The beautiful island of Zanzibar it’s one of these dream destinations and it was on my bucket list for a long time. As soon as I planned a long trip to Africa I knew I had to stop there, but there is much more beyond the white sandy beaches and the turquoise clear water.
Zanzibar is a group of islands: Ungoja and Pemba together with other smaller islands. The tropical vibes together with centuries of fascinating history make it hard to resist a visit. It is possible to relax and enjoy the simple life while going on adventures and explore the island.
So, without revealing more, here are 15 reasons to visit Zanzibar.
1. Relaxed atmosphere
The island life like they say is slow in Zanzibar. It’s a fun, relaxing and peaceful. Everything is full of life and there is always something to try in a relaxed way. Even in busy Stone Town you don’t feel the need to rush or walk fast. Things are not perfect and the service takes time but people don’t really care, everyone seems to be in high spirits all the time.
2. Perfect sunsets
While travelling in Africa I have witness some of the most spectacular sunsets you can imagine. If you have been following me on Instagram you already noticed that as well and in Zanzibar was no different. It’s so beautiful that I get almost shocked by it. It combines the good vibes of the island with spectacular colours and no one can be indifferent to it. The photos say more than words.
3. Eco-tourism destination
In Chumbe Island it’s possible to live without leaving footprints in the environment. There are 7 eco-bungalows built to have rainwater harvesting, solar power and composting toilets. At night there is no illumination in the beach and other trails to protect nocturnal animals. There also several conservation projects within the island and restrictions apply to non-indigenous elements. For overnight stay the prices vary between $260 to $280 USD. It is possible to go just for the day for $90 USD to snorkel around the coral reef.
4. Long hours of sunshine
If you are looking for sun this is place. Sunshine hours vary between 7-10 hours and the warm temperatures go all year round. You do get some rain between March and May and very small during November and December but that quickly disappear. On average February is the hottest month with temperatures reaching 28°C and the lowest in July with 24°C.
5. Romantic character
Prepare yourself to be in love. If you’re looking to spend some special time with your other half I really recommend this part of the world. Why? It can be very intimate strolling around the beach and at night enjoy one of the many candle-light dinners in the beach. Numerous private tours are possible for the most adventurous.
6. Cultural diversity
The diverse influences from different people in Zanzibar history have made a unique cultural mix. Different ethnic groups make the island nowadays with Muslims being the large group. But there is something that is significant common between them, the fact that they are very religious. Don’t be mistaken by the photos you see where people just wear bikinis and shorts everywhere. This behaviour is not really accepted by the population; remember to dress yourself to go to the restaurant or walking around villages. For the ladies topless on the beach is not acceptable.
7. Dream beaches
If you are dreaming of a beach destination there are not a lot of places that have such beautiful beaches like Zanzibar. The best ones for me were Nungwi, Kendwa, Paje and Pongwe. The scenic white sandy beaches together with the calm warm waters are a dream. The activities are endless: from relaxing in comfortable beach chairs, try new water sports and eat tasty food all day you name it! The beaches are overall calm, even up north where most of the tourists go, the beaches were not crowded (and I went in peak season). When the tides are low starfish appear everywhere and it’s wonderful to see all the colours. I recommend the beaches up north because it’s easier to swim and to go for snorkel/dive.
8. Fresh fruit everywhere
Pineapples and coconuts are a daily treat every day. For less than $1 USD you can get two coconuts and do the right hydration!
9. Friendly population
Every day people will great you with ‘Mambo’ or ‘Jambo’, the Swahili for hello. It may seem strange for people you don’t know coming to you to talk, but don’t think bad of them, they are just being genuinely friendly.
10. Beautiful coral reefs
Go for snorkel or scuba diving. Either of the options is suitable to see the coral reefs. But don’t miss them! They are really beautiful and the underwater life is spectacular with numerous species of fish and colourful starfish. Have a look on my article about Mnemba Atoll here.
11. Unique wildlife
Get yourself immersed in the beautiful underwater life, but if you are not diving or snorkeling there are other unique things animals to see in Zanzibar. Take a trip to Jozani Forest to see the red colobus monkeys or to Prison Island to see the giant tortoises.
12. Delicious food from the world
In Zanzibar it’s possible to taste a bit of everything as they have a multi-cultural influence from all over the world. Indian, Chinese, Portuguese, Indian and African as well as Italian, Japanese and many others are possible in one single menu in most of the restaurants around.
Another aspect of the food is the spices. There is no place like Zanzibar to taste and buy spices. With all the influence from India, centuries ago, they are very serious about it. You can even take a Spice Tour to get to know more about it and taste various spices, some of them that I didn’t even knew existed!
And if you are in a tropical island you are expecting seafood like I was! But it was even better than I expected. There is so much variety and in every place I had seafood it was delicious. It’s also incredible cheap to eat lobster all the time – seafood paradise!
13. Stay at Nungwi Beach
I need to make this one of the reasons to visit Zanzibar, because the beach is excellent. Overall the beach is very clean; there are super tasty restaurants around and good accommodations. From what I have seen on the rest of the island this is the area I recommend to stay. During my time there I stayed in Amaan Bungalows, a budget accommodation but that really surprised me on the quality of room, pool, and restaurant. The only down was breakfast, but with so much fresh pineapple around this was not a problem.
14. Fascinating history
For centuries Zanzibar has been a place for traders from all over the world. The island imported slaves, gold, ivory and spices to Asia and Persia. From these trades, the Islam and the Arabic architecture were introduced and it’s still a characteristic of the island today. With the abolition of slavery, Zanzibar became part of the British Empire that regained independence on the Shortest War in the world lasting 45 minutes. Other cultures are also part of the rich history of the island such as Portuguese, Spanish and Indian.
15. Stone Town
To truly know Zanzibar you cannot miss a trip to the capital Stone Town, which is a declared UNESCO World Heritage Site. Even if it just a day trip like I did it’s important to understand most of the reasons I have given throughout this article. In there you will see the history, the culture and the architecture. Small little alleys, mosques and hundreds of people busy across the many shops is the usual scenario. The decoration of the houses is more influenced by Arabic architecture and walking around reminded me of the movie Aladdin. Don’t miss a visit to Forodhani Night Food Market with great atmosphere and delicious food – go for the crepes!
As a big tip avoid driving in there as you will be in serious danger. The roads are tinny and they drive fast physically touching people on the way. I was just in the back of a taxi for one hour and can tell you that it was quite an adventure!