"Zan–zi–bar"—let the sounds sting you with their self-indulgent and sexy resonance. An Indian Ocean archipelago just off the Tanzanian coast, Zanzibar's principle port is Stone Town on Unguja Island, two hours by ferry from Dar-es-Salaam. Stone Town will certainly tantalize the senses aplenty with its whitewashed, coral-rock houses, bazaars, mosques, and palaces,. Inhale the sprawling spice plantations, remote beaches, and protected wildlife forests, spread elsewhere throughout this tropical Eden.
Dressing down and getting wet is the real romantic temptation here. Nungwi, the island's far-removed, northernmost settlement, is at the heart of the diving community. However, don't get drawn in by Nungwi's new, trendy centre; head to the eastern cape, southwest (to Kendwa village), or southeast (to Matemwe village) for more secluded bungalows, nestled between the coconut palms. Intersperse your amorous onshore dalliances with visits to some of the Azanian Sea's best undersea displays, particularly around Mnemba Island and the Levan Bank, or farther afield at the Murogo Reef, Pemba Island, and east of Jambiani.
Take your time for fabled Stone Town, where history appears to stand still. With visits to the House of Wonders, the Palace Museum (People's Palace), Dr. Livingstone's House and the Arab Fort amongst others, it is a fascinating look at the essence of Zanzibar. You will see Zanzibar's bustling market, winding alleyways, ornately carved and studded doors, two cathedrals and countless mosques! A trip to the site of Sultan Barghash's harem at Marahubi should also be included and rounds off an insight into Zanzibar's huge history and vibrant culture.
The history of Zanzibar would be incomplete without the cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, pepper and many other spices which brought the Sultans of Oman and the beginnings of the infamous slave trade. You will be fascinated by the sheer number of spices produced and their incredible value for many ailments. This is also the cheapest place to purchase spices and spice oils.
The Jozani Natural Forest Reserve is located in the central east region of Zanzibar Island and is home to the rare Red Colobus Monkey, which is endemic to Zanzibar. These monkeys are full of character, and roam freely. They can also be seen at very close quarters just outside the reserve's perimeter and are incredibly photogenic. Jozani forest has an excellent nature trail.
This area of Zanzibar has some fantastic beaches and nearby coral reefs which are ideal for diving and snorkelling. The local villagers have built a turtle sanctuary where injured turtles and other marine animals are nursed back to health before being released back into the warm waters of the Indian Ocean.
Kizimkazi fishing village
Situated on the southern point of the island, Kizimkazi fishing village is home to several schools of bottle-nosed dolphins which can often be sighted following a short boat trip from the village. If you are lucky, you may be able to swim quite close to the dolphins which can be a very rewarding experience. Kizimkazi is also the site of a 12th century mosque, the earliest evidence of Islam in East Africa, and is thus worth a visit for both natural and cultural reasons.
Chumbe Island was the first marine sanctuary created in Zanzibar; a colourful little island surrounded by a shallow reef alive with 90 per cent of all the coral species ever recorded in East Africa, estimated to be around 200 species, and home to more than 350 species of fish, sea turtles and lobsters. Most of the island is forested, and knitted with curious twisting nature trails that lead past the haunts of rare and endangered coconut crabs and a host of doves, rare roseate terns and other birds. At the island centre, a historic old gas-powered lighthouse built by the British in 1904 still stands tall, commanding superb views of the island and Zanzibar Town if you can endure the precarious climb to the top. A 100-year-old mosque in a quiet state of dilapidation is still used by the staff and rangers for prayers.