Zanzibar – The Most Romantic Island Of Them All
Zanzibar holidays are about white sand and palm trees, exotic culture, and fabled history. You can step into an ancient world then walk hand in hand across a deserted beach.
There can be diving, snorkeling, beach combing, and lazy hours on outstanding Indian Ocean sand. Yet there can also be spice plantations, colobus monkeys, swimming with dolphins and elaborate art.
Zanzibar holidays have it all and can always be customized to your interests and desires.
Zanzibar basks in the East African sun, just off the coast from Tanzania. There are two islands – Unguja and Pemba – and at first glance, they reflect pure Indian Ocean promise.
Beaches are whiter than you can imagine, almost blinding beneath the midday sun. Waters are turquoise and filled with coral, just as the brochures suggest. Palm trees drape their shadows across the sand. And there is not just one beach. Almost everywhere in Zanzibar looks like this.
The best thing about this exotic coastline is space. Unlike other Indian Ocean islands, on Zanzibar, there remain many empty stretches of beach. Villas and hotels are carefully spaced out around the island and it never feels like tourists are on top of each other. You will find seclusion here, amid the most breathtaking island landscapes on earth.
Naturally, Zanzibar holidays are a favorite choice for honeymoons and romantic breaks. We know some stunning lodges and private villas, where it can feel like you have Zanzibar all to yourself.
The two islands also provide downtime after a Kenya safari or Tanzania safari. You can experience the thrill of the bush, with lions and elephants or the great wildebeest migration. And then you breathe in the beauty of an exotic island.
Also consider visiting Zanzibar first, especially if you plan a safari and beach honeymoon. A Zanzibar holiday will help slow you down. Stress melts away and you can tune your senses to an exotic East African atmosphere. After this, you will be ready for the safari.
There is so much more than the beaches. A holiday to Zanzibar is a step into an ancient world. The World Heritage Stone Town is an intoxicating maze of alleyways and coral houses, where you can be immersed in traditional Swahili culture. There is fabulous history and art here, which can be discovered on a day trip, or an overnight stay.
For some tailored Zanzibar holidays we arrange remote beach villas and complete tranquility. On others, we combine Stone Town with different coastal destinations and activities.
Unguja is the largest island and most people simply call this island Zanzibar. It has the most destinations and things to do, along with the widest choice of accommodation.
Pemba is smaller, less developed, and also more exclusive. It made brief online fame for floating underwater hotel rooms at The Manta Resort. We would recommend Pemba if you seek pure serenity. The island feels like Robinson Crusoe doing luxury.
Whatever your preferences, speak to us about what side of Zanzibar will be best for you.
Zanzibar Holiday Highlights
- Lounge around the white sand and do absolutely nothing at all.
- Wander through Stone Town to explore a thousand years of history.
- Go swimming with wild dolphins in Kizimkazi.
- Connect with traditional Swahili culture.
- Discover superb Indian Ocean snorkeling and scuba diving.
- Walk through indigenous forest for intimate encounters with red colobus monkeys.
- Relax and feel the stress melt away.
- Queen frontman, Freddie Mercury, was born in Stone Town, Zanzibar. Mercury spent his upbringing on the island and India until he reached his mid-teens.
- The Zanzibar Islands are commonly known as The Spice Islands due to their production of cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, and black pepper.
- Throughout history there have been many who have fought to control the important island; amongst them, the Persians, Portuguese, Omani and British. It was seen as a gateway to mainland East Africa.
- Stone Town is a place of winding lanes, ornately carved wooden doors, circular towers, raised terraces and beautiful mosques. Important architectural features are the Livingstone house and the House of Wonders, which is a former Sultan’s palace.
- The Zanzibar red colobus monkey is endemic to the main island of Unguja – there are approximately only 3,000 individuals left.
Recommended Destinations on Zanzibar Island
Zanzibar holidays can include any or all of the destinations described here. The main island is small. It takes 90 minutes to drive between the northern and southern tips, and one hour to drive east to west. One option is to stay in multiple destinations. Another option is to focus your Zanzibar holiday on one destination and arrange day trips around the island.
The East Coast
Zanzibar’s eastern coast remains blissfully undeveloped. The beaches are white, the waters are lovely, and you can enjoy pure privacy. While there is some development in Paje and Jambiani, every hotel on the East Coast is standalone and perched on the beach. Here there are also coral cliffs and forests, although they are not quite as dramatic. The seclusion here could change as the East Coast is earmarked for development. Right now you can have island paradise mostly to yourself.
