Once you pick that perfect beach, the rest is easy we are here for you.
Zanzibar is a wonderful and unique destination that should not be excluded from your trip to Tanzania. The archipelago lies just 35 km (22 miles) from Tanzania's mainland. The largest island is named Unguja but is commonly just called Zanzibar. Rich in culture and history along with having some of the finest beaches and d SCUBA/snorkeling spots in the world make this an easy choice to include for your holiday. Realistically, we would recommend at least 4 days dedicated to this segment of the trip, with additional days recommended. This was a major trading hub and the culture is a mixture of Indian, Arabian, Persian, Portuguese, and African cultures. This is the birthplace of the Swahili culture and language. The oldest area of Zanzibar City is known as Stone Town. Architecturally, it is a wonderful spot, especially famous are the ornate hand-carved giant wooden doors. Only the mixture of cultures can give birth to one of the most famous Zanzibari, Farrokh Bulsara - known as Freddy Mercury, the famous late lead singer of the band Queen. His birth site has become a museum. There are many wonderful restaurants and coffee shops in Zanzibar.
The island, in addition to its beaches, has many spice plantations open for tours and Jozani Forest, a tropical rainforest worth visiting. We don't blame you though if you decide you would rather relax and spend the day at the beaches.
Far less visited but worth the trip is Pemba located 50 km (31 miles) north of Unguja. If you want solitude and relaxation along with some wonderful snorkeling/SCUBA this is the place. As opposed to the 150+ tourist hotels in Zanzibar, Pemba has three.
Zanzibar is heavily Muslim and away from beach resorts, it will be respectful if you dress in a conservative manner – no short skirts or shorts, covered midriff, and shoulders will be appreciated. At the beach resorts, it is much more accepted for swimsuits and short clothes. But topless sunbathing is not allowed. As a high percentage of the population is Muslim, it is not likely that you will find pork products on the menu at any restaurant. Public drunken behavior is frowned upon. During the celebration of Ramadan, Muslims fast during the daylight hours. Therefore, outside of the tourist areas, restaurants are closed during the daytime. After sunset, these areas come alive though. In tourist areas, you can expect food and drink as normal. The dates for Ramadan are:
01 April – 30 April 2022
20 March – 20 April 2023
10 March 08 April 2024
28 February – 29 March 2025
Some great beaches are on the island. Which part of the island you stay at will depend on what activities and how much interaction with others you want.
Kendwa Beach — 66km from the airport, 62km from Stone Town. This is considered the best beach in all of Tanzania. Very little tide variation is a big plus. Great for those looking for sunbathing, swimming, snorkeling, or diving. The beach is famous for its full moon parties held at Kenwa Rocks Resort.
Nungwi Beach –67 km from the airport, 63kmvfrom Stone Town. very popular and a close contender with Kendwa as the best beach. This is a very socially lively area with several nightclubs and restaurants. Activities include swimming with sea turtles, kayaking, snorkeling, diving, sky diving, horse riding, sunset dhow (traditional boat) cruises, and catamaran trips.
Matemwe Beach — 53km from the airport, 49 km from Stone Town on the NE coast. This is a small and not very famous beach but it is possible to go to Mnemba Island from there for the best snorkeling in Zanzibar.
Kiwenga Beach –East coast 46km from the airport, 43km from Stone Town. Along the beach with beautiful white sand, this is a great spot for sunbathing, swimming, and kiteboarding. This is also referred to as “Little Italy” due to its popularity with Italian tourists.
Uroa Beach — East Coast 41km from the airport, 38 km from Stone Town. This destination is what you want if you want quiet. Few beach activities.
Pongwe Beach— This is located between Uroa and Kiwenga Beaches. This is most famous for being the location of the vastly overrated “The Rock Restaurant”.
Paje Beach— 50km from the airport, 49 km from town Town on the southeast coast. This is the best location if you like kiting. But it is also great for snorkeling and diving. The tide variation is pretty large here with the water receiving more than a hundred meters during low tide. There are many local stores available nearby.
Jambiani Beach — 56km from the airport, 55 km from Stone Town on the southern coast. A good beach for swimming during high tide but like Paje, the tide variation is quite large. Cuza Cave is an attraction here. A limestone cave with perfectly colored turquoise water, a lovely swimming spot. There are several activites such as cooking classes, dancing, and local drumming at the cave.
Kizimkazi Beach — 60km form airport, 60km from Stone Town on the south western coast. This area is the best for swimming with dolphins. The tide variation here is very large.
Nakupenda Sandbank — 20 minute boat ride from Stone Town. A very good area for snorkeling and daytrips. No accommodations.
Prison Island (Changuu) Beach — A short 25 minute boat ride from Stone Town, Prison Island was built as a prison for disobedient slaves in the 1860’s. It is now best known for its giant tortoises. But the beach there is great for sunbathing or snorkeling. No accommodations.
Vuma Wimbi Beach (Pemba) Clear water and white sand beach located don the NW coast of Pemba Island.
Misali Island Beach (Pemba) is Located near Chake Chake Coast on Pemba Island. Great place for snorkeling and diving. No accommodations but all hotels in Pemba can take you there for a day trip.
Zanzibar has an international airport – Abeid Amani Karume International Airport (ZNZ) located on the southern part of Unguja Island. There are several flights daily from Kilimanjaro (JRO), Dar es Salaam (DAR), Arusha (ARK). There are also flights to/from the Seronera portion of the Serengeti (SEO). Be advised that this is a domestic flight, so your baggage allowance will less than your international flights. There is the option of modern ferry service from Dar es Salaam and there is also a speedboat running from Ushongo Beach in Pangani to Kendwa (northern tip of Unguja). Ferry service and flights are available from Zanzibar to Pemba Island.
You can get to Pemba by flight from Zanzibar. The airport code is PMA. This is not an international airport. Do not confuse this with Pemba Airport in Mozambique. There are also ferries from Zanzibar City to Pemba.
You will not be bored during your time here. Some of the recommended activities include: doing nothing, swimming, snorkeling/SCUBA, deep sea fishing, kite surfing, parasailing, swimming with dolphins, sunset dhow cruise, jet skiing, ocean kayaking, sailing, cooking classes, Jozani Forest visit, spice plantation tour, cooking classes, Stone Town walking tour, shopping, visit animal rescue center – Cheetah’s Rock, and a famous full moon party (held at Kendwa Rocks Hotel).
With the exception of Cheetah’s Rock Animal Rescue Center, booking for activites can best be done through your hotel once you arrive in Zanzibar. Cheetah’s Rock needs early booking and has some strict guidelines for the well being of the animalsthat you neeed to be aware of. Full information can be found on their website at: cheetahsrock.org
Besides Unguja Island, the second most common island in Zanzibar to visit is Pemba. Less developed and with some great diving spots. As an example of the difference, there are 3 tourist hotels in Pemba compared to over 150 in Unguja. There are flights to Pemba by small planes (approximately 15 minutes flight time) and there is a ferry operating between Zanzibar and Pemba.
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