Zanzibar. The name itself seems conjured from a dream but the reality is even more compelling. This fragment of an island off the east coast of Tanzania has been a trading hub for centuries and its potent mix of African, Islamic, Indian and European influences pays homage to the thousands of merchants that have visited its shores.
While the cuisine, architecture, music and art all reflect this intriguing ethnic blend, a more ephemeral effect is in the fragrant notes of spices that fill the air. Cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and black pepper have long been cultivated here, lending Zanzibar and its neighbouring Mafia the nickname Spice Islands.
Devise an itinerary that allows equal time to be spent by the ocean and on dry land, as there’s so much to explore in this island paradise. Experience the glory of the local spice plantations with a guided tour that encourages touching, tasting and inhaling their heady scent. Follow it up with a visit to one of the local herbalists for a personalised blend.
Next, take a tour of Stone Town – the island’s largest city is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Centre, thanks to its long-standing history of cultural fusion. The best way to appreciate the intriguing mix of architecture, the bustling marketplaces and the vibrant lifestyle is by winding through the narrow alleyways on foot.
After experiencing the history and culture of the island, take in its lush natural beauty with a sunset ride on a dhow. These ancient Arabic sailing boats are instantly recognisable by their billowing white sails, which cut a striking figure on the azure waters around the island.
Book a day trip to the diminutive Chumbe Island, six kilometres off the Zanzibar coast, for a snorkelling tour of the coral reef. With more than 200 species of coral and 400 varieties of fish, this is a memorable experience.
Nestled on a lagoon, Zuri Zanzibar is a destination unto itself and the ideal place to truly disconnect. Alternate between the pristine private beach and the on-site Spice Garden with its own personal meditation pods. Or simply take time out in one of the 56 suites and villas – each is housed in its own bungalow and surrounded by tropical gardens.
Written by Michelle Bateman