Things to do in Zanzibar

Zanzibar, an archipelago of islands off the coast of Tanzania in the Indian Ocean, is a heavenly place to spend your vacation far from the madness and stress of our Western countries.

When is the best time to go to Zanzibar?

Zanzibar enjoys a very pleasant equatorial climate all year round.  

The country has two rainy seasons:

  • From March to May
  • From October to December

The best times are therefore as follows:

  • January and February
  • From July to September

However, you should be aware that even during rainy periods, the weather can be very mild. Indeed, I went to Zanzibar from March to May and the weather was excellent in March and April. However, I had a lot of rain in May.

Top 8 activities to do in Zanzibar

Although it is a small archipelago, Zanzibar is not boring because there are so many activities to do.

After spending two months in Zanzibar, I managed to get a fairly clear overview of the archipelago. Here is a summary of the most famous activities on the island. 

1 – Visit Stone Town, capital of Zanzibar

Stone Town, Zanzibar

Stone Town is the capital of Zanzibar  located on the oceanfront west of Unguja Island.

Stone Town is the true soul of Zanzibar where many different cultures and traditions live together.

You can stroll for hours through the narrow streets and travel through the centuries.  

Among the corners to visit, I suggest you to:

  • Dine at the Forodhani Gardens located on the waterfront:  this is a street food market where local food stalls are set up in the early evening. Of course, this place, where many tourists go, is also loved by the locals. You can enjoy all kinds of local food. Expect to have to negotiate prices, but of course it will be difficult to pay the same prices as a local.
  • Visit the Old Dispensary: this building is one of the most striking on the waterfront. It was a former charity hospital and now houses offices. You can freely access this building.
  • Lose yourself in the small streets of Stone Town : this city mixes Arab, Indian, European and African influences. Carved wooden doors are perhaps the most famous feature of Zanzibar architecture. Some of these doors are centuries old.   
  • Have a walk around Darajani Market : probably one of the largest markets in Zanzibar. Losing yourself in it will allow you to immerse yourself completely in the life of the premises. You will find all kinds of things, whether it is fruits, vegetables, clothes etc….

Stone Town is also the starting point for many activities that can be done in Zanzibar.

2 – Visit Prison Island in Zanzibar

From the port of Stone Town, you can opt for a visit to Prison Island, a small island a few kilometers from Stone Town.

The excursion lasts half a day and you can participate in three major activities on this island:

  • Visit the Giant Turtle Sanctuary: this sanctuary is home to many protected giant turtles. It is home to the world’s oldest turtle, 193 years old.
  • Visit the island: you will learn more about the history of this small island.
  • Snorkeling around Prison Island: after visiting the island, you can relax on the fine sandy beach or venture out and do a little snorkeling around the island.

3 – Swimming with dolphins in Zanzibar

Zanzibar, located in the Indian Ocean, has been chosen as the home of many dolphins that have settled in the south of the island of Unguja.

The village of Kizimkazi, located at the southern end of the island, is the starting point for expeditions to swim with dolphins. 

The excursion starts early in the morning from Kizimkazi and lasts, in general, until the end of the morning. 

You will have the opportunity to swim with the dolphins as much as you want during this exceptional morning.  

The tour operator with whom you will make this excursion will lend you the diving equipment (mask, snorkel, fins).

4 – Diving around the Mnemba atoll in Zanzibar

Diving in Zanzibar

Zanzibar is a destination known worldwide for the beauty of its seabed. 

It seems inconceivable for me to visit this idyllic archipelago without even taking the opportunity to explore its seabed. 

The Mnemba atoll is one of the most famous diving spots on the island of Unguja

Whether you are an experienced diver or the youngest snorkeling beginner, this place will satisfy all of you.  

You will find both snorkeling spots accessible to all as well as diving spots reserved for the most experienced. 

I passed my PADI Open Water in Zanzibar and made several dives around the private island of Mnemba. The bottoms are magnificent, you will find many colourful corals as well as countless species of fish and mammals, such as turtles, dolphins etc.

5 –  The Spice Tour in Zanzibar

Generally from Stone Town, you have the opportunity to take a guided tour through the forest in search of the plants and trees of Zanzibar that earned it the name “Spice Island“.

During this visit, you will have the opportunity to discover and taste many kinds of spices such as cloves, vanilla, curry, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, citronella, etc.

Most tours last half a day with time to visit and taste spices and fruits, then the possibility of buying spices as souvenirs to take home. 

The price of a spice circuit depends on the tour operator you use and your bargaining power. As a general rule, the price of a tour varies between US$10 and US$30 depending on the number of people participating. To this, you will have to add the tips.

6 – Visit the Jozani forest

Jozani Forest is the largest forest on the island of Zanzibar. It is located in the south of Chwaka Bay. This forest is home to numerous swamps of wetland trees and ferns. The entire area, protected by the Jozani-Chwaka National Park, is home to the world’s most famous and unique red colobus. This monkey species is threatened with extinction.

There are also other species of monkeys (galagos, cephalophores) and more than forty species of birds.

There are several options when you want to visit Jozani Forest. 

The most chosen option is a 45-minute visit to the forest and then a 30-minute visit to the mangroves.

During the visit of the forest, during the first part a guide will explain how each species of tree and plant is used in the daily life of the inhabitants. Afterwards, you will have the opportunity to observe the red colobus of Zanzibar.

The visit to the Jozani forest lasts about 2 hours, but you can opt for a longer walk in the forest, which may take you the whole day.

The cost for the shortest ride is US$5 to US$10. To this, you can add the tips in the guide. 

7 – Relax on the beautiful beaches of Zanzibar

The Zanzibar archipelago is home to sumptuous white sandy beaches on which you can relax in peace and quiet.  

The water temperature is pleasant all year round between 24°C and more than 30°C

However, don’t be fooled by high and low tides, which could lead to fun little adventures to tell. 

Among the most beautiful beaches in Zanzibar, I recommend you in particular:

  • Paje
  • Jambiani
  • Kizimkazi
  • Nungwi
  • Kiwengwa
  • Matemwe

Stroll quietly on these beaches and enjoy a relaxing sunset in beautiful colors. 

8 – Meeting the people of Zanzibar

Unfortunately, few tourists take the time to meet the locals. Believe me, it’s worth it. The inhabitants are extremely kind and generous.  

The small difficulty lies in the fact that few locals speak English. But it is always possible to make yourself understood by making the effort and taking the time you need. 

Meet the inhabitants to discover their culture and traditions as well as their culinary specialities, you will not be disappointed.

I went to Zanzibar for two months to participate in a volunteer project. I was able to live in the middle of the premises for those two months. This experience taught me many things about this part of the world. 

Zanzibar is a beautiful destination that can suit any type of traveller, so don’t hesitate to explore it! 

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3 thoughts on “Things to do in Zanzibar

  1. Such a content. My husband and I run a diving center in Cyprus. We want to offer something more than diving to our customers, something different, thought provoking, unique and absolutely appealing. Open to any ideas? Complimentary refreshments already a given…

  2. Dear Gogo,

    I have watched your video about volunteering on youtube and read your post about your travels to Zanzibar. I am interested in spending 2-3 months in Zanzibar to do some volunteer work like you. I’m from the UK and visited Zanzibar on holiday with my friends in March and fell in love with the island, but i didn’t have enough time to explore properly.
    I would love to talk to you more about your experience including your budget and which charity you volunteered with.
    You looked like you had an amazing experience and met some amazing people! Looking forward to hear from you soon via email.

    Kimberly R

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