The beaches on the shores of Zanzibar are stunning and have made these islands popular with travellers and traders throughout time. While Zanzibar is part of Tanzania, it is often thought about as a separate destination altogether.
As a former centre of trade with the Portuguese, Indians, Arabs and Colonial Britain Zanzibar's charm is much more than its stunning beaches and clear waters. From the cultural experiences with food, and history, to the beaches and water sports to the rare Zanzibar red colobus, Zanzibar has so much to offer.
In this article, we'll look at 15 things you can do on a visit to Zanzibar to have a great time that both relaxes you and satisfies the curious mind.
Top Things To Do In Zanzibar
1. Visit Stone Town
Stone Town is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site because of its mix of African, Arabic and colonial styles that are showcased in food, art and architecture.
Stone Town started out as a fishing village into an important trading centre that over the years was ruled by Portugal, Oman and then Britain in colonial times.
Besides wandering the old streets and checking out the ancient buildings and museums, you can taste some local food.
If your taste in music goes as far back as the band Queen, you can visit Freddie Mercury's childhood home. Some sources contest over which exact house, but your tour guide should help to at least find one of the correct houses Freddie's family lived in. This notwithstanding, Queen fans will not want to miss this.
2. Swimming & Snorkelling
Zanzibar is very popular for its waters and one of the best ways to enjoy the water is by snorkelling. Depending on the season, you might get a chance to swim with the dolphins. The clear water allows you to see the marine life that is below the water.
If you prefer to spend even more time with the coast, you can try scuba diving, surfing and kiteboarding.
3. Shop In Darajani Market
Darajani Market in Stone town is a great place for shopping for all kinds of goods especially spices and fabric. Zanzibar's history is tightly tied with the spice and fabric trades of centuries gone.
Besides the street food in the market, you can also watch the big fish auction when the fishermen come from the sea. This can be quite entertaining, and even fun to participate in.
4. Visit Prison Island
Changuu Island, also called Prison Island was at one time a detention place for rebellious slaves as well as sick people during the various yellow fever outbreaks. The slaves were kept here temporarily before being sold abroad.
The prison built by the British was never used and later turned into a resort.
In 1919, four giant Aldabra tortoises were introduced to the Island and their numbers grew, with some of them now believed to be more than 100 years. Changuu Island is just a 30-minute boat ride from stone town.
5. Visit Jozani Forest
Jozani forest is the last natural habitat where you can see the Zanzibar red colobus monkey. Since the Zanzibar red colobus monkey is only found in Zanzibar, it stands a risk due to being found in only on place.
Conservation efforts have so far had great success and the monkeys are now more than 2500. The only worry is about being geographically located on one island.
The forest is very lush and the trails through the forest are not just good for the monkeys but other animals, birds as well as colourful butterflies that call it home.
6. Visit The Beaches
Zanzibar is on of the best beach destination in Africa and a day at the beach is a perfect way to unwind and relax. Some beaches like Paje have a vibe that will appeal to the backpacker because of the various hip cafes, bars, hostels and kite surfing.
As an archipelago, Zanzibar is just full of beaches both popular and less known and depending on what you prefer in terms of activities, and crowd levels, you will easily reach the preferred beach spots.
7. Try Local Foods
Being a cultural hotspot, Zanzibar's changing history is reflected in its local dishes that are influenced by various European, Arabian, African and Asian cultures.
Popularly known as the Spice island, you can book entire tours based around spices from the farm to the final stages. Aside from the spices, you can enjoy the various local fruits, fish and street food.
8. Bike Around The Towns & Beaches
Biking around Zanzibar is a cool way to move from one interesting point to the other. You can bike in the maze of old streets, along the beach or even decide to cycle all around the Island.
Cycling the circumference of the island is definitely an experience worth bragging about.
Zanzibar's old architecture and natural beauty are a dream for photographers from novice to professional. Whether you want to shoot the beach, the towns, the markets or the village life, you will be busy clicking away at your shutter.
Just remember to stop and enjoy the beauty that surrounds you through your own eyes' lenses and not the camera.
10. Deep-Sea Fishing
While fishing isn't for everyone, those who love fishing will enjoy catching the many fish species that live in and around Zanzibar's islands.
If you enjoy fishing, you will enjoy spending your time in Zanzibar out on the open ocean.
11. Eat Lunch At The Rock Restaurant
The Rock restaurant in Zanzibar is world-famous for its iconic location just of the coast on actual rock. Being extremely popular, you will need to book in advance but the unique restaurant is worth it.
During high tide, you might have to wade through the water or get picked by a small boat at no cost.
12. Learn About Slave Trade
Being a major trading point, Zanzibar had a role to play during the slave trade especially for slaves from East Africa. You can visit the old slave market, slave caves as well as the Mangapwani Slave chambers which are a good way to learn about this part of our human history.
The Mangapwani Slave Chambers are built underground and continued to be operational years after the abolition of slave trade.
While such a journey to history can be dark, it can also be a testament to how much we have changed and become better to each other as humans.
While Zanzibar is a small group of Islands, the natural beauty is astounding and the things you can do to have a great time are many. Whether you prefer to relax, learn, do water sports, or party Zanzibar has so much for you.
It is hard to choose what to add to this list and what to leave out, and you should know that this list is not the entirety of things you can do in Zanzibar. It is merely the tip of the iceberg and our other articles continue to explore Zanzibar's beauty deeper.