The name Zanzibar has become synonymous with the exotic. Images of its white sand beaches, azure waters, and iconic dhows plying the waters fill hearts around the world with a sense of the archipelago’s immense beauty and mystery. The island paradise has considerably darker historic roots as a former trade and slave port during its time as a territory of the Omani Sultanate, and you can still see the Arabic influence when you’re wandering the labyrinthine alleys of historic Stone Town or in the way the Swahili language is a unique blend of local tribal languages and Arabic. You can sense Zanzibar’s Arabic roots in its bustling bazaars, its distinct architecture, and the rich spice culture that still plays a large part in the region’s economy. This history coupled with the archipelago’s many stunning beaches, picturesque forests, and fragrant spice plantations make it a fascinating tourist destination: the kind of place where you can soak in a melting pot of cultures while also escaping to some of the world’s most beautiful beaches for a little rest & relaxation. Whether you’re visiting at the end of a safari or are coming to Zanzibar for a honeymoon, family trip, or solo beach escape – there is something for everybody on the islands that make up the Zanzibar archipelago.
Many visitors assume that Zanzibar is a single island, but this is not the case. The island many people associate with Zanzibar is actually named Unguja. With over a thousand years of history as a major trade port, it is on Unguja that you can visit historic Stone Town. It is also on Unguja that you will find the lion’s share of resorts, hostels, and hotels. This historic trade port has traded in its dockyards and warehouses for high end luxury villas and surprisingly affordable family resorts. For many visitors to Zanzibar, the first stop is likely to be Stone Town, a district so steeped in history and different cultures that it fascinates hundreds and thousands of visitors every year. The city’s dark past as a slave port, its more recent colonial period, and its modern status as a bustling city full of different cultures make a visit akin to archeology as you unearth layer after layer of fascinating history. Away from the hustle and bustle of the city, the island’s interior is home to spice plantations, quaint villages, and natural beauty such as the Jozani Forest with its endemic Red Colobus Monkey population. And then you come to the island’s beaches, famous across the world for their white sand, crystal clear waters, and the swaying palms that dapple them both in shade. Unguja is a tropical playground with something for everybody – from history buffs to foodies, from beach bums to nature enthusiasts, you’re going to find something about Unguja to fall in love with.
Once known as Al-khudra (the green island), early Arabic mariners were enchanted by the island’s verdant forests and mountainous interior. Pemba was actually settled before Zanzibar and the ruins of Qanbalu stand as a monument to what many believe to have been Africa’s earliest Arabic settlement. Like its more famous neighbor, Pemba boasts some stunning beaches. It is also recognized as one of East Africa’s premier locations for both scuba diving and game fishing, making it a popular place for those who are drawn to the ocean beyond the breakers. Those looking for somewhere peaceful and secluded will love Pemba. Drawing considerably fewer tourists than Unguja, the island is the place to get away from it all. Go on nature walks, explore the ruins of former settlements, or just lie on the beach with a good book.