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The Ultimate Zanzibar Travel Guide for Luxury Travel

The Ultimate Zanzibar Travel Guide for luxury travel

Introduction to the Zanzibar Travel Guide

Welcome to the exotic Zanzibar Archipelago, a tropical paradise nestled in the Indian Ocean off the coast of East Africa. Mallerby’s Luxury Travel is thrilled to present this comprehensive Zanzibar Travel Guide, offering you insights into the enchanting islands and captivating atolls that make this a dream destination for discerning travellers seeking a perfect blend of history, culture, and natural beauty.

The Ultimate Zanzibar Travel Guide - sunset

Position & Geography

The Zanzibar Archipelago is nestled just a short distance from the Tanzanian mainland. Geographically, it lies between the latitudes of 5 and 7 degrees south of the Equator, ensuring a warm tropical climate year-round.

Islands and Atolls

The Zanzibar Archipelago consists of two main islands: Unguja (also known as Zanzibar Island) and Pemba, as well as several smaller islets and atolls, such as Mafia Island and Mnemba Island which add to its allure. Known for its scenic beauty, exquisite white sandy beaches, turquoise waters and vibrant coral reefs teeming with marine life, Zanzibar also boasts a rich history and showcases a unique blend of African, Arab, Indian, and European influences. A variety of activities offers a dream-like escape for all types of travellers, whether you’re looking for a romantic escape, a fun-filled family vacation or a digital detox, whilst the island’s theme of laid-back living gently coaxes you to slow down and enjoy each moment as it comes. Join us as we delve deeper into the islands through this Zanzibar Travel Guide.

The Ultimate Zanzibar Travel Guide - scuba diving

Travel Guide to Zanzibar Island

Zanzibar Island, also known as Unguja, is the largest and most famous island in the archipelago and is a mesmerizing tapestry of culture and history. This enchanting island has incredible natural beauty, offers a plethora of activities to suit all travellers, wonderful warm hospitality and is the epitome of laid-back island living. The capital, Stone Town, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where narrow alleys lead to old Arabic-style buildings and bustling markets. Relax on the idyllic white-sand beaches or immerse yourself in the spice-scented plantations that earned Zanzibar the title of the “Spice Island.” For ease of reference, we’ve divided Zanzibar Island into two focus areas, namely Stone Town and the Coast, in order to offer you the best travel advice on offer on this island.

About Stone Town & Things to Do:

Stone Town is the oldest and one of the most beautiful parts of the island. Imagine cobbled streets and meandering alleyways where you’ll find intricately carved doors, historic buildings and bustling markets, allowing you to immerse yourself in the cultural tapestry of this iconic town. We recommend that you spend at least a night or two here if your time allows.  

Our preference for you is a full day in Stone Town with a guide. You’ll walk through the slave markets, the Palace of the Sultans, the Anglican Cathedral and the Old Arabic Fort, learning about Zanzibar’s fascinating history along the way, and then as the sun sets, you’ll enjoy sundowners at a local spot before sampling the local cuisine as you wander from venue to venue for your starter, main and dessert.

The Ultimate Zanzibar Travel Guide - Travel and tours

We also recommend experiencing the following:

  • The Forodhani Night Market for a culinary adventure of local street food.
  • The Tea House for an evening of deliciousness, but bookings are essential.
  • A guided Spice Tour – it’s the Spice Island after all and still one of the largest spice producers today. Head out with you guide to explore a community supported spice farm where you’ll learn about the spices and their medicinal uses, as well as try some spiced tea and taste the fruits in season.  
  • Prison Island. This tiny island, just off the coast, was once a prison for rebellious slaves but today is inhabited by giant tortoises. A half-day guided tour includes the 30-minute boat transfer from Stone Town, return.
  • The Zanzibar Butterfly Centre which has the largest butterfly enclose in East Africa.
  • The Jozani Forest where a guided walk takes you along forest trails in search of the different species of monkey.
  • The Seaweed Centre where you’ll learn about the harvesting and processing of seaweed, plus the opportunity to buy wonderful beauty products like organic soaps and essential oils.

Our favourite authentic accommodations in Stone Town are Upendo House and Kisiwa House.

