Enjoy a tour of Zanzibar's historical Stone Town, walking through the bustling market and the narrow streets to explore the carved doors and the fascinating, distinctive stone architecture. A vibrant array of colours and spicy scents lure visitors to the animated Central Market. Opened in 1904 as the Seyyidieh Market, the numerous stalls are piled high with tropical fruits, exotic spices, brightly coloured khangas (worn by local women) and rare delights such as pomegranates and red bananas.
Locals come daily from the surrounding areas to sell their produce and fishermen proudly display their catch of the day - a pungent array of fresh fish ranging from huge marlins to salty sardines. For an evening snack, head to East Africa's most famous street market, held every night by the waterfront at Forodhani Gardens.
Home to a wealth of Zanzibar's historical treasures, the National Museum is a fascinating place to discover the intriguing past and enchanting culture of the islands. Exhibits include traditional carvings and endemic wildlife covering reptiles and birds. Visitors can also view relics from the age of the Sultans and early explorers including beautiful Chinese porcelain, a palm oil-powered bicycle lamp and David Livingstone's medical chest.
Built as a peace memorial by British architect J.H. Sinclair, the spherical design of the National Museum acknowledges Zanzibar's Arab influence and is reminiscent of the eastern architecture of Istanbul and India. Look out for the huge land tortoises that inhabit the Museum's tropical garden.
Built at the turn of the 17th century on the remains of a Portuguese church and crumbling Arab garrison, the burly Old Fort was constructed to fend off the enterprising Portuguese seafarers and Mazrui Arabs of Mombasa keen to gain power of the industrious 'Spice Island'. The Mazrui Arabs launched an attack in 1754 coming off unsuccessfully against the stoic Old Fort. The thick caramel walls and castellated battlements later acted as a place of incarceration, detaining locals and slaves.
In later years the fort functioned as the depot for the Bububu railway, Zanzibar's first railway, running from Zanzibar Town to Bububu, which is no longer in existence. Nowadays the Old Fort houses shops and henna painting stores and the Cultural Centre where visitors can marvel at the fine artistry of local craftsmen at work. In the evening local music and dancing at the open-air theatre brightens up the night and occasional film screenings are shown.
Illuminating the lifestyle of the Sultan legacy in Zanzibar, the Palace Museum, (originally called the Sultan's Palace), became the official residence of the Al Busid dynasty in 1911. Built in the 1890s this extensive white building situated on Harbour Road with breathtaking sea views, is the most recent of the Sultans' palaces and was occupied till the revolution in 1964.
The Palace Museum houses a fascinating collection of the Sultans' elaborate furniture and possessions as well as a room dedicated to the life of Sultan Sayyid Said's daughter, Princess Salme. Renowned for her manuscript called 'Memoirs of an Arabian Princess', this significant autobiography is the only written account of what life was like for Arab women of the Royal court in the 1800s. Excerpts from the book, family photographs and samples of Princess Salme's wardrobe are also on display. Outside the museum is the Makusurani graveyard where some of the sultans are buried.
The colossal Anglican Cathedral in Stone Town is located on the grounds of the islands largest slave market, which closed down in 1873. The cathedral's altar stands on the exact location of the former whipping post, a tree where slaves were brutalised to show their strength and resilience to potential slave owners. Building began in 1873 to commemorate the end of the slave trade and was orchestrated by Edward Steere, third bishop of Zanzibar and a fervent abolitionist. The cathedral has a combination of Gothic and Arabic styles and is noted for its Basilica shape and barrel vault roof, which the populace believed would never hold. Taking ten years to build, Edward Steere died of a heart attack during construction and was buried behind the altar. Look out for the stark memorial outside the cathedral, a sculpture of a slave family bound round the neck by a chain.
The first building in Zanzibar to have electricity and the first building in East Africa to have an elevator, Beit el-Ajaib (which translates into the House of Wonders) was the former ceremonial palace of Sultan Barghash and was built in 1883 on the site of Queen Fatuma's residence. A striking white building, the House of Wonders has undergone much tenure, used by the British as their local offices and as the headquarters of Tanzania's political party CCM.
Reopened in 2005 after a renovation project to maintain Beit el-Ajaib's cultural heritage, visitors can now freely admire the intricately carved doors, the Portuguese cannons dating from the 16th century and the tiers of pillars and wraparound balconies, which make the palace so attractive. Don't miss the panoramic views from the top storey, the museum displays of coastal East African history or the craft market playing out on the veranda during the day.
An architectural symbol of the diversity of cultures evident in Zanzibar's history, the elaborate Old Dispensary was so named because it long housed a dispensary on the ground floor, with a pharmacy and resident doctor. An affluent Ismaili Indian merchant, Tharia Topan, who financed the building project, laid the first brick 1887 and completed building in 1894. One of the most decorative buildings of the time, the Old Dispensary is adorned with ornate carved balconies, stuccowork and stained glass windows. Restored in the early 1990s, the Dispensary now houses a small museum on the upper level with old photographs of Stone Town's waterfront and displays illustrating the intricate restoration process. There are also some curio shops on the ground floor.
If you are looking for a place to escape the bustle of Stone Town for a few hours, head north to the peaceful Maruhubi and Mtoni Palace ruins. Sultan Said bin Sultan first built Mtoni between 1828 and 1834 after he left Muscat and made Zanzibar his throne and it was also the childhood home of Princess Salme. The decadent Maruhubi Palace was built later in the 1880s by Sultan Barghash, as a harem for his 99 concubines and wife. The structure was mainly wooden and one of the most beautiful of its time, but was gutted by a fire in 1889 and left in ruins. The rolling lawns, bathhouses and water lily ponds are reminiscent of the life of affluence enjoyed by the palace residents over a century ago. To view a well-preserved Hammam from the 1850s continue north to the Kidichi Persian Baths, constructed by Sultan Seyyid Said for his Persian wife.
