Welcome to Zanzibar – Best Beaches in Zanzibar
The Zanzibar archipelago consist of a group of islands with some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Although best beaches in Zanzibar are the part of Tanzania, the it remains more independent with residents preferring to consider themselves as Zanzibaris.
Residents have their own elective leaders and governing structures. Islam is the dominant religion in the island and this is because the Arabs (under the Sultan of Oman ruled) ruled the island for centuries after conquering it from the Portuguese.
The British later took over control of the Island from the Arabs. Foreign occupation and intermarriages influenced the architecture and cultural heritage of the island.
There is a heavy mix of African (Swahili) and Arabic culture. It is also important to note that because of the heavy Islamic influences, residents of the island are more conservative and down to earth than in mainland Tanzania.
There are several places to visit and things to do while in Zanzibar including to visit the best beaches in Zanzibar. The Islands are an excellent hideout for tourists who desire a serene and quiet place to explore the Indian ocean and all that it has to offer.
Zanzibar offers amazing best beaches in zanzibar, a great nightlife, restaurants and many other fun activities. This article is very comprehensive and will cover most of the key attractions and things which make best beaches in Zanzibar such and amazing attractions worth a visit.
Top attractions in Zanzibar – Activities and things to do in Stone Town – Best Beaches in Zanzibar
-Visit the Local markets in Stone Town: While at Stone Town, you can visit the Darajani market and see how people make ends meet or go shopping for fruits, giant see fish, meat and vegetables.
You can join in the fish auctioning where fish dealers put a price for the largest catch. Taking part in the fish auction is exciting as it allows you to mingle with the locals and get a chance to see rare and giant ocean creatures.
If you have some spare change, you can take part in the auction. You could put on a price on one of the largest fish and donate it to the female fish dealers with less money.
While at the market, you can order for fresh fish and have it fried or grilled to be served with potato chips.
-Visit the Livingstone House: This building is also found in Stone Town Zanzibar. It was built by Sultan Sais Majis in 1860. It later served as the headquarters of explorers and missionaries who had come for specific missions in East Africa.
One of the explorers was the famous Dr. David Livingstone. Livingstone stayed in the building before starting his expedition to the East African mainland. The British bought the house in 1947 but now houses government tourist offices.
-Visit Religious Establishments: Although Islam is the dominant religion in the island, Zanzibar also has residents who are Christian or Hindu. Stone Town has Hindu temples, Christian Cathedrals and several mosques.
The Shakti Temple for example stands out for its unique architecture while the Malindi mosque is the oldest in the island with a rare but simple design.
Christians can visit the Anglican Cathedral which was built in the 19th century. The cathedral is close to one of the largest slave markets in Stone town and is worth a visit.
-Prison Island: Prison Island, also known as Changuu Island was left untouched until it was inhabited by the Arabs in the 1860’s. The island was used as a temporary shelter for slaves who were considered rebellious or with potential to lead revolts.
The slaves were kept there before being sold abroad. The Island was also used to quarantine those who got sick during yellow fever epidemics.
When Zanzibar became a British protectorate, the Island was bought from the Arabs and a real prison was built. The prison was never used on completion and has now been turned into a beautiful resort.
-More about the Island’s slave History: If you are interested in learning about the islands role in the slave trade, you can hire a local Guide to take you to the old slave market, slave caves and champs.
The Mangapwani Slave Chambers is arguably a better place to go to if you want to learn about the horrors of slavery and the role of Zanzibar in the trade.
Most of the slaves from the mainland and other parts of East African where brought to Zanzibar before being taken for forced labor in different parts of the world.
The Mangapwani Slave Chambers are found 12 miles away from Stone Town. The Chambers were built underground and was used to hide slaves even after slavery was abolished.
You can end your fact finding mission by going for a swim at the former slave port.
-Visit the Seaweed Centre: The seaweed Centre is managed by a group of women in Zanzibar who lives around the Best beaches in Zanzibar. The women have taken advantage of the abundant seaweed at the ocean shores to make products like smoothies, juices, organic soap and oils.
During your visit to the Centre, you will meet the women and learn how they make their products. You will be offered an opportunity to taste a seaweed smoothie and find out how it is like.
There are many ways in which you can support the women at the Zanzibar Seaweed Centre. The easiest way is to buy some of their products.
-Go on a Sunset Dhow Cruise: Hire one of the dhows (wooden boats) and head to the ocean as you watch the town/Island disappear from the horizon.
Most of the dhows ensure that there are enough supplies for the day including delicious snacks, sea food (grilled fish, lobsters, octopus and calamari) and drinks to keep everyone excited and happy.
A Dhow cruise will allow you appreciate the sheer beauty of the Indian ocean, and usually starts from the main Island all the way to Kwale Island and Fishing villages like Fumba.
Once you reach these islands or fishing villages, you can go ashore and explore the area or climb old baobab trees. During the cruise, you may spot dolphins, swim along the beautiful green lagoons, fish or snorkel along the coral reefs and mangroves.
-Quad Biking: There is no better way to experience all that is beautiful about Zanzibar than to take a Quad bike from one of the islands and into the interior and doing it around the best beaches in zanzibar.
