Places of interest in and around Zanzibar
The heart of Zanzibar, Stone Town is the only functioning historical city in East Africa and is much the same today as it was 200 years ago. A city within a city, Stone Town is the oldest section of Zanzibar Town, and is made up of winding lanes and unique stone houses, many of which feature magnificent carved doors and overhanging fretwork balconies. Sights include: The Hamami Baths, built in 1870, The Africa House Hotel, once the British Club, the house of notorious slave-trader Tippu-Tip, the slave pit, the National Museum, the old Slave Market, the Church of Christ Cathedral (which stands over the central whipping block of the slave market), the Livingstone House, the Dhow Harbour, the House of Wonders (the former palace of Sultan Barghash built in 1883), the Jamituru Gardens and night food market, the People's Palace and the Arab Fort. Other sights just outside the city include the Persian Baths of Kidichi, the Maruhubi Palace Ruins, the Bububu railway and the Mangapwani Slave Caves.
The Spice Tour
A visit to the ‘Spice Isle' would be incomplete without taking in the famous ‘Spice Tour. Zanzibar and Pemba supply 7% of the world's cloves, which were not introduced as a cash crop until 1818. Now the smell of the island's major export pervades the islands, especially during the harvest season between July and December. The clove is actually the unopened bud of the clove tree, which grows as much as fifteen metres high and blossoms with crimson flowers. The spice is collected in baskets and laid out to dry in the sun for four to seven days. When the buds have turned from a golden brown to a deep, dark brown they are graded, packed and loaded in Zanzibar harbour for export. The islands also grow nutmeg, lemon grass, black pepper, cardamom and cinnamon, all of which can be seen growing in the spice plantations alongside numerous exotic tropical fruits. The organized tour stops to see and smell and taste the tropical fruits and spices, plus offers information on what they may be used for. It usually ends with ginger tea in the afternoon. Visitors can also purchase spices and spice oils at very economic prices.
The Jozani Forest Reserve is the last sanctuary in the world for the rare red colobus monkey, which is endemic to Zanzibar. 35 kms from Stone Town, the 484 acre reserve is located in the central eastern region of Zanzibar island and is also home to other species including Syke's monkey's, bush pigs and nocturnal Zanzibar leopards. Jozani has an excellent nature trail and the guides are well trained and informative.
Tours to the unspoilt north coast always end up at Ras Nungwi, a sleepy fishing village on the northern tip of Zanzibar Island. This is the dhow building capital of Zanzibar, where guests can see the traditional methods of dhow construction in action. This area also offers splendid beaches and coral reefs that are ideal for diving and snorkeling. The local villagers have also built a turtle sanctuary where injured turtles and other marine animals are nursed back to health before being released back into the warm waters of the Indian Ocean.
The Eastern Beaches
For those who truly wish to get away from it all there is no better place than the eastern side of Zanzibar Island, where there are numerous glorious beaches and simple fishing villages. This area is also the site of the Dunga Ruins, the site of a palace built by Ahmed bin Mohamed bin Hassan el Alawi in 1845. Treasure is rumoured to be buried in the ruins, but it also reputed to be haunted by the ghosts of the slaves who were sacrificed and buried in the foundations.
Kizimkazi Mosque and Dolphin Tour
Situated on the southern point of the island, Kizimkazi fishing village is home to several schools of bottle-nosed dolphins which can often be sighted following a short boat trip from the village. Kizimkazi is also the site of a 12th century mosque, the earliest evidence of Islam in East Africa.
For the prefect picnic getaway on a sunny tropical afternoon, the tiny deserted islands lying a few kilometres off the western tip of Zanzibar Town are ideal. They can be reached by an organized visit through the tourist office or by means of hired dhow. One of the most popular destinations is Chunguu Island (also known as Prison Island). This coral outcrop was formerly owned by an Arab who used it to detain misbehaving slaves. In 1893 a prison was built there and although it was never used, the ruins can still be seen. A relaxing walk around the island, past peacocks and mango groves, takes about half an hour. Goats, gazelles and birds inhabit the woods, but the most famous residents are its giant land tortoise probably brought from Aldabra in the Seychelles near the end of the last century. There is a bar and restaurant. Another well-known spot is Grave Island, famous for its beautiful beaches, swimming, snorkeling and sunbathing. The island has been reserved as a European cemetery since 1879 and among the graves are those containing the remains of the men killed on HMS Pegasus, sunk in Zanzibar Harbour by the German cruiser Koenigsberg during the First World War. Other islands include Bat Island from which the flying foxes cross the water to Zanzibar every evening to feed on the fruit trees and Snake Island.