Your Ultimate Zanzibar Travel Guide

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The tropical island of Zanzibar is found just off the Tanzania coast at the crossroads of Africa, the Middle East and Asia and is such a paradise, we put together Zanzibar Travel Guide so you can be better prepared when heading to East Africa for some fun, culture and relaxation.

Zanzibar boasts some of the world’s best diving amongst rainbow coral reefs, the quaint customs and cuisine of the Swahili people, and the Indian Ocean’s spotless beaches.

zanzibar travel guide

Swahili time: time is set in accordance with day light and time counting begins at sunrise. This works relatively well given that Zanzibar is so close to the equator the sun rises at roughly the same time all year round. Let’s take a look at some of the best things to do in Zanzibar in this fun-filled Zanzibar Travel Guide.

Zanzibar Travel Guide

Culture & History

Whilst luxury travel and tourism has built Zanzibar up to be one of the most sought after holiday destinations in the world,  the islands continue to retain their rustic African charm despite the developments of the last decade.

Most Zanzibaris consider themselves Zanzibari rather than Tanzanian, and their territory has its own leader and governing bodies. Mainland Tanzania is a mix of Christian, Muslim, and indigenous groups, but Zanzibar, which the Sultanate of Oman ruled for centuries, is almost entirely Muslim.

The Sultanate had in turn wrestled the islands from the Portuguese – and much later they became a British protectorate, until Zanzibar’s independence in 1963.

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Cheetah’s Rock

A must see attraction in Zanzibar is Cheetah’s Rock and why it has landed in the Zanzibar Travel Guide. Here, you will come face to face with Lions, Cheetah’s, Zebras and other wild animals. This is a wonderful tour for anyone interested in being up close and personal with native African wildlife.

Opening days and tours run on Tuesday, Thursday and Sundays. The Cheetah’s rock is located in Kama, a 60min drive from Stone Town. The price includes an afternoon of learning about the animals, feeding and interacting with them as well as hotel pick up and drop off.

Prison Island

Earning its name as a former prison for slaves. The island lies just off the Old Stone Town in Zanzibar, it is also a home to giant land tortoises that were imported from Seychelles in the late 19th century.

Now it is more commonly known as a home of Zanzibar’s Giant Aldabran Tortoise colony. The island is fringed with a beautiful coral reef, making it another great spot for snorkeling!

A half-day trip from Stone Town through one of the many local tour agencies in town includes hotel pickup, boat transport ride to the island, entrance fees to the park and snorkeling equipment.

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Prison Island and the ancient Aldabran Tortoise are one of the highlights of Zanzibar activities!

Scuba Diving & Snorkeling

Scuba diving & Snorkeling is a must for our Zanzibar Travel Guide. The underwater sea life, corals and crystal clear waters provide endless opportunities for snorkeling and diving in Zanzibar.

Some of the most popular beaches have been named as some of the most beautiful in the world and the reason why many tourists visit the island each year.

Recommended beaches for great snorkeling include: Nakupenda Beach, Nungwi Beach, Kendwa Beach, Paje Beach and Matemwe Beach.

zanzibar travel guide

Nungwi Beach and lookout in Zanzibar is a must see in Zanzibar

Mnemba Island Lodge is one of Zanzibar’s most exclusive resorts and a popular stay after an adventurous Safari Tour in Tanzania.

Located on a private island, and comprising only ten plush bandas, the hotel offers a truly luxurious experience. The resort is all-inclusive, including watersports; 2 scuba dives a day for PADI certificate holders, kayaking, snorkelling and windsurfing.

Zanzibar Quad Bike Adventures

A full day tour to the remote and local parts of the Island while riding your own quad bike into wild landscapes:

  • Sugar cane and pineapple plantation
  • Paddy rice fields
  • The village of Boma with its children and houses made by red soil and mud
  • Coconut palms and secular Baobab
  • Spice trees and fruit plantation

A great way to see the island! For more information about pricing and details check out >> Zanzi Planet Tours and Travel company.

