WELCOME TO ZANZIBAR
Jambo! This is the Swahili greeting that you will hear on arrival when you are welcomed by the warm and inviting locals. Zanzibar is the name of an archipelago in the Indian Ocean just off the coast of East Africa. There are many small islands and two large ones: Unguja (the main island, sometimes informally referred to as ‘Zanzibar’), and Pemba Island. As the number one beach location in East Africa, Zanzibar is a wonderful island, with classic tropical beaches, lush plantations, an incredible history and a fascinating culture. Apart from historic Stone Town, with its labyrinth of narrow streets, Zanzibar is known for its beautiful palm-fringed beaches and pristine coral reefs.
Zanzibar was inhabited by Portuguese navigators at the end of the 15th century. They were ousted 200 years later by the Omani Arabs and Zanzibar became a major centre for slave trading. The island became an Arab state and was an important centre of trade and politics in the region. European explorers, including Stanley and Livingstone, began their expeditions into the interior of Africa from Zanzibar in the late 1800’s. In 1964, the sultan and the government were overthrown in a revolution and in the same year, Zanzibar and Tanganyika combined to form the United Republic of Tanzania.
The indigenous language spoken throughout Zanzibar is Swahili (called Kiswahili locally). English is widely spoken and understood. Jambo Rafiki – Hello my friend!
Most of the people in Zanzibar are Muslim and all towns and villages on Zanzibar Island have mosques. Visitors to Zanzibar Town (Stone Town) will hear the evocative sound of the muezzins calling people to prayer from the minarets, especially for the evening session at sunset. There are also small populations of Christians and Hindus.
Zanzibar is a few degrees south of the equator and enjoys a very tropical climate. The average daytime high is between 28°C and 32°C and the night-time lows are between 20°C and 25°C. Temperature wise – this island is an all-year-round winner. February is very hot and very humid (just leave your hair straightener at home!) and March to May are the wettest months.
The local currency is Tanzania Shillings (TSH) but the currency cannot be bought outside of the country. Cash (US Dollars) and credit cards are accepted at hotels and at any Bureau de Change. We strongly recommend that you take USD cash in small denominations for incidental purchases, tips etc.
220/230 V. square pin adapter (same plugs as UK). It is advisable to take along an international adaptor.
As Zanzibar is situated in a malaria zone, it is recommended that you consult your physician on the correct preventative medication required before you travel.
WHAT TO DO IN ZANZIBAR
Whether you spend your days lazing by the pool, sipping cocktails on the beach at sunset, diving in warm waters or enjoying a Dhow cruise around small islands, your Zanzibar holiday will be a memorable experience.
- Diving: With living reefs surrounding the islands, Zanzibar has excellent dive locations. There are plenty of places where the water temperature is warm, visibility is usually excellent, and currents are weak, all of which contributes to an ideal location for first time and novice divers. In addition to the warm and still waters full of colourful fish, there are many challenging dives as well. If you want to surf the current through a ravine, go for deep water, or search for wrecks, there are dive companies that can make it happen for you. Many of the larger resorts on the north and east coasts have professionally-run dive shops as well. Qualified divers must produce certification and a log book.
- Shopping: Whether you’re in the market for T-shirts, spices, kangas, furniture or hand sewn pillow covers, Stone Town is a great place for fun shopping and bargain hunting. You will find the inevitable ashtray carved out of a coconut shell, but there are enough Tinga-tinga paintings, woodcarvings and woven goods to keep almost everyone in the market for a tasteful souvenir.
- Stone Town: Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001, Stone Town is a mishmash of cultures, languages and architecture. Over the centuries, Stone Town has grown from a small fishing village to a thriving town with an extraordinary history. Walking around Stone Town, you can see the influence of the different cultures that make up Zanzibar. Coral and stone houses show off imposing Zanzibar doors with brass studs as a defence against charging elephants and carvings with scriptures from the Quran. A tour of the town is highly recommended.
- Excursions: There are loads of excursions available to help you explore this unique island. It is wise to stick to a reputable operator and not be lured by beach boys and vendors who prey on tourists promising cheap prices. There are two excursions that are not to be missed in our opinion. A visit to a spice farm village on the Spice Tour will allow you to walk through the farm with your guide – touching, smelling and tasting different spices and fruits. It will give you an insight into local life and the opportunity to try some Swahili dishes, taste the fruits in season and try some spiced tea.