Island Charm – Zanzibar’s beaches
A discussion on African islands would not be complete without mentioning those on the East African coast, many enmeshed with a trading history over hundreds of years. The largest, Zanzibar, also known as the “Spice Island”, is an island state within the United Republic of Tanzania and was once one of the most important trading centres in the whole of the Indian Ocean region.
With Stone Town at its heart, now declared a World Heritage Site, the romance of the old city is clearly evident with its winding alleys, bustling mosques and grand Arab houses. The island itself is characterised by beautiful sandy beaches with coral reefs and the warm Indian Ocean which is ideal for diving, snorkelling and water sport activities including deep sea fishing. Most of the resorts here are small and intimate, each with a character of its own.
For those who prefer their island a little quieter, just north of Zanzibar is Pemba which tends towards the luxurious, a breezy but refined setting for private beach getaways. Just a short boat ride away is Misali Island with some of the most pristine and breathtaking coral reefs in East Africa, perfect for divers and snorkellers alike.
To the south is the sleepy Mafia Island, home to a handful of lodges, and the place to really step down a gear. Reached by dhow, motor boat or light aircraft, this is a place where time proceeds at tidal speed and where nightlife is confined to candle lit beach-front suppers or simply gazing at the million stars.
The smallest and most luxurious island in the Zanzibar archipelago is Mnemba, reached via a 20-minute crossing from Zanzibar. It’s a private island getaway to delight newlyweds, the not-so-newlyweds and families alike! From snorkelling, diving, swimming and kayaking to massages and doing nothing at all, Mnemba has something for everyone.
Whether Thanda really counts as an island is debatable, it’s more a sand spec in the ocean but is home to one of the world’s most exclusive private island getaways – just one villa and two bandas (traditional thatched cottages) booked on a sole-use basis. Situated in its own marine reserve you can swim with whale sharks, watch sea turtles nesting, rest and rejuvenate, or enjoy adventure sports in paradise.
All these Zanzibar island hideaways combine easily as the beach element of a longer Tanzanian safari or work just as well as a good destination for a sun and sand holiday in its own right.
We would be delighted to help you plan a Zanzibar island escape, or answer any questions if you’re at an earlier stage. Our team of experts have travelled widely throughout Africa. They can offer expert advice on every type of safari from family and beach holidays to riding and primate safaris. If you would like to talk to someone who has been there and done it, please just send us an email or give us a call.