About Zanzibar Island

The perfect place to round off a dusty adventurous safari on the Tanzanian Terrestrial wilderness or a strenuous trek of Mount Kilimanjaro is in the warm deep waters of the Indian Ocean.

Tanzania’s roughly 1,300 km long shoreline is blessed with wonderful beaches which are perfect for relaxing your mind.

You may also wish looking at the tropical dreamful heaven and some of the most beautiful, pristine beaches in the world, the archipelago of Zanzibar is your perfect choice. Known as an exotic tropical paradise and bucket list destination to visit for many world travelers, Zanzibar’s timeless serenity ensures that it remains neither over-run nor over-developed. These islands are located off the Tanzanian coast, not far from the largest city in Tanzania.



Zanzibar’s main island (Unguja) is the most visited, and for good reason – with its miles of beaches, profusion of beachfront accommodations to meet any taste, and relaxed welcoming vibe.


Stone Town is the heart of Zanzibar, a labyrinth of narrow streets and alleys complete with ancient palaces, mosques, open air market, and tiny shops. A place not to be missed!


Part of the Zanzibar Archipelago but less well-known Chumbe, Pemba, Mafia, and Mnemba Islands are each worthy of several nights for the ultimate tropical vacation getaway.


What to Do in Zanzibar

The Zanzibar Archipelago is a small cluster of slow-paced islands, pristine turquoise waters, and white-sand beaches, where you can rest in a beachside or read by the pool, but if you are looking for more activities, Zanzibar offers many options to make you as engaged as you want to be!

From our guided tours around the island, you can discover cultural and architectural treasures to water activities like scuba diving, kitesurfing, and more…



Explore the rich heritage and historical legacy of Zanzibar… Walk around Stone Town’s vibrant streets and narrow alleys… Sail to Prison Island to meet giant tortoises… or you can awaken your senses at a spice plantation!


Stone Town Walking Tour and Historic Sites

Stone Town, also known as Mji Mkongwe, a Swahili word for “old town”. This place is the old part of Zanzibar City, the main city of Zanzibar, in Tanzania. The newer portion of the city is known as Ngámbo, which means “the other side”. Stone Town is located on the western coast of Unguja, the main island of the Zanzibar. Former capital of the Zanzibar Sultanate, and flourishing centre of the Spice Trade as well as the Slave Trade in the 90s.

Stone Town is a city of prominent historical and artistic importance in East Africa. Its architecture, mostly dating back to the 19th century and reflects the diverse influences underlying the Swahili Culture, giving a unique mixture of Arab, Persian, Indian and European elements. For those mentioned reasons, an excursion around the city gives you the best feel of the surrounding and the people of stone town. You are in position to explore the former slave market, The Angrican Cathedral Church, the house of wonders and the Sultan Palace Museum, the old Arab Fort and the Dispensary just to mention a few of the Highlights. Apart from the 100s of carved doors you can find in the narrow street of stone town, there are many more places you will visit to gain insight into the outstanding material manifestation of cultural fusion and the harmonization. We encourage everyone to take a tour to learn the history of Zanzibar and orient yourself to the maze of streets and alleys before venturing out to explore on your own.


Beit el-Ajaib (House of Wonders) dominates the Stone Town waterfront skyline. Built in 1883 by Sultan Barghash as a ceremonial palace it was true to its name for being, among many notable characteristics, the tallest building in East Africa and the first to have running water, electricity, and an elevator.

The Palace Museum. Former residence of Zanzibar’s last sultan, overthrown during the 1964 revolution for Zanzibar independence and ultimate union with mainland Tanganyika to form the Republic of Tanzania.  Three floors chock full of memorabilia not removed in the chaos. Exhibits are labeled, but knowledgeable guides with plenty of stories to tell are available at the entrance.

The Old Fort (Ngome Kongwe) was built around 1700 by the Omanis who ousted the Portuguese from the island. Over the years it has been repurposed many times and presently houses several craft shops, a cafe, tourist information, and an outdoor amphitheater.

Forodhani Gardens. Manicured gardens on the waterfront in proximity to all of the above. Pleasant spot for a rest in the shade, but it really comes alive at night when a street food bazaar materializes with an extensive range of freshly prepared local and locally-inspired dishes (with an emphasis on seafood), along with fresh fruit drinks and more.  Now catering to island visitors, feel free to indulge worry-free!

