Zanzibar Island is the largest island of the Zanzibar Archipelago lying off the Tanzanian coast in the Indian Ocean. Zanzibar Islands features a warm, tropical climate year round. Intense rainfall usually occurs in March, April, and May in association with the annual southwest monsoon. The archipelago´s main island (also called Unguja Island) is low-lying, with its highest point reaching 120 meters above sea level, and is well known for its picture-perfect white-sand beaches and the clear blue water. Some of the greatest assets of Zanzibar are even below sea level. The archipelago is surrounded by stunning coral reefs with a species rich maritime life that invites for thrilling snorkeling and diving experiences.
Africa meets Orient & breathtaking maritime life
LOCAL LIFE AND CULTURE
Visiting Zanzibar also means travelling back in time to ancient Persia, to Oman´s caliphs and sultans, and to mystic India with its heavily laden scents. Stone Town, the historic center of Zanzibar City, was Africa´s most influential capital of slave and ivory trade until the 19th century. With its beautiful mosques, grand Arab houses, bustling bazaars, and the scenic waterfront Stone Town is considered as the old archipelago´s soul. African and Oriental culture merge to a charming ethnic and religious kaleidoscope that reminds to the fairy tales of 1001 nights. Ancient history is still alive until today as Zanzibari understand to construct the traditional wooden sailing vessels called “Dhow”, that are also used for tourist boat cruises.
Another great way to experience the magic of Zanzibar is to taste Zanzibari cuisine with its bewildering array of tastes, flavors, and textures. Zanzibar exports cloves, nutmeg, vanilla, black pepper and cinnamon all across the world what established its reputation as the spice island. Today spice plantations are incorporated into visitor tours, enabling tourists to taste and purchase freshly harvested spices.
Once completely covered with coastal forest Zanzibar Island even was home to leopards. Animal species present on Zanzibar Island today include a number of monkeys, about 50 bird species, and a great diversity of colorful butterflies. Jozani-Chwaka Bay Conservation Area covering 19 square miles (50 km2) remains as the last pristine natural environment on the main island. Jozani Forest Reserve as a part of the Conservation Area is rich both in faunal and floral species and home to endemic red colobus monkey. Shy blue monkeys and terrestrial coconut crabs are also present in the reserve which is situated in the southern part of the island. Other mammal species present on Zanzibar are Aders´ duiker, Syke´s monkey, bushbaby, and Suni antelope. Common Zanzibar bird species include Fisher´s turaco, Zanzibar sombre greenbul, crowned hornbill and white-browed coucal.
Diving and deep sea fishing communities rank the western part of the Indian Ocean among the most spectacular and rewarding maritime areas in the world. Every year large groups of whales, whale sharks, dolphins, and giant manta rays migrate into the waters of Zanzibar. With more than 2,000 tropical fish species the aquatic life around the vast coral reefs is incredibly colorful. Among many others moray eels, lion fish, potato grouper, octopus, barracuda, titan trigger fish, and various species of rays populate the waters along the reefs. A special mention must be given to sea turtles, as an amazing five of seven worldwide known species of these swimming reptiles are home in the waters of Zanzibar.
A real paradise for divers and snorkelers is Chumbe Island Coral Park, which is the world´s first private marine reserve just a few miles off the main island of Zanzibar. Some say that Chumbe Reef Sanctuary is the world´s best shallow-water coral reef, containing 90% of all coral species ever recorded in East Africa. The enormous biodiversity of the reef is due to the fact that the island is located within a former military zone what protected this unique marine life from human impact for many years.
Best Time to Visit:
July to February
1,303,569 (by 2012)
950 sq mi / 2.461 km2
Typical vegetation type:
Red colobus monkey (Procolobus kirkii) / dolphin (Delphinus Dolphin)
UNESCO World Heritage Site (Stone Town)
Jewel of the Indian Ocean
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