With a Quad bike, you can ride through the sugar cane and pineapple plantations, rice field, villages on the island, coconut plantations fruit and spice fields.
-Snorkeling, windsurfing, Parasailing and Scuba Diving: There are several water sports that one can choose to take part in while at the best beaches in Zanzibar.
The parasailing experience is one example of a fun sport that will take your breath away as you discover beautiful aerial views of the island and its other hidden spots.
Parasailing can be done alone, with friends, as a family or with your hubby. Apart from parasailing, the clear waters and coral reefs provide excellent opportunities for Scuba diving and Snorkeling.
The best beaches in Zanzibar are Kendwa Beach, Matemwe Beach, Nakupenda Beach, Nungwi Beach and Paje Beach.
The Pange Sandbank is arguably the best part of the ocean for snorkeling (especially for beginners). The waters at the Sandbank are calmer and shallower.
-Take a dalla dala or boda (Scooter): Dalla dalas are cheap minibus taxes which operate within the islands. They have no specific stage and will stop whenever they see a potential passenger.
Dala Dalas are identified by their destination name and unique registration numbers. They are always packed with passengers and willing to take in more. The local people can help you identify which one is going where.
The advantage of using dala dalas as a means of transport is that it allows you to mingle with the island residents and have a truly unique experience. The dala dala drivers charge about $2 for long trips and even less for shorter stops.
-Visit the Cheetah’s Rock: For those who love wildlife and animals in general, this is a place you must go to while in Zanzibar. The facility has got Cheetahs, lions, zebras and many of Africa’s famous wildlife.
The facility allows visitors to get a taste of what to expect while visiting Tanzania’s amazing wildlife reserves. While at the Centre, the Guide will share information about the animals as you interact and feed them.
The facility opens on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday (between 2 and 6pm) and is located in a place called Kama.
-Experience the Full Moon Party at Kendwa Rocks: The full moon party is a monthly beach party organized by resorts (mostly in the northern part like Kendwa) in Zanzibar. The Island of Kendwa has its fair share of beautiful, broad, shallow and sandy beaches with clear waters.
The full moon party brings together tourists, locals and other revelers for a night of great fun and partying. Expect colorful fireworks, acrobatics, drumming, dance, noise, food and great partying.
A main stage is set up on the beach as well as tables, chairs and mobile bars to be used by the revelers. If you happen to be part of the celebration expect to be entertained by some of the best local DJ’s, musicians, acrobats and fire-eaters.
The full moon party was introduced all the way from Finland. The main difference is that it carried out in great tropical climate surrounded by the great Indian ocean.
The Full Moon party is so popular that residents travel all the way from Dar es Salaam and other parts of Tanzania just to enjoy one night of fun.
-Take Tea or visit one of the Coffee Shops: For the best tea, coffee and inter-continental food, you should consider visiting the luxury Tea House in Stone Town. Tea House is a rooftop restaurant.
The facility is set up with comfortable chairs, tables and painted walls. Customer service and food is excellent because of the class of customers who visit it.
Reservations need to be made in advance online or through a friend physically because it is a very popular place.
Apart from tea and coffee, you can also order for espresso meringue dessert, massaman goat curry, crab cakes and saffron chillies.
Biking along the ocean shores and the Ngezi Forest in Pemba Island: One of the best ways to explore the different islands with the best beaches in Zanzibar and the city of stone town is to use a good mountain bike.
Your hotel should be able to provide a bike at a small fee. With a bike, you can explore the beaches, fishing and local villages. You can take stops to swim at one of the beaches or hope between islands.
If you get tired of biking, you can simply stop a dalla dalla and jump in with your bike all the way back to your hotel. If you are considering island hopping with your bike, then you should go to Pemba.
-Visit the Nungwi Masaai Village Market and local community: The Masai Market in Nungwi village is an excellent spot for buying local souvenirs, clothes and paintings.
The street market offers an opportunity to meet the locals and strike friendly conversations about business and life in the island.
While touring the village and market, you will observe their unique dressing styles, traditional homes, bazaars, schools and playgrounds to get an idea about the kind of life lived by the island dwellers.
After visiting Nungwi Village, you could also check out the night food market for a taste of the local cuisines. These night markets crop up every evening as local chefs begin preparing roasted meat, pizza, samosas, sugar cane juice and sea food from the roadsides.
-Hangout at Jaws Corner: This is one of the favorite hangout joints for residents of Stone Town and tourists. It is built at the very center of Stone town and hence very accessible to residents.
Jaws Corner is easily identified by a large shark painting on the wall. The Jaws Corner is an excellent spot to catch up with the latest news while sampling tasty Arabica coffee.
Most of the Island dweller gather here every evening to discuss politics, get the latest gossip or have small meeting as they take tea and coffee.
-Spice Tours: Zanzibar was known as the spice island during the 19th Century. Clove farming in particular flourished in the island because of the fertile soils and tropical climate.
Later on, ginger, vanilla, cardamom, pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg were introduced for large scale growth. Growing of spices is still very popular and lucrative in the island.
It is possible for tourists to go and visit these plantations to learn about how spices are grown and the important role they play in the economy of Zanzibar.