Like the West Coast near Stone Town, Southern Zanzibar doesn’t have the island’s best beaches. However, the waters are a little more sheltered and the marine world is superb. We usually recommend southern Zanzibar as a day trip, rather than an overnight destination.
Stone Town – West Coast
Stone Town is Zanzibar’s enchanting and exotic cultural hub. It is a living World Heritage Site and an absolute must visit when on the island. Just to walk the labyrinthine lanes is a special experience. You come across circular towers, ornate wooden doors, beautiful mosques, bewitching sounds, and incredible trading history. Half a day is enough to see the sights. Spending the night is very atmospheric and a worthy consideration for all visitors.
Nungwe and the North Coast
Zanzibar’s most sublime section of coast is found around the north of Unguja (the main island). Breathtaking coral cliffs overlook the sand and small turquoise bays make for lagoon-like swimming. It is the very image of paradise and romance. The north is also the best for snorkeling and diving.
Do note that Nungwe has more hotels than anywhere else on the island, and some of the magic is lost during the peak season of July and August. We know of some more secluded accommodation around Kendwa and elsewhere on this long northern coastline.
Pemba looks a lot like Unguja. Think splendid sands, sapphire waters, indigenous forest, and intriguing underwater life. It is smaller and quieter, with far fewer visitors and hotels.
Pemba feels undeveloped yet it is home to the most exclusive accommodation for a Zanzibar holiday, notably the underwater suites at The Manta Resort. Pemba could be combined with Unguja but may not be worth it as the islands are very similar.
Things to Do on a Zanzibar Holiday
Unlike some Indian Ocean islands, with a Zanzibar holiday, there is also a lot to do. You still spend many languid hours around the pool or beach. But this laid-back beach time is combined with some mostly laid-back activities.
Snorkeling, Diving, and Fishing
The islands have some of the finest dive sites on the planet. October to March are best for diving as the waters are clearest, but diving is an all year round activity. We can arrange fun dives along with PADI qualification courses.
Snorkeling is easy to arrange on the island and there are some stunning spots, especially around the north and northwest. Deep sea fishing is another popular activity, with the Pemba Channel offering some worthy big-game fish.
Zanzibar is known as the Spice Island. For many centuries it was a trading hub for spices traveling between Southeast Asia, India, China, Africa, and Europe. You can tour traditional spice plantations and explore the atmospheric spice markets of Stone Town.
Zanzibar has a complicated history. It traded slaves long after the abolition of slavery. It was occupied by the British, Portuguese, Persians and Omanis, evidence of which is found around Stone Town and the West Coast. Put simply, Zanzibar is one of Africa’s finest historical destinations. Local guides can narrate its treasures.
Swimming With Wild Dolphins
Wild dolphins go fishing every morning in Kizimkazi. You can swim with them, as long as you get to Kizimkazi in time. Note that these are wild dolphins, so the experience is completely different from being at Sea World. Go swimming at dawn and this can be one of Africa’s most intimate wildlife encounters.
Monkeys in Jozani Chwaka Bay
Mahogany trees and mangrove swamps stretch through the heart of Zanzibar’s main island. They provide refuge for the adorable yet critically endangered Zanzibar red colobus monkey. Around 1000 of them live in a national park and walking among them is a popular half-day excursion.
Best Time to Travel on a Zanzibar Holiday
Zanzibar is a good all year round destination. It is close to the equator and warm every month of the year. Many visitors prefer the cloudier months. The African sun can become intense so cloud may be preferred over blue skies – you will still get a good tan!
December to March are the hottest months of the year. The ocean is flat and the weather is consistent, with very warm and humid days.
April and May brings heavy rain and is low season. Downpours are usually brief and cloudy skies bring respite from the heat. These are the best months to get a Zanzibar holiday deal.
June to August is Zanzibar’s peak season and the coolest time of year. The temperatures are milder and it is easy to spend many hours in the sun. Just note the potential for crowds in Nungwe and Stone Town.
September to November is warm and mostly dry. There will be some rain but this is brief, even if cloudy skies are common. These months are off season and another time for a Zanzibar holiday deal.
Planning a Zanzibar Holiday
Zanzibar is easy to combine with an East African safari, but also a superb standalone holiday. We know the best transport connections and partner with local guides to give you an authentic Zanzibar experience. Of course, we also know of the islands’ best hotels and villas.
We will give you personalized advice on different properties, so you can make an informed decision about where to stay.
Everything we do at Safaris Online is tailored to you. There is no cookie-cutter approach here. Tell us your interests and we will plan the Zanzibar holiday of a lifetime.