The Ultimate Zanzibar Travel Guide - hotel on the beach

About Zanzibar Island’s Coast & Things to do:

Beyond Stone Town lies the pristine coastline of Zanzibar, the perfect setting for a fabulous beach vacation, whether you prefer to laze on the white sandy beaches, take a dip in the crystal-clear waters and turquoise lagoons, or dive the colourful reefs. There are luxurious accommodations dotted along the coastline to suit all types of travellers, whether you’re looking for a private villa, a family-friendly resort, a romantic getaway or even a destination wedding venue, and Mallerby’s Luxury Travel will assist you in finding the most perfect place to suit all your needs. Activities range from some of Africa’s best snorkelling and diving experiences to dhow sailing, deep-sea fishing and dolphin safaris, to culinary classes, wellness treatments, romantic dinners on the beach, horse riding and immersive conservation projects.

Important to note is that the Zanzibar Island experiences two low and two high tides per day, with 6 hours between the low and high tides. The northern coast of Zanzibar Island experiences the least tidal effect on the coastline, so staying in the northern areas is best for perfect beach conditions. The north coast also offers a vibrant nightlife and exquisite sunsets, whilst the east coast is quieter and more tidal but has excellent conditions for kiteboarding.

Our favourite accommodations are Zuri Zanzibar, Xanadu Villas and Safira Blu Luxury Resort and Villas.

The Ultimate Zanzibar Travel Guide - Xanadu hotel

Zanzibar Travel Guide to the Islets within the Archipelago:

Lying off the coast of Zanzibar Island are several smaller islands, islets and atolls scattered around the Zanzibar Archipelago, each one perfect for those seeking a quieter and more secluded experience.

Accommodations range from exclusive sole-use islands to luxury private resorts on an island. Below is a travel guide to our favourite islands within the Zanzibar Archipelago:

The Ultimate Zanzibar Travel Guide - Mnemba Island

Mnemba Island:

Located just off the north-east coast of Zanzibar Island, this tiny island is just 1.5kilometres wide and synonymous with luxury and exclusivity. With only 12 luxuriously rustic palm-frond bandas peeping out onto the white coral sand beach from the dappled shade of the casuarina pine forest, the island is only inhabited by its 24 guests and the staff taking care of them. Reached only by boat from Zanzibar Island, you’ll experience butler service, private dining on the beach under the stars, yoga, wellness treatments and a variety of water activities from snorkelling off the beach to scuba diving courses. Highlights include the Green Turtle nesting and hatching in season, community visits, conservation initiative projects, dolphin boat trip and sunset dhow cruise.

Pemba Island:

To the north of Zanzibar Island, Pemba Island is a lesser-explored gem and just a short, scheduled flight from Zanzibar. This pristine island of great beauty and fertility, has forests, swamps, mangroves, hidden beaches and lagoons, making it a haven for nature enthusiasts and diving aficionados. Still the predominant global producer of cloves, Pemba Island has been designated an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International and is also home to several dive sites with steep drop-offs, untouched coral and abundant marine life. Pemba Island offers an authentic experience for those looking for serenity and close encounters with nature.

Our favourite accommodation on the island is The Manta Resort. Set on the northern tip of Pemba Island, Manta is a luxurious retreat featuring 13 villas and suites, suitable for couples and families, some with a private pool and others with a private garden. A highlight is the Underwater Room – a floating structure showcasing a lounge and sundeck with an underwater bedroom where you overnight underwater! Activities range from snorkelling and diving to sunset Ngalawa cruises to spa treatments on the beach. Explore the island on a visit to a Spice Farm, walk through the Ngezi Rainforest or stroll along the beach to the lighthouse. A signature activity, the Pemba Coral Reef Safari, is an exclusive diving experience that promises to take you on an immersive, guided journey through the Pemba Coral Reef ecosystem.

Mafia Island:

To the south of Zanzibar lies a small archipelago of islands, of which Mafia Island is the largest. Known to be one of the best diving and snorkelling destinations in the world with incredible coral reefs, tropical fish and sea turtles.

Thanda Island is part of the archipelago and is a short helicopter flight north of Mafia Island. A mere 5.5 hectares in size, Thanda Island is offered on a sole-use basis for a maximum of 18 guests, offering a luxurious paradise to enjoy in complete privacy with family and friends. Situated in a private marine reserve, guests can dive the exquisite reefs, swim with whale sharks, watch sea turtles nesting in season, sail in a traditional Arab dhow, savour a Swahili or Arabian feast, indulge in a massage or just rest and rejuvenate in a copper bath on the beach.

