Zanzibar is an archipelago made up of Zanzibar and Pemba Islands, and several islets. It is located in the Indian Ocean, about 40km east of the Tanzanian coast, and 6° south of the equator. Zanzibar Island (known locally as Unguja, but as Zanzibar internationally) is 90km long and 30km wide and is characterised by beautiful sandy beaches with fringing coral reefs, and the magic of historic Stone Town - said to be the only functioning ancient town in East Africa.
Our personal feeling about the island is that it is really one of the best holiday places to visit, whether you are a couple, a group of friends or a group – there is just so much to do and the islanders are just so friendly. You can choose between relaxing at the pool or on the beach, go on a spice tour or take a trip to the Jozani Forest, walk around the meandering streets of Stonetown, visit Prison Island to see the colony of enormous Aldabra tortoises or even rent a small motor bike and explore.
Zanzibar has some fantastic diving, and the coral reef structures that surround the island ensure that the marine life is abundant. Good visibility (20 - 60 meters) and a year-round average water temperature of 27°C ensure that you enjoy your Zanzibar diving experience, and also present an ideal opportunity for learning to dive or upgrading your diving qualification. The most popular diving areas are the north and north east, although there are some other diving spots in the more southern waters.
Diving in Zanzibar isn't restricted to beginners. Experienced scuba divers can enjoy exciting wall dives, night dives and drift dives. In deeper waters, lush coral gardens often stretch as far as the eye can see, and large game fish (barracuda, kingfish, tuna and Wahoo) hunt together with large Napoleonic wrasse, graceful manta rays and sharks, whilst the shallower waters are the playground of tropical fish and other superb marine fauna species.
There are many resorts situated around the coastline of Zanzibar, from basic entry level back-packer type, to small and exclusive 4 Star independent resorts, all the way to expansive and upmarket 5 Star hotels. Every year more and more resorts are built so there is never a shortage of choice, although it is best to get updated advice, as prices, offerings and service levels can vary considerably. Below are a few chosen resorts reflecting value, position and our personal experiences.
Mnarani Beach Cottages
If you're after a small, intimate and reasonably priced lodge on the quieter flank of the Nungwi Peninsula, Mnarani Beach Cottages is a great option. The bungalows are nestled privately in a cove near the lighthouse on the tip of Nungwi. Divers will appreciate its reasonable proximity to the Mnemba Atoll and for part-time party-goers the lively bars and restaurants of Nungwi are just a 15-minute walk away, or a quick taxi ride. ‘Mnarani’ means Lighthouse’ in Swahili and this one is the oldest in Zanzibar. Built in 1886, it is still in operation. There is a fantastic sandy beach boardwalk where you can laze about on sun lounges and develop that long-awaited golden tan. But the beach quality does vary according to the tides and time of year, so there may be times when you need to walk a short distance to the western side of the peninsula to find a better beach to swim. Its location fairly close to Nungwi village means you get to see the goings-on in a typical fishing village. However, don't expect to find all the facilities of a large beach club at Mnarani. There are a few water sports, no dive centre but there is a lovely swimming pool. But you can go out with a local Zanzibarian on the lodge's dhow to enjoy a day of sailing, fishing or snorkeling. Your days at Mnarani can be spent relaxing and enjoying the freedom of being able to walk on a long stretch of beach. There's also a local village where they build dhows and the natural Mnarani Aquarium to visit. All rooms are very comfortable and simply furnished in an authentic style, and the resort features a beachfront restaurant and bar.
The “Z” Hotel Nungwi Beach
This chic, boutique hotel situated in a secluded plot on the corner of an idyllic beach in Nungwi, is located on the northern tip of Zanzibar. It blends elegant, contemporary design with traditional Zanzibari features to create a unique cool and relaxing environment. Set in a lush, tropical garden with direct access to the white powder beaches and warm waters of the Indian Ocean, the Z hotel has been finished to a high specification by an international team of architects and interior designers. All rooms feature LCD TVs, DSTV cable television, WiFi and Philippe Starck furniture.
The Z Hotel offers alfresco dining in the main restaurant ‘Saruche’, along with Asian-fusion tapas and sharing platters in the ‘Cinnamon’ cocktail bar, where you can also find an exclusive list of mouth watering cocktails. For the ultimate “Spa with a view”, try the Mnazi Mini Spa
After receiving numerous excellent reviews from guests on ‘Tripadvisor’ The Z Hotel has been awarded ‘Trendiest hotel in Africa’ – only 25 hotels in the entire African continent were awarded this, they are the only one in Tanzania.
The rooms within The Z Hotel aim to offer the guest luxury, comfort and contemporary design. Each guest room comes with Travertine Marble floors imported from Turkey, Italian designer bathroom suites, crisp cotton bed linen from Egypt and bespoke furniture exclusive to the Z Hotel made from locally sourced coconut wood. There are 6 room designs: 12 x Deluxe Garden View, 18 x Deluxe Sea View, Interconnecting Rooms, 2 x Roof-Top Suites, 2 x Ocean Front Cottages with private decks over the sea and for the ultimate in opulence, there’s the 70 sq metre Z Suite with 2 terraces and an outdoor jacuzzi. Each bedroom has French doors, set in floor to ceiling glass which lead onto a balcony with views over the landscaped tropical garden and out across the crystal blue waters of the Indian Ocean to the magnificent Zanzibari sunset on the distant horizon.
Please Note! Unfortunately the hotel does not accept children under 12 years of age!
Fumba Beach Lodge
One of our personal favourites and situated on one of Zanzibar’s most secluded beaches in the south west, is a luxurious, imaginative, peaceful hideaway – Fumba Beach Lodge. The surrounding beach peninsular is both a large marine haven and an Eco-project, and designated as an area of outstanding natural beauty in 1998 by the World Wildlife Federation. The essence of Fumba is privacy, relaxation, serenity, excellence and attention to detail. The lodge offers well designed elegance with friendly first class service and is away from the busy tourist areas – a perfect venue for enjoying tranquility, and the space to dream, swim, dive or have that special romantic occasion in one of the many secluded spots. Set in forty acres of exquisite wilderness, there are 20 deluxe beachfront rooms, 4 of which are luxury suites and 2 of which are the unusual and extravagant Baobab suites, all with king size double beds, en-suite with air-conditioning, mosquito nets, fans and luxury linen. The resort is renowned for its excellent cuisine, and they pride themselves in using home grown fresh herbs, lemongrass, ginger and garlic, the most amazing tropical fruits and the freshest seafood available daily. An absolute must is a quiet visit to the Baobab Spa, spread around a majestic baobab tree, with a Jacuzzi built into the tree. Treatments include the use of exotic spices and flowers of the island, leaving you relaxed and tropical.