For over two thousand years the East African coast has lured travelers and traders alike from many distant shores. Zanzibar became the most powerful centre of a rich and lucrative trade route supplying gold, ivory and slaves and serving as the main power base for the Sultans of Oman, as well as a gateway to the African continent for many European explorers such as Speke, Burton and Livingstone.
We headed to the exotic Tanzanian archipelago of Zanzibar following an action-packed safari to the Selous Game Reserve and discovered a perfect slice of paradise and dreamy finale to a perfect get away.
Stone Town is a historic trade centre and fusion of the old Indo-Arabian architecture and a modern new world creeping into the mix.
My tour of Stone Town and its minarets, carved, studded doorways, fish and spice markets took me through a labyrinth of twisting alleyways and a winding history. I was transported back through the centuries to ancient Persia and tales of Shirazi merchants, Swahili Princesses and Omani Sultans.
I saw 19th Century landmarks such as the House of Wonders, a former Sultan’s palace and The Anglican Cathedral Church of Christ. In the church are displayed many fascinating discoveries such as a tribute to Dr David Livingstone in the form of a cross carved from part of the tree in Zambia under which the explorer’s heart was buried.
The world’s last open slave market is located nearby and I still shudder at how I felt to enter the poisonously oppressive, damp cellars and to think of the cruelty and suffering that took place here.
Zanzibar boasts some of the world’s finest beaches, world class cuisine and most stunning boutique hotels. We were lucky enough to circumnavigate the island staying at different resorts and hotels to get a true flavour for this tropical island paradise. One thing remains consistent and that is the powder soft sand and lapping shimmering clear water fringed by swaying coconut palms beneath azure blue skies!
I loved the beaches of the South East boasting long swathes of gleaming white sand into the horizon.
One morning with the tide far out we cycled the length of the beach soaking up the sights as we zipped along seeing women in brightly coloured bui-buis (Islamic cover-alls) farming sea shells, small fish and seaweed from the white coral sand, children swimming and fishermen busy in the shallows.
Above: Women fishing with nets
The watersports facilities are fantastic here too with every sort of seaworthy vessel imaginable – a highlight for me was some exhilarating hobi-cat sailing in bath temperature water and the novelty of not having to wear a wetsuit to keep out the cold!
We passed avenues of mango trees laden with ripe orange fruit, equatorial rainforests of towering iridescent leaves and watched the rare Red Colobus monkey munching on unripe fruit. We drove past fields with farmers labouring by hand with pickaxes and through colourful towns with people busy selling and transporting everything from mattresses on bicycles to produce in wooden carts pulled by oxen. Along one remote stretch of road a car width of tarmac was taken over by meters of loose cloves drying in the sun.
Eventually the tarmac ran out and we bumped over dusty roads of coral, past picturesque fishing villages with elderly men sitting on their verandas playing bao (a traditional board game), fishermen busy in their dhows and children playing in the water and waving at us.
Some of the beaches are so remote and isolated that time has stood still.
We were lucky enough to stay beside such a beach with the hotel a series of traditionally styled round chalets with pitched makuti roofs tucked into the rocks and were treated to a luxurious stay beyond my wildest dreams.
I was lucky enough to explores Zanzibar’s idyllic white sandy beaches and wealth of historical and cultural treasures on a ‘fam’ trip (familiarisation tour) with World Odyssey. A trip to Zanzibar combines very well with a safari to Kenya or Tanzania. If you would like to travel to Zanzibar and/or its surrounding islands a journey can be tailor-made by World Odyssey – for more information on anything to do with Africa or anywhere else on the planet give one of a call for advice and ideas Tel: 01905 731373