After the abolition of slavery in 1897, the industry literally went underground and the Mangapwani Caves stand testament to this with a natural cave and a man-made cavern on site used for the incarceration of slaves. The slaves were kept here until they were secretly transported to cargo ships and delivered to slave markets across Europe and the Indian subcontinent. The first is a large natural cave with a freshwater pool and the man-made cavern is a dank, dark cell with few air vents protruding above ground. After 50 slaves were forced inside, poles were fitted into gouges above their heads and planks were laid down so that another 50 men could be crammed in on top. To gain some insight into the unspeakable living conditions of slaves in the 1800s in east Africa, it's best to make a turn at Mangapwani.
Take a Spice Plantation Tour and discover the numerous spices and fruits growing in abundance. Spices such as ginger, turmeric, nutmeg, cardamom, vanilla, black pepper and cinnamon will be offered to you to smell or even to taste. You will be also offered fresh seasonal fruits to try. Indeed no trip to Zanzibar could be considered complete without a visit to one of our carefully selected spice farms.
The largest conservation area in Zanzibar and the only remaining natural mangrove forest on the island, the Jozani Chwaka Bay Conservation Area is renowned for its hairy ape residents, the Red Colobus Monkey. Endemic to Zanzibar, visitors come from far and wide to view these highly endangered monkeys, now numbering only 1500. They roam freely through the reserve and they can be viewed at close quarters. But keep your eyes open and you may be lucky enough to see sunis, chameleon or even leopards.
Due to large-scale cultivation, firewood collection, harvesting building materials and charcoal and lime making, Zanzibar's forests have been largely depleted, making the Jozani Chwaka Bay Conservation Area a significant ecological treasure. Nature lovers can walk through the forest of over 100 different towering tree species and marvel at the rich variety of birdlife and animal-life that inhabit the cool woodland area. Jozani forest boasts an eclectic bio-diversity, with many weird and wonderful creatures.
Zanzibar is blessed with soft white beaches, warm waters and picturesque villages particularly along the northern east coast - an ideal retreat for those who want to take a break from bustling town life. Modestly veiled women make bright splashes of colour along the beach, dhows with curved sails drift along close to shore and fishermen offer their fresh catches to the simple seaside restaurants. The miles of pristine coastline are dotted with guesthouses, particularly around Kendwa and the fishing village of Nungwi, renowned for its tradition of boat building and one of the most popular locations with the younger crowd. There is also excellent diving and deep-sea fishing off the coast and the small island of Mnemba has a fine coral reef making it one of the island's most popular dive sites. For complete privacy, one of the most beautiful and isolated beaches is at Matemwe.
A magical experience of a lifetime to see and swim - depending on conditions - with one of the planet's most graceful and intelligent creatures. Travel to the south of the island and board a small motor boat to embark on your Dolphin Safari. On your trip you will also have the opportunity to swim and snorkel.
Located on the Northeast Coast of the Unguja Island on a white sandy beach is the small fishing village of Nungwi - the pearl of Zanzibar. Here you will find a natural aquarium which is home to sea turtles, a traditional dhow building yard where you can watch the skilled craftsmen and also a fish market.
The Dhow is a 40-foot traditional sailing boat of the type used for centuries for transporting cargo between Zanzibar and the Arabian Gulf. She has been carefully converted into a beautifully restored sailing vessel, which will give you an insight into the real Zanzibar. Your comfort and safety is our priority and The Dhow is manned by a highly experienced crew and equipped with modern safety equipment, sunshade, snorkeling equipment and a boarding ladder.
Sit back and relax, enjoy the cool sea breeze and listen to the distant sounds of Stone Town as you sail through crystal clear turquoise waters. Every day we offer a sunset cruise or an island hop, which includes all soft drinks.
Prison Island or Changuu Island is in the middle of the islands visible from Stone Town. The island has become a small tourist resort, where you can relax, see the Giant Aldabra Tortoises and beautiful peacocks and swim or snorkel around the coral reefs.
The island has a fascinating history having been a former quarantine hospital during the last century. The frangipani-lined paths around the island are where former patients took their evening walks. In 1883, a jail was built on the island (hence its name "Prison Island") but it was never used and, around 1820, giant tortoises were introduced to the island, brought by Sultan Said from the Seychelles. The island has a white sandy beach to relax and sunbathe and for those who enjoy snorkeling, our boatman will take you to where the most spectacular, intensely colourful, coral and marine life can be seen. There is also a restaurant housed in the old hospital serving fresh cold drinks.
With its pristine coral reef, natural trails around the island and British Naval lighthouse dating back to the 1904, Chumbe is a fascinating day-trip. Your journey starts at the Mbweni Ruins hotel from where you travel by boat to the Marine Reserve surrounding Chumbe Island. The marine reserve is in pristine condition and snorkeling is a must. Expect to see tropical fish, turtles, sting rays and lobsters.
Mafia Island, along with Pemba and Unguja, form the famous Spice Islands off the coast of Tanzania. While the name conjures images of shady criminals and glamorous heists, the real riches of Mafia Island lie underwater in its magnificent coral reef system. Mafia Island is a top diving destination for those in the know and the limited accommodation means it's a great place to hide from the tourist crowds on Zanzibar. Mafia Island also provides additional opportunities for fishing and swimming with whale sharks. There are land-based activities as well, including trips to the bustling village on tiny Chole Island and to the ruins of the ancient city of Kua on Juani Island.