- Where is Zanzibar?
- When is the best time of year to visit Zanzibar?
- What is the main religion on Zanzibar?
- What are the tipping customs on Zanzibar?
Zanzibar is a tropical island group about 25km off the coast of Tanzania. It is well known for the cloves and other aromatic spices that grow in abundance, as well as its miles of white sandy beaches and sparkling azure water.
Its tumultuous history includes rule by the Portuguese, Omani Sultans, and the British Empire, before gaining independence and merging with mainland Tanzania in 1964. The islands’ status as a crossroads of the Indian Ocean has created a fascinating syncretic culture.
Of the islands in the Zanzibar archipelago, the largest and most well known, and that which is generally referred to as Zanzibar, is properly called Unguja. (Acknowledging popular parlance we also use Zanzibar to refer to the main island.) Another large island, Pemba, is to its north and much less developed economically and as a tourist destination. Pemba has a handful of mid-range to high-end lodges, often specializing in scuba diving. Mafia is also part of the island group, though it lies more than 100km to the south. It has a small permanent population and a few small and excellent tourist lodges.
Among the other islands – just short boat rides from the main island – are tiny Chumbe and Mnemba. Each has its own boutique tourist facility (and otherwise no permanent inhabitants) for those seeking more exclusivity.