Size: 2,650 sq km (1,020 sq miles)
Zanzibar is the evocation of the exotic, an archipelago nested in the Indian Ocean and a destination both legendary and mysterious.
From this remote outpost, at the hub of Monsoon trading routes, history was enacted, journeys of discovery were planned, Sultanate empires were established and the first mediaeval global village was founded. Zanzibar retains the imprint of its historic legacy in the tumbling streets of Stone Town, in the Arabic-inflected Swahili language and the rare antiques of the bazaars and markets. The haloes of idyllic beach that adorns the island’s coast, and the fragrant spice plantations that blossom in the interior make Zanzibar The Ultimate Indian Ocean Destination, the jewel in East Africa’s crown.
Stone Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, grew out of Zanzibar’s historical trades, a metropolis built to harbour secrets in its labyrinthine alley ways. Emblems of a rich and tumultuous history survive today, depicted through Arabian Nights palaces, mournful Slave Markets, aromatic spice bazaars, ornate cathedrals and an historic fort that was the scene of the worlds’ shortest war survive today.
A walk through the narrow alleyways, past ornately carved doors and serene courtyards, is a journey along the paths of past existences. Although Zanzibar’s allure is born out of myth and legend, the dhows still sail her shores, and beyond the minaret toothed skylines, the sun still sets to the sound of the call to prayer.
World-class PADI diving amongst the fish-fertile reef, historic shipwrecks and abundant lagoons that bejewel the islands might also reveal dolphin, turtle and seasonal pods of whales as they follow the monsoon currents. Windsurfing, kayaking and snorkelling sites abound.
Fishing enthusiasts can follow in Hemingway’s wake in state-of-the-art, “tag and release” big game fishing, using international standard equipment to land prize billfish and tuna, while the fisherman who craves the exotic might try his luck with the local in a ngalawa, a traditional outrigger. Dhows or Jahazis, traditional lateen sailing craft, glide seamlessly powered by the dependable monsoon. Go for a sail… where the land ends, Zanzibar continues, the influence and allure stretching out towards the distant lands from where it was borne.
Zanzibar’s natural abundance sustains a biodiversity worthy of any East African destination, with Marine parks, National Parks, Forest Reserves and pioneering Community Conservation projects for the protection of its rich natural resources. Endangered species such as Ader’s Duiker, the Pemba Flying Fox and the captivating Zanzibar Red Colobus exist only on the Zanzibar archipelago, endemics in an extraordinary habitat.