Located off the coast of Tanzania, Zanzibar archipelago offers beautiful turquoise waters and white sandy beaches. Zanzibar has more than 50 islands to explore, from smaller unpopulated islands to the larger, more fertile islands which offer fruity scents creating a truly exotic atmosphere. There are plenty of things to do for everyone while in Zanzibar. Go for a relaxing swim off shore in the shallow waters, divers and snorkellers can explore the coral reefs; the adventurous spirits have the chance to try windsurfing, and for those looking to de-stress, sit under the palm trees’ shade while reading a good book. If you’re not the swimming type but still want to view the coral reefs and beautifully clear water, the island offers a traditional boat ride on a wooden dhow (pictured below).
Image Source @ Louise Bleakley/Flickr
The main island Unguja (otherwise referred to as Zanzibar) has a variety of lodging accommodations for all budgets and adventurers. For the more nature-inclined and low-budget, stay in one of the delightfully simple beach lodges allowing you to wake up every morning to the island sunrise. For low-middle budget lodgings, there are small, local boutique hotels perfect for travellers who still want to immerse themselves in the Zanzibar culture. For higher budget travellers who prefer to have a little bit of luxury on vacations, Zanzibar offers all-inclusive resorts and luxury hotels.
If you’re looking to get away from all the crowds of the populated islands, Zanzibar archipelago offers two island remote island getaways; Mafia Island and Fanjove. If you consider yourself a diving aficionado, take a trip to Mafia Island with its marine park perfect for snorkelling and diving. This island only offers a few lodges for visitors to stay in, keeping the tourist population at a minimal for a quiet getaway for their guests looking for a peaceful vacation. Fanjove is a new remote island, which had previously only been available to local fishermen. Now you can enjoy a private island getaway without the expensive price tag that usually comes with remote island experiences. Fanjove only has six bandas, or lodges, for its visitors. The island offers an abundance of wildlife such as birds and crabs to view during the low tide as well as cliffs and rock pools to explore on your visit.
For anyone interested in snorkelling from beginners to experts, Mnemba Atoll is a must for visitors. Mnemba Atoll is one of many islands in Zanzibar archipelago that is the picturesque ideal of exotic vacations. While you sail on the wooden dhow, you have a chance to immerse yourself by interacting with the sailing crew and getting to know the “true Zanzibaris.” Though the sailing is slow, the breeze and shade of the boat will help you feel relaxed in no time. While sailing, there’s even a chance of spotting dolphins swimming in the waters beside your boat. When you reach Mnemba Atoll and begin your snorkelling adventure, you’ll notice the colourful coral with its vibrant wildlife. From yellow snappers and barracudas to turtles and eels, the coral has a many species for your viewing pleasure.
Image source @ Jose Eduardo Silva/Flickr
If you’re in the mood for looking into the past and taking a break from the sandy beaches and clear waters, don’t miss Stone Town on Zanzibar. This quaint town is a lively and vibrant quarter built mostly during the 19th century. Luckily for history and architecture fans, Stone town has been mostly unchanged from its original buildings, including old palaces, mosques, and Arab homes. The town also has great restaurants and cafes to stop at for a quick cup of coffee or lunch as you walk through the old quarter.
Image Source @ David Stanley/Flickr
For any food lovers who always eat local cuisine wherever they go, Zanzibar offers a variety of foods mixing the cultures of their past; ranging from the Middle East, Portuguese invasions, and Indian immigrants the Zanzibaris’ food is a melting pot of spices, cooking techniques, seafood, and natural ingredients. One of the most famous dishes to eat is Biryani with its origins coming from the Middle East and parts of India. This dish is made up of rice cooked in a variety of spices and paired with meat (beef or goat typically) or fish curry.
Next is Octopus Curry, or mchuzi wa pweza, a popular seafood dish in Zanzibar. Octopus is the favorite seafood throughout the island, served at food stalls on the street as well as in fancy hotels and resorts. The slices of octopus are cooked in a blend of spices such as turmeric and coriander before simmering in a thick coconut cream gravy. For any junk food fans, Urojo is a must have on Zanzibar. This dish is a truly unique creation filled with bhajis (fried potatoes or vegetables such as cauliflower, spinach, and onions) and other crispy fritters, mixed in a curry gravy and topped with more crispy fritters in a bowl. Urojo is the junk food of Zanzibar with all the fried and crispy foods in it, but since you’re on vacation, you might as well spoil yourself with some fried foods.
Image Source @ Miriam Chiazor
If you’re feeling homesick for pizza, have no worries for Zanzibar has their versions of pizza! It is famous throughout the island, especially at Stone Town’s night market. What the locals do to make this concoction is take a small ball of dough, thin it out and begin frying it. As the pizza is frying, they add whatever ingredients you ask for-chicken, beef, or fish typically-then with a mixture of peppers and onions. After this mixture is made, an egg is poured into the middle of the dough. The final step of the pizza making process is adding mayonnaise and processed happy cow cheese before folding the pizza into a triangle. It sounds like a strange and bizarre mixture of foods, but its popularity must be a sign that it’s well worth trying!
For dessert, Mandazi is a Swahili version of a donut brought over to Zanzibar. It is a deep fried dough that is lightly sweetened and occasionally seasoned with a hint of cardamom. They are cut into triangular shapes and best eaten with a hot cup of chai at one of the local cafes. Of course, there are more local cuisines to try aside from these few, and I encourage you to try new foods and give your tastebuds a little adventure too!
Image Source @ Paula Dopico/Flickr
For anyone looking for a fun vacation to Africa that isn’t a safari, Zanzibar is the perfect destination for you. With its sandy beaches, crystal clear water, and wildlife Zanzibar archipelago is an ideal exotic vacation spot. The islands offer activities for every type of traveller and a range of budget options that allows accessible travel for everyone! Unwind and go to Zanzibar.
Cover Image Source @ Chris Rogers/Flickr