Anglican Cathedral and Slave Market. With the powerful British Empire wielding influence on the island in the 19th century, slavery was outlawed. To prove a point, in 1873 the British built their cathedral on the location of the slave market. In the basement of the old mission hospital next door can be found the tiny dank rooms where slaves were held.

Central Market.  The open-air main market for the city, where you can find everything – from fresh fish to spices to hardware to the latest recordings of local Taarab Music. Prepare for all your sense to be engaged!

In Stone Town there remain more than 500 intricately carved wooden doors, many of them are older than the houses in which they are set.  The doors served as a symbol of the wealth and status of a household. Take note as you wander the streets!

The Livingstone House was built around 1860 for Sultan Majid and used by many European missionaries and explorers as their home base before launching across the Zanzibar channel and into the African interior. David Livingstone, the most famous of them all, stayed in this house before his last fateful expedition in 1866.  (Located 2km north of Stone Town; not seen on the walking tour.


Spice Tour

The history of Zanzibar would be incomplete without the cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, pepper and many other spices which are essential ingredient in a Zanzibar’s everyday life, it is the island’s connection to spices and herbs.


The Spice Farm Tour is among the most popular excursions on the island. Grown spices can be seen in the plantations just outside Zanzibar town, this is also a fantastic opportunity to see the country side and rural areas of Zanzibar and also connect with local people.

Discover the spices that thrive in Zanzibar’s villages and plantations on a walking tour that’s an aromatic immersion in the island’s rural life. Join our guided Spice Farm walk through local farms that walks you through villages and spice plantations. Learn about their properties, their origins and the medical concepts in these different grown spices from the island. Get to touch and smell the grown, while workers jump and climb trees to seek out specific plants and cut off various barks, letting you see, feel and taste everything on site. You will be decorated with palm-leaf accessories such as ties, rings, bracelets and glasses. You may have an opportunity to taste some of the exotic fruits of Zanzibar and probably the only best place to buy fresh spices directly from the source. It can be quite surprising and one of the best experience you will ever have, interacting directly with the local life of SWAHILI farmers.


Along, you can add part of the tour to visit the ancient ruins of the Sultans’ country palace, the Persian baths built for the wife of one of the 19th century rulers, and see a beachfront shop where craftsmen build traditional sailing dhows using methods handed down for generations.  A longer tour can include a trip to the village of Mwangapwani to explore an underground coral cave and ancient slave chambers; a trip to the Jozani Forest Reserve for a pleasant walk and opportunity to spot the red colobus monkey, found nowhere else in the world; or a visit to a distinctive mangrove swamp, nature’s protection against beach erosion.


Festivals and Events

Eid al-Fitr marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The island is in a celebratory mood that may last – literally and figuratively – for days.  There is plenty of feasting, Taarab music concerts, and everyone dresses in their finest clothes.  Stone Town can be a particularly exciting place at this time.  In 2019 Eid is expected to commence at sunset on the 4th of June.

Mwaka Kogwa, the Shirazi New Year, is celebrated at the end of July. The best place to observe this festival is Makunduchi, a village in the southern part of Zanzibar, where huge bonfires are lit and mock fights occur between men using banana stems as weapons. As the men fight, women stroll through the field singing songs about life and love.

Sauti Za Busara (“Voices of Wisdom”) is a 4-day celebration of African music, drawing performers from all over the continent and beyond.  It is held annually in Stone Town in February.

The Zanzibar International Film Festival is a 10-day cultural extravaganza of film screenings, music, workshops, exhibits, and more.  Stone Town, July.


Prison Island

Prison Island is the name of a former prison for slaves and quarantine station in Zanzibar which is 30 minutes by boat from Zanzibar Island. The prison thereon was never used to house prisoners. Nowadays, the island gives you a chance to escape for some peace and quietness.  It lies just off the Old Stone Town, it is also a home to giant land tortoises that were imported from Seychelles in the late 90s. Now, it is more commonly known as a home for Zanzibar’s Giant Aldabran Tortoise colony, some of which are over hundred years old. This endangered specie came to Zanzibar as a gift from the government of Seychelles. The island is fringed with a beautiful coral reef, ideal for snorkelling, fishing, diving and has a lovely white beach for sunbathing. This tour is a great way to see some history, and also see Stone Town from the sea as many old maritime legends would have done.



