Zanzibar is an archipelago of historic Indian Ocean islands, awash with atmosphere, intrigue, and idyllic beach experiences. There are masses of accommodation options across the price spectrum, and plenty to see, do and discover. As the birthplace of the Swahili, site of Sultans' Palaces and renowned for its spice plantations, the little island republic of Zanzibar features larger-than-life on the world map and is a must-see at the end of any trip to Tanzania.
There are some fabulous beaches on the islands of Zanzibar, and many choices for an ideal spot to sit back and watch the white dhow sails cruising the startling blue waters of the Indian Ocean. Whether it is for a Zanzibar holiday, honeymoon or some post-safari relaxation; whether you prefer the blissful privacy of a private island or the amenities of a larger hotel; and whatever your preferred activities, there are good options for every traveler.
Zanzibar Island must sees - what to do?
Snorkeling – Off the East and North coast of Zanzibar there is excellent reefs with colorful marine life. Pemba Island is particularly good for those who are really keen
Diving – Diving trips can be organised from all the hotels we love to recommend. Again, Pemba Island offers some of the best diving in the world. Mafia Island diving is also exceptional with the mighty whale sharks in abundance here from October – March.
Jozani Forest Tour – In Zanzibar’s only national park find the endangered red colobus monkeys & many more tree hoppers such as bush babies…
Spice Tour – This is for those interested in trees, species (for obvious reasons) & where everything is from. Learn about all the different species in Zanzibar from their origins.
Prison Island Tour – Contrary to the name, no prisoners have lived on this island. It used to be an isolated area for the yellow fever epidemic sufferers, but now it is home to the Aldabra giant tortoises which is the main attraction of the island. A short 30 minute boat ride from Stone Town.
Stone Town Tour – Take a guided tour around the cobbled streets of charismatic Stone Town and learn about Zanzibar’s rich history & culture.
Or just…Relaxing – The perfect place for it… And everything else… Dolphin tours, sunset dhow cruises, you name it & Zanzibar probably has it!
Where is Zanzibar?
Zanzibar is conveniently located on the shores of Tanzania and exceptionally well placed to bookend a safari of a lifetime. With so much on offer here accommodation and activity wise, Zanzibar has something for even the most selective of travelers. The vast and wild Selous Game Reserve is a mere 45 minute flight away... As you can see, with a Tanzania beach and safari holiday, nothing so luxurious could be easier...
Getting to Zanzibar
Zanzibar is only a short 20 minute flight from Dar es Salaam international which is the landing point for flights from all over the world. You cannot directly fly to Dar es Salaam from London or the US, but many airlines (KLM, Emirates) have two stop flights which make the travel fairly easy (usually via Amsterdam & Dubai).
Zanzibar Africa weather
November: Short rains. Not advisable if wanting consistent sunshine, but good value.
December - February: A good time to go.
March: A bit hit and miss weather-wise, but a good time for hotels at a reduced rate.
April - May: Not advisable to travel in these months... Heavy rains expected.
June: A bit hit and miss weather-wise, but a good time for reduced rates.
July - October: Prime Zanzibar travel season. Good weather & amazing nearby safaris (Selous & Ruaha)
Zanzibar tourism: recent years
Zanzibar is booming as a tourist destination; there is space here for backpackers and luxury beach retreats. As a result there are a lot of fantastic banquet hotels to choose from. We have vetted them all and have our favorites, so give us a call and we can give you some recommendations.
Is Zanzibar safe?
The general answer is yes! However, as with anywhere, things can always change. Please see Government Foreign Travel Advice for up to date information and advice.
Dar to Zanzibar – Safari & Zanzibar Holidays
After your 20 minute flight to Dar es Salaam, you only have to hop over a short 40 minute flight and you are in the beautiful & watery Selous Game Reserve. Add another half an hour west, and get to the wild & fabulous Ruaha National Park (the office’s favorite). Northern Tanzania is pretty easy too, though flights are rather more expensive – give yourself just over an hour in the air though and you can hop from a famous Serengeti safari right into Indian Ocean paradise… Quite the combo.
ZANZIBAR BEACHES ZANZIBAR ISLANDS STONE TOWN ZANZIBAR
ZANZIBAR | THE AREAS
The best beaches on Zanzibar
1. Nungwi & Kendwa (North)– The best beaches on the island. Really beautiful & classic Indian ocean paradise. Non-tidal turquoise waters & really powdery white sands. Can sometimes be busy.
