Kayaking around Zanzibar Kayaking Zanzibar's islands – Image courtesy of Roger de la Harpe/Africa Imagery

Things to do in Zanzibar

Zanzibar offers adventurous newlyweds a wide range of outdoor activities. The warm Indian Ocean is the perfect place to scuba dive, snorkel, windsurf, water-ski, sail or go game fishing – all easily organised from your beach resort.

Unwind on a choice of palm-fringed, powder-soft beaches, dive and snorkel offshore coral reefs, hike through pristine rainforest and soak up the island's heady mix of Arab, Persian, Indian, European and African traditions.


Scuba diving

Zanzibar offers some of the best diving in Africa with abundant fish species, shallow coral gardens, high walls, deep channels and a shipwreck (off the coast of Stone Town).

For the best diving with the greatest variety of fish and coral gardens head to Levan Bank near Nungwi and Mnemba Atoll off the northeast coast of the island.

The resorts and lodges on the islands of Mnemba, Chumbe and Fundu Lagoon host dive centres that are just minutes away from some of Zanzibar’s best dive sites.

Stone Town offers wrecks and coral reefs at Murogo Reef and Boribu Sandbar. Pange Island, just 1.5km southwest of Stone Town, and Bawe Island, a 30-minute boat ride away, are also worth diving.

You can expect good visibility ranging from 15m to 60m (49ft - 197ft) with water temperatures hovering from 25°C to 29°C (77°F – 84°F).

The main diving season lasts from September to March, although it’s still possible to dive at other times. The worst time to dive is during the annual monsoon storms that last from late March to June.

Five dive centres operate across the island, including One Ocean Zanzibar Dive Center (www.zanzibaroneocean.com) – the largest and considered one of the most reputable dive operators in East Africa. Other dive centres to consider are Rising Sun (www.risingsun-zanzibar.com) and Reef Leisure Watersports (www.reefleisure.com).

You can check the Divers Alert Network Southern Africa website (www.dansa.org) for a list of Zanzibar and Pemba-based operators that are part of the DAN network.


Snorkelling

The best snorkelling sites are around Mnemba Atoll in the northeast and Chumbe Island near Stone Town.

If you want to snorkel with dolphins, head to Unguja Lodge on the southern point of the island and near the fishing village of Kizimkazi (around an hour from Stone Town).

Here you can hop on a dive boat and if you’re lucky you may see a pod of dolphins and then slip into the water to swim alongside them.


Walking

Historical Stone Town is easily explored on foot either independently or on an organised half-day walking tour. Several pleasant walks follow the sea front before darting into narrow lanes lined with three-story 19th century buildings.

Try the circular route that passes many of the town’s main attractions. From Forodhani Gardens stroll to the Old Fort, then continue on to the House of Wonders, the Palace Museum, the Old Customs House and the Old Dispensary.

After a break, head inland to the covered Darjani Market, the Anglican Cathedral, the Beit el Amani Memorial Museum, Tipp Tip’s House, Hamamni Persian Baths and finally to St. Joseph’s Cathedral. From here you can return to the seafront and back to Forodhani Gardens.

Allow a full day to include a couple of well-earned rest stops.


Hiking

Choose from several trails that wind through dry coral rag forest in the Jozani Conservation Area to spy on the rare and endemic Kirk’s red colobus monkey, with its spiky white whiskers, black face and rusty brown coat.

Look out also for blue monkeys, tiny duiker and suni antelopes, more than 50 species of butterfly and around 40 species of birds, including brightly coloured sunbirds, kingfishers and blue-cheeked bee eaters.


Spice Tour

Learn all about the island’s famous spices during a guided tour to one of the Kizimbani spice plantations, just a 40-minute drive from Zanzibar town.

During the 19th century Zanzibar dominated the global spice market. While none of the spices are indigenous to Zanzibar, having been introduced by Sultan Seyyid Said in 1818, all have flourished in the fertile soil and tropical climate of both Zanzibar and Pemba islands.

It took less than 40 years for the islands to become the world's largest producer of cloves.

Cloves, cinnamon, cumin, ginger, pepper, nutmeg and cardamom are still grown in abundance in Zanzibar.

On a tour you can learn how to identify each plant and discover their cosmetic use and health benefits. This is also one of the cheapest places to purchase spices and spice oils.

Some tours go via Maruhubi Palace, one of the best-preserved ruins on the island, and the Persian baths at Kidichi, built by Seyyid Said in 1850.


Mosques

Zanzibar is home to many mosques of which three stand out: the impressive Ijumaa Mosque, the beautiful Aga Khan Mosque and the Malinda Minaret Mosque – the oldest of Stone Town’s mosques that was originally built in 1831 and enlarged by Seyyid Ali bin Said in 1890.

Note: All the mosques are generally in use and you may not be able to enter; although exceptions may be made if you are appropriately dressed.


Island Hopping

Take a day trip to one of the offshore islands including Chumbe Island, Mnema Atoll and Pemba Island, or stay longer at one of the luxury eco-lodges.

Read more about Zanzibar’s offshore islands



Latest update: Things to do in Zanzibar : 18 November, 2018


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