We started our African adventure in Zanzibar, a semi-autonomous region of Tanzania in East Africa. Renowned as the place the African and the Indian sub continents collide to produce a heady mix of sounds, sights and smells…. It’s not for nothing that Zanzibar is known as the Spice Islands.
We flew into the capital, Zanzibar city and, after clearing a slightly chaotic passport control, we were off to our destination on the south side of the island… about an hours drive. Slowly, the city fades away and countryside takes over.
Zanzibar is best know for it’s beaches – blue waters and the whitest, softest sand
and it’s fair to say that many people who visit here don’t leave their beach resort and see what else Zanzibar has to offer…
That is understandable – the children loved exploring the beachs
and…. we were lucky enough to catch the full moon!!
Full moon parties are a big thing in Zanzibar! Popular since the mid 80s, many hotels celebrate the full moon. I have to admit, we didn’t stay for the party, but the views were breathtaking.
And it would also be fair to say that the beach resorts are lovely! We stayed at Breezes beach club and it was truly lovely. The children didn’t want to leave!
but it really is worth seeing what else Zanzibar has to offer!
So, here’s our top 5 things to do in Zanzibar.
- See the sea life. Get out of the pool and into the sea to see some wonderful underwater wildlife!
With a little help, we made it all the way out to the edge of the reef at low tide…
I’d definitely recommend doing this with help from a guide, as the tides come in quickly and the currents can be strong… they will also make sure you do least damage to the fragile ecosystem (and yourself!!)
and you will be rewarded with some wonderful sights!
With the prospect of seeing the sealife, J and G tried scuba diving. G, it must be said, wasn’t a fan…
and stuck to snorkelling but J adored it! It was a wonderful opportunity to try a new activity and one J will definitely do again. I was so proud of him – He even jumped off the boat backwards!
- Meet the monkeys. Zanzibar is home to the red Colobus monkey and Jozani Forest (about 40 minutes south of Zanzibar city) is one of the few places where they are protected and live freely. At one time, they were at risk of extinction, but are now flourishing in their protected home. They are very tame, and you are escorted by a guide to ensure you don’t get too close or disrupt their habitat.
- While at Jozani forest, we would really recommend taking in the Butterfly Centre and the Mangrove walk… neither is huge, but they are brimming with information.
- Butterfly Centre:
Located just outside the Jozani national park, this is a lovely community project aimed at protecting the native butterfly species. The project now has over 40 families who earn money by growing pupae for the centre. We learned a lot here. There are some soft drinks for sale and a nice selection of quality gifts – all themed around butterflies.
- Mangrove Walk:
Learn about how the mangroves are vital to the ecology of Zanzibar… and how the mangroves strip various chemicals out of the water… and see the biggest caterpillars ever!!
- Butterfly Centre:
- Eat at The Rock. The Rock is on the southern tip of the island, but worth a trip out. Firstly, it’s just the most delightful little place, perched on a rock in the middle of the reef… A low tide, it’s possible to walk out to the entrance. At high tide, a boat is required to reach it. The food is mainly fish caught on the reef, and both J and G were delighted with their meals – High praise indeed with such fussy eaters!
- Visit StoneTown. The historical centre of Zanzibar City (and now a protected World Heritage site) is a must. It’s easy and safe to just wander around but to gain the most (especially if you are, as we were, on a reasonably limited time schedule) information about the history of the town, I’d suggest taking a guide. The roads are narrow, busy and a little chaotic with all the bicycles whizzing pasy, but there are some great sites to see… and some incredibly interesting shops. Our favourite was a stall selling recycled bags, made from old fertilizer bags and jazzed up with strips of material… and perhaps our very favourite… Henna designs painted onto canvas.
Then there are all the old buildings, fascinating history and heart breaking story of the slave trade.
And what wouldn’t we recommend? With young children, I’d suggest staying inside the reef. We attempted to go fishing and a combination of misunderstanding and ignorance (on our part!), we went past the edge of the reef. Once past the reef, it’s open ocean and boy, does it feel like it. We lasted less than five minutes before we were requesting to return to shore!!!
* *This is the face of fear!!!!!!
Zanzibar is an amazing, friendly place. One I would truly recommend getting out and seeing past the gates of the resort!