Zanzibar, which means “coast of the blacks” is an archipelago situated 16-31mi (25-50km) east of mainland Tanzania. This archipelago consists of numerous small islands and two large ones: the main island is Unguja, which is commonly referred to as Zanzibar itself, and the other is Pemba, which is known as the “Green Island ”.

The capital of Zanzibar is now Zanzibar City, though the historic center was ‘Stone Town’, a bustling city that was once the hub of coastal trade up and down the East coast of Africa. The ‘Stone Town of Zanzibar’ was inscribed as a World Heritage Site in 2000.

Zanzibar is characterized by the beautiful sandy beaches infused with holding the title as the former centre of the slave and spice trades made up of African, Arabic, European and Indian cultures and influences. Zanzibar is the world’s oldest functioning Swahili city.

Zanzibar has a fascinating history, stretching back to the start of the first millennium, when Bantu-speaking Africans traveled across from the mainland. Between the twelfth and fifteenth centuries, the Zanzibar archipelago had come into its own, with Arabian and Persian trade links bringing significant money into the area. Zanzibar had become a major trading hub, supplying gold, ivory, slaves and wood to places as distant as India, while importing spices, textiles and glassware.

Slavery was rife for many years until 1873 when Sultan Barghash was forced by the British, under threat of Naval bombardment, to declare the slave trade illegal.

No one group in particular was solely responsible for the Zanzibar slave trade – the Arabs were big traders, the Europeans used slaves to work on their plantations, whilst African rulers sold prisoners claimed in battle. Unfortunately, being a prisoner sold into slave trade was not the worst fate one could wish for, as the Doe tribe had the gruesome habit of eating their slaves during prolonged conflicts.

When the Portuguese arrived in the early sixteenth century, they temporarily interrupted the golden age, taking control of both Zanzibar and Pemba. However, their reign did not last, and by the early nineteenth century, Omani Arabs had gained control of the region. Trade once again flourished, with cloves, slavery and ivory the main commodities. It’s telling that by 1840, trade was thriving to the degree that the Sultan of Oman chose to relocate his court to Zanzibar from the Persian Gulf.

In 1873, the prominent slave trade was abolished, and by 1890, Omani sultans ruled under a British protectorate. This lasted until December 1963, when Zanzibar regained its independence. However, only a month later, the Arab ruling elite were overthrown by an African majority in a horrific revolution leading to several thousand deaths. In April 1964, a republic was established, as the presidents of Zanzibar and Tanganyika, or more accurately, was subsumed into Tanzania, of which Zanzibar remains a semi-autonomous region.

Reasons you should travel to Zanzibar with Kotia safaris

Few places in the world can induce images of pristine turquoise waters, white powdered sandy beaches, and tropical palm-tree paradise like Zanzibar. It feels like an entirely different world, offering a unique cultural experience while also being a tranquil setting for pure relaxation. It’s that place where you may say your personal slice of paradise is found.

The area to visit when in Zanzibar includes Stone town, local market, Prison Island, Nungwi/Kendwa, Jozani forests

Stone Town

Isn’t just any town. It is a sensory experience not to be found anywhere else in the world that offers a unique look into the melting pot of cultures.

Darajani Market is where you find locals hustling all day long. And what makes it so authentic is the noise and the colors. It is also the place where you can find all possible species.

Prison Island

The Prison Island is only 25 minutes away from Stone Town. Once used as a place for detention of rebellious slaves and people with deadly diseases, it is now converted into a tourist attraction with one of the main draws being giant tortoises. They’re not only ginormous but also as old as 192 years!

Dine at Forodhani Gardens

When it comes to street food, your visit to Zanzibar is not complete without experiencing the Forodhani night market. It’s by far the cheapest and busiest place to eat. You will find stands with fresh seafood, samosas and grilled vegetables.

Get lost wandering narrow alleys

Stone Town is a place where you’ll find a mixture of Arabic, Indian, African, and European cultures living comfortably together under one roof. The labyrinthine streets are the most beautiful of all the sights you can find. Wander the maze of narrow streets and dark winding alleys. This way you will get a glimpse into the sense of a local community.

Jozani forest

Wildlife lovers will enjoy trekking into the Jozani Forest in search of red colobus monkeys, a species that can only be found in Zanzibar. It is also home to Sykes monkey, Ader’s duiker, bush babies, over 50 species of butterfly, 40 species of birds and 100 species of trees.

The Zanzibar International Airport serves Zanzibar. Not many countries offer direct flights to Zanzibar, so you will need to get a connecting flight via countries such as Ethiopia, Tanzania or Kenya.