The Hidden Gems of Zanzibar: An Alternative Africa Travel Guide

Unmissable Zanzibar – Africa’s Tropical Paradise

Zanzibar, also known as Spice Island, is a stunning tropical paradise located off the coast of Tanzania, East Africa. It’s often overlooked by tourists, but in my opinion this is one of the best places to travel to in Africa!

In terms of size, Zanzibar is home to roughly 1.6 million people and covers a total land area of approximately 2,460 square kilometers. This includes the two main islands of Unguja and Pemba, as well as several smaller islets.

Join me in exploring all the best things to do in Zanzibar, and take advantage of my personal travel tips and insight!

Best Activities in Zanzibar

I recommend staying in Unguja, as it’s the larger of the two main islands and is where the capital (Zanzibar City) is located. Whereas Pemba is smaller and less developed, with a more rural and traditional way of life.

#1 Tangawizi Spice Farm

The Tangawizi Spice Farm is set in lush, tropical surroundings and is famous for its spice tours.

At the farm you’ll learn about the fascinating customs and traditions of the local communities and discover interesting facts, such as the crazy way pineapples grow (see below!)

Here you can shop for souvenirs, as the gift shop sells a wide variety of spices and amazing local products (I highly recommend their handmade soaps and mango tea).

Overall, Tangawizi Spice Farm is one of the best things to do in Zanzibar, as it’s a fantastic way to experience the rich cultural and agricultural heritage, while also enjoying beautiful scenery.

#2 Mnemba Island

Mnemba island is a stunning private island located off the coast of Zanzibar. It’s surrounded by white sandy beaches and the most calm and crystal-clear waters you’ll probably ever see.

The island is also dedicated to eco-tourism and is home to a variety of protected species, including turtles and coral reefs. Click here to book a tour – it’s one of the best day trips I’ve ever done and definitely one of the top things you can do in Zanzibar!

#3 Stone Town

Stone Town has a rich history, having been a hub of East African trade for centuries. The town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and with a guide, you can easily explore its narrow streets, historic buildings, and iconic landmarks.

Visiting Stone Town is a must-do in Zanzibar. You’ll experience a fascinating melting pot of cultures here, with influences from African, Arab, Persian, Indian, and European cultures. We loved exploring the markets, mosques, churches, and synagogues to experience this cultural diversity firsthand.

The architecture in Stone Town is incredible, with intricate details and designs that reflect its rich history and cultural influences. While you’re in town, you should check out buildings like the House of Wonders, the Old Fort, and the Palace Museum.

I strongly recommend a guided tour to really make the most of the town and avoid getting lost!

#4 Nakupenda Beach

After our tour of Stone Town, we headed to Nakupenda beach, which is about 7km (30 minutes) away from the town. This beach is definitely one of the best places to go in Zanzibar, but I *STRONGLY SUGGEST* doing a guided tour, as we had an absolute disaster getting here.

⚠️ ⚠️ ⚠️ Crazy Travel Story ⚠️ ⚠️ ⚠️

En route to Nakupenda, it quickly became apparent that our Captain was drunk and downright dangerous.

Empty bottles of whisky filled our boat and he drove so fast through choppy waters we were almost catapulted off at various points, it was like something out of a horror movie!

To add to the drama, our boat broke down in the middle of the ocean and it took about 25 minutes to restart.

When we eventually got to the island the Captain sped off, but within seconds we heard a loud bang, the boat came to a complete stop again and the entire engine fell off (he then had to be rescued by a large boat!)

Anyway, we survived the ordeal and once we got to the island we had a great time!

Nakupenda has got seriously amazing stunning coral reefs and is one of the whitest sandbanks in Africa, making it an absolute must-see in Zanzibar.

This tour of Nakupenda looks great, and even stops at Prison Island (also known as Changuu Island), which is famous for its historic prison and giant tortoises. Totally wish we’d done this tour!

#5 Restaurant on the Rock

Restaurant on The Rock is a famous seafood restaurant located on a small rock island off the coast of Zanzibar. The restaurant is only accessible by boat during low tide and offers stunning views of the Indian Ocean.

