Lizzie Williams
South Africa ZA
Dec 1, 2014 December 1, 2014

Lizzie is a reputed guidebook writer and author of the Footprint guides to South Africa, Namibia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

Categories: African Hotspots, Tanzania

Exotic and Romantic Zanzibar

The tropical island of Zanzibar is roughly 35 kilometres off the coast of mainland Tanzania. It is connects to Dar es Salaam by ferries and flights. And many of the most popular safari destinations in East Africa are no more than a couple of hours flying time away. It boasts a gorgeous sunny climate, dazzling powdery white beaches and a relaxing holiday atmosphere. No wonder then, is it such an ideal add-on to a game-viewing experience in the parks and reserves.

Stone Town

The name Zanzibar comes from the Persian Zendji-Bar, which means 'land of blacks'. It  originates from when the East African coast was the trading centre for Persians, Arabs, Indians, and Chinese. The island’s capital is Stone Town, with its intriguing, winding alleyways, old Arabian townhouses and heaving port. It is steeped in history and immensely attractive. The 19th century Arabic buildings have elaborate balconies and carved brass studded doors. These are testament to the Omani sultans who founded their empires on the spoils of ivory and slaves.

UNESCO Heritage Site

In recent years, many of the lovely houses have been restored to their former glory. This is thanks to Stone Town earning the recognition of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Many are now atmospheric hotels, where you can sleep in a cool stone room with high ceilings. Relax in a beautiful Zanzibari four-poster antique bed swathed with billowing fabrics. And look out on the Stone’s Town’s rooftops and the ocean. Enjoy a walk through the narrow, twisting passageways where veiled women haggle in markets that are full of the aroma of Zanzibar’s many spices. And where you will see old men sitting on crumbling walls to drink chai (tea) and idly gossip. All of this atmosphere simply plunges you into the past.

Superb Beach

Once you’ve explored the fascinating streets of Stone Town, and perhaps bought some fine souvenirs in the many curio shops, it’s time to head to the beach. The island has some excellent accommodation. From 5-star glitzy luxury resorts to rustic reed and thatched bungalows. And the smooth beaches backed by swaying palms make for dazzling days in the sun. The Indian Ocean has warm clear blue waters, where waves break over coral reefs. It offers superb snorkelling, diving and deep-sea fishing, among a range of other water-sports, including kite-surfing and parasailing.

Wildlife and culture

There’s also the rare opportunity to swim with dolphins. And dhows (traditional white-sailed boats) can take you to see the impossibly beautiful sunsets that Zanzibar is so famous for. Inland, the Jozani Chwaka Bay National Park is Zanzibar’s only protected reserve. It's also the only place in Africa where the red colobus monkey can be found. Visitors can go on guided walks or take themselves on a stroll along a boardwalk through mangroves and coastal forest to see birds and butterflies. There’s also the opportunity to dazzle the senses on a spice tour – a speciality unique to Zanzibar. It's a unique opportunity to learn about the hundreds of different spices and fruits that grow on the island, from cinnamon and cloves, to jackfruit and sugarcane.

Seafood-lover's paradise

Finally, Zanzibar is a seafood-lover's paradise and numerous restaurants offer the freshest catch from game fish to giant lobster.  Alternatively, join the locals for dinner at the charming nightly food market in the Forodhani Park on Stone Town’s waterfront. There is a collection of stalls that serve up seafood and snacks cooked on charcoal burners under paraffin lamps. It opens at dusk and is a lively, atmospheric place to eat. A Zanzibar must-do.

Best time to visit

Due to its proximity to the equator, Zanzibar’s climate is tropical with at least 7-8 hours of daily sunshine. Temperatures fluctuate between 25-35°C, but the heat is tempered by a sea breeze throughout the year. There are short rains in November-December and long rains March-mid-June. But during these times, you can get some good deals when booking flights and accommodation.

Plan a romantic odyssey

Zanzibar is, without a doubt, one of the most wildly exotic places in Africa. Why not plan a romantic escape with your significant other? At SafariBookings, we're here to help. Just contact us.

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With its gorgeous sunny climate, dazzling powdery white beaches and relaxing holiday atmosphere, Zanzibar is such an ideal add-on to a game-viewing experience in the parks and reserves.