The centre of the capital Zanzibar City is Stonetown, a UNESCO World Heritage Site of meandering, labyrinthine cobbled streets and spice markets. There are buildings that date back to 19th Century, steeped in history, such as the Arab Fort, House of Wonders and various ruinous Sultans’ Palaces. Once the central trading area for gold, ivory and indeed the slave trade, it is a great place to absorb the atmospheric Old Town and its local flavour.
Toward the Eastern and Northern Swahili coastlines lay Zanzibar’s finest beach retreats. Facing out to Mnemba Island, Matemwe is a stylish and peaceful resort away from crowds. Matemwe Lodge and Matemwe Retreat both offer small room numbers in intimate, luxurious settings. An idyliic place to visit from Matemwe is the small, Robinson Crusoe-esque island of Mnemba, where it is possible to see green turtles nesting. Diving and snorkelling in Zanzibar comes highly recommended for some of the most pristine reefs in Africa and great visibility, and Matemwe is a great base for diving adventures.
Pemba Island is the ‘other’ main island of Zanibar and is situated northeast of Unguja. Covered in clove trees, it is far less visited and developed, and is relatively unexplored. Taking a dhow cruise along the coastline will offer true off-the-beaten track exploration and Pemba also has some unique offshore diving opportunities with wall dives, big marine life and clear water diving experiences. Manta rays, hawksbill, barracudas and green turtles all add to vast technicolour marine life you are likely to see.
Mafia Island Archipelago, further south, is also a popular snorkelling spot during the whale shark migration between November and January.