However, as this was about a 2 hour drive from our hotel, we never actually made it there. Since it offers a unique dining experience and picturesque location, you might want to check it out for yourself.

#6 Experience a Stunning Sunset Cruise

One of the top things to do in Zanzibar is a sunset cruise – where you’ll get to see the sky turn brilliant shades of orange, pink, and purple. On our cruise, we witnessed unforgettable views of the sun setting over the Indian Ocean, which was the perfect way to unwind after a day of exploring all that Zanzibar has to offer.    

zanzibar sunset cruise

🚫 Where to Avoid in Zanzibar 🚫

Top tip: I would avoid visiting the Baraka Natural Aquarium, which is meant to be a sea turtle conservation lagoon.

I got more than I bargained for here – a giant turtle decided to sneak up on me and take a little chunk out of my leg! As the lagoon was so murky, I had to go to hospital for a tetanus shot to stave off any infections.

I felt very sorry for all of the reptiles held in this run down tourist trap, as it was really dirty and there was no supervision. When we visited, we even had to tell several children to stop picking up and harassing the turtles, so I highly recommend avoiding this unethical place.

Fortunately I had SafetyWing Insurance in place, which covered my hospital bill. For me, it’s the best insurance provider out there because you don’t have to pay for a whole year upfront. Instead, you’re charged every 28 days, until you cancel, making it extremely flexible.

Another massive benefit of SafetyWing is that there’s no limit on travel duration, so you don’t need a return date (and a return ticket) in order to activate your insurance. So in my opinion, it’s the perfect safety net for anyone on the move.

You can check SafetyWing Insurance out for yourself here:

While I hope you never have to use your insurance, it’s there in case of emergencies that can seriously rack up expenses and ruin your trip.

Where to Stay in Zanzibar?

🏝️ Sandies Baobab Beach

Located on Unguja Island, in Nungwi, this 4-star hotel has got to be one of the best places to stay in Zanzibar. Sandies is right on a pristine beach, with a stunning outdoor swimming pool overlooking the ocean.

The food is also incredible at Sandies. Despite not intending to do an all-inclusive trip, we enjoyed our meals so much that we hardly ate anywhere else. You can sample traditional dishes here, such as biryani, samosas, and pilau rice, as well as fresh seafood and tropical fruits. Every Saturday, Sandies does a huge outdoor buffet, which is truly out of this world.

When to visit Zanzibar

The best time to visit Zanzibar largely depends on your preferences and what you plan to do. If you prefer sunny and dry weather, consider visiting from June to October. If you prefer quieter travel and lower prices, consider visiting during the low season from March to May, or from November to early December.

Top tip: Whatever time you decide to visit, make sure to pack sunscreen, insect repellent, and light, breathable clothing.

Safety in Zanzibar

Zanzibar is considered a safe destination for tourists, but it’s always important to take precautions. Although we felt very safe here, I’d recommend taking some common-sense precautions. For example, avoid carrying large amounts of cash with you and keep your belongings close.

It’s also worth mentioning that Zanzibar is a predominantly Muslim island, meaning you should be respectful of their local customs and dress appropriately.

As long as you take the necessary precautions and are respectful of the local customs, you’ll find Zanzibar to be a generally safe and welcoming destination.

Do note that the prevalence rate of malaria in Zanzibar is currently below one percent, which is the lowest in Tanzania and in Eastern and Central Africa.

How long to spend in Zanzibar

We stayed for 7 nights and this felt like the perfect amount of time to experience Zanzibar at a leisurely pace.

If we had the time, after our island getaway, we would have flown to Nyerere National Park (formerly Selous Game Reserve) to do a safari, as this is the closest safari to Zanzibar and is home to more than half of all Tanzanian elephants. So you might want to check this out if your diary is free.

Check out my mini Zanizbar Vlog here ⬇️


Overall, Zanzibar offers a unique combination of natural beauty, cultural richness, and relaxation that makes it a must-visit destination in Africa – I know I’m already itching to go back!

I hope my blog outlining the best things to do in Zanzibar inspires you to visit this incredible corner of the world. If you have any questions about Zanzibar, feel free to ask me in the comments below.

Map with the best travel tips for Zanzibar:

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