Zanzibar Islands

Zanzibar boasts several small offshore islands that are perfect for day trips, including several islets just a short boat ride from Stone Town. These include Bawe and Prison islands, both featuring excellent snorkelling.

Chumbe Island

Follow nature trails through unspoiled rainforest, looking out for tiny duiker antelopes and giant coconut crabs as well as more than 60 species of birdlife, including doves, roseate terns, kingfishers, fish eagles and peregrine falcons.

Snorkel and dive above lush coral gardens teeming with more than 350 species of fish, including groupers, angelfish, butterfly fish, triggerfish, boxfish, sweetlips, unicorn fish, trumpet fish and lionfish. Spot staghorn coral, sea anemones, hawksbill turtles and blue spotted stingrays.

Visit the 100-year-old mosque and the historic gas-powered lighthouse built by the British in 1904.

Go for the day or relax amid a range of creature comforts at the Chumbe Island Lodge, a thatched-roof, eco-friendly hotel.

Chumbe Island and its privately managed nature reserve sit off the west coast of Zanzibar, just 5km from Stone Town.

More about Chumbe Island

Mnemba Atoll

Play Robinson Crusoe for a day or longer on the idyllic white-sand beach that encircles this heart-shaped island sitting just off the coast between Matemwe and Nungwi beaches.

Swim in the calm warm waters of the marine reserve or go snorkelling and scuba diving above the offshore coral reef that teems with rainbow-hued fish. Watch turtles nesting between December and May or tiny turtle hatchlings wading into the sea within nine weeks of nesting.

Visit for a day or stay longer at the Mnemba Island Lodge, an exclusive and luxurious island retreat offering thatched-roofed beachfront accommodation and a range of water sports.

More about Mnemba Atoll

Pemba Island

Pemba is renowned for its fabulous unspoiled beaches, perfect snorkelling and diving conditions, the pristine Ngezi Forest and numerous Swahili ruins dating from the 9th to the 15th centuries.

Once known as Al Khudra (or the Green Island) for its forests of king palms, mangos and banana trees, the island is a favourite of divers for its lush coral gardens teeming with colourful reef fish, sponges and huge fans.

On land, catch a bullfight – Portuguese-style – where, unlike the Spanish version, the bull is not killed. Instead, after enduring the ritual teasing by the matador's scarlet cape, fans honour the bull’s bravery by draping the animal with flowers and parading him around the village.

Visit for a day or stay longer at one of the island’s rustic guesthouses at Mkoani, Chake Chake and Wete or splurge at the luxury Fundu Lagoon Resort. Pemba is located around 48km to the north of Zanzibar.

More about Pemba Island

Misali Island

This one-time reputed hideout of notorious pirate Captain Kidd is now an uninhabited marine sanctuary and lies within the Pemba Channel Marine Conservations Area.

Relax on a choice of gorgeous soft white-sand beaches, hike nature trails as you look out for flying foxes and vervet monkeys, and go snorkelling or diving above lush coral gardens inhabited by more than 40 types of coral and teeming with 300 species of colourful tropical fish.

The island is also a nesting site for green and hawksbill turtles and home to a large colony of nocturnal coconut crabs.

Misali ofers a choice of good diving sites, including Uvinje Gap, the southern tip of Panza Island at Emerald Reef and Manta Point off the northwest coast.

Misali Island lies just 9km off the coast west of Pemba, an easy day trip from either the Fundu Lagoon resort or the Manta Reef Lodge.

Prison Island

Known locally as Changuu Island, Prison Island is just a 30-minute boat ride from Stone Town and is easily visited on a half-day trip. The island was first used as waystation for slaves before they were sold at auction in Stone Town.

Visit the old ruins (originally built to house prisoners but instead used as a quarantine centre for yellow fever patients), encounter giant Aldabra tortoises and spend some time floating above the coral reef that fringes the island.

The best snorkelling lies 35m (115 ft.) northwest of the main beach.

Latest update: Zanzibar Islands: 27 April, 2022