Think pristine turquoise waters, white sandy beaches, and tropical palm-tree-lined shores—few places in the world can conjure up these images, but Zanzibar hits the mark. This beautiful island off the coast of Tanzania packs a powerful punch when it comes to things to do and see here. With a distinct heritage and cultural flavour, visiting Zanzibar feels like a different world, combining a unique experience, a tranquil setting and an unforgettable beach paradise. We have compiled a list of the top 10 things to do in Zanzibar.
01. Visit Jozani Forest
While staying on the island, it’s worthwhile to visit Jozani Forest—one of Zanzibar’s most popular tourist destinations. The forest is the world’s last refuge for the Zanzibar red colobus monkey and it is located in the eastern part of the island. However, it is a stark reminder of what we have done to our environment over time. Jozani boasts fantastic nature trails that wind through lush forests, where visitors can spot social red colobus monkeys in the trees.
02. Discover the local culture
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It’s always a lovely idea to immerse yourself in the culture of the country you’re visiting. To learn more about the Zanzibari way of life, embark on a village tour. From meeting the local residents of the village and visiting a seaweed farm to exploring private houses and discovering how locals use coconut trees to make rope, this is a remarkable opportunity to get to know their way of life. During one of these tours, you can also visit the village schools and hospitals, as well as visit an NGO-run aquarium.
03. Spice up your life
Zanzibar is famously known as Spice Island—one of the leading producers of nutmeg, clove and cinnamon, among other spices. Going as far back as the 16th century, the island has a rich history and on one of these tours, visitors will visit the farms and discover how the crops are grown and cultivated, as well as how the spices are used. From smelling and tasting the spices to buying some of the products at a local market, visitors indulge in this intriguing experience and take some souvenirs home.
04. Visit Prison Island
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Set sail for an exhilarating tour of Prison Island, which is approximately three to five miles from Stone Town. Once used to imprison rebellious slaves and then later as a quarantine station for the victims of yellow fever, Prison Island has a sombre yet interesting history. The island is now most famous for its vulnerable residents—Aldabra giant tortoises, which visitors can get up close to during the tour. Other things to do and see are exploring the historic prison and swimming or snorkelling in the turquoise waters around the island.
05. Join a Safari Blue tour
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Perhaps the most unmissable tour on the island, the Safari Blue tour is famous among tourists. The sea adventure sets sail for Fumba village and cruises to all the best diving spots, where visitors can swim, snorkel, and explore the stunning life below the water. Stops include a mangrove lagoon and to fill the bellies, a delicious seafood buffet lunch is served.
06. Explore Stone Town
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Although the first stone building was constructed by the Portuguese towards the end of the 17th century, Stone Town dates back to medieval times. It rose to prominence as the capital of the Omani Zanzibar Sultanate and the hub of the spice and slave trade and remained the most prominent settlement on Zanzibar until the British took it in 1890. A visit to Zanzibar Island is not complete without exploring the coral stone buildings, which incorporate Swahili, Islamic, and European elements. Visitors can enjoy a walking tour and visit the Portuguese Old Fort or the Anglican Cathedral.
07. Get some sun on the Zanzibar beaches
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Zanzibar boasts an array of stunning beaches, some with an extensive tidal range, while others offer endless swaths of soft sand hugged by turquoise waters. During your Zanzibar holiday, the beaches will draw you in and those with some time on their hands should definitely embrace all that they have to offer. From enthusiastic beach vendors and palm-lined shores to bustling bars and restaurants with mouthwatering menus and summery cocktails.
08. Catch the sunset on a dhow cruise
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One of the top 10 things to do in Zanzibar is catch the sunset on a dhow cruise. Visitors can set sail from Stone Town or at Nungwi and Kendwa beaches. This is a fantastic way to unwind after an action-packed day, admire the stunning tropical setting, spot dolphins in the waves, and enjoy local music with a snack and a refreshing drink.
09. Swim with Dolphins
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This is something every traveller has on their bucket list, and Zanzibar is a top destination for swimming with dolphins. Home to five different dolphin species, including the Spinner dolphin and the Indo-Pacific dolphin, visitors can head to Kizimkazi fishing village or Mnemba Island for some epic sightings.
10. Snorkelling at Mnemba Island
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During this snorkelling tour, visitors will head to some of the top wildlife-watching spots surrounding Mnemba Island, where they’ll have a better chance of seeing some of Tanzania’s rarest marine animals. From the ocean, wildlife and nature enthusiasts get a different perspective of the coastline, and snacks and drinks can be enjoyed throughout the day. A boat cruise is a great way to get away from the people on land, and this one offers snorkelling, swimming, or relaxing on the boat.