Zanzibar, Pemba Islands, as well as other islets make up the Zanzibar archipelago. It can be found in the Indian Ocean, 6° South of the Equator, and around 25 miles from the coast of Tanzania. Zanzibar is the name that is internationally recognized, but the Island is locally known as Unguja. With 650 square miles, 20 miles wide and 60 miles long, Zanzibar (or Unguja) is incredibly beautiful, with impressive coral reefs, amazing beaches and, of course, the ancient, and very special Stone Town.
- +Stone Town – East Africa’s only ancient town that is still functioning
- +Beautiful beaches
- +Bird watching
- +The Zanzibar International Film Festival
- +Scuba diving
Zanzibar is one of the most beautiful places in East Africa. With a colorful history and an interesting mix of people, cultures and ethnicities, Zanzibar is definitely one of the prime vacation spots for people who are looking to discover history and culture, but also have fun.
Zanzibar is interesting in that it manages to combine the very old and historic with the modern, and that is obvious in its beautiful preservation of the Stone Town, which is still functioning and can be visited, but also in the cultural events that are organized here.
As far as wild animals go, there are no large ones to fear, but it is not uncommon to spot antelopes, bush-pigs, mongoose, or monkeys in Jozani and other forest areas. It is said that one could even find Zanzibar leopards and civets.
Diversity also characterizes the array of birds, butterflies and sea life that can be admired in Zanzibar. The coral reefs are especially beautiful and they can be seen via scuba diving or snorkeling, which are both activities that can be carried out here.
If you’re not from East Africa, the only way to access Zanzibar is via airplane. Direct flights are few and far between, but reaching Dar es Salaam and then taking a connecting flight to Zanzibar is much less difficult. Zanzibar can also be reached by air from Arusha. Take note of the fact that your luggage may be lost or delayed. The cost of airfare will vary according to your base location.
There is another option, which is by ferry. Should you choose to go this route, please note that the cheaper ferry rides may carry more risk, while the expensive ones are considerably safer and faster.
When to Go & Weather
- Average temperatures are of 27-28 degrees Celsius in the November-April period, while May-October is characterized by average temperatures of about 25 degrees Celsius.
- November-December and March-May are the seasons with the most rainfall. January-February and June-October are comparatively drier.
- Zanzibar weather is perfect for holidays and tourists will not be disappointed, no matter in what season they visit.
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Evidence shows that humans have populated Zanzibar for at least 20,000 years. At the very beginning of the 16th century (1503 or 1504), in the wake of the visit of Vasco da Gama, Zanzibar became a part of the Portuguese Empire. For a long time, it was under the control of the Sultanate of Oman, before it was ruled by the British Empire, in the 1800s. In 1964, after a merger with Tanganyika, it became the United Republic of Tanzania. Today, Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous region of this United Republic.
Zanzibar is an autonomous region in Tanzania, constituted by an archipelago. Its wildlife includes both marine and terrestrial fauna and flora, with the former including butterflies, birds and small animals and the latter Northern Zanzibar-Inhambane coastal forest mosaic and Southern Zanzibar-Inhambane coastal forest mosaic.
Unguja is the principal island and the home of fauna that has remained as a testament of Zanzibar’s territorial connection with the mainland during the ice age. At the end of this period, the sea level rose, and the island of Zanzibar was disconnected from the mainland. Certain species, including the Zanzibar leopard, for example, is said to have adapted itself after this rift. The species is now possibly extinct.
The Tanzania Wildlife Act protects all wildlife, which means both fauna and flora. Multiple areas are protected under this act, including the Jozani Chwaka Bay National Park and other reserves. Organizations such as IUCN and the World Wildlife Fund, as well as projects like Zanzibar Integrated Land Development Project and Zanzibar Forestry Development Project aim to shelter and monitor all wildlife on the islands.
Despite the current existence and interest of the organizations for the protection of fauna, flora, and natural habitats, most of them have been destroyed in favor of agricultural land, for growing spices (cardamom, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, pepper) and food, especially for export purposes. The Jozani Chwaka Bay National Park is among the last natural habitat regions, together with the Kiwenga forest. Wildlife has also dwindled in numbers due to copious free hunting.
There have been real efforts made to conserve the fauna and flora specific to the Zanzibar National Park, most notably a Community Based Forest Management and Socioeconomic Development Project, which lasted from January 1st, 2006 to December, 31st, 2007. This project was supported by multiple organizations, including the Jozani Community Development Organization, the Zanzibar Department of Commercial Crops, Fruits and Forestry, the Zanzibar Beekeeping Association, CARE International in Tanzania, the Menai Bay Conservation Project, and the Jozani Environmental Conservation Association.
This project was anticipated by the first installment, which was organized in the period 1995-2003 in the park’s nine major villages. Based on the experience of that first project, this project was meant to focus the conservation of wildlife and the forest through various means, including data on wildlife, improvement of livelihood, as well as the capacity for building the Department of Commercial Crops, Fruits and Forestry and community organizations.
The Department of Fisheries and Marine Resources is the one in charge of protecting marine parks while the Department of Commercial Crops and Forestry is tasked with conserving the forest. There are ongoing efforts to conserve the Aders’ duiker and red colobus, including through a network of protected areas which is still being developed and expanded.
- Stone Town is one of the most important tourist attractions in Tanzania and it relies heavily on tourism-generated revenue. The town is tremendously important due to its artistic and historical value. The architecture that can be admired here is from the 19th century, and it represents a very special blend of European, Persian, Arab and Indian components, as well as the East African culture and the Swahili one. Stone Town is actually a UNESCO World Heritage Site as of the year 2000, precisely because of its overwhelming importance and cultural value.
- The name of the archipelago, “Zanzibar”, originates in the word “zengi”, meaning “black” and which is known to designate a local people and “barr”, which translates as “shore”, or “coast”. Thus, “Zanzibar”, can be translated into “the people on the shore” or some variation of that.
- Zanzibar has the longest settlement houses in East Africa. They were erected in the 1970s, in an attempt to alleviate the housing shortage in this area. They were called Michenzani flats and were built with help from East Germany.
- The most notable event in Zanzibar is the Festival of the Dhow Countries or the Zanzibar International Film Festival. It does not only cover film but everything in the local art scene, including music.
- The prominent locations in Stone Town are the House of Wonders, the Guliani Bridge, the Old Dispensary of Zanzibar, The Old Fort of Zanzibar (Ngome kongwe) and the Livingstone house. The Hamamni Persian Baths can be found in Kidichi, having been built by Iranian immigrants.