When people talk of winter sun I start dreaming of the Indian Ocean and more specifically the beautiful beaches of Tanzania. Surprised? Probably never considered Tanzania as a winter sun destination but if I mention the names of Zanzibar, Mafia and Pemba, images of the exotic should start forming in your mind.
The spice islands lie of the mainland coast in Northern Tanzania. For many years they were the home of Arabian traders, buying exotic spices from the interior and shipping on to Europe. Later the Germans and British used it as an administrative base and the result is a beautiful fusion in the architecture of Moorish and colonial design.
Stone Town on Zanzibar offers the mystique of the East, combined with some excellent hotels and accommodation and some great restaurants. You can walk through the alleys, looking at the small market stalls that still sell a dazzling array of spices and dried fish.
Zanzibar is most famous for its stunning beaches which fringe much of the island. Some are small, exclusive coves, others are long strips of white sand lapped by the turquoise waters of the Ocean. Much of the island has reefs off shore, keeping the waters clearer and calmer and offering snorkelling and diving. (Although when the rains arrive in April the sea gets rougher, making the water cloudy.)
The style of accommodation ranged from larger resort like hotels with over 100 rooms and with plenty of facilities, down to very exclusive boutique hotels, offering privacy, luxury and intimacy and perfect for romantic escapes. Indeed, some of the highest rated hotels in the World are on the Island.
If you are looking for the ultimate barefoot luxury winter sun escape, then consider Pemba or Mafia. These islands are as Zanzibar was 20 years ago. They are still sleepy and laid-back, the properties small and intimate, and while not basic are more based on the beach hut style of accommodation. Don't be fooled however by this laid-back vibe. There are some stunning places to stay, as illustrated by the list of celebrities who visit these islands every year.
Want to sleep under the stars in a sky room, built on a platform off shore. No problem. Want to sleep underwater, surrounded by the fish who swim past the glass walls. No problem. Want to lose yourself and the modern world for a few days. Step this way.
So, when you search for your winter sun, think a little bit differently. There are amazing places out there that people don't know about and which offer the best in weather and the best possible experiences. You can even fit in a few days on safari if you wanted to make it a winter sun adventure, knowing that at the end of all that excitement you will be relaxing on some of the finest beached in the World.