Zanzibar is a tropical island east of Africa, belonging to Tanzania. Many will immediately dream of Zanzibar and think of paradise beaches, tropical temperatures and luxurious resorts. Many tourists on Zanzibar do not get much further than these resorts. A shame, because Zanzibar is a place like no other place on earth. It is the land of contrasts and a place where all your senses will come alive, Karibu Zanzibar (Welcome to Zanzibar)!
Paradise Zanzibar and tourism as an important source of income
Zanzibar is a much visited island when it comes to relaxing holidays. The island has many beautiful pearly white beaches that are located on the turquoise blue sea. The residents of Zanzibar make good use of tourism as a source of income and therefore attract many Westerners with the resorts on the beach. With additional luxury facilities, such as swimming pools, extensive massages and snorkelling tours, many tourists linger at these touristy and crowded holiday resorts. The most beautiful beach in Zanzibar is perhaps Nungwi in the north of Zanzibar, where the sea water is 27 degrees all year round.
The villages behind the resorts
However, when you walk a few hundred meters away from most resorts, you find yourself in a completely opposite world. The dusty villages with brick and corrugated iron huts, African children in school uniforms and large herds of cattle immediately make you think. Being robbed of bottles of orange juice from a local food store by children is confronting, but also instructive. The reality, which many Westerners on the exotic island avoid, remains that the inhabitants of Zanzibar live with an income that falls under the heading of “third world”. The majority of Zanzibar’s residents are Muslim, which is reflected in its culture and lifestyle. The people of Zanzibar are very friendly and tolerant and children come up to you to greet you in the Swahilian way (Jambo!).
Stone Town, the capital of Zanzibar, is certainly not known for modern architecture, trendy shopping centers or beautiful parks. Yet this city is a feast for the eyes because of the Arab influences that the city breathes (think of mosaics and historic buildings). The city is busy, lively, dusty and has many markets…, many markets. With a local bus you can get on from most towns and then get off again in the heart of Stone Town for only 2 Tanzanian “shillings”. In terms of public transport, there is a choice between a passenger van or a “Dalla Dallas”. This typical Tanzanian mode of transport is a taxi for several people with narrow benches on both vertical sides under a kind of plastic roof. Anyone who thinks to opt for more comfort by traveling with a passenger van, has clearly never been in a van with the locals of Zanzibar. The space is used optimally, because people just don’t crawl on each other’s lap yet. Traveling by public transport is therefore quite an experience! If you prefer more comfort and privacy, it is best to travel by taxi. This is of course a more expensive option.
Stone Town has a number of historic sites, and a fun way to explore this town is to simply ‘get lost’. Stroll through the bustling alleys, absorb the scents of the spice stalls and be careful not to get knocked over by the many scooters that drive through the busy, narrow streets. Don’t forget to visit the large fish market and take a look at the auction of various large pieces of fish (just shut your nose!). The many markets in this city ensure that it is very busy, but when you walk to the harbor the peace and quiet comes to you. Several small restaurants and eateries are ideally located, so that you can enjoy local or more Western delicacies with your feet in the sand. To avoid being kept awake all night by food poisoning after delicious African food, it is better to avoid salads, fruit and ice cream (because of contact with tap water). In the resorts this is generally not a problem.
Spice island and the beautiful nature
Anyone who has already taken a good look around on the way from the airport to his accommodation, has undoubtedly already seen that the nature on Zanzibar is beautiful. The tropical climate ensures that it is green all around you. Yet all this greenery is only a fraction of what used to be found in jungle. The climate of Zanzibar is ideal for growing spices and herbs, which is also an important source of livelihood for the residents. Zanzibar is therefore also called the “spice island”. There are various options on the island for tours through the rainforest, where you walk along the plantations of cinnamon, nutmeg and pepper.
With a bit of luck you can catch a glimpse of the Zanzibar colobus monkey, which can only be found on the island of Zanzibar on a spice tour . Those who are afraid of spiders should avoid Zanzibar. There are often dozens of spiders in the palm trees. However, most spiders are not aggressive and will not bite if they do not feel threatened. However, it is best to contact a local for advice or information about spiders. Finally, the underwater world of Zanzibar is also a breathtaking sight: from beautiful coral reefs with many tropical fish to special sea animals such as the sea turtle and the whale shark. In short, the true flora and fauna enthusiast can indulge in Zanzibar!