Scuba diving, snorkeling, cruising in a traditional single-masted Zanzibar dhow, and kitesurfing are a few of the water-based activities offered on the island! Be ready to get wet!


Snorkeling and Scuba Diving

Zanzibar’s underwater marvels include a magnificent array of hard and soft corals and a diverse collection of sea creatures, including manta rays, both hawksbill and green turtles, barracudas, dolphins, and much more.

One of the best places for both diving and snorkeling is around Mnemba Island off the northeast coast of Zanzibar.  There are many additional excellent dive spots, including wrecks, around the main Zanzibar Island, Pemba Island, in the channel between the two, as well as around Mafia Island.  Excellent sites for snorkeling can be found in the Menai Bay Conservation Area off the southwest coast of Zanzibar, Chumbe Island, Mafia Island’s Chole Bay, and many locations right off the beach at low tide.

The best time for diving in East Africa is from September through March, though good diving can be found at any time of the year. February is the best time to view whale sharks. Water temperature at all sites ranges from 75° to 85° Fahrenheit (25° to 29° Celsius) and visibility ranges from 50 to 200 feet (15 to 60 meters).  It is recommended to dive or snorkel as the tide starts to come in, as an outgoing tide may bring sediments that lower visibility at close-in sites.


Dhow Cruise

A dhow is the traditional one-masted wooden sailing boat with lanteen sails used for long distance trade and travel in the Indian Ocean region.  Its graceful form is a symbol of the East African coast.

Cruising the small islands around Zanzibar in a dhow for a day or a few hours is a memorable and romantic experience. Day cruises usually include a stop at a sandbank or outer island for lunch and swimming; evening cruises include light refreshments.  The sunsets viewed from the dhow are evocative and timeless.



The village of Paje, on Zanzibar’s southeast coast is the main kitesurfing area with its shallow waters, sandy bottom, and consistent winds.  The off-shore reef offers amazing waves for more experienced kitesurfers seeking wave riding, wake styling, and free riding.


Swimming with Dolphins

The most common place to swim with dolphins is off the village of Kizimkazi on the southwest coast of Zanzibar, where they can be be seen most days.

However, due to large numbers of boats and tourists at peak times, and uncontrolled chasing and “corralling” of dolphins by some operators, the dolphins are increasingly stressed.  While a code of conduct for operators and swimmers has been established, it seems not to be carefully followed.

Top Itineraries

As with our safari itineraries, we design for you a personalized custom Zanzibar extension according to your beach style and budget. Below are example Zanzibar itineraries that work well after any safari or climb adventure. We at Bujo Tours prepare and book all elements of your extension, including flights to and from the island. Please contact us  to discuss your days in paradise! 



These resorts provide more serenity and more distance between you and other sun-seekers. Some offer pampered luxury, others offer quiet solitude for a true getaway, and some minimize their ecological footprint by treading lightly and avoiding crowds.

Why exclusive?

  • Located on small outer islands or quieter parts of Zanzibar
    • Distinctive and unique accommodations
    • Personal attention
    • “Get away from it all”




Perched on an outcrop overlooking a coral-fringed lagoon on Zanzibar’s peaceful northeast coast, Asilia’s three Matemwe properties – the Lodge, the Retreat, and the Beach House offer gradations of secluded luxury.  Choose between one of the 12 chalets, 4 villas, or the singular 3-room residence for your place in paradise.



On tiny Chumbe Island, off the west coast of Zanzibar, guests stay in one of 7 eco-bungalows that blend into the forest with palm-thatched roofs, an open layout with bedroom on the upper level and sitting area below, local hand-made furniture, colorful fabrics, and a swinging hammock sofa. Relax on the beach, snorkel, and take guided walks through the forest trails and inter-tidal area.



Mafia Island, reachable by short flight from Dar es Salaam, is a laid back alternative to Zanzibar and Simon Mtuy’s favorite getaway with endless beaches, excellent snorkeling and diving, and easy interaction with the locals. Unpretentious Chole Mjini resort consists of 7 unique and lovingly built tree houses, each open to nature but with full amenities and exquisite comfort.



