Climbing Kilimanjaro is no mean feat – after all, at 5,896 m it’s Africa’s tallest mountain and chances are by the time you finish your descent, you’ll be about ready to stretch out in the sun and rest those weary legs!
Luckily, the islands of Zanzibar are located off the Tanzanian coast, so when your trekking tour of Kilimanjaro is over, you’re not too far away from some gorgeous, sandy, palm-fringed beaches where you can kick back and relax.
So, when you’re climbing to the Roof of Africa, you can snuggle up in your sleeping bag and dream of the tropical shores that await once you complete your expedition. There are lots of reasons to visit the Spice Islands, as Zanzibar is also known, and here are just a few of them.
One of the first things you’ll want to do when you arrive in Zanzibar, which is an archipelago comprised of more than 50 islands, is hit the beach – and with so many stretches of sand lapped by clear, blue waters, who could blame you?
You’ll more than likely start out on Unguja, one of the main isles which is also called Zanzibar Island, where you’ll have no difficulty in finding a beach to relax on. If you’re staying in Zanzibar Town, make the 20 km journey north to Mangapwani, where you can either lounge on the quiet beach or pay a visit to the Coral Cave, a natural cavern carved out of the coralline rock. You can also take excursions to the northern or southern tips of the island. Kizimkazi, in the south, is a popular spot for dolphin watching, as several pods of the marine mammals live off the coast here.
As someone who loves spending time underwater, I’d want to dive into Zanzibar’s warm and clear seas to see what lives on the coral reefs – even if I’d climbed Kilmanjaro a few days earlier! There are numerous diving schools on the main island, so you can pick up your first qualification if you’ve never donned scuba gear before. Experienced divers, meanwhile, can look forward to drift dives, steep walls, colourful reefs and exploring several marine parks during their stay.
Zanzibar isn’t all about nature, as there are plenty of fascinating cultural and historical sites you can visit too, if you want to spend a day away from the coast. Pemba, one of the archipelago’s other main islands, is home to numerous ruins, including Msuka Mjini in the Kigomasha peninsula. Here, you can see the remains of a mosque dating back to the 15th century, while the mihrab – a niche in the wall of a mosque indicating the direction of Mecca – can still be made out. More ruins from the Muslim period of rule on the islands can be seen at Ras Mkumbu and Mkia Wa Ng’Ombe as well.
Stone Town, also on Pemba, is a must-visit if you are interested in the history of these fascinating islands, as the settlement has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was an important East African trading port centuries ago and played a prominent role in the slave trade.
If you’re visiting the Spice Islands, you can’t really leave without finding out why exactly this name is so appropriate! Take the opportunity to join a tour of some of the plantations, where you’ll discover everything from limes, breadfruits and coconuts to cinnamon, vanilla and black pepper being grown. Other crops that come out of Zanzibar include cloves, ginger, bananas, chillies and oranges – the fragrance as you walk around these cultivated areas is amazing!