2. Pongwe (East) – The only east Zanzibar beach to not be tidal – it sits in a little concave bit of coast line which means the beach is always glorious & the tide always in! Not the long sweeping beaches of the north, but a pocket of pure gold. Less busy than the north.
3. Paje & Dongwe (East) – Although tidal, here sit some of our absolute favorite luxury boutique hotels. You would not be let down here in terms of accommodation. The beach is beautiful, but getting your toes wet is a bit harder than in the northern Nungwi region…
4. Matemwe (North-East) – Slightly to the east of Nungwi, Matemwe is slightly tidal but then the tide is in there are a few of our absolute favorite fantastic value accommodation options.
For more information see our Zanzibar beaches page
Stone Town Zanzibar
Visitors to Zanzibar tend to arrive and leave via Stone Town, the island capital and an historic hub of commerce and culture. This ancient center was the seat of the Sultans, whose crumbling palaces, bath houses and mosques are a legacy of this opulent and vibrant time at the heart of the gold trade.
The town has a very different commercial attitude today, and one that thrives on the growing tourist market. The labyrinthine streets are lined with traders selling everything from mass-produced art works to ancient wooden doors, from tie dye t-shirts to jewels.
The muezzins’ call to prayer echoes across the rooftops at the break of day, while cats, goats, dogs, roosters and babies often make themselves heard in between! This old town remains a wonderful place to spend a night or two, getting lost among the elegant, ancient buildings, eating fresh fish on the sea front and breathing in the sights, sounds and smells of a truly Swahili center. A stay in Stone Town is always a wondrous assault on the senses, but a couple of nights are enough if you value peace and quiet a good sleep! Nowadays there are a good number of banquet hotels in Stone Town - often recently renovated.
The islands off Zanzibar
Pemba Island – Pemba is truly off the beaten tourist track. It is beautiful, culturally rich & with a few top notch hotels which we love to recommend. It has some of the absolute best diving in the world on offer & for those who love to be active, this is you place. The only downside is that the beaches are very tidal – so if you are looking for long white sands, you are better off on Zanzibar.
Mafia Island - Alike with Pemba, Mafia is relatively new to the tourism industry. However, it is home to some great lodges. Many are drawn to Mafia for the whale shark diving – an experience not to be forgotten. Give yourself 5 days here and you have a fantastic chance of seeing these majestic creatures up close.
Private islands off Zanzibar
Mnemba Island – This private island has only one lodge, the Mnemba Island Lodge. It is the ultimate Indian Ocean beach destination for those who want complete seclusion away from the crowds. Mnemba is the ultimate Tanzania honeymoon beach lodge. This tiny island is everything you can imagine of a remote windswept paradise and often voted one of the most romantic destinations on the planet.
Fanjove Private Island – Yes, Mnemba is the ultimate, but for those who do not wish to fork out over $1,500 per person per night & want a private slice of pure beach heaven, you cannot get better than Fanjove beach-shark-chic but ideal for those who crave luxury in its purest natural form…
Thanda Island - At around $15 k a night, it has got to be unbelievable. But take a large group and occupy it’s 9 luxury rooms, & it becomes a more affordable option for those who want complete Indian Ocean exclusivity. back to top
Why go on a Zanzibar Family Holiday?
With so many fantastic hotels, kids clubs galore & activity central, Zanzibar is a top choice for young families and older teens. Combined with a safari in Southern Tanzania, and you have a family holiday of a lifetime.
Why go on a Zanzibar Honeymoon?
The name of the island alone evokes the exotic, mysterious and romantic. We get lots of requests for honeymoons involving Zanzibar and for good reason - very few other parts of the world can lay claim to such beautiful beaches with such a vast array of accommodation all within a couple of hours of world-class safari areas.
Zanzibar Package Holidays
Zanzibar has a lot of hotels.. Some of them are fabulous, and some not so fabulous. We have visited every single hotel we like to recommend on Zanzibar so will be sure to find you something unforgettable which suits both your budget & preferred style. In fact, we only really use 10% of Zanzibar’s vast array of accommodation options – ensuring you skip the rubbish and get to the gold. Combining a safari is also never simpler than with us – we have been working in Tanzania for over 5 years with regular revisits to the best safari lodges & wildlife spots, so we really do know our stuff.