Top things to do in Zanzibar
"What activities can I do while I'm in Zanzibar?" is a question most of the travelllers ask when coming here. Of course, our first answer is always to come diving and snorkelling or take another PADI dive course, either at Mnemba or around Stone Town.
However, if you don't want to get wet or you have to find something to do between your dive and your flight, here are some suggestions:
1. Take a walking tour through Stone Town
Most tourists arrive in Stone Town just to grab a taxi and move on to a beach somewhere on the island. But the historic city center of Zanzibar is worth some exploring!
Zanzibar city’s old town was long known as the flourishing center of the spice trade and the capital of slave trade. Today visitors can explore maze-like alleys lined with countless houses, shops, galleries, bazaars and mosques. Because of the unique mix of Arab, Persian, Indian, European, and African traditions and styles, Stone Town was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000.
By the way: The name “Stone Town” comes from the frequent use of coral stone throughout the whole city.
2. Explore Prison Island
Before this small island close to Stone Town became a tourist destination, it was used as a prison for rebellious slaves and was meant to be turned into an even bigger prison complex. This never happened, but instead the island was used as a quarantine station for yellow fever patients.
Today, Prison island is a favourite amongst tourists: everyone wants to see the giant tortoises (originally a present from the British governor of the Seychelles) that inhabit the island. We offer afternoon trips to this beautiful place.
3. Visit a Spice Farm
Zanzibar is known as “Spice Island”, so a visit to one of the many spice farms is a must. You will learn about a lot of exotic spices and fruits, with guides often climbing trees and digging up roots to show you as much as possible. In many places you will also get a hat or bag made from banana leaves – it’s an art how fast the locals can make them.
4. Learn (some) Kiswahili
Kiswahili is the local language of Zanzibar and the most widely spoken of the African languages. And it’s really not that hard to learn! Try to remember a few basic words, like “Jambo” (Hello), “Asante sana” (thank you) or “tafadhali” (please) and it will win you a big smile from the locals.
5. Shop at Darajani Market
Looking for souvenirs? The main market in Stone Town is a very good option to find cheap and authentic souvenirs for yourself or your friends at home. From Spices to Kangas (local kind of Sarong), handmade flip flops or woven baskets – you can find it all here. All the locals shop at this market too, so it’s usually very busy.
6. See the red colobus monkeys in Jozani Forest
Jozani Forest is the only National Park in Zanzibar and home to the Kirk's red colobus monkeys. This sub-species of red colobus monkey can only be found in Zanzibar and is at the centre of the island’s conservation efforts. Currently about 1000 of the little primates are living in the park.
7. Relax on the beaches
Zanzibar is famous for its long stretched white beaches, and every single one of them has a different vibe: relax on the little developed East coast between Matemwe and Kiwengwa, enjoy the view of Tumbatu island from Kendwa, take your perfect picture at Muyuni Beach or experience a busy night life in Nungwi.
With the flat lagoon and quiet beaches, Zanzibar is the perfect place to learn Kitesurfing. There are many kite surfing centers on the land, most of them located on the East coast of the island.
The weather in Zanzibar allows for great Kitesurfing most of the year – except April/May and November, since these 3 months are almost completely without wind.
9. Go to a festival
Zanzibar hosts 3 major festivals throughout the year that are well worth a visit if you are here during the right time:
The music festival Sauti za Busara (‘Sounds of Wisdom’) kicks off the season in February and features a wide range of African musicians over several days.
The Zanzibar International Film Festival was founded in 1997 and is today East Africa’s largest cultural festival. It features an international film competition, music, theatre and performing arts, seminars and much more. It takes place in the first 2 weeks of July.
The Zanzibar Beach and Watersports Festival takes place in November in the village of Jambiani. It’s a community festival that presents different kinds of watersports, competitions and delicious food options.
10. Take a sunset cruise
The best way to watch the stunning African sunset over the Indian Ocean is from a boat! Enjoy the ride on a traditional wooden dhow boat, all while sipping your favourite drink and listening to the waves. It’s a very popular activity for couples and honeymooners – book your trip here.
11. Find the Bush Baby
These small primates are found throughout East Africa, but Zanzibar has its own sub-species. If you listen closely, you can hear the cries of the local bush babies at night. While the cute possum-like creatures can be found all over Zanzibar, it’s not easy to actually spot them. Some hotels and restaurants have “resident” bush babies that like to visit the guests in the evening (and take all their bananas with them…).
You don't have to stay for several weeks or months, you can even volunteer for a day at Tamani Foundation. This school is located close to our dive centre in Matemwe and covers early childhood, primary & adult education. Tamani is a Foundation committed to helping students meet the challenges of secondary education through an English bilingual Nursery and Primary educational programme. They also offer computer classes for adults. Make a difference during your holiday by helping out, even just for a day!
If after all these "dry" activities you miss the ocean and its inhabitants, come back to take the plunge with us!