant spices and bui bui clad women with beautifully hennaed hands and feet. Visiting the island of Zanzibar can be overwhelming for the first-time visitor, as there are so many things to do and see. However, whether you are a first-time visitor or have been there previously, make sure you don’t miss out on these exciting things to do in Zanzibar with Wild Destinations.
Firstly, if your budget allows it, stay at a boutique hotel, preferably on the east coast as the north is very touristy and commercialised. Our top pick is Zawadi Hotel, not only for the fantastic sea-view from every room on the property, but also for the absolutely perfect service, the attention to detail, the delicious meals and the gorgeous, spacious villas that offer much privacy. The hotel is located in a small cove so you can swim & snorkel anytime of the day, regardless of the tides. Spa treatments are done in the comfort and privacy of your room, or should you wish, at the Frangipani Spa at the sister hotel, Baraza Resort & Spa.
No trip to Zanzibar is complete without a visit to Stonetown, one of the oldest settlements on the East African Coast and the oldest habitable Swahili town to date. Women in bui buis hurry past, while cats slink nonchalantly along the alleyways, fronted by lovely but dilapidated carved wooden doors. The fragrant smell of spiced coffee fills the air and one must stop at a coffeehouse to partake of this coastal specialty. Our pick was the Zanzibar Coffee House.
The Darajani market is located on the edge of the town, and is a bustling market selling fruits, vegetables, meat, seafood, and spices – this can be quite overwhelming for the first time visitor as there is a lot of noise and activity here.
Another unmissable experience is a meal at The Rock. The restaurant is located in the ocean and one has to wade through the sea to get to it (during high tide the management provides a boat transfer), and it is literally perched on a rock so the views of the ocean are fantastic. When we visited, the ocean was a brilliant green which the manager assured us was common in that area. A lovely terrace overlooking the ocean is where you can start with drinks, moving indoors for your meal. There is currently one outside terrace for meals and plans are underway to add a second. The meals are fresh & delicious, and there is a constant flow of guests, allowing people-watching opportunities galore in case of the unlikeliness that you get tired of the ocean views. The Rock is open for both lunch and dinner but my recommendation is having lunch there as the fresh breeze & ocean views are awesome.
Zanzibar is well known for its spices – cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg & black pepper, and you can visit the plantations where the workers will climb the trees to bring you specimens of the spices, allowing you to see, feel and taste everything. You can also purchase fresh spices on the tour. This can be combined with a visit to the Persian Baths in Kidichi, originally built as a gift from the first Sultan of Zanzibar to his Persian wife.
Finally, one cannot leave Zanzibar without trying out some snorkeling, scuba diving or even swimming with the whale sharks (dependent on the season). The whale shark is one of the most beloved creatures in the sea due to its gentle, playful nature and seeing them is on the bucket list of many divers around the globe. The archipelago is surrounded by stunning coral reefs, in the sparkling warm waters of the Indian Ocean and is rated among the best in the world for scuba diving and snorkeling.
Zanzibar is a magical place to visit, and it will keep pulling you back to visit again and again.
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