The Perfect Island Getaway for Holidays & Honeymoons
There’s more to the islands of Tanzania than just Zanzibar. Throughout the archipelago, deserted islands and sandbars beckon and abound. Some have slave caves and colonial graves, others have the ruins of sultan’s palaces and stately plantations. In Pemba, villages steeped in culture and traditions which preserve the Swahili way of life, almost oblivious to the world around them. On the islands of Mafia, old trading towns line the walkway to abandoned ports and the gentle sea. Throughout the Swahili Coast, diving, swimming, and snorkeling offer superb vistas of thriving coral and marine life.
Places to visit in the Zanzibar Archipelago
Zanzibar’s coastline offers some of the best beaches in the world, but sand and surf vary depending on what side of the island you’re on. On the east coast, waves break over coral reefs and sand bars offshore and low tide reveals small pools of starfish, small minnows, and anemones. Up north, ocean swimming is much less susceptible to the tides, and smooth beaches and white sand make for dazzling days in the sun.
Traditionally part of the Zanzibar Archipelago, Pemba is rapidly 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 an underwater adventure of a lifetime.
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 un-spoilt 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 shore from Mafia where the Arab landowners lived a sumptuous life after being 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 as the largest protected area in the Indian Ocean and includes 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.
Beaches, Diving & Snorkelling in Zanzibar
The paradisaical shores of Zanzibar are exotic as its name. Rugged coral and limestone scarps form a sheltered backdrop to tranquil, caster sugar beaches that slope gently down into crystal – clear waters, abundant with marine life. Tall coconut palms and stalking Pandanus cast their wondering shadows over the white sands and swaying hammocks, while Green Wood Hoopoes and Weaver birds flit and flutter between the green leaves and pendulous fruit high above.
MangapwaniMangapwani is rather remote and therefore more peaceful and less visited, and its golden sands – fringed with palm trees and screw Pines – have the tranquil atmosphere of a lost paradise.
NungwiFurther up, on the northern tip of the island, is the popular Nungwi Peninsular, with its boats building industry, coral lagoons and Turtle Aquarium.
KizimkaziOn the southern tip of the island are some remote and rugged beaches, yet there are adventures and activities here to suit all tastes – including the Zanzibar Dolphin safari at Kizimkazi, which lies within the Menai Bay Conservation Zone.
Diving Courses & Beach Activities
Unguja and Pemba are endowed with some of the best and most varied dive sites in the world, with diving courses catering for the novice up to Dive Master Standards. Steep wall dives; drift dives and world – class coral formations make this area a prime location for the experienced deep water divers.Diving from a boat in the clear, blue ocean off Zanzibar is one of the most exhilarating experiences to be had on a holiday in this part of East Africa. The visibility is usually very good, the water warm and the marine life diverse and innumerable: Swaying weeds and soft coral all seethe with minute organisms that are food for the larger species. Shoals of fish weave and dart around in kaleidoscopic ballets, and playful octopus, Cuttlefish, Sea-Urchins, and Sea Cucumbers can be seen at every point.
Courses are run at the various schools, and one is able to train up to PADI standards of Sport Diver and Master Diver. For the professional Diver there are marvelous opportunities for deep water diving and underwater photography, and some of the SCUBA schools and dive centers are equipped with lamps and other specialized equipment to outfit such activities of diving in Zanzibar.