A cultural crossroads of blissful beach days
Unbeknown to most, Zanzibar is not a singular outpost but a collection of more than 50 sun-drenched islands. Laying some 50 kilometres off the coast of mainland Tanzania bathed in the brilliantly blue waters of the Indian Ocean, it is one of the highlights of an East African yacht charter and offers the chance for a luxurious, get-away-from-it-all escape.
Conjure an image of Zanzibar and it’s bound to be of a dazzling white sand beach lined with palm trees and lapped by gentle waves – and rightly so. The island group excels at day-dreamy beach life and although resorts and beach parties are becoming more popular, it’s still possible to seek out your own secluded stretch of sand, particularly when you have a luxury yacht at your disposal.
But there are many reasons to tear yourself away from your hammock. The coral-rich waters, for one, are a major draw. Protected Mnemba Atoll nearby Zanzibar’s main island Unguja is easily the most impressive dive site while there is much to see in Mafia Island’s marine park, including gigantic yet gentle whale sharks, and Pemba Island has some stunning underwater topography. Dolphins can also be spotted in the southern area known as Kizimkazi.
Back on land, a visit to the charming historical area of Stone Town – or Mij Mkongw – in Zanzibar city, Unguja, is a must. Spend the morning or afternoon wandering through the narrow streets of this UNESCO World Heritage Site, imagining what life would have been like in years gone by. Much of the complex warren of coral stone alleyways and houses date from the height of Zanzibar’s commercial power as a centre for spice and trading in the 19th century.
The archipelago has even earned itself the nickname of the ‘Spice Island’ due to its export of cloves and its foodie appeal lives on today with Zanzibar’s cuisine offering a bewildering array of tastes, flavours and textures. Similarly diverse are the cultures and histories that permeate the destination; strong Arabic, Indian, African, Persian and European influences all add a vibrant dimension to the island which will linger in your memory for years to come.
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