The Ultimate Zanzibar Travel Guide - Fanjove Island

Fanjove Island:

South of the Mafia Archipelago is the Songo Songo Archipelago which is composed of 22 reefs and 4 islands. Fanjove Island is a secluded and exclusive tropical island, reached by a 50-minute scheduled flight from Dar es Salaam via Mafia Island to Songo Songo Airport, where a 45-minute transfer in a traditional dhow sailboat gets you to the shores of Fanjove Island. This tiny island, covering about 1 kilometre in length and 400 metres in width, accommodates a maximum of 20 people and is yours to explore and enjoy. Surrounded by azure blue seas with white sandy beaches that are shaded with coconut palm trees, step off your beach villa deck, toes in the sand and wade right into the lovely tepid waters. Swim and snorkel straight off the beach, SUP or kayak, set sail on a dhow cruise, savour a beach picnic on a sandbank or explore the pristine 11-kilometre coral house reef snorkelling or diving.

The Ultimate Zanzibar Travel Guide - Fanjove Island with lighthouse
Fanjove Island

Getting & Around the Zanzibar Archipelago:

The main entry point to the Zanzibar Archipelago is Zanzibar International Airport and several major airlines operate regular flights from various cities around the globe. If on safari, scheduled light aircraft flights connect to Zanzibar from Dar es Salaam and Arusha. Transportation from the airport to your chosen island destination may be via private road transfers, scheduled flights, helicopters or boat transfers, and Mallerby’s will arrange this for you as part of your itinerary.

The Ultimate Zanzibar Travel Guide - arrivals

The Best Time To Visit the Zanzibar Archipelago:

Zanzibar enjoys a tropical climate throughout the year, with warm temperatures and high humidity. The best time to visit is during the long, dry season which extends from June to October, and the short, dry season which generally starts mid-December through to the end of February. Avoid the long rains from March until the end of May. The short rains during November and December are lighter and more like afternoon thundershowers.

Read more on the Best Time to visit Africa by Country

The Ultimate Zanzibar Travel Guide - Mnemba Island- Departure

Travel Advice When Planning Your Trip to the Zanzibar Archipelago:

When considering travel to the Zanzibar Archipelago, it’s essential to plan carefully to ensure a safe, enjoyable, and memorable experience. Here are some travel advice and tips to bear in mind when you are ready to start planning:

  • Check the latest travel advisories issued by your government regarding travel to Zanzibar and stay informed about any safety or health-related concerns in the region.
  • Visas depend on your country of origin – some nationalities require visas in advance whilst some may be eligible on arrival.
  • Make sure your passports are valid for at least six months beyond your intended stay.
  • Comprehensive travel and medical insurance are essential and should cover, but not be limited to, medical emergencies, trip cancellations, luggage and personal belongings, activities you plan to participate in such as diving and water sports, and any other unforeseen events.
  • Consult your local travel clinic well in advance to receive recommended vaccinations and take necessary health precautions.
  • The local currency in Tanzania is the Tanzanian Shilling (TZS). While some places may accept major foreign currencies, it’s best to exchange money on arrival or withdraw cash from the ATM’s. Credit cards are accepted at larger hotels and restaurants, but smaller establishments may prefer cash, as do local stores and markets.
  • Tipping is widely appreciated as the industry relies heavily on tourism.
  • When buying at the markets, bartering is acceptable, but be friendly and fair.
  • The locals make wonderful gifts and souvenirs, anything from the local spices and essential oils to clothes and jewellery, so keep space in your luggage for special mementos for yourself, friends, and family.
  • When packing, lightweight, breathable clothing is suitable for the tropical climate, along with essential items such as sunscreen, mosquito repellent, a hat, and sunglasses.
  • Please respect the local culture. Zanzibar is a predominantly Muslim region, so it’s important to dress modestly. Women are asked to cover their knees and shoulders when in public, and skimpy beachwear is frowned upon, as is public displays of affection.
  • Whilst the people of Zanzibar are wonderfully friendly, please ask their permission before taking photographs.
  • Swahili is the local language; however, English is widely spoken. The locals are very friendly, so try to learn a few Swahili phrases prior to your journey. ‘Jambo’ is an easy one and it means ‘hello’.
  • Zanzibar is generally safe for tourists, but like any destination, exercise caution. Avoid displaying expensive items, be aware of your surroundings, and don’t walk alone in poorly lit areas at night.
  • When swimming, pay attention to local advice regarding the ocean currents as some areas may have strong currents or tides. Lifeguards always know best.
  • Zanzibar’s delicate ecosystem is home to diverse marine life, so when snorkelling or diving, avoid touching or damaging coral reefs and marine creatures.
  • Zanzibar’s cuisine is as varied as it is delicious, so tantalise your tastebuds by sampling as much as you can!
  • And lastly, but most importantly, Zanzibar works on ‘Island Time’. Life is slow, laid back and there’s no rush… so whatever you’ve ordered, prepare to wait, but it will be worth it! 
The Ultimate Zanzibar Travel Guide - Weddings