Elevated and crafted along an idyllic beach on Pemba Island, The Manta Resort offers privacy, romance, adventure, and a variety of water sports on its remote island sanctuary. Spend a night (or more!) in the resort’s floating underwater room, set in the reef 250 meters offshore, for a once-in-a-lifetime experience



The beach is all about lounging barefoot with the surf tickling your toes, the enveloping warmth of the sun, and timeless evenings of cool ocean breezes wafting through your beach-side bungalow. You’ve found your piece of paradise!

Why Boutique?

  • Comfort, serenity, relaxation
    • Everything you need in a beach holiday!
    • Easy access from the Zanzibar airport
    • Unhurried pace




Shooting Star Lodge is a relaxed and intimate hotel nestled on a headland with panoramic views across the Indian Ocean. Accommodations are in sea view cottages with verandas overlooking the beach, economical lodge rooms with terraces opening onto the garden, or the exclusive and spacious Monsoon Villas with private plunge pools set amidst tropical gardens.



On a protected bay on Zanzibar’s quiet northeast coast an intimate island experience awaits at Pongwe Beach Hotel. Pongwe’s 16 thatch roof cottages are set in a manicured garden fronting their “pool with a view” and a long white sandy beach protected by an offshore reef, where the warm clear Indian Ocean is ideal for swimming.



As a refuge of solace, where you can just relax and enjoy the slow pace of Zanzibari life, Zanzibar Retreat Hotel lives up to its name. Its white coral beach, fine as powder, is ideal for long walks and swimming when the tide is high (swimming is also available at the pool, just steps from the beach).  The intimate hotel has just twelve rooms, including executive sea view rooms with their own private balconies overlooking the ocean.



Stone Town is a labyrinth of narrow streets and alleys that has remained largely unchanged for centuries. These distinctive hotels fashioned from former palaces deep in the heart of town reflect a bygone era while including contemporary comforts.

Why Stone Town?

  • Artists’ studios, shopping, roof-top dining
    • Staying on-site enables deeper exploration
    • Tourist-friendly andauthentic
    • Complement your beach time




Built in 1885 in the authentic Arabic style by the Wazir to Sultan Said Bargash, now exquisitely transformed with harmonious interiors, antique furniture, traditional lavish Zanzibar four-poster beds, rare lamps, and rich fabrics, the Zanzibar Coffee House Hotel offers a touch of magic and romance in the heart of Stone Town. Start the day in the tower-top teahouse with fresh locally-grown coffee and home-baked goods from the hotel’s cafe.


Zanzibar Palace Hotel is a nine-room boutique hotel centrally located in Stone Town.  Guest rooms wrap around a central atrium.  Each unique room integrates design elements from the island’s Arabian, Indian, and English influences, providing a traditional feel using many local antique pieces, magical beds, Persian rugs, and colorful silks. Facilities include the Sukinah Lounge, Palace Restaurant, and Zanzibar Palace Luxury Spa.



In the heart of Stone Town is a beautifully restored palace, once the home of one of the richest men in the Swahili Empire. Emerson on Hurumzi recreates the wondrous atmosphere and grandeur of the past with spacious airy rooms, original stucco decor, ornately carved doors, antique furnishings, ceiling fans, and unique stone baths, along with modern comforts of today. The rooftop dining area is perched high among the minarets, temple towers, and church spires of Stone Town.


Stone Town

The old historic part of Zanzibar’s capital city (Stone Town) – is rich with architecture and culture from the diverse peoples that have called the island home.  It is worth spending a night or two in Stone Town and taking a half day walking tour through the maze of streets and back alleys to its famous and infamous historical spots, including the location of the slave market, Sultans’ palaces, Beit el Ajaib (House of Wonders), the old Arab Fort, and artists’ studios.  Its main market is alive with the chatter of locals bargaining in Swahili and the vibrant appreciation of colors from fabrics, tropical fruits and vegetables, spices, and intricately carved wood. The Zanzibar cuisine there to speak, cannot be typified as it has many cultural influences. Fish, vegetables, chicken and a rich selection of fruits and spices can be found in many dishes.

