The name Zanzibar always conjured up exotic images in my mind of white sand beaches, turquoise seas and tropical jungles and fruit. In my head it was only somewhere for honeymooners to go to escape everything but each other’s company. From my recent visit to the island I can confirm for those not recently married this is luckily not the case.
Zanzibar certainly has the white sand and turquoise water but it also has lot of places to explore, a lively backpacker community and amazing wildlife. Here are five of my top recommendations for things to do in Zanzibar:
Everyone flies in to the airport which is a 10 minute drive from this colonial city so it’s worth a visit if only for a couple of nights. You can easily get lost in its narrow alleys and windy streets and to be honest that’s how I would recommend to explore the ruined colonial style buildings with huge beautiful wooden doors.
The main attractions are the House of Wonders and the palace museum but these are a bit run down so don’t worry if you don’t have time to see them. For me the night market in the Forodhani Gardens was the most interesting place to go and see the local vendors at work.
I would also recommend getting out of Stone Town for an afternoon and taking a local fisherman boat to Prison Island which has some of the world’s oldest inhabitants. Giant tortoises roam the island and you can go and hang out with and feed these ancient beings, some of whom were around in the 19th century. Stroking a tortoise’s neck is one of the oddest sensations I’ve ever had! The island is called Prison Island because a prison was built on it but in the end it was only ever used as a hospital.
Baraka Turtle sanctuary
From land to sea dwelling, Zanzibar also boasts turtles whom at certain times of the year you can see in the wild but there is also a sanctuary on Nungwi beach on the north coast of the island for rescued turtles. Here you can swim/paddle with the creatures whilst feeding them bits of seaweed. An incredible experience.
Food is pretty good in Zanzibar, spicy Swahili curries and fresh fish. One place that is truly a unique dining experience is The Rock, a restaurant literally on a rock on the south east coast of the island. At high tide you have to get a boat out to it and once there it is a beautiful setting to while away a few hours and eat some good food.
Snorkelling / diving off Mnemba island
Finally you cannot go to Zanzibar without spending a day or two snorkelling and/or diving around its coral reefs. The marine conservation area at Mnemba is particularly beautiful as it has a large coral reef that suddenly ends and you can look out into the deep expanse of the Indian Ocean. I only snorkel but even then visibility was great and I saw so many fish. On the way there we even saw dolphins!