Zanzibar & Dar-es-Salaam
Zanzibar’s allure is legendary. One of East Africa’s great trading centres, the archipelago has been for centuries a crossroads of culture, a melting pot of influences where Africa, India and Arabia meet, a complete change of pace from the mainland, a place where life’s rhythms are set by the monsoon winds and the cycles of the moon.
While Zanzibar gets most of the attention, the archipelago is also made up of Pemba to the north, plus numerous smaller islands and islets. Each of the main islands has its own distinct character. Zanzibar’s major attraction is Stone Town, with its whitewashed, coral-rag houses, quaint shops, bazaars, mosques, courtyards and squares. Stone Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its cultural heritage, historic architecture, seaborne legacy and symbolic importance in the suppression of slavery. Another draw card is its spectacular sea, edged by fine, white-sand beaches. Although many places have become very developed, there are still some quiet spots left.
Verdant Pemba, in contrast, is hilly, densely vegetated and seldom visited. Voodoo flourishes amid its hilly terrain, winding creeks lace the shoreline, and the mangrove-lined coast opens occasionally onto hidden, pristine coves and bays the colour of emerald.
As early as the 8th century AD, Zanzibar and other islands off the coast of East Africa became bases for Arab merchants trading with the mainland, which they called the Land of Zenj (Arabic, blacks), or Azania. In the course of time some of these including Zanzibar and Kilwa became independent Muslim sultanates with mixed Arab and African populations.
In the 16th and 17th centuries they were dominated by the Portuguese, and in the 18th century, Zanzibar and Pemba were subject to the sultans of Muscat and Oman. In 1832 the Omani sultan Sayyid Said (1787-1856) established his residence on Zanzibar, where he promoted the production of cloves and palm oil and carried on an active slave trade with the interior. His domain, which included parts of the mainland, was a commercial rather than a territorial empire. His successors did not have a legal claim to the lands they controlled commercially, and did not have the power to keep the Germans and British from annexing them when the European nations began dividing up Africa later in the century.
Zanzibar was declared a British protectorate in 1890; the sultan was retained for ceremonial purposes, but most major decisions were made by the British resident. Sultan Khalifa ibn Harub (1879-1960) used his influence to support British rule. At the time of his death, Britain was divesting itself of its African colonies, and Zanzibar, troubled by political factionalism, was granted independence in December 1963. A few weeks later, January 12, 1964, its conservative government was overthrown in a bloody revolution and replaced by a leftist regime under Sheikh Abeid Amani Karume (1905-72). Immediately after the revolution, Karume signed a pact with Nyerere uniting Zanzibar and Tanganyika to form The United Republic of Tanzania.
Zanzibar is also known as the ‘Spice Island’ due to the delicious variety of spices grown on the island’s many plantations. In particular, the Zanzibar and Mafia Islands produce cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and black pepper. A guided tour offers guests a walk through a spice farm with the chance touch, smell and taste different spices and tropical fruits.
Stone Town City Tour:
Follow the footsteps of the sultans, traders, slaves and explorers who once lived on the winding streets of Stone Town. Learn how this town was shaped by its ancestors, visit historical sites including the Old Arab Fort, the former Slave Market, the Sultan’s Palace Museum and many more.
Sultan Panorama Tour:
If you would like to have a taste of the Zanzibari history and life, then the full day Sultan Panorama tour may be the one for you. Start with a tour in Stone Town, covering the history of the sultans, slave trade and invasions, as well as current affairs. Afterwards, drive to a spice farm where you have the opportunity to familiarize yourself with a variety of spices and fruits. End the tour visiting a local village, mingling with the Zanzibaris and learn about the Zanzibari life and culture.
Freddie Mercury Tour:
Lead singer of the rock band Queen, Freddie Mercury, is probably Zanzibar’s most famous son. Born in 1946 in Shangani, Freddie Mercury spent his formative years living and playing in Stone Town’s winding alleyways. Follow Freddie’s footsteps through the alleyways of Shangani followed by a visit to the Zoroastrian temple, where Freddie and his family worshipped. End the tour at the Mercury restaurant by the seafront.
Kizimkazi Boat Trip – spotting Dolphins:
Drive from Stone Town to Kizimkazi, on the south coast of Zanzibar. Board a traditional dhow and sail out to sea in search of dolphins. You can get as close as 10 to 20 meters away from dolphins – sometimes even closer if you’re lucky. Spend some time snorkelling on the reefs afterwards if you desire, before returning for lunch at the beach.
About an hour’s sailing away from the bay at Stone Town lies a sandbank surrounded by crystal clear blue water. Spend the day at leisure, going out to snorkel around the sandbank where the underwater world is filled with marine life. A seafood lunch is served at the sandbank. After a siesta, sail off to Prison Island and visit the giant tortoises before sailing back to Stone Town.
Green Panorama Tour:
Take a break from the sea & beaches and go inland to explore Zanzibar’s forests in half a day. Start at Jozani Forest, home to the Zanzibar red colobus monkey as well as the Aders’ duiker, Sykes’ monkeys, African civet, and many more, including around 83 different bird species. The second stop is next door, the Zanzibar Butterfly Centre, one of Africa’s largest butterfly exhibits, which offers an interactive and visual environment to learn about butterflies. The tour ends at ZALA Park, a small reserve set up to preserve Zanzibar’s natural environment and teach local children about conservation.
Emerson Spice (Tharia Street, Stone Town)
Rated by many to be Zanzibar’s best restaurant, advance booking is a must. The menu of Swahili inspired dishes incorporates fresh local produce giving a truly authentic taste of Zanzibar with every bite.
6 Degrees South (Shangani Street, Stone Town)
The classic Grill & Wine Bar is a popular meeting point for Zanzibar residents and a great place to mingle with the locals. Open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner, 6 Degrees South caters for all tastes; the wine bar boasts an extensive collection of fine wines. Sundowners, with Zanzibar Tapas are served on the rooftop cocktail terrace.
Serena Inn (Shangani Street, Stone Town)
The Serena offers a choice of buffet meals in the main restaurant, delicious freshly brewed coffee in the café, and elegant dining on the rooftop terrace overlooking the Indian Ocean. The Terrace Restaurant is open daily and advance booking is recommended for this seafood speciality restaurant. A pool side barbeque dinner is served several nights a week under the stars with live Zanzibar Tarab music.
Mercury’s (Mizingani Road, Stone Town)
A relaxed restaurant serving good hamburgers and curries, service here is very laid back and plenty of time should be allowed to fully enjoy this experience. Located on the bay overlooking the port, let time slip away as the ships float in and out of the harbour and watch the local children play on the beach.
Mangapwani Beach Club
Mangapwani is an open restaurant overlooking the ocean that serves a seafood buffet lunch. Enjoy a swim in the ocean or explore the rocky coves and sandy beaches followed by a delicious seafood lunch. There are shower facilities on site and day beds on which to relax after lunch. The Mangapwani Beach Club can be enjoyed as a full day on the beach with lavish luncheons, or booked for exotic evening cocktails and a beach BBQ.
Tamu – Gelateria Italiana (Kenyatta Road, Stone Town)
The first and only Italian gelateria in Zanzibar! Featuring a range of both traditional and unconventional flavours, from Marsala to Pimento, this is an absolute must for ice cream lovers!
The Rock Restaurant (Michamwi Pingwe Beach)
A very unique dining experience, this small and charming restaurant is built upon a rock, in the waters just off the Michamwi Pingwe beach. During high tide diners will walk through knee high water to reach the restaurant, where they are rewarded with a menu of succulent seafood prepared with a Mediterranean flair.