Relax in the evening in a rooftop restaurant as the sweet smell of cloves wafts in on the cool Indian Ocean breeze and the quiet murmur of men playing bao, the centuries old African board game, rises from the street below.


Drinking Water

Do not drink water directly from taps in Zanzibar (and do not use tap water for brushing teeth).  Drink only bottled water, water that has been brought to a full rolling boil (for tea and coffee), or water filtered through a purifier. Water served in pitchers at all tourist lodges has been purified and is safe to drink. All beverages served in bottles (soda, beer, etc.) are safe to drink. Bottled mineral water is widely available across the island.



The east coast of Zanzibar is highly tidal.  When the tide is out (twice in a 24-hour cycle) expect to walk 200 – 300 meters to reach the sea.  The tidal disparity is smaller the farther north on the island, and on the west coast, which experiences very little tidal variation.


Climate & Temperature

The climate in the area is most often humid and warm. It is best described as typical, tropical island climate – warm to hot all year around.

Zanzibar and its neighbor Pemba have an average water temperature of 24-27 ° C throughout the year. With its stunning underwater scenery and unique abundance of fish commonly found in the Indian Ocean, it is a great destination especially for divers and snorkelers.

Accommodation & Appropriate Dress

The annually increasing range of beach hotels is testimony to the rising number of visitors. Although Tanzania’s coasts and the archipelago of Zanzibar were still treated as a “tip” years ago, they now have become a good competitor to the always popular beaches of East Africa.

With its warm climate the feeling for tourists is to wear less while on the island, and Zanzibar people are accustomed to this. However, we do suggest discretion. Short pants and skirts are fine, as long as they extend below the knee. Bare shoulders are not recommended for women. Men should wear shirts at all times.

Regardless of what you wear, you will not be accosted, but you may get disdainful looks and undesired attention, and you will certainly be insulting local cultural customs. Unfortunately, you will still see many tourists insensitive to these customs as they prance about Stone Town.

Swimsuits and lots of exposed skin are acceptable on the beach, and inside the private grounds of tourist hotels western beachwear is normal.

Zanzibar used to be considered a less popular destination, due to horrendous prices and an unfriendly reputation. But fortunately, that is all in the past and today, the island welcomes tourists from all over the world.


Flights to/from Zanzibar

Many airlines – national as well as international carriers – provide flights to Zanzibar and connect the island to the rest of the world. When flying to the island, you will land at Zanzibar airport which is located on the outskirts of Zanzibar City. For those who visit Zanzibar, it is often the last stop in their Tanzania adventure itinerary, as it can be nice to relax on the beach after an arduous climb or intense safari.


There are daily direct 1-hour flights from Kilimanjaro to Zanzibar, as well as light aircraft flights from the Serengeti that connect you to Zanzibar.   Please note that the latter have luggage limitations of 15kg (33 lbs) per person (soft-sided bags only).


Departing Zanzibar on an international flight is possible on Ethiopian Airlines, Qatar Airways, and Turkish Airlines.  To connect with the evening KLM flight to Amsterdam, take the short hop (20-minute) flight to Dar es Salaam, which we can include in any Zanzibar package.  Departures from Zanzibar to Nairobi (1hr 15min flight) is another option.



Passport and Tanzania visa are required for entry to Zanzibar. Passport must be valid for at least 6 months beyond your stay. Visas can be obtained in advance online or at any Tanzanian embassy, or may be purchased upon arrival at all international airports, ports, and border crossings.  Visas are $100 for U.S. citizens, $50 for all others.

Note:  Zanzibar is part of Tanzania.  Your Tanzania visa is valid for Zanzibar; you will not be asked to show it again if arriving on Zanzibar from elsewhere in Tanzania.



There is a risk of malaria on Zanzibar at all times of the year.  Anti-malarial pills are recommended.  Sleep under a mosquito net.  Wear long sleeves and trousers in the evening and use mosquito repellent for additional protection.


Coral-Safe Sunscreen

Certain sunscreen chemicals are harmful to coral reefs by contributing to their bleaching.  Please help us, and help the world to conserve the environment by not using sunscreens with these chemicals when swimming in the ocean on Zanzibar: oxybenzone (benzophenone-3), butylparabenoctinoxate4-methylbenzylidene camphor (4MBC). Sunscreens using titanium oxide or zinc oxide are harmless to coral.


