Portuguese invasion and control of the Swahili Coast in the late 16th century ended the golden age of the archipelago, although the Omani Arabs returned to power less than a century later. Today, many of the winding streets and high townhouses of old Stone Town remain unchanged and visitors can walk between the sultan’s palace, the House of Wonders, the Portuguese fort and gardens, the merchants’ houses, and the Turkish baths of the old city. Day-long spice tours to working plantations offer visitors the chance to observe the cultivation of cloves, vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon, and other spices that have made the island famous.
Zanzibar’s coastline offers some of the best beaches in the world, but sand and surf vary depending on what side of the island you’re on. On the east coast, waves break over coral reefs and sand bars offshore, and low tide reveals small pools of starfish, small minnows, and anemones. Up north, ocean swimming is much less susceptible to the tides, and smooth beaches and white sand make for dazzling days in the sun.
The port city of Stone Town dominates the west coast, and although the beaches of Mangapwani, where slave caves are visible at low tide and nearby Bububu are less than half an hour’s drive away, a night or two spent on the east or north cost is well worth the extra hour it takes to drive there. That said, the Chole Island Marine Park just off Stone Town – and nearby Prison, Grave, and Snake Islands – make a refreshing day-trip and a good break from exploring the winding passageways of the old city.
On the south coast of Zanzibar lies the Menai Bay Conservation Area, a sea turtle protection area for the endangered species that come to breed on the island. Roads to the southeast coast take visitors through the Jozani Forest, home to Zanzibar’s rare Red Colobus monkeys and a number of other primate and small antelope species.
Zanzibar “must see”
THE OLD TOWN
The old stone town is a fascinating place to wander around. The main tourist features are:
Bel-el-Ajub (House of wanders). Built in 1883 by the Sultan of Barghash, it is one of the most Map of Zanzibar Islandprominent buildings in the old stone town. It was formally the Sultans palace and one of the longest structures in Zanzibar. This is a beautiful four-storey building surrounded by wide verandas.
Bet-al-Sahel (The palace Museum)
Built in 1828. It displays the period of the Zanzibar Sultanate. To the north of the palace lies the Makusurani graveyard, which is where most of the Sultans were buried.
The ‘Arab’ Fort
This is a massive cren-vaulted and bastioned structure and was built in 1700. The craft gallery has an excellent selection of first rate fabric worth a look.
Old slave market and UMCA cathedral
The cathedral built in 1877 by the mission to central Africa (UMCA), was the first Anglican cathedral in East Africa.
Zanzibar BeachTHE RUINS.
These are historical sites around the island and are worth visiting. Mbweni palace is an interesting architectural structure. Mvuleni dates from an abortive Portuguese attempt to colonize the island.
Mahurumbi palace built the Sultan is in 1882 and the remaining columns once supported a large upper floor overhead aqueduct, Mangapwani slave caves were used for illegal slave trade after the British had abolished it.
This is a nature reserve for the rare red colobus monkey, species of antelope, the Zanzibar duiker and Sunni.
Also known as Prison Island. It is the most famous of the offshore islands and in the 19th century was used for housing slaves. The beach is superb, the sea is crystal clear and there’s a whole family of giant tortoises roaming freely and often copulating.
Beaches Crystal clear waters at the beach.
These are protected by reefs, with soap of seaweed to swim in. They are totally relaxing and crime free. Scuba diving in the numerous coral reefs off the main island and its many offshore islets. There is a variety of soft and hard corals. Other marine life seen are such as, bat fish, lionfish, blue turtle, whale and sharks. Snorkeling this is done at the northern tip of Bawe Island.