Extending your trip from the Zanzibar Archipelago:

Adding a luxury safari experience to your Zanzibar beach escape is a fantastic way to experience the diverse beauty of Africa, so our below Travel Guide to extending your trip to the Zanzibar Archipelago offers some of the best options to consider. Each country offers a unique safari experience and combining it with a relaxing beach vacation in Zanzibar will create a well-rounded and unforgettable African adventure.

We recommend at least 4 nights on Safari and 4 nights on the beach, however more time allows you to explore further areas to truly experience the best of both worlds.


Since Zanzibar is part of Tanzania, it makes for a seamless combination with a safari on mainland Tanzania. The country boasts world-renowned safari destinations like the Serengeti National Park which hosts the famous annual Wildebeest Migration; the Ngorongoro Crater, once a gigantic volcano and now home to a diversity of wildlife; Tarangire National Park, well known for its huge herds of elephants; and the southern parks of Tanzania which offer exceptional walking safaris, fishing and wildlife viewing. Each area is unique, well-worth a visit and your itinerary can be designed to seamlessly fly between each destination of choice, ending in Zanzibar.  

Read about the  Serengeti Safari Experience


Bordering Tanzania to the North, Kenya offers remarkable wildlife viewing experiences. The Maasai Mara National Reserve is famous for its abundant wildlife and the annual wildebeest migration; the Laikipia region is a collection of private reserves and conservancies teeming with wildlife and offering a range of activities from walking safaris to camel riding and conservation initiatives; the Amboseli region is well known for its large herds of elephants, horse riding and walking safaris, with Mount Kilimanjaro as its backdrop. Direct flights from Nairobi’s Wilson Airport to Zanzibar will connect you from your safari to the beach in a matter of hours.

Read about the Masai Mara Safari Experience

Southern Africa:

Should you choose to safari in South Africa or any of its neighbouring countries, a direct flight from South Africa’s Johannesburg International Airport will connect you to Zanzibar on certain days, within a matter of hours.

South Africa is home to the world-famous Kruger National Park, as well as the malaria-free Madikwe National Park and Eastern Cape conservancies, all offering a fantastic Big 5 wildlife experience.

Botswana is home to the Okavango Delta, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of the most unique safari destinations offering both land and water-based game viewing opportunities.

Zambia and Zimbabwe are neighbouring countries which both offer incredible wildlife viewing as well as access to the iconic Victoria Falls, one of the world’s most impressive natural wonders.

Each of these countries offers its own distinct safari experiences, so whether you opt for the vast savannahs of Tanzania or the unique waterways of Botswana, combining a safari with a Zanzibar beach escape will create an unforgettable African adventure.

The Ultimate Zanzibar Travel Guide - Xanadu hotel

Travel with Mallerby’s Luxury Travel:

At Mallerby’s Luxury Travel, we strive to provide unparalleled experiences tailored to your preferences. Planning and executing your journey can become a stressful experience, so allow us to take care of the logistics and stress for you! Our expert guides will personally design an itinerary based on your specific travel requirements, offering suitable suggestions on accommodations and activities, and then add in the finer details to ensure you have a seamless and unforgettable journey that surpasses your expectations.

Summing up your Zanzibar Experience:

Zanzibar is a tropical haven that promises an escape from the ordinary. From its pristine beaches and vibrant coral reefs to its rich cultural heritage and enchanting Stone Town, Zanzibar and its archipelago of island escapes offers a blend of luxury and exclusivity with relaxation, adventure, and exploration. Whether you’re seeking a romantic getaway or an unforgettable family vacation, Zanzibar promises an experience of a lifetime. We hope that this comprehensive Zanzibar Travel Guide offered you some noteworthy insight into the possibilities you may wish to encounter on your special journey. Mallerby’s Luxury Travel is committed to curating personalised journeys for its clients, so pack your bags, immerse yourself in the island’s beauty, and let Zanzibar’s charm captivate your senses.


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