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4×4 adventures around the Island for when you get bored with lazing on the perfect beaches!

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One of the local villages you will explore on the Zanzibar quad bike tour

Forodhani Park

Also know as the Jubilee Gardens, this park is found in the historical city of Stone Town, Zanzibar. The gardens are located along the main seawalk of Stone Town, just in front of the most famous buildings of Stone Town.

The Forodhani Park is a popular spot amongst locals and tourists to watch the sunset and grab something to eat from the popular food street market in the main square.

Try the Swahili and Zanzibari delicacies such as grilled seafood, samoosas, cassava and sweet potatoes.

Water Sports

Surfing, Paragliding, Windsurfing & Kitesurfing are all on water activities you can do when visiting Zanzibar. Guided lessons and equipment are available for hire from the many dive and sport stores in Stone Town or Nungwi.

The guys down at Team Aqua Zanzibar or Divine Diving & Yoga centre are my top picks for quality gear and friendly service.

Mtoni Palace Ruins

It’s an evening filled with a tour of palace ruins by a hilarious guide, an amazingly delicious dinner, drinks, an acting and dancing performance to share the historical stories of the island. The evening takes place in the courtyard of the Mtoni palace, you walk over a beach lit up with dim lighting to find you table and enjoy a dinner under the stars. More information on booking and price enquiries here >> Mtoni Palace Ruins. 

best attractions to see in zanzibar island

Photo credits with respect to Peter Bannett

Where to Stay

Part of any Zanzibar Travel Guide should include hotels and resort tips. Zanzibar has accommodation that ranges from luxury beachfront cottages to exclusive boutique hotels and elegant spa resorts.

If you’re looking for a beach escape with other Westerners, head north to Nungwi and Kendwa, where you’ll find the same all-inclusive packages and beach discos you’ll find in most other warm parts of the world.

A phone call will bring your individual butler to your door or an electric buggy to keep you out of the sun and drive you to the snaking, cobalt-blue swimming pools, elegant spa area or one of the fine dining bars and restaurants.

For the premium end general standards of accommodation and service are very high, expect to be paying a minimum daily amount of around $250 – $350 per person for upper scale resorts.

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Mnemba Island Lodge, Zanzibar

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For a slightly more local experience, try quieter towns like Bwejuu or Jambiani where your slice of island paradise is mixed with the rhythms of village life.

There are also options for budget accommodation here, you could try your luck at an AirBnB or one of the many Hotels offering an average of $30USD per night: Swahili House or the House of Spices.

Both are well established, good value small hotels that have pristine beaches and personal service.

best things to do in zanzibar

Getting There

Visitors to Zanzibar tend to arrive and leave via Stone Town, the island capital and an historic hub of commerce and culture. This ancient African icon was declared a UNESCO cultural heritage site in 2000. Wander down the cobblestone streets and experience local flavors and cuisine at the village spice markets.

Transit to Zanzibar options are either plane or boat, most likely departing from Dar Es Salaam and Stone Town. The plane ride involves about half an hour of cruising in a shaky Cessna, but the ferry is cheaper and can be a far more pleasant experience.

The high-speed boats run four times a day each way, take about two hours, and a ticket will run you less than half of what it costs to fly…

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Or you can leisurely make your way over to the islands….

I hope you found this Zanzibar Travel Guide to be useful and fruitful as you prepare for your next trip to Africa. Also see this travel to Zanzibar article, entitled the Magic & Wonder of Zanzibar.

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Marcello Arrambide
Marcello Arrambide considers himself a fanatical entrepreneur. During his younger years, when CD burning software first came out, he burned CD's and sold them for $5 to $10 a piece, worked at a bakery and took the leftovers to school and sold them to students for breakfast the next morning. He flew to New York City and found a contact in China to have purses and wallets shipped him directly to sell.

He has since tried sales, real estate, software and day trading, where he coaches others to learn and develop their skill in the market. He plans to show everyone how easy living and moving overseas can be on your own terms as long as you have high speed internet and a computer.
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