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Flag Source: CIA World Factbook
Zanzibar is the place to be. When the annual Zanzibar International Film Festival (ZIFF) comes around, the town explodes into a music, film and arts carnival that attracts over 200,000 people each year. Located just 20 miles off the Tanzanian coast, the Zanzibar archipelago is made of up two main islands: Unguja (commonly known as Zanzibar) and Pemba, along with around 50 other smaller islands. Unguja (Zanzibar) is where you will find most tourists, many of whom flock to the white sand beaches on the island's Indian Ocean side.
The Top 5: What to Do in Zanzibar
1. Spice Tours:
Take a look around farmlands and plantations where local spices are either grown wild or cultivated. While visiting, most plantations will allow you to pick spices, taste them, and take them home with you. Some tours even include a stop at a Persian bath or a swim at one of the local beaches. It’s a great way to get a sense of the rural countryside and see an industry that has shaped the traditions and history of the people of Zanzibar.
2. Jozani Natural Forest Reserve:
On the eastern side of Zanzibar Island lives this reserve, which is home to the rare and endangered red colobus monkey. The reserve has walking trails and the guides can help answer any questions you might have.
3. Prison Island:
Also known as Changuu Island, this site is most famous for its giant tortoise sanctuary. In the 1950s, there were at least 200 tortoises, but as their popularity rose, their population dropped; the sanctuary was built to encourage the population’s growth. Before the tortoises stole the show, the island was used as a detention center, a quarantine station, and a holding place for visitors arriving from India.
4. Mtoni Palace (Beit el Mtoni):
The oldest palace on Zanzibar, the translation of its name is “place by the river.”
5. Stone Town:
We think it’s most beautiful to sail by this site instead of walking by it: try a romantic dhow sunset cruise if you’re in the mood for love and watch as the sun sinks into the ocean along the East African coastline.
When to Go
We recommend visiting Zanzibar between January and March. Tanzania has two rainy seasons: from mid-March to the end of May, the masika rains begin after dark and last well into the next afternoon. The second season is known as the vuli season; it occurs intermittently throughout November and parts of December and January. During the vuli season, showers arrive in the morning and are sometimes interrupted with clear weather.