Full steam ahead for a paradise lost… and found!
Like Ushuaia, Dakar or even Petropavlovsk, Zanzibar is one of those destinations that you can’t necessarily point to on a world map, but whose name is enough to spark the wildest of dreams. But what if you’re no longer content to just dream? Head for this gem of the Indian Ocean, located off the east African coast just a stone’s throw from the coast of Tanzania!
Zanzibar is one archipelago, two main islands (Unguja and Pemba), three cultures and lots of sunshine. Unguja is commonly known as “Zanzibar Island”. Why? It’s shorthand for the name of its capital, Zanzibar City, an incredible place where Africa, India and the Arab world have coexisted for centuries. It is a crossroads located on the sea route to India that was coveted by colonial powers: first the Portuguese, then the British and the Omani. Until the middle of the 19th century, spice, ivory and slave trafficking was rife in Zanzibar. A visit to Zanzibar, means discovering a city, an island and an astonishing archipelago where the temptation to relax meets the scars of an intense and sometimes tragic history, as well as an exceptional natural heritage.
Stone Town, Zanzibar’s precious stone
Zanzibar City, a capital with a heart of stone – but what a stone! The historic part of the city is actually called Stone Town, named for the coral stone used to build the houses there. The maze of colourful alleyways, the architecture influenced by a mixture of Arabic, African, Indian and European traditions, the wooden balconies, the famous carved doors and the highly fragrant Darajani market all helped qualify Stone Town as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. in 2000. It is the soul of the island, the entry point for anyone wanting to immerse themselves in its history and cultures, and an open door to a world of authentic adventures.
As soon as you get inland, the Spice Tour is definitely one of the most rewarding excursions in Zanzibar, offering a walk through the spice and fruit plantations. It’s an opportunity to touch, smell and taste the exotic flavours that earned Zanzibar its nickname of “Spice Island” – clove, mango, lemongrass, soursop, vanilla and cinnamon abound, promising a fabulous journey of flavours and aromas. Travelling even further inland and more to the south, the low coastline vegetation makes way for the luxuriant greenery of the Jozani National Park: 6,000 hectares of virgin forest stretched over nearly 50 kilometres. The guardians of this botanical temple include the rare but wonderful red colobus, or red monkey, a species endemic to and emblematic of Zanzibar.
Coast to coast
For those still wondering what to see or do in Zanzibar, head to Nungwi beach on the north coast of Unguja, where the traditional construction of dhows (Arabic sailing boats originally from the Red Sea) persists alongside modern water sports, such as diving and board sports. On another coast to the east, you can embrace a completely different atmosphere in the authentic fishing village of Jambiani. Its lagoon is simply breathtaking! Or for something more intimate, check out the coasts of Pemba Island with their idyllic coves.
Whether it’s to behold its paradisiacal landscapes and rich nature, to sample its blend of histories, people and cultures, or to simply savour its fragrances, there are no lack of reasons to visit Zanzibar!