Holidays in Zanzibar and its main attractions

Zanzibar is a large archipelago in the Indian Ocean, which consists of many islands. Of course, for many tourists this place is associated with snow-white beaches, soft rustling waves and palm thickets. However, the the other sights of Zanzibar are no less fascinating and noteworthy. There is definitely something else to see and do other than beaches and water related activities.

What to see in Zanzibar

What to see and do in Zanzibar

Nature of zanzibar

A large number of architectural and historical monuments have been preserved on the island. Of course, the natural environment of Zanzibar is a unique attraction that needs to be mentioned separately. Going on a trip to the island, be sure to bring along a map of attractions with photos and descriptions in order to make the best route that will allow you to see as many interesting places in Zanzibar as possible.

Here is a list of things to see and do in Zanzibar.

1. Stone town

The main historical and architectural attractions of Zanzibar are concentrated in Stone Town – the capital of the island the ancient city. It is here that the narrow streets wind between the oriental mosques, noisy, colorful bazaars and old houses. They are so narrow that the car will not pass through them. In Stone Town, it is best to walk to carefully observe the sights.

Stone Town (Zanzibar)

Interesting fact! The area of ​​the city is only 1.5 to 2 km.

Ancient buildings of the old city

Official sources indicate that the city was built in the 19th century. However, there is a mention of settlements in this part of the island dating back to the 8th century.

In those days, it was a fairly large port, where spices, coconut oil and slaves were actively traded. Thanks to its unique architecture, Stone Town is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Probably, a special atmosphere in the city arose due to the fact that residential buildings and other buildings were erected randomly, without a plan. Stone Town has randomly built white houses, the doors of which are decorated with carvings. The balconies too are intricately designed, as if woven from lace.

House of Wonders in Stone Town
“House of Miracles”

The main attractions of the island of Zanzibar, which can be seen in Stone town are:

  • Arab fleet
  • Sultan’s Palace – “House of Miracles”
  • the ruins of Mruhubi and Mtoni
  • St. Joseph’s Cathedral
  • mosque of Malindi

For more information about Stone Town and its attractions, see this page.

2. The Cheetah Rock Preserve

What to see in Zanzibar for nature lovers? There is a place on the island where you can “hang out” cheetahs and see how these speedy cats live in their natural environment. It is noteworthy that in the reserve there are cheetahs who were saved under different circumstances. Decent, comfortable conditions are created for these animals, and they are trained daily to communicate with people.

You can chat with cheetahs

The owner of the reserve – Jenny – personally conducts excursions for guests in English. During a walk, she tells in detail the stories of each cheetah’s salvation, how they are cared for and trained. The duration of the tour is 4 hours.

In addition to cheetahs, you can see lemurs, zebras, a lion, hyenas, peacocks, roe deers and monkeys in the shelter. They can be fed, played with and petted. At the end of the tour, Jenny offers tourists a glass of champagne.

There are lemurs in the reserve

Practical information:

  • the cost of the tour is $160 per person. This price includes a transfer from anywhere in Zanzibar
  • payment is made only in cash, the tour can be paid in advance
  • if you live on the southeast coast, the transfer additionally costs $20 both ways
  • the reserve can be visited by people that are above 15 years in age
  • To visit the shelter, you must wear clothes and shoes of neutral colors and without decorations, so as to not attract too much attention from animals
  • Book an excursion in advance on the official website

3. Mnarani Aquarium

What to see on the island of Zanzibar if you want to combine sightseeing with outdoor activities? Fortunately, there are still places in the world where simple things are valued the most in life. At Nungwi, one can plunge into a world filled with colors and marine creatures that still trust people. We are talking about an artificially created lagoon, where thousand year old trees grow, sharp rocks rise up, among which the caring hands of man created a turtle farm. People come here to swim with slow and cute turtles.

Mnarani Aquarium

This conservatory was built in the northern part of the island in 1993. In essence, this is a shelter whose main goal is the rescue and rearing of turtles in Zanzibar. When the turtles reach a certain age, they are released into the wild. During the tour, you can feed the turtles, pick them up and even swim with them. All of this is  complemented with the purest water in the lagoon, picturesque nature and the lovely sounds of nature.

There are two aquariums with turtles on Nungwi Beach. In the one that is located closer to the shore, animals can only be fed. If you want to swim with turtles, you have to go a little further, turning right from the beach.

Feeding turtles

Practical information:

  • Address: Nungwi Beach, Zanzibar, Tanzania;
  • Cost of visit: $30 per person. The price includes a guide’s story, sea kale for feeding turtles, the opportunity to swim with the turtles
  • Be careful! Turtles can bite your legs, taking them for food
  • Visit with a tour by 9-10 a.m. After that there is a large influx of tourists
  • Website:

The main feature of this reserve is that it is not a traditional aquarium, but a natural habitat for animals.

4. Natural Turtle Aquarium in Nungwi

Natural Turtle Aquarium in Nungwi

The aquarium is located directly on the shores of Nungwi Beach. You can’t swim with turtles, but you can feed and listen to fascinating stories about raising animals – as much as you like. The price of admission is $5 per person. In addition to turtles, you can see the skeleton of a small whale, visit the plastic processing station and see bright fish.

