Updated: Apr 22
An island experience made by ‘Africa’, authentic and unspoilt, a place where you can be mesmerized by the mix influences of Africa, Arabia, India and Europe. The Zanzibar archipelago lies approximately 20 minute flight off the coast of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Arriving at what many people call Zanzibar, I was pleasantly surprised to be told by the locals the island was in fact called Unguja and is referred to as Zanzibar Island by westerners. However, the locals make it quite clear that Zanzibar is the archipelago and not the name of the island.
Unguja, is a hilly island, surrounded by many smaller islands and islets and with a population of just under 900,000 inhabitants, the islands main industry is tourism and selling spices. The island is filled with the most beautiful African Baobabs, Almond trees (known by the locals as the Umbrella tree), Palm and Xmas trees making it lush and diverse. Zanzibar Island oozes African rural, rustic charm, with a warm woozy and relaxing hot climate, sea water like a bath and friendly people with a sense of respect for each other. Its capital, Stone Town declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO remains the cultural heart of Zanzibar and one can only marvel at the narrow and winding alleys with intricate carved wood door designs emanating from Arabic and Indian influences.
The east coast is protected by coral reefs, creating a large area of shallow water when the tide is low, this can be a bother especially if you are not flexible, as time will be spent by your hotel pool when it is low tide. For this reason, it is important you stay in a hotel with a comfortable pool area and amenities. The east coast is where the best beaches are located, all with coral white sands and beautiful turquoise green waters.
The north-east coast is home to the island’s best and most idyllic beaches as well as a range of hotels from luxury to the more rustic. The north is known for the more private experience yet, there are some amazing 5* properties located on the south-east coast which offer privacy and comfort.
Unguja has more to offer than just beach, for the more curious, there is a small forest in the interior called Jozani, home to the indigenous Red Columbus Monkeys, take in the flavours by experiencing a spice tour in one of the small farms, for the history or cultural tourist there are many landmarks and museums explaining the history and discovery of the island, the spice route and middle eastern influences. One can see why in Zanzibar the saying ‘Hakuna Matata’ is most commonly used by all, meaning ‘no worries’ or ‘don’t worry, be happy’’ because any visitor to this island can only leave their worries behind and step into a world which was described by Richard Burton as ‘where earth, sea and sky all seemed wrapped up in a soft and sensuous repose’.
Two full days and 17 hotels later, namely:
Kilinidi Zanzibar, Hideway of Nungwi, ZURI Zanzibar, Diamonds Star of The East, Diamonds La Gemma dell’Est, Xanadu, The Residence, White Sands Luxury Villa and Spa, Baraza, The Palms, Zawadi, Essque Zalu, Gold Zanzibar Beach House & Spa, Breezes Beach Club & Spa, my site inspection of some of the best luxury hotels on the island has left me with a yearning to return and explore this magical island.
Photography: Vicky Pappadopoulos
After witnessing the greatest show on earth in the Serengeti National Park or in the Maasai Mara we recommend a 4 or 5 night island getaway on the island of Unguja (Zanzibar Island).
For more details on packages and information, contact our Travel Crafters who have first hand knowledge and experience on this exotic destination.