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Intro | History | Overview | Safari Planning | Pemba Island | Mafia Island |
Must do/see | Visas & Entry Requirements | Useful Info
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Zanzibar is still the best-kept secret in the Indian Ocean. Although now an annex to the Federal Republic of Tanzania, Zanzibar in it's own special way, still regards itself as an independent territory. With a Sultan and a multitude of palaces, Zanzibar oozes history, culture and atmosphere!

Zanzibar is an archipelago made up of Zanzibar and Pemba Islands, and several islets. It is located in the Indian Ocean, about 25 miles from the Tanzanian coast, and 6° south of the equator. Zanzibar Island (known locally as Unguja, but as Zanzibar internationally) is 60 miles long and 20 miles wide, occupying a total area of approximately 650 square miles. It is characterised by beautiful sandy beaches with fringing coral reefs, and the magic of historic Stone Town - said to be the only functioning ancient town in East Africa is an important commercial trading center for Silks, Spices and a multitude of other goods.

Wearing colourful veils and long white dresses, women and men walk slowly up the beach. An enormous wooden hull is lying on the sand, waiting to be pushed into the sea by an eager crowd. Applause, trumpets, laughter and merriment mark the celebration. The ship and its crew will set sail. In Zanzibar port, dozens of such dhows carry on the tradition of spice and precious wood trade in the Indian Ocean.

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Portuguese invasion and control of the Swahili Coast in the late 16th century ended the golden age of the archipelago, although the Omani Arabs returned to power less than a century later. Today, many of the winding streets and high townhouses of old Stone Town remain unchanged and visitors can walk between the sultan's palace, the House of Wonders, the Portuguese fort and gardens, the merchants' houses, and the Turkish baths of the old city. Day-long spice tours to working plantations offer visitors the chance to observe the cultivation of cloves, vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon, and other spices that have made the island famous.


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Situated roughly 40kms off the continent, Zanzibar Island was once the opulent trading port of the Sultan's of Oman during the 19 th century. Stone Town is a medina: the only of it's kind south of the equator. Kilometer upon kilometer of golden beaches surround the island. Inland, you will find a garden of Eden boasting some of the rarest and exotic yet endangered species. Stone Town has changed little since the middle ages with it's uniquely carved wooden doors and balconies decorating houses made of coral stone and palm thatched roofs. History as live as you are going get, Zanzibar is not only one of the most romantic and exotic destinations, it is also vibrant and fun.

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Zanzibar is not only a destination in itself, but makes an ideal addition to a week or two of safari magic. There is so much to do and see on Zanzibar and we generally recommend a minimum of four days to really enjoy the essence of this magical Island. Most visits to Zanzibar either start or end with a stay in the ancient and historic port city of Stonetown, which dominates the west coast of the island. The beaches of Mangapwani, where slave caves are visible at low tide and nearby Bububu are less than half an hour's drive away, a night or two spent on the east or north cost is well worth the extra hour it takes to drive there. That said, the Chole Island Marine Park just off Stone Town - and nearby Prison, Grave, and Snake Islands - make a refreshing day-trip and a good break from exploring the winding passageways of the old city. The majority of beach hotels are located on the windward (eastern) beaches of the island, both north and south. On the south coast of Zanzibar lies the Menai Bay Conservation Area, a sea turtle protection area for the endangered species that come to breed on the island. Roads to the southeast coast take visitors through the Jozani Forest, home to Zanzibar's rare Red Colobus monkeys and a number of other primate and small antelope species. International flight connections to Nairobi and Europe, make it extremely accessible. Roads on the island are good, and most hotels provide transfers and excursions across the island.

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Traditionally part of the Zanzibar Archipelago, Pemba is fast becoming a unique destination in its own right. For centuries, Pemba's clove plantations and spice fields provided the Omani sultanate in Zanzibar with money for trade and military dominance over the surrounding areas. To this day, the island is still a major spice producer in the archipelago. Visitors flock to Pemba's shores, dotted with desert islands and throngs of coconut palms, for some of the best diving in the Indian Ocean. The Pemba Channel drops off steeply just off the west coast and the diverse species of marine life and coral are truly exceptional. Because tourism is still in its early stages, a trip to Pemba's unspoiled shores and pristine waters is the underwater adventure of a lifetime.

