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Is it Worth Visiting Jozani Forest in Zanzibar?

The only national biosphere reserve in Zanzibar, Jozani Forest is located near Chwaka Bay in the central part of Unguja Island. It is spread on an area of ​​about 44 sq. km, most of which are mangroves. The park is an untouched piece of ancient forest that represents different ecosystems of Zanzibar – salt marshes, mangroves, tropical and coral forests and groundwater forests.

The unique nature of Jozani Park and Chwaka Bay have been protected by UNESCO since 1997. The territory of the reserve itself is uninhabited, but almost 16 thousand people live in the surrounding villages – the Bantu, Khadimu and Shirazi peoples. Some of them work in the Jozani Chwaka Bay National Park Biosphere Reserve.

Jozani Chwaka Bay Park is open from 07:30 to 17:00, the ticket costs $10 for an adult and $5 for a child. This amount includes the services of a guide who conducts a tour in English. Independent visits to the reserve without accompanying guides are not provided. It is better to come here early in the morning to catch the best hours for observation.

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Why Visit Jozani Forest

The main reason why people go to the Jozani forest is to look at the unique Red Colubus monkeys. Zanzibar is the only place on the planet where this species is found. About 80% of all the island’s monkeys live in the Jozani jungle.

This forest is also preserved in its original pre-historic state. Deforestation is strictly prohibited here. There are three different types of mangrove trees alone, and big eucalyptus, mahogany and baobab trees. Giant ferns grow in the forest and powerful vines twine around centuries-old trees.

A well trodden path through the Jozani forest

For the locals the plants here hold a lot of medicinal value.

One of the most interesting features of the forest is the mangroves that reach the very coast. The uniqueness of the local mangrove trees is that they are able to drink sea water. And their roots are so strong that tour guides even walk on them.

This place is also associated with local shamans who, as locals will tell you, chose it for their rituals despite the prohibitions of the government.

Animals found in Jozani Forest

The most popular inhabitants of the park are the colobus monkeys. The black and white colobus is distributed throughout Africa, while Kirk’s red colobus is endemic to Zanzibar and is not found on the Tanzanian mainland. 

The small number of this species is associated with a long period of development of the young and small, compared with other monkeys. Contrary to common misconceptions, Kirk’s colobuses do not eat juicy sweet African fruits – their body is not able to absorb sugars. They prefer immature fruits, green shoots, seeds or leaves.

Tourists are not allowed to feed the colobus, but you can take pictures – the monkeys willingly pose for you. Under protection, their numbers in the reserve have increased, and now they are settled on the neighboring island of Pemba.

Red colobus monkeys in Jozani forest are harmless and not aggressive. They don’t throw themselves at people, they don’t snatch mobiles and contents from hands and bags. Generally they do not pay attention to people, as if they are not around.

The Black Monkeys found here are quite another matter. They are quite aggressive and can attack tourists, taking away equipment, food, and so on. Guides strongly recommended not to approach them.

In addition to colobus, Jozani is home to the small primate galago, which is predominantly nocturnal, and the Sykes’ white-throated monkey.

Another inhabitant of the protected forest is the pygmy duiker antelope. It is very shy and secretive and avoids danger by hiding in the dense vegetation of the bush. The height of the duiker is not more than 30 cm, making it is difficult to detect. In the thickets of the forest there is a nocturnal called the Zanzibar hyrax.

The Jozani forest is highly biodiverse. Almost 170 species of birds live in it alone. Among them there are endemic species – mangrove kingfisher and African goshawk. More than 50 species of tropical butterflies can be found in the park. 

In the thickets of the rainforest, you can find land crab, rare species of lizards, monitor lizards, black and green mambas and chameleons. 

There are about 300 plant species here, among which rare and endangered species are noted. The mangrove section of the reserve is home to ruby ​​crabs and a variety of tropical fish species.

Visitors with symptoms of a cold are asked to refrain from visiting Jozani Forest, as monkeys are susceptible to human disease.

Getting to Jozani Forest

It is most convenient to come to the reserve as part of an organized group tour. You can buy a tour at any of the numerous Zanzibar travel agencies or directly at your hotel.

An hour and a half is enough for the forest, so a trip here can be combined with a tour of Stone Town

You can also get to Jozani independently on a rented car or scooter, or by public transport. But it will be troublesome to travel by public transport. Firstly, the local minibuses called dala-dala are very inconvenient and over-filled with people. And secondly, Jozani is a little far from the main tourist areas of Zanzibar, so it will take a long time to wait for dala-dala, and you may even need to walk.

In case you want to experience the local buses, dala-dala no. 309, 310 and 3240 go towards Jozani from the Darajani terminal in Stone Town. The distance from Stone Town to Jozani Park is about 38 km. If you prefer using the taxi services, here are some taxi operators that you can contact – Zanzi Taxi, Zanzibar Cab, Zanzibar Taxi, Jambo Zanzibar taxi, Zan island taxi and tours, Taxi Zanzibar Abbas, Ali Taxi.

Note that the road from the Nungwi beach to Jozani will take about an hour and a half. You will have to drive through the central part of the island in a southerly direction for about 75 km.

How to dress for a trip to Jozani

Here are a few practical tips to follow before visiting this national park:

  1. Try to wear light colored and long clothes for the tour. For example, long pants, a shirt or a long-sleeved T-shirt. You will be comfortable in them and keep the insects at bay.
  2. Wear sneakers in the forest. With heavy shoes or flip flops you risk getting hurt. 
  3. Your shoes should ideally be waterproof
  4. Natural fabrics work better than synthetics (this is a tip for traveling in Africa in general)
  5. Be sure to take a cap or a hat
  6. Sunglasses, surplus water as it can be hot
  7. Wet wipes will come in handy

We also advise you to bring mosquito repellent, antiseptics and something for allergies. Just in case.

You can get any photography equipment, from a phone to a cool camera. There is no fee for shooting pictures and the red colobus monkeys are usually not interested your gadgets.

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