Interesting fact! Volunteers from all over the world work here. The duration of the tour is 20-30 minutes.

Note: Nungwi is the best beach area in Zanzibar

5. Butterfly garden

If you are heading to the Jozani Forest, be sure to visit the Butterfly Garden. This is part of the tropics, surrounded by a net so that butterflies do not fly away. Here you can see the full path of butterfly development – from a caterpillar to a chrysalis and a wonderful transformation to a butterfly. On the premises there is a place where the cocoons hang.

Dolls are hanging

Good to know! To visit the garden, it is enough to allocate one hour of time. The best time to visit is from August.

Walking paths in the Butterfly garden are equipped with benches. The garden is more reminiscent of a park, where you can spend time observing the beauty of nature. If you are lucky, you can take a photo of a newborn butterfly – it is very slow, so the pictures are clear and bright.

Butterfly in the butterfly garden

Interesting fact! The garden contains all the butterflies that live in Zanzibar.

Practical information:

  • Address: Pete Village, Jozani, Tanzania
  • It is better to plan a visit in advance, visit the official website
  • Ticket price: $5
  • Official website:

6. Jozani Chwaka National Park

Jozani Chwaka National Park

Experienced tourists will tell you that you must see the Jozani Chwaka Bay National Park when visiting Zanzibar. At one time Zanzibar was completely covered with impenetrable forests, where mangroves ruled, and the interweaving of strong roots created a magical environment.

Gradually, forests were cut down and land was cultivated to grow spices on them. For many years, Zanzibar has supplied spices to many countries of the world. Jozani Forest is the only place where the former authentic nature of Zanzibar has been preserved. The national Jozani Chwaka Bay is located in the southeast of the island. This is an area of ​​44 square kilometers, which consists of three natural zones:

  • mangrove forest
  • jungle
  • shrubs

Interesting fact! The park has trees that are over one hundred years old. Such lush vegetation attracts a large number of animals and birds.

Monkey in Jozani Chwaka Park

The national park is inhabited by monkeys, chameleons, snakes, antelopes, genets (small predators resembling ferrets). More than forty species of birds live in the crowns of trees. Until 2003, a unique Zanzibar leopard could be found in the forest, but today this species is considered extinct.

You can also meet the colobus monkeys listed in the Red Book. They are distinguished by a special shade of fur – red-brown.

The underwater world of the Josani National Park is no less diverse – sharks, marlins and dolphins live here. As for the plant world, there are cloves, creepers, ferns, palm trees, ficuses and mahogany in the forest.

For the convenience of tourists, hiking paths and wooden bridges are laid in the forest. This park is popular among families with kids holidaying in Zanzibar.

Wooden Bridges in Jozani Chwaka National Park

The best time to visit the national park is from June to October. The rest of the year, it rains heavily on the island. For excursions use the services of a guide.

Signboard of Jozani Chwak National Park

Practical information:

  • You can visit the forest only during daylight hours
  • for maximum comfort, it is recommended to wear comfortable clothes and sports shoes
  • clothing should completely cover the body, the head should be covered and you should carry a supply of water
  • at the exit of the national park there is a souvenir shop
  • a park is located in the central part of Zanzibar, next to the Gulf of Chwaka Bay
  • You can get into the forest by taxi or by minibus – Dala Dala
  • ticket price $ 10 per person

7. Mtoni Castle Ruins

What can you see on Zanzibar without a guided tour? Mtoni castle, which is an ancient palace that used to be the residence of the Sultan. Translated, the name of the castle means “a place by the river”.

The ruler’s daughter describes the palace as a large building with a courtyard, a bathhouse and a mosque, as well as a separate part where the sultan and his wife lived. From the memoirs of the daughter of the Sultan, historians learned that about one thousand people worked in this palace. So that the ruler could observe his fleet, they built an observation tower.

Mtony Castle Ruins

In the second half of the 19th century, the castle was abandoned, and during the war years it was completely demolished. Today, tourists can admire only part of the walls and the roof of the palace.

Practical information:

  • there is a castle near the ruins of the Maruhubi palace complex
  • You can get to the castle ruins as follows – you need to move about 4 kms north along the main highway, then turn onto a side road. Thereafter you can easily follow the signs.

8. Spice gardens

The cultivation of spice gardens is not just a branch of agriculture, but part of the history of Zanzibar and the culture of local residents. Spice farms are a fairly new and fashionable phenomenon, popular among tourists, because many do not even know how ginger or clove grows. A tour of the spice garden will provide a lot of discoveries. During the walk you can touch, smell and try a variety of these spices. In addition, each such farm has a store where you can buy lemongrass, vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, etc.

How clove grows
Spices in the store

Practical recommendations:

  • be sure to bring small money with you. The fact is that farm employees often give guests gifts, expecting a small reward in return
  • the quality of spices on farms is very high, but the price is also high, so many tourists prefer to buy these in local markets

In summary, the sights of Zanzibar will leave you with a lot of vivid impressions and emotions. Here is a recap of Zanzibar’s best attractions:

  • Stone town
  • The Cheetah Rock Preserve
  • Mnarani Aquarium
  • Natural Turtle Aquarium in Nungwi
  • Butterfly garden
  • Jozani Chwaka National Park
  • Mtoni Castle Ruins
  • Spice gardens

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