Zanzibar is made up of two islands, Zanzibar and Pemba, located 22 miles (35km) off the coast of Tanzania. The area of the islands is made up of 600 square miles (1500 square km) of remote beaches, palm forests and colonial towns.
Zanzibar was the first settlement of Omani - Arabs on the coast of Africa, and for that reason the islands have a strong Middle Eastern influence with many mosques located around the islands. Evidence of the Arabic influence can be seen in the historical city of Stone Town.
Zanzibar is known for its pristine sand beaches and sweetly scented spice farms, however its history holds a darker secret. Zanzibar used to be the biggest slave trader in East-Africa, however the islands were not used only as a hub to trade slaves, but other materials that were transported across the Indian Ocean.
Zanzibar’s climate is tropical and humid with an average rainfall of 60 inches per year, however the main rainy season is from March to May when the trade winds are not strong.
In terms of spoken language, the residents of Zanzibar speak an Arabic form of Swahili, however English is commonly used and understood.
Only a short flight or ferry ride to the mainland, Zanzibar is located close to a variety of attractions such as Tanzania’s well known Serengeti National Park or the snow-capped Uhuru peak of Kilimanjaro.
Despite this there are plenty of spectacular attractions closer to the islands. The colonial Arabic city of Stone Town offers tourists a chance to engross themselves into the history of Zanzibar and both the rich’s and horrors of the trade empire that was once so prominent.
A perennial favourite among visitors is Cheetah Rock, a sanctuary for these big cats that is open to visitors year round.
Certain airlines (Ethiopian, Kenya, Oman and Qatar airlines) fly direct to Zanzibar, however most large international airlines fly to Dar es Salaam, which is only a short ferry trip to the islands.
Once on the islands it is easy to find transport, with the cheapest options being the dala-dala, the mini-bus taxi share that costs $1.50 to get from Stone City to the north, east of south coasts.
If you prefer to take rent a car make sure you research companies with excellent reviews. Taxis and transfers are also available.