Travel Destinations / Zanzibar
Zanzibar is still the best-kept secret in the Indian Ocean, with its fascinating historical Stone Town and magnificent beaches. Stone Town is the old city and cultural heart of Zanzibar, little changed in the last 200 years. It is a place of winding alleys, bustling bazaars, mosques and grand Arab houses whose original owners vied with each other over the extravagance of their dwellings.
Zanzibar's brilliant white beaches lapped by the warm turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean provide the perfect place to relax, soak up the sun and take a break from some busy sightseeing. The long, pristine stretches of white sand, lapped by the crystal clear, warm waters of the Indian ocean are perfect for kicking back, relaxing and soaking up the sun. Dotted along the stunning coast line are picturesque fishing villages, where the people live a simple way of life in idyllic surrounds. There are more than 25 fantastic beaches in Zanzibar, and some are so peaceful and remote that the only sound breaking the serene silence is likely to be the ocean.
At the northern tip of the island is Nungwi, approached by a road lined by banana palms, mangroves and coconut trees. This is the dhow building capital of Zanzibar island, so it is a good place to see traditional craftsmen at work.
On the west coast of Zanzibar, Mangapwani beach is worth a visit, and to the east are the beaches of Matemwe, Pwani Mchangani, Kiwengwa, Uroa, Bwejuu and Jambiani, all with stretches of beautiful and uncrowded sands.
Zanzibar also boasts several small offshore islands which are ideal for a day-trip. Prison (or Changu) island is the most popular with tourists because it is only a short trip from Stone Town. Originally, it was used by Arabs to detain recalcitrant slaves, and then a jail was built by the British, but it was never actually used. Visitors to Zanzibar will notice a large population of ancient Aldabra tortoises. Other islets near to Stone Town are Chapwani, Chumbe and Bawe.
Zanzibar's local people are an incredible mixture of ethnic backgrounds, indicative of her colourful history. Islam is the dominant religion, and practiced by most Zanzibaris, although there are also followers of Christianity and Hinduism. Population is estimated at 800,000, with the largest concentration being Zanzibar City which has approximately 100,000 inhabitants. Zanzibaris speak Swahili (known locally as Kiswahili), a language which is spoken extensively in East Africa. Many believe that the purest form is spoken in Zanzibar as it is the birth place of the language.
Zanzibar's most famous event is the Zanzibar International Film Festival, also known as the Festival of the Dhow Countries. Every July, this event showcases the best of the Swahili Coast arts scene, including Zanzibar's favourite music, Taarab.
As you stroll through Stone Town , you will find several shops selling wood carvings, Zanzibari chests, clothes, spices, paintings and antiques. Many souvenir shops are situated along Kenyatta Road in Shangani, and Gizenga Street behind the Old Fort.
For electronic equipment, textiles, hardware, jewellery and cosmetics, the shopping areas to visit are along Kiponda Street (mainly textiles and jewellery), Market Street (textiles and jewellery), Malindi Street (textiles, cosmetics) Darajani street (almost everything) and Mchangani Street (mainly hardware).
Tourists are advised not to buy any products related to protected species on the islands, such as sea shells and turtles.
Currency: Tanzanian Shilling (Tsh)
Approximate exchange rate: US$ 1 = 1,000 Tanzanian Shillings = 100 cents
Best rate of exchange is usually offered by your hotel, a Bank or an Exchange Office. ATM's are available only in Stone Town, however they frequently do not work.
One can rent a car in Zanzibar at a cost of approximately US$ 50 - 70 per day but we would only recommend this option to people who are well travelled as the road in Zanzibar is in poor condition and not well marked. A good option is to rent a car with a driver. This would cost approximately US$ 75 to 100 but you will have the services of a driver who knows the roads and can show you around.
Scooters and bicycles can also be rented, as well as Dhala Dhala's (local taxis) for the more seasoned traveller. The best way to see Zanzibar is to book a guided tour.
All travellers to Zanzibar will need to be in possession of a valid Yellow Fever Certificate, it is a mandatory requirement for this country. The yellow fever inoculation can be obtained from your local GP or a Travel Clinic. The certificate is valid for 10 years and it's best to keep this certificate with your passport. Zanzibar is a High Risk Malaria area and we strongly recommend that you take the necessary precautions. Please visit www.travelclinic.co.za.
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Zanzibar is warm all year round, but officially, summer and winter peak in December and June respectively. The island is blessed with an average of 7-8 hours of sunshine daily.
Short rains can occur in November but are characterised by short showers which do not last long. The long rains normally occur in April and May although this is often referred to as the 'Green Season', and it typically doesn't rain every day during that time.