An ancient archipelago of islands
Zanzibar is a cluster of small islands in the Indian Ocean, separated from the mainland by a channel only 35 kilometres wide. The main island of Unguja (commonly referred to as Zanzibar) boasts sandy beaches, pristine rain forests and boldly coloured coral reefs. Although the main island of Unguja feels untouched by the rest of the world, the nearby smaller islands of Pemba, Mafia and Mnemba offer retreats that are even more remote. Further beyond are the smaller islands of the Zanzibar archipelago including the once prison Island of Changu and Misali Island, apparently the haven for pirate Captain Kidd. It’s no surprise that the cuisine here is rich in spices, fresh fruits locally grown and seafood caught fresh daily. Whilst lingering over a long seafood lunch is rewarding, even more spectacular is the marine ecology of the area.
Diving and snorkelling is a magical experience. (Safari Blue is a great day trip - watch the video) Crystal clear tropical waters, unspoilt corals, shoals of fish darting through the reefs, sea turtles gliding through the water, school of barracudas circling overhead. Zanzibar has something to offer divers of all abilities. The dive sites around the Zanzibar archipelago rival those found in the Red Sea and deserve to place Zanzibar on the map as a diving destination. There are around 20 PADI dive centres throughout the country, with skilled instructors and divemasters and world class equipment and a number of liveabroads offering trips to Mafia, Pemba and Unguja. In case of any accidents, there’s a fully operational decompression chamber in Zanzibar, which opened in 2006. The best diving is generally between October and February, when visibility can be up to 30 metres.
Zanzibar is home to the world famous Mnemba Atoll, a protected marine park with some of the best diving in East Africa. Hawksbill and Green turtles rest on top of plate corals, oblivious to hovering divers snapping pictures. Lion fish hide beneath the reef, Moorish Idols dart through the corals and Clown Fish dance possessively around anemones. Turn to the sky and watch hundreds of fish, schooling and circling through the water, yellow snappers a vivid contrast to the blue of the water. It’s not uncommon to see White Tip Reef sharks and divers are sometimes lucky enough to have a pod of dolphins as an escort on the way back to the dive centre or catch a glimpse of humpback whales with their calves.
Zanzibar has a rich history like a colourful ancient tapestry. The words spice plantations and slave trade conjure up images of an opulant Omani Arab society for the wealthy and oppression for the poor.Nowadays, life on the islands and beaches is a relaxed, casual affair and everyday life revolves around work, family, food and friendship. Visitors can stay in beautiful beach resorts and enjoy day trips all over the main island or to the outer Zanzibar archipelago islands. Options are endless so it's up to your imagination, time and budget to decide what to do each day!