Zanzibar holiday offers the intrepid traveller the best that Africa’s coastal destinations has to offer. From the legendary Stone Town with its intriguing history, to its pristine coastlines with tropical beaches. Curate your holiday experience and let us do the rest for you. It couldn’t be more easy.
Where to go
Stone Town is Zanzibar’s historic heart, a bewildering maze of streets and alleyways that form the westernmost tip of Zanzibar Town. These days the island’s bustling capital is home to some quarter of a million people, but lost in the tangle of Stone Town’s narrow streets it’s easy to imagine yourself floating back in time. Twisting passages unfurl beneath delicate balconies as you dodge clattering coffee carts and slip by past ornately carved doors. At three and four stories the buildings tower overhead, leaving just a ribbon of sky between billowing laundry and shutters flung wide. Though first settled by the Portuguese in the 16th century, most of Stone Town’s construction dates to the 19th and (to a lesser extent) 18th centuries – a mesmerising mix of Arabic, Persian, Indian and British architecture – and Victorian era accounts of the quarter carry an authentic feeling to this today.
On Zanzibar Island’s northernmost tip, the once sleepy village of Nungwi is still the traditional centre of dhow building on Zanzibar. An old favourite among backpackers and hippies, the scene has transformed in recent years with hotels, bars, hostels and dive centres now lining the sandy shoreline in a near continuous strip southwest to Kendwa. The still relatively quiet village of Kendwa has also expanded, but its uniquely wide beach and understated resorts continue to offer a more laid back vibe.
150 km south of Zanzibar Island lies the third largest isle in the archipelago, Mafia. In fact, Mafia Island is so far removed and has so many smaller satellites of its own, that it’s really a miniature archipelago in its own right. Rarely visited, and much quieter even than Pemba, Mafia and its surrounding islands are a diver’s paradise. Huge groupers, rays, turtles and whale sharks all frequent its warm, clear waters and Chole Bay is perhaps the best coral garden in East Africa. Accommodation around Mafia tends to be intimate and upmarket, and for the ultimate in exclusivity, stunning private island lodges are also available.
A rarely visited corner of southwestern Zanzibar, Ras Kizimkazi offers a handful of quiet, laid-back lodges, plus a pinch of the ultra-exclusive. The region’s two small villages lie a few kilometres apart, Kizimkazi Dimbani is on the southernmost tip of the island and the busier Kizimkazi Mkunguni is up the coast to the northwest. Most of the region’s tourism revolves around dolphin excursions; the small and in places rocky beaches are undeniably beautiful, but lack the pull of the island’s east coast.
About 50km northeast of Zanzibar Island (more accurately, ‘Unguja’) lies the archipelago’s second largest landmass, Pemba. Pemba has forever been Zanzibar’s most green and fertile isle, and most of the cloves for which Zanzibar is famous are grown here. The annual harvest runs from July to January when the scent of drying cloves lingers on every passing breeze. Most visitors to Zanzibar never make it to Pemba, however, and the island remains far quieter than its big brother Unguja. Accommodation options are also far more limited, but by no means run-of-the-mill. Most fall somewhere between the mid-range and ultra-luxurious, including some of the most spectacular beach resorts Zanzibar has to offer.
The sleepy village of Kiwengwa lies on Zanzibar Island’s north-eastern coast, roughly half way between Nungwi and Chwaka. Large, all-inclusive hotels and stylish upmarket lodges dot Kiwengwa’s long, immaculate beach, which runs nearly unbroken all the way north to Matemwe. A few breezy kilometres to the south, the even sleepier Pongwe supports around a dozen, mostly stylish, mid- to upmarket resorts with little else to do but kick back and enjoy.