Although Zanzibar and its neighbouring tropical island of Pemba do not have reserve or park status, they are worth mentioning here for the aquatic life, some rare primates and a fascinating history. Zanzibar is a common post-safari destination that adds a relaxing, exotic element to a hectic holiday.
These islands lie at the top of Tanzania's Indian Ocean coastline, which over the centuries have been influenced by numerous cultures which have blended together to create the Zanzibar of today. The confusing mix originates from an African Asian combination created by a touch of Persian, Arabian, Indian and Chinese influences with some Dutch, Portuguese and English thrown in for good measure. Slaves and spices made these islands famous. Shirazi Persians and Omani Arabs settled and ruled the Zanzibar Sultanate, which explains the Arab influences and Muslim religion which endures today.
Heavily carved and studded Zanzibar doors relieve the plain exteriors of many houses, many of which are peeling and dishevelled. The Indian influence produced coloured glasswork and ornamental fretwork balconies and today Gujerati traders sell just about anything from cloves to curios. The English legacy is a number of solid imperial buildings occupying the more select parts of The Stone Town.
The islands conjure up everything one could want from a tropical escape. Spectacular beaches, simple fishing villages, relaxing resorts, silence and solitude if you wish or the hustle and bustle in the narrow streets of an ancient town.
ANIMALS AND BIRDS Palm fringed white beaches epitomise a perfect tropical scene. Add to this warm water and an unspoiled marine environment with coral gardens inhabited by brightly coloured fish, and the picture is complete.
The islands offer world class scuba diving or snorkelling and deep sea fishing in the Pemba and Mnemba channels A visit to a spice farm will bring your sense of smell to life with pungent cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, ginger and black pepper, along with such exotic fruits as tamarind, guava, mango, rose apple and bananas.
The rare red colobus monkey might also be seen at some farms and particularly at Jozani Forest in the south of Zanzibar and in Pemba's natural forest. Changuu Island used to house wayward slaves, but hundred year old tortoises occupy the prison now.
SEASONS Lying within the tropics, Zanzibar experiences warm weather almost all the year. Dry Season: The hottest month of the dry season is February with a maximum average daily temperature of 84°F (29°C). The southern hemisphere winter season is only slightly cooler here with a very pleasant average temperature of 70°F (21°C) in August. Rainy Season: There are two periods of rain, heaviest in March to May and lesser rains in October and November.
ZANZIBAR SPECIALITIES • Diving and snorkelling on tropical reefs • Historic Stone Town with its narrow streets • Elaborate carved wooden doors • Spices - 75% of the world's cloves are grown here • Seafood • Traditional dhows FACTS Zanzibar is part of the Republic of Tanzania but has its own separate government and multi-party democracy.
The two islands comprising Zanzibar (Unguja and Pemba) are about 22 miles (35km) off Tanzania's coastline and lie 6 degrees south of the equator. Access is by air or sea from Dar es Salaam.