The archipelago, which consists of the islands of Zanzibar, known as Unguja, and Pemba, is located in the Indian Ocean and harbours priceless natural heritage.
Who hasn’t ever dreamed of chilling out on a crisp white sandy beach with a coral reef, turquoise water and exquisite local cuisine? The island of Unguja, part of the Zanzibar Archipelago (Tanzania), offers all this and so much more. It is located just 20 minutes by plane from the coast of Tanzania, where daily flights depart from Dar es Salaam, the country’s former capital, although there are also ferry crossings available, which take between 2-4 hours to reach the island. From Europe, many airlines such as KLM, Qatar Airways, Emirates and ArkeFly operate flights to Dar es Salaam from Frankfurt, Rome, Brussels and Paris. The climate is tropical with a rainy season during the winter months, and temperatures of around 30 degrees during the summer, although it can be visited at any time of the year.
Zanzibar’s spectacular beaches and azure ocean are a major part of the island’s appeal, and the best thing is, thanks to the short distance between beaches (the island measures 95 km long by 32 km wide), you can make several outings in one day and discover all the hidden secrets at each place. In the northwest of the island you can find the almost virgin beaches of Kendwa and Matemwe, with their crystal-clear waters and where your only concern will be enjoying the outstanding scenery and relaxing to the sound of the waves lapping against the shore. For the more adventurous, one of the most popular activities is snorkelling, from where you can admire all the beautiful underwater life surrounding the island’s coral reefs. Paje beach in the southwest is the place to be for kite-surfers, it is a natural paradise with plenty of wind and is the perfect spot for enjoying this type of sport.
Zanzibar offers so much more than a stunning coastline and picture-postcard sunsets, it also boasts some incredible historical attractions, a fine cuisine and a whole range of leisure activities. Stone Town is the old part of the capital (a World Heritage Site) and birthplace to Farrokh Bulsara, more popularly known as Freddie Mercury, lead vocalist of the rock band Queen and a music legend. It is a perfect district to take a stroll through the streets, learn about the city’s past and visit the local street markets. For sailing enthusiasts, one of the best options is to take a cruise on a Dhow (traditional wooden boat) around Menai Bay, a marine reserve dotted with islands, coral reefs and sandbanks. You simply can’t visit Zanzibar without venturing into the Jozani forest, the last surviving tropical forest on the island and the world’s only habitat of the red Colobus monkey.
Zanzibar is known as an island of colours, flavours and spices, given the wide-ranging gastronomy to be found there. As a consequence of the large number of peoples that have occupied the island throughout history, the island’s typical cuisine reflects influences from all of them, resulting in unique, tasty dishes. The intensity of flavours, both in the main dishes as well as the sides, is the quality that prevails in the Swahili gastronomy to be found on the islands streets and in its restaurants. Cloves, coriander, cinnamon, curry… spices are very prominent in the varied local fare comprising of fish, seafood or meat. Pilau rice, spicy rice with Arabic origins, prepared with coconut, dried fruits and spices, is one of the most popular and delicious dishes. Whereas, Sorpotel, another classic, is an intense spicy stew made with beef tongue, heart, liver and pork. Other must-try specialities include Sambusa, pastries filled with meat or vegetables; Urojo, spicy potato soup with mango and lime; and Mchicha Wa Nazi, creamy spinach in coconut milk.
Zanzibar caters for all types of tourism, from large international resorts to small villages where the islanders take centre stage. In fact, Mallorcan hotel chain Melià Hotels has several establishments scattered over the island and the company Riu Hotels & Resorts plans to open a hotel there in the coming months. An island where you can relax, enjoy and experience breathtaking nature bursting with beauty and colour.
Miguel Chacártegui / Shutterstock