Zanzibar is a beautiful archipelago about a 20-minute flight from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania's largest city. It is the perfect destination for a beach holiday or to practice water sports. Moreover, the islands have a rich trading history with Arab, Persian, Swahili and Portuguese influences, among others. For a trip to Zanzibar, a Tanzania visa is required, which can easily be applied for online.
Zanzibar archipelago: the islands of Unguja, Pemba and Latham
Officially, Zanzibar is the name of an archipelago of several islands, including Unguja and Pemba. However, the name Zanzibar is usually used to refer to the largest and most populous island in the archipelago: Unguja. This article describes sights and activities throughout the archipelago, not just on the main island of Unguja.
Beaches and water sports
With its pearly white sandy beaches, clear blue sea and palm trees, Zanzibar is known as a holiday paradise in Africa. The islands have a tropical climate and are therefore perfect for a beach holiday. Zanzibar is also popular among water sports enthusiasts. You can go diving, snorkelling, swimming, rent a boat, stand-up paddle surfing, deep sea fishing and kite surfing. Almost all the resorts on Zanzibar have diving schools that offer trips to the coral reefs around the islands. Numerous marine animals can be spotted, including mantas, humpback whales and hundreds of species of coral fish. The best location for snorkelling is Mnemba, a small island north-east of Unguja.
Wildlife in Jozani Forest National Park
The main island of Unguja has a small but beautiful national park: Jozani Forest. Here you will find the rare Red Colobus monkey (Piliocolobus kirkii), an endangered species that can only be found on Zanzibar. In addition, Blue Sykes monkeys, antelopes and numerous bird species can be found in the forest. The park has footpaths on wooden platforms between the mangroves.
However, the national park is not a suitable location for a safari. Anyone who wants to spot elephants, lions and leopards as well as monkeys should combine their trip to Zanzibar with a stay on the Tanzanian mainland. A visa for Tanzania allows you to travel to both mainland Tanzania and Zanzibar. The visa is valid for a maximum stay of 30 days. Within this period, you may travel from the Tanzania mainland to Zanzibar and back again as often as you like. With your visa, you can for example first visit the Jozani Forest National Park on Zanzibar, then go on safari in one of the game reserves on the mainland and finish your trip at the beaches of Zanzibar.
Zanzibar Town, Stone Town and Pemba
The capital of Unguja, Zanzibar Town, is an absolute must during a stay on the island. The old centre of the city, which has been on UNESCO's World Heritage List since 2000, is also known as Stone Town. The centre owes its name to the use of coral stone as the main building material, which gives the city its characteristic red colour. The various Arab, Persian, Indian, European and African (Swahili) influences are clearly visible in the streets of this city, including the diverse architectural styles. Those who wish to learn more about the darker parts of the island's history can visit the monument at the former slave market.
Zanzibar Town is a pleasant town with narrow alleys, traditional markets and mosques. In the evening, tourists and locals gather in the Forodhani Gardens to enjoy local dishes and live music. Famous sights include the Arabian fort, the city's oldest structure, and the Palace Museum, the palace of the former sultan. Fans of the rock band Queen can visit the small Freddie Mercury Museum dedicated to the band's singer, who was born in Stone Town.
Another island that belongs to the Zanzibar archipelago is Pemba. This island is relatively undiscovered by tourists compared to the main island of Unguja, and therefore has quieter beaches. Although the island is close to Unguja, it has a very different landscape; Pemba is hilly and greener, but like the main island of Zanzibar, it has beautiful beaches and a fascinating underwater world.
Apply for a Tanzania visa
A visa for Tanzania is required to visit the beautiful islands of Zanzibar. British and Irish nationals can easily apply for their visa online. After paying the visa fee (£79.95 per person) and providing a few documents, the application will be processed. On average, the visa is approved and sent by e-mail after four weeks. Afterwards, you only need to print the visa and take it with you on your trip.
The visa allows you to arrive at the airport in Zanzibar or through one of the border crossing points Namanga or Tunduma on the Tanzania mainland. You may travel back and forth between Zanzibar and mainland Tanzania as often as you like within the maximum 30-day period.