When most people think of sunny beach holidays, their minds jump to the Caribbean or Mediterranean. However, Africa offers a wide range of exotic island getaways with quintessential white sandy beaches strewn with palm trees – often at a fraction of the price. The continent is home to some of the best beaches and island breaks in the world. These tropical gems, however, have so much more to offer than just cool turquoise waters.
Zanzibar is a small island off the coast of Tanzania on Africa’s East coast. Its natural beauty is home to some incredible sea- and wildlife with colorful coral reefs making for unforgettable snorkeling experiences. It is an island that will absorb you into its rich culture and friendly atmosphere. If you open yourself up to get to know the people, you may arrive a stranger to the island, but you will most definitely leave as a friend.
Zanzibar may not be the best place for a perfect WiFi signal, but if you’re here to get away from modern life pressures and to experience the adventure of a lifetime, these are my top six must-do activities on the island.
1. Stone Town
Little has changed on the island over the past 200 years, and Stone Town remains the cultural heart of Zanzibar. Narrow, winding alleys are decorated with grand Arab houses and intricate door designs.
More than 500 different examples of brass-studded, carved, and wooden doors can be found here. Stone Town was recently declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
2. Spice Tour
Take about three hours out of your day to discover why Zanzibar is known as the Spice Island. Kizimbani Village is ideal for tasting exotic fruits, spices, and rare plant species. On the menu is vanilla, turmeric, cumin, and cinnamon, as well as other medicinal plant spices.
Not only will you learn about the qualities of these plants, but you can also learn to cook with a host of exotic spices as you enjoy a cooking lesson from Tangawezi Bistro in Stone Town. This is a very interactive and fun way to see the spices through their full journey.
3. Water Sports & Small Island Visits
Zanzibar is the perfect location for incredible snorkeling experiences, swimming with the sea-life, boat rides, diving, kite surfing, deep sea fishing, and sunset cruises. Safari Blue is a great full-day trip experience which includes sailing on a traditional dhow to Menai Bay, optional swimming with dolphins, and plenty of snorkeling.
A scrumptious seafood buffet [with chicken and vegetable options] is served on a sandbank before you head out to Kwale Island. Here you can canoe, explore the mangroves, see the ancient baobab tree, and relax on the beach before making it home back on the waters into the sunset.
Think hammocks, palm trees, clear turquoise waters, and cocktails. Pure bliss! If you are too excited to spend your day lazing in the sun, you can watch [or join in] with the locals playing beach football (soccer),and dance on the white sands as the sun sets at the end of a hot day. Whether you crave tranquility and the sound of waves breaking on the shore, or festive fun – Zanzibar has just your cup of tea.
5. Conservation Tours
There are a number of National Parks to visit, as well as forest areas with colorful bird life and indigenous red colobus monkeys. The Kuumbi Caves and Jozani Forests are just two of many conservation type tours you can explore on the diverse island. The estuaries are perfect for canoeing around to see turtles, tropical bird life, and watching another stunning African sunset.
6. Pedal the Island
I haven’t even touched sides on all the wonderful activities there are to explore in Zanzibar. Learning about Zanzibar’s intriguing history, crafts, festivals, and food. Oh, the glorious food! But let me summarize all of this into one activity. Bike Zanzibar. That’s it. There is no way more fun to explore the island than getting on a bicycle and pedaling your way through its sounds and smells at your own leisure. The children are incredibly friendly and playful, and you can tailor make your journey for a half day, a full-day, or rent the bike for a few days. Bike Zanzibar is your one stop shop for cycling activities in Zanzibar.
Warm weather prevails all year round, although the rainy season is between March and May. It is a rarity that travelers will see overcast weather, as the rain usually happens overnight and in the early morning.
I don’t think I need to say much more to convince you that this little piece of paradise is bucket-list material.