Written by: Claire Birtwhistle
Situated just off the coast of Tanzania, Zanzibar offers a charm and romance that very few other beach destinations can match. With its clear turquoise waters and pristine white sand, it comes as no surprise that Zanzibar was recently awarded the World Travel Award for being the leading dive destination in the world.
The World Travel Awards serve to acknowledge, reward and celebrate excellence across all sectors of the global travel and tourism industry. Aside from its superior diving opportunities, Zanzibar also has a lot more to offer.
We’ve put together five (more) reasons, besides diving, to visit this stunning archipelago.
The beaches of Zanzibar look like something plucked straight from paradise. Stunning stretches of white sand lie along its coast and although it’s now the world’s leading dive destination, diving is not the only water sport on offer in these stunning oceans. The island offers some super snorkelling, including the Mnemba Atoll Marine Reserve.
You can expect to see lion fish, moray eels, stingrays and turtles swimming around in the shallows. If you’re feeling a little more extreme, you could even go parasailing, jet skiing or kite-surfing, to name but a few of the water sports on offer. For those seeking a more relaxed pace, there are traditional dhow cruises to look forward to. A dhow cruise is the best ways to experience the waters off Zanzibar, and it is also a great way to relax and meet other like-minded travellers.
2. Stone Town
A trip to Stone Town is an absolute must. Zanzibar has a rich culture and fascinating history. Although people have lived in Zanzibar for around 20,000 years, the real history starts when the islands became a base for traders voyaging between Arabia, India, and Africa. Emerging from their dark past as the biggest slave trading post in East-Africa, Zanzibar’s culture and traditions have been strongly influenced by the traders that settled there many years ago. The influence of this fusion of cultures is most evident in Stone Town, a living museum, where the architecture is as unique as its history.
3. Spice tours
Widely known as the Spice Island due to the abundance of different spices, fruit and vegetables, a trip to Zanzibar is incomplete without a famous spice tour. These plantations were introduced on the island in 1873 by Arab settlers and have developed into a botanical wonder of exotic species. Many of the spices have medicinal properties and are still used by the local population to treat various ailments. Some rare plants like henna, perfume trees and lipstick trees are used for preparing cosmetics.
Zanzibar’s unique combination of people makes it a melting pot of not only different cultures but also different cuisines. Borrowing heavily from its early settlers, the food in Zanzibar has a mixture of Portuguese, Indian and Middle Eastern influences about it. And the result is delicious. Of course, fresh seafood is also always on the menu. Octopus is a favourite amongst locals and it’s widely eaten at both street food stalls and hotels throughout the island. If you’re feeling up to it, you can even catch your own meal!
5. Monkey business
Zanzibar is home to the Zanzibar red colobus monkey. Endemic to the island, these monkeys are considered one of the most endangered primates in the world. The name colobus originated from a word that means ‘mutilated’ or ‘docked’ – referring to the monkey’s lack of thumbs on its hands. This is something that all species of colobus monkeys have in common and allows them to use their four long fingers to wrap around branches while swinging from tree to tree. Unlike chimpanzee or gorilla tracking, where your time is limited, you can spend hours with the red colobus monkeys in their natural habitat.