  1. Where is Zanzibar?

Zanzibar is a tropical island group about 25km off the coast of Tanzania. It is well known for the cloves and other aromatic spices that grow in abundance, as well as its miles of white sandy beaches and sparkling azure water.

Its tumultuous history includes rule by the Portuguese, Omani Sultans, and the British Empire, before gaining independence and merging with mainland Tanzania in 1964.  The islands’ status as a crossroads of the Indian Ocean has created a fascinating syncretic culture.

Of the islands in the Zanzibar archipelago, the largest and most well known, and that which is generally referred to as Zanzibar, is properly called Unguja. (Acknowledging popular parlance we also use Zanzibar to refer to the main island.)  Another large island, Pemba, is to its north and much less developed economically and as a tourist destination.  Pemba has a handful of mid-range to high-end lodges, often specializing in scuba diving.  Mafia is also part of the island group, though it lies more than 100km to the south.  It has a small permanent population and a few small and excellent tourist lodges.

Among the other islands – just short boat rides from the main island – are tiny Chumbe and Mnemba.  Each has its own boutique tourist facility (and otherwise no permanent inhabitants) for those seeking more exclusivity.


  1. When is the best time of the year to visit Zanzibar?

Zanzibar is always warm and inviting, with tropical breezes that help moderate the heat. Temperatures are generally in the 80s Fahrenheit (26 to 30 Celsius) during the day, though it is a bit hotter December through February.  Evenings are warm and comfortable.


Heavy rains fall from late March through May and lighter rains occur in November and December.  As with all tropical islands, at any time of year days on Zanzibar have a mixture of both sun and clouds.  Peak season for tourists is August and the Christmas/New Year holiday.


  1. What is the main religion on Zanzibar?

Zanzibar is overwhelmingly Muslim. Although this should little impact your activities while on the island, we advise a certain amount of awareness and cultural sensitivity. Tourists are warmly welcomed, so you will feel perfectly safe and unthreatened. Alcohol is available in most (but not all) tourist hotels and restaurants; inquire first if that is important to you.  Dress modestly when in public.

Please do not enter a mosque if you are not Muslim.

Ramadan is an important Muslim religious observance during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar.  It is a time of extra prayer as adherents seek forgiveness from God and try to purify themselves through self-restraint.  The most noticeable aspect of the latter is fasting (no food or drink – including water) from sunrise until sunset.  Since the Islamic calendar is lunar, each month begins with the crescent moon and the year is 11 to 12 days shorter than the solar year.  So the dates of Ramadan are earlier every.  During this holy month the normally vibrant island can feel a bit quiet during the day.  Still, all tourist facilities will be operating as normal and tourists are not expected to fast, though out of respect we suggest you not eat or drink in the streets during the day.  Ramadan ends with the Eid al-Fitr holiday, which is very joyous and an exciting time to be on the island of Zanzibar.


  1. What are the tipping customs on Zanzibar?

Tanzania and Zanzibar have a strong culture of tipping for services provided.

Tipping is not compulsory.  Choosing to tip depends on your own experience, opinion, and satisfaction.


  1. What currency should I use for my tip?

Tips can be given in U.S. dollars or Tanzanian shillings.



Most Zanzibar hotels have a tip box at reception. We suggest that each person leave a tip of $5-$10 for each night they are at the hotel.  This tip is shared among all staff at the hotel.


Leaving a tip for a waiter is not a regular custom in Zanzibar, though you may consider leaving a small amount that rounds out a bill (to the nearest thousand shillings, about 3-5%). Your server will be very grateful. This does not apply in dining areas at hotels where you are staying, as the tip box covers tips for the wait staff.

Tour Guides

Excursions, such as Stone Town tours, snorkeling, boat trips, outer island day trips, etc. are led by experienced guides or teams.  We suggest each person give a tip of $5–$10.


A driver from Exposed Africa (or our partner in Zanzibar) will be assigned to handle all your transfers on the island.  A tip of $5-$10 after your last transfer is a nice gesture of appreciation.


The fare you negotiate for your ride is the total to pay.  You do not need to add any more for a tip.

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