Zanzibar is a tropical, coral island lying in the Indian Ocean, a few miles away from mainland Tanzania. Nearby, there is another touristic Pemba Island and many more smaller islands around. The old independent country of Tanganyika and Zanzibar Island united in 1964 to become Tanzania. Its size is 60 miles long and 20 miles wide (650 sq.m.).
Zanzibar’s local people are a mixture of many ethnic backgrounds, as a result of a very colourful history. Islam is the principle religion of both Africans and Arabs, but Christianity also prevails with Hinduism. The population is around 800,000. The principle language is Swahili followed by Arabic, English and Indian. Zanzibar has churches, mosques and temples.
Presently, fishing and agriculture dominates the main economic activities of Zanzibar. In the past, the main trades were spices, ivory and slaves. However, the latter two trades have been stopped. Zanzibar used to export 50,000 slaves not more than 100 years ago and this slave trade was carried out by Portuguese and Arabs. During that period the Sultan of Zanzibar controlled all the coastal territories of Tanzania and Kenya. Cloves still remain the main export of Zanzibar, along with many other spices. Tourism plays a major role in the economics of the country, bringing in much required foreign currency. Zanzibar boasts only 100,000 tourists per year now, but this number is increasing fast. New hotels are being built every day as this article is being written and in the next 10 to 15 years Zanzibar will become one of the most sought out places for tourism.
The main town is Zanzibar located mid-way along the west coast of the island. The old part of the town known as “Stone Town” is a heritage site and is the main tourist attraction worth visiting. It is composed of a network of winding lanes and circular towers. The Guliani Bridge and the House of Wonders (the old Sultan’s palace) are worth visiting as well. The town of Kidichi features the Hammam (Persian Baths), built by the immigrants of Shiraz from Iran, during the reign of Barghash Bin Said. Numerous tiny shops here sell everything under the sun and any shopping must be done with bargaining in mind.
Most of the hotels are around Zanzibar Town and then all along the east coast and the northern tip of Zanzibar. Most of the tourists finish up in one of the east coast hotels and visit Stone Town one day as part of the island tour. The visit to a spice plantation can be very interesting and informative. We suggest that you spend one night in a hotel in Zanzibar Town, Serena or Tembo House, and make the Stone Town site tour from there. You can then spend the remaining nights in your beach hotel relaxing or taking part in activities such as fishing, snorkelling, scuba diving, dolphin trips etc.
To reach Zanzibar from your Tanzania Safari, you need to fly from Kilimanjaro International Airport (45 mins), or fly from Dar es Salaam (20 mins) if you are already in the country. If you decide to make Zanzibar as your first port of call then you need to fly to Kilimanjaro International Airport for your northern Tanzanian Safari, or fly or take a boat ride, to Dar es Salaam for your southern Tanzanian Safari.
We hope that you will enjoy your relaxing time in this most wonderful tropical island, and go home with great memories.