Zanzibar is magical: the spice-scented, quintessential Indian Ocean idyll. Tropical, turquoise waters lap miles of palm-fringed, sandy beaches.
For hundreds of years, traders and travellers have eulogised about Zanzibar’s intoxicating aroma of spices, its beautiful beaches and the bustle of its Moorish capital, Stone Town. It’s name alone – as evocative as Timbuktu, Casablanca or Kilimanjaro – is alluring enough for many to dream of visiting.
Just a short hop across the water from mainland Tanzania – of which Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous part – is this lush array of islands. It’s impossible not to be enchanted as you approach from the air: clear, sparkling waters, darkened only by patch reefs, and punctuated by the billowing triangular, white sails of passing dhows. On land, chic beach retreats, intimate converted palaces, private island villas and fun family-friendly resorts offer warm welcomes and totally tropical experiences. Be it trailblazing models of responsible tourism or world-class sophistication, the options are myriad.
The capital’s heart, ’Stone Town’, is an UNESCO.
Heritage Site: a labyrinth of narrow winding alleys dotted with bustling markets, eclectic souvenir shops and fine merchant houses hidden behind intricately carved doors. It’s an exotic urban backdrop and a fascinating insight into the islands’ Omani heritage. For many, it’s the Indian Ocean beach experience that has the greatest lure: palm-lined stretches of powder-white coral sands, warm waters and coral gardens teeming with marine life. From adrenalin sports to simple seaside fun; sipping sundowners to deep-sea diving; some of the islands’ most magical moments definitely centre on the sea.
Above the waves, kite-surfers showcase their aquatic aerobatics, snorkelers ply the shallow lagoons and traditional dhows take fishermen in photogenic flotillas beyond the reef. Below the surface, tropical fish and turtles entice divers of all abilities, and starfish-studded intertidal walks are fascinating. And from the shoreline, watching golden sunsets melt into the sea make for perfect ends to laid-back island days.