The first time I travelled out of South Africa I visited the Caribbean Islands in 1998. I have never seen such beauty or felt such freedom. I loved everything about being on an island surrounded by water and being isolated from the noise and the madding crowd. I truly believe I’m an island girl. I should have been born in Zanzibar.
Zanzibar is an island archipelago in Tanzania (an archipelago is a collection of a number of islands and islets) with the main islands being Unguja and Pemba. Unguja, the southern island, is the most populated of the two islands and is sometimes referred to as Zanzibar. Stone Town is the capital of the archipelago, a small town filled with history, stone coral buildings, lots of economic activity and lots of spices. Unguja is surrounded by a number of smaller islands and islets, with only two of them, Tumbatu and Uzi, being inhabited.
Pemba, located about 50 km north of Unguja, is far less populated. It is covered in steep hills full of palms, clove and rubber trees, rice paddies and forests.
Facts about the island
The name Zanzibar is an Arabic word that is translated as ‘the coast of black people’.
- The capital of Zanzibar is called Zanzibar City and its most historic feature is the ancient Stone Town.
- Due to its proximity to Equator, Zanzibar is warm throughout the year and has equal day and nights (12 hours each)
- Zanzibar is located about 30kms off the coast of mainland Tanzania in the Indian Ocean
- Zanzibar has the largest number of carved doors in East Africa.
- Zanzibar’s Stone Town has 50 mosques and four Hindu temples
- Zanzibar is home to Nungwi Beach, voted the most beautiful and breathtaking beach you will ever see, by me.
WHEN TO GO
Peak seaon in Zanzibar is from June to October during the cool, dry months of spring. December to February is it’s very hot and rather dry. The best time to visit from a cost point of view is between March and May, during rainy season (the long rains). While many resorts shut down during this period, the ones that stay open offer really good bargains.
WHERE TO STAY
LUXURY – Diamonds Star of the East
Located at Nungwi on the North-Western coast of Zanzibar, Diamonds Star of the East is the ultimate in luxury and exclusivity. This newly built resort offers contemporary African luxury on one of the islands most stunning beaches. All rooms and areas of the resort enjoy views of the sea and breathtakingly beautiful sunsets. If you are looking to indulge yourself with the ultimate Zanzibar beach holiday, this is just the resort for you. Nestled on the North West cost of Zanzibar, this luxuriously intimate resort offers 11 private villas overlooking the azure ocean. Built to give the discerning guest the ultimate in spacious privacy, all villas offer stunning sea and sunset views, and boast modern comfort accented by warm wood finishes and contemporary African décor. Soak up the splendours of the Spice Island and be pampered by the exclusive butler service that makes this resort the perfect escape for those in search of Island pampering at its best.
Diamonds La Gemma dell’Est
Situated in the same precinct, Diamonds La Gemma dell’Est resort offers a total of 138 rooms, all of which have a private terrace and a view of the sea. The resort has an oriental café which offers international and local cuisine, combining the best service with culinary excellence.
Air B&B also offers homes to suit your budget. Click here to view their selection.
WHAT TO DO
Laze around and sip cocktails on the Private Beach
Get Henna Tattoos
If you’re lucky you will come across beautiful women along the beach who paint henna tattoos. Henna is a traditional dye made from the leaves of the mignonette tree that binds with keratin in the skin to form a semi-permanent marking. The tattoo dye bonds with several layers of the skin and it tends to last for a couple of days and he only way to get rid of it is to wait until it fades. So be sure to think about having to go back to work engagements when contemplating to get one. My tattoos lasted for about 8 days.
(As with anything that must go into your body, be sure to establish that the materials being used on your skin are completely safe for your skin type)
Read this before you get a henna tattoo.
Go on a Sunset Dhow Cruise
Its best to book these through the concierge desk at the hotel. It’s likely to be more expensive as opposed to booking one on your own along the beach, but the hotel concierge is the safer option.
Get lost in Stone Town
Be spicy and go on a Spice Tour
WHERE TO EAT
The Rock, Pingwe Beach
This is the most beautiful thing you will see. You need to prepare a good 30 minutes for a full blown photoshoot.
SAY IT IN SWAHILI
- Jambo – General greeting similar to “hello”
- Hakuna matata – Okay – No problems
- Karibu – Welcome
- Pole pole – Take it easy
- Mambo – How’s it going
- Salama Aleikum – Peace be with you
- Dalla dalla – Mini bus
- Nzuri – Good
- Ndiyo – Yes
- Hapana – No
- Sawa – Alright
- Bei Gani – How much does it cost?
- Asante – Thank you
IMPORTANT TO NOTE: South Africans require a VISA to travel to Zanzibar. Zanzibar falls within a malaria area and you should consult your doctor or a travel clinic before your visit. I would strongly suggest that you are vaccinated for yellow fever before traveling to Zanzibar and keep your vaccination certificate with your passport as authorities might require the certificate.