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Zanzibar, a name that conjures up images of paradise, mystique and coconut palms, Zanzibar is often wrongly called an island it is actually an archipelago made up of Zanzibar (Unguja) and Pemba Islands, and several smaller islands. I will refer to the archipelago as Zanzibar in this guide unless specifically referring to an island.

Zanzibar is in the Indian Ocean about 25 miles from the Tanzanian coast it and unlike most places in Africa it is not very big, it is 60 miles long and 20 miles wide, with an area of approx 650 square miles.

Some History...
The name of Tanzania actually comes from the two names of Tanganyika and Zanzibar and was created when the two separate states united to form Tanzania. The capital of Zanzibar is located on the island of Unguja is called Zanzibar City and the city's old quarter which is a World Heritage Site is known as Stone Town.

Zanzibar culture and history has been shaped by the Persians, Arabs, Indians, Portuguese, British and the African mainland. With the circular towers, beautiful old buildings and mosques of Stone Town. Important architectural features include the Livingstone house, the Guliani Bridge, and the House of Wonders, a palace constructed by Sultan Barghash in 1883. The town of Kidichi features the Hammam Persian Baths, built by immigrants from Shiraz, Iran during the reign of Sultan Barghash bin Said.

What About the Wildlife?
Zanzibar is not a place in Africa to come and visit if you are looking for the "big 5", but there is is a decent amount of wildlife to be found on Zanzibar. The forest areas such as Jozani are home to the endemic Zanzibar Red Colobus and Syke's monkeys, bush-pigs. Civet cats and the elusive and possibly extinct subspecies of leopard, the Zanzibar leopard. There are also snakes, monitor lizards, crabs, turtles, dik-dik (small antelope) and the hyrax which is actually the closest living species to the elephant but no larger than a rabbit!

Zanzibar also has a nice variety of bird life, including the Mangrove Kingfisher, Olive Sunbird, Herons Sparrows but I would not recommend Zanzibar as a destination if you are purely here to view birds.

The coral reefs that surround the East Coast are rich in marine diversity, and make Zanzibar an ideal location for snorkeling and scuba diving as the water is very warm with an average temperature of 20ºC and very calm. At low tide you are able to walk out to the reef in certain places.

Diving in Zanzibar

The diving in Zanzibar and particularly Mnemba Island is very good there are some nice reefs in all around the islands. For reef diving, probably the best location is the Pemba Reefs. There are also some good wreck dives in the Stone Town area.

Zanzibar Weather and Climate

On the whole Zanzibar has the perfect holiday weather for most of the year, as it is situated in the tropics but close to the equator the climate is mostly hot and humid all year round with the official summer in December and winter in June.

Best times to visit Zanzibar
From January to March and November to December
These are good months but there may be some rain and it will also be very hot and humid. please also note that the Muslim festival of Ramadhan is around December or January, the date moves back so do check before you book as some local restaurants, bars and discos will be closed during this period. This wont be a concern if you plan to stay in your resort, but I personally feel that Zanzibar has so much more to offer than just swanky holiday resorts!

April to June
This is the monsoon season and a quiet time on the islands. If you are on a tight budget then this could be a great time to visit as prices can be substantially cheaper. It does not rain every day, but you will have to take shelter whilst it does!

July to October
With an average temperature of 25ºC, low humidity and no rain to speak. It is also woth noting that not many people visit in January, so with prices still low this is a great time to visit.


Zanzibar Alternatives

Similar African Holiday destinations to Zanzibar on the African continent and some that you may consiter for some winter sun are The Gambia, which in recent times has become a very popular holiday destination. Another Idea for an African beach and Safari destination is Mombasa in Kenya, read this guide on diving holidays in Kenya and Family holidays in Kenya.


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