The Kizimbani Spice Farm is one of the most visited spice plantations in Zanzibar. This plantation is found in the island of Unguja.
-Diving at the Atoll Marine Reserve: The Islands around the best beaches in Zanzibar offer some of the best diving spots along the East African coast. The Mnemba Atoll Marine Reserve offers some of the best diving sports on the island.
Diving deep into the ocean allows one to explore the coral reefs and lagoons for a chance to discover rare sea creatures like turtles, emperor fish, sting rays, giant trevally fish, moral eels and lion fish.
Several companies offer diving expeditions using boats at a coat. You can combine diving with fishing for tuna, dorado and bonito.
-Swim with Humpback Dolphins: The best place to swim with dolphins is on the small fishing village of Kizimkazi. Dolphin tours are organized using boats/dhows. Tourists board the boats and go out into the ocean in search of the dolphins.
The tours can be organized as a group or in private. Dolphin tours also offer opportunities to observe other sea creatures, large sea fish, prawns and lobsters.
-Kitesurfing and exploring the lagoons: The best beaches in Zanzibar, great weather and flat lagoons of Zanzibar allow for great Kitesurfing experiences. April, May and November have no strong winds hence offering the best Kitesurfing experiences.
The best Kitesurfing spots are found on the Eastern part of the best beaches in Zanzibar.
-Swim with Turtles: The best Turtle Aquarium in Zanzibar is the Baraka National Aquarium. Most of the turtles are brought into the facility after being caught in fishing nets. Most come to the Centre when young or injured.
They are taken care until they can be released back into the ocean. The Turtle Aquarium in Zanzibar offers visitors a chance to swim with turtles. Visitors are also allowed to visit and take photos of the totals.
-The Kuza Cave: The Kuza Caves are one of the most interesting but rarely visited tourist attractions in Zanzibar alongside teh Best beaches in Zanzibar. The caves are found in the village of Jambiani and are believed to be sacred by the communities living close to it.
There is a small well within the caves which is said to have healing power. Some of the locals and individuals from mainland Tanzania visit the caves to swim in the well and hopefully get cured of their sicknesses.
The scenery around the caves is spectacular and supports an amazing collection of birds. If birding is not your thing, you can instead go and see troops of monkeys enjoying the trees in the area.
-Track the rare Zanzibar Bush Baby: Bush babies are small and shy nocturnal primates. The sub-species found in Zanzibar are unique to the island. Bush babies resemble possums but are generally cuter.
Their cries and calls can be heard at night while resting in your room. The primates are widely spread in the island and can be seen even in hotel premises.
If your lodge/hotel has resident individuals, you could spend time locating them without having to go to the wilderness. They love bananas and this is one way of luring them from their hideouts.
Things to Take into consideration when visiting Zanzibar
Zanzibar is made up of a several islands. Pemba and Unguja are the largest but there is also Mnemba, Chumbe, Mafia, Kendwa, Nungwi, Matemwe, Michamvi, Pongwe, Bwejuu, Paje and Jambiani. The capital is Stone Town in Unguja.
Before arriving in Zanzibar, you need to have a Tanzanian Visa. The easiest way to get a visa is on arrival at the airport. A yellow fever vaccination card is a must and will be asked at all entry points including the airport.
To protect yourself and your belonging while visiting the Best beaches in Zanzibar, we recommend that you get travel insurance before showing up.
Zanzibar has two seasons with rains. The longer rainy season lasts from March to May while the shorter rains come in November and December. You should think twice about visiting during the rainy months if your sole intention is to enjoy the beautiful beaches.
The monsoon winds get stronger during the rainy period. You can still enjoy the island during the short rain season because the rain isn’t intense (It rains for short periods and rarely in all parts of the islands).
Zanzibar has excellent accommodation facilities. The hotels range from luxury to simple budget options. The luxury hotels are of high quality with amazing views of the ocean.
Some of the hotel and lodges are so good that they may force you to postpone your departure date. Budget travelers and back parkers will also find countless hotels offering quality self-contained rooms facing the beach at good rates.
Despite a history of invasions, wars and takeovers, the island is relatively safe. Tanzania is said to be the most peaceful country to visit in Africa.
That said, it is important to remain cautious especially when moving with expensive electronic gadgets in crowded places. Avoid moving in the night and in places you are not familiar with. Most of the reported theft is said to be carried out by people who are not residents of the island.
Pickpockets normally target tourists who are careless enough to leave their cameras, laptops or phones unattended to while swimming in the ocean.
Because of its Muslim history, Zanzibar is a relatively conservative island. The women and men love to dress in standard Muslim clothing with beautiful fabrics. Try to dress decently and avoid very revealing dresses when away from the beach or your lodge.
Most arrivals and departures to Zanzibar occur at Stone Town. One can arrive by boat, ferry or plane from Dar es Salaam. The planes are more expensive and but fast taking only 20 minutes from Dar es Salaam, while speed boats take about two hours.
Although considered slow, the most thrilling experience is arriving by ferry from Dar es Salaam. The long journey will help you appreciate the sheer beauty of the Indian ocean.