Zanzibar and Pemba
Things to do
Zanzibar and Pemba are the two main islands of Unguja (commonly
referred to as Zanzibar Island). Zanzibar is a partner state in the
United Republic of Tanzania with the mainland. The name Zanzibar is
derived from a combination of two Arabic words, 'Zenj', meaning
black, and 'bar', being the Arabic word for land, resulting in the
ancient title 'Land of the Blacks'. Zanzibar absorbed peoples from
as far as the Orient and Iberia, Assyria and India. Pemba is the
second largest island of the Archipelago, named Al-khudra "The Green
Island” by the Arabic mariners. It is famous for its clove
production and its channels offer some of the best diving
experiences in East Africa.
For those who are seeking a more relaxed place, wander along the narrow winding streets of historic Stone Town with its vivid markets and colorful bazaars, or take in the cultural remnants left by one of the world’s largest slave trading post. Then there's always relaxing at the beaches. Commonly known as the "Spice island", Zanzibar is famous for spices such as cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, cardamom, and pepper. Spice tours are also a popular excursion.
Tour in Zanzibar
This tour takes you through fabled Stone Town, where history appears to stand still. With visits to the House of Wonders, the Palace Museum (People's Palace), Dr Livingstone's House and the Arab Fort, amongst others, it is a fascinating look at the essence of Zanzibar. You will see Zanzibar's bustling market, winding alleyways, ornately carved and studded doors, two cathedrals and countless mosques! A trip to the site of Sultan Barghash's harem at Marahubi should also be included and rounds off an insight into Zanzibar's huge history and vibrant culture. Stone Town has some excellent gifts shops with plenty of souvenirs and handicrafts to choose from.
The history of Zanzibar would be incomplete without the cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, pepper and many other spices which brought the Sultans of Oman and the beginnings of the infamous slave trade. They can be seen in the plantations just outside Zanzibar town, and a good tour includes opportunities to dazzle the senses with fresh spices. A detailed description is given about a variety of spices, and their uses in cooking and cosmetics. Visitors will be fascinated by the sheer number of spices produced and their incredible value for many ailments. This is also the cheapest place to purchase spices and spice oils.
The Jozani Natural Forest Reserve is located in the central east region of Zanzibar island and is home to the rare Red Colobus Monkey, which is endemic to Zanzibar. These monkeys are full of character, and roam freely. They can also be seen at very close quarters just outside the reserve's perimeter and are incredibly photogenic. Jozani is home to other species including Syke's monkey's, small buck and bushpigs. The elusive Zanzibar leopard (last sited several years ago) is said to feed here at night. Jozani has an excellent nature trail and the guides are well trained and informative.
Tours to the unspoilt north coast always end up at Ras Nungwi, a sleepy fishing village on the northern tip of Zanzibar island. It is the dhow building capital of Zanzibar, so you will be able to see the traditional methods of dhow construction in action. This area of Zanzibar has some fantastic beaches and nearby coral reefs which are ideal for diving and snorkeling. The local villagers have built a turtle sanctuary where injured turtles and other marine animals are nursed back to health before being released back into the warm waters of the Indian Ocean.
Kizimkazi Mosque & Dolphin Tour
Situated on the southern point of the island, Kizimkazi fishing village is home to several schools of bottle-nosed dolphins which can often be sighted following a short boat trip from the village. If you are lucky, you may be able to swim quite close to the dolphins which can be a very rewarding experience. Kizimkazi is also the site of a 12th century mosque, the earliest evidence of Islam in East Africa, and is thus worth a visit for both natural and cultural reasons.
Once the site of a prison for misbehaving slaves, the island lies just off the old stone town. It is fringed with a beautiful coral reef, ideal for snorkeling, and has a lovely white beach for sun bathing .It is also home to a family of giant tortoises, imported from the Seychelles in the late 19th century. This island is ideal for a day-trip with refreshments available throughout the day. It also has a small restaurant where you can enjoy freshly caught fish.
Diving and Snorkeling
Zanzibar is reputed to have some of the best diving in the world, and the coral reef structures that surround Unguja and Pemba ensure that the marine is abundant. Good visibility (20 – 60m) and a year-round average water temperature of 27C ensure that you enjoy your Zanzibar diving experience, and also present an ideal opportunity for learning to dive or upgrading your diving qualification Zanzibar is a beautiful island which offers good sites for diving and snorkeling with great adventure. The best diving is in the north end where there are several good resorts. The temperature of water ranges from 25C to 29C and the visibility is 15m to 60m.It is advised to snorkel when the tide starts to come in instead of when it’s outgoing because it brings sediment and lowers the visibility. Some consider September – March to be the best snorkeling and diving months but anytime is good time. Here is a list of a great places for diving and snorkeling:
- Chumbe Island Marine Sanctuary- the best place for snorkeling about 35m. A permit is required at the Marine park but it serves two purpose, conservation and good snorkeling.
- Leven Bank- north of Ras Nungwi is the best dive spot on high slack tide. Boat dives are also available here but no snorkeling.
- Mnemba Island-southeast of Nungwi; high tide current offers very good diving and okay for snorkeling.
- Bawi Island -near Stone Town; divers have to overcome high current tide but the best dives in the east of the island.
- Nyange- southwest are of Zanzibar island; offers excellent marine life with stone fish, scorpion fish, etc.
- Pwaku, Murogo, and Mwamba Ukombe- south of Stone Town; where big parrot fish and jelly fish can be seen.
- Hunga Sekina, Pembe-excellent but subject to current. Interesting fish like large spinney lobster, crocodile fish, scorpion fish, dusky batfish, eagle rays and barracuda can be seen.
- Mbwangawa, Chakatuni, Ametatu, Kitchafi, and Haji- northeast of island; well known for good ranges of reefs that are suitable for all levels of diving