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Mafia Island is a popular destination for visitors to relax after their safari and the island's relaxed and secluded beaches offer privacy and comfort for discerning travellers. Mafia's incredible and unspoilt dive sites have remained a well-kept secret of diving aficionados and beach recluses for years, but now the island is fast becoming a preferred destination. For centuries, the island was a trading stop for Shirazi merchants travelling up towards Persia and under the rule of the Omani sultanate in Zanzibar vast coconut and cashew plantations flourished. Today, all that remain of the island's prestigious past are the coral ruins on Chole Mjini, the small island just off Hore from Mafia where the Arab landowners lived a sumptuous life removed from their plantations and slaves. These days, Mafia's remote location means it receives only the most selective visitors, but things are changing. The recent gazetting of Mafia Island Marine Park - the largest protected area in the Indian Ocean - to include surrounding villages in its conservation efforts means that the millions of fish and coral species that thrive in the warm waters of Mafia's beaches will survive for decades to come.

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Spice Island tour - explore the fragrant world of spice with either a half or a full day spice island excursion. An ideal way to really explore the history and the magic of what Zanzibar has been a mecca for... cultivated cinnamon, tumeric, fields of lemon grass and cloves and a multitude of other spices.

Dinner at Emerson & Green - dine under theh stars on the rooftop at Emerson & Green, experience the flavour of Zanzibar cooking and views of stone town to die for.

Swim with Dolphins - at the south of the island.

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All visitors require a passport, valid for the duration of their stay. Preparations are under way for visitors to obtain visas at any entry point, and this time-saving facility is available to visitors arriving at Zanzibar International Airport. Other points in Tanzania currently offering visa on entry are Dar es Salaam and Kilimanjaro International Airports, and Namanga on the road border between Tanzania and Kenya. Nationals of some countries do not require visas, so it is advisable to check with your nearest Tanzanian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate prior to visiting. Key Tanzanian diplomatic missions:

Tanzania High Commission

43 Hertford Street

London W1Y 7FF

United Kingdom

Tel: + 44 20 7491 3600

Tanzanian Embassy

2139 R Street NW

Washington DC 20008

United States

Tel: + 1 202 9396128

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Time Zone                                        GMT + 3

Currency                                           Tanzanian Shilling (Tsh)

Approximate exchange rate              US$ 1 = 1,000 Tanzanian Shillings = 100 cents

Official languages                             Kiswahili & English

Electricity                                          220 - 240 V AC, 50 Hz

Religion                                            Predominantly Islam

International Dialing code                + 255 24, followed by 7-digit local number

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Zanzibar History:

The Scramble for Africa Thomas Pakenham

Memoirs of an Arabian Princess from Zanzibar Emily Ruete

Historical Zanzibar Professor Abdul Sheriff

Empires of the Monsoon Richard Hal

Zanzibar Travel Guides:

Zanzibar: The Bradt Travel Guide David Else, Heather Tyrrell

Tanzania & Zanzibar Annabel Skinner (Editor)

Lonely Planet: Tanzania, Zanzibar and Pemba Mary Fitzpatrick

Dive Sites of Kenya and Tanzania; Including Pemba, Zanzibar and Mafia Anton Koornhof

The Mini Rough Guide to Zanzibar (Mini Rough Guides) Jens Finke

Zanzibar Reference:

Dive Sites of Kenya and Tanzania; Including Pemba, Zanzibar and Mafia Anton Koornhof

Lonely Planet: Swahili Phrasebook Martin Benjamin, et al

Collins Pocket Guide: Coral Reef Fishes (Collins Pocket Guides) Robert Myers, Ewald Lieske (Illustrator)

Zanzibar Coffee Table Books:

Zanzibar Style Gemma Pitcher, Javed Jafferji (Photographer)

Images of Zanzibar Javed Jafferji

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