Honeymooners often seek out the remote, the exotic, the peaceful and the relaxing for their honeymoon destination. Zanzibar tends to check all of those boxes, embodying the textbook honeymoon locale. The East Africa archipelago relishes in its sandy beaches, colorful coral reefs and lush forests. Once known as the Spice Island for its abundance of spices, namely cloves, Zanzibar provides all the spice you’ll need for an exotic honeymoon. Toss in a fascinating history, one in which the first ships laid eyes on the islands around 600 B.C. and you have the makings for a quintessential Indian Ocean experience in Zanzibar.
Where Is It?
If you are seeking an exotic honeymoon location, Zanzibar’s very location fits the bill. Made up of two large islands, Unguja and Pemba, Zanzibar also features other smaller islands in its archipelago. The semi-autonomous territory tied to Tanzania sits in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of East Africa. Separated from the mainland by a channel just 22 miles wide, Zanzibar seems far removed from Tanzania without the need to take a several hour plane ride to get there. Zanzibar also resides just 6 degrees south of the equator.
How To Get There
To reach one of Zanzibar islands, you will most likely have to snag a flight to Stone Town on the main island. By plane, you can fly from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. Pack your sense of adventure. The ride takes roughly 20 minutes and you’ll go by way of a small plane that looks more like a toy. You can also arrive in Zanzibar by ferry from Dar es Salaam. Fast hydrofoils operate from Dar es Salaam to Stone Town, taking roughly 75 minutes. Slower boats can take up to 4 hours. Once you get to Zanzibar, be sure that you do your due diligence with taxis. As the taxis don’t often have meters, it is best to agree upon a price for the journey before you get in the car.
What To See
As Zanzibar is comprised largely of two main islands, you’ll probably begin sightseeing on Unguja Island, otherwise referred to as Zanzibar Island. Home to amazing beaches, acres of spice plantations and plenty of diving hotspots, you could easily spend your entire honeymoon on Unguja. Most travelers begin at Stone Town, the UNESCO protected capital. Stone Town once acted as the center of the East Coast trade during the 19th century. Considered the best-preserved trade center of its kind in Africa, the community crowds in a maze of narrow streets, minarets, over 50 mosques and plenty of Swahili culture to unearth. The island is also known for Jozani Forest, the largest area of mature, indigenous forest left on Zanzibar.
You might think the last place you want to be on your honeymoon is a place called, “Prison Island,” but Zanzibar will fool you. The island was once used as a place where slaves were detained. While you can roam the prison ruins, the island is becoming quite well known for its nature reserve. Prison Island is home to a number of giant tortoises you can see first hand.
If you are seeking more quiet and calm in Zanzibar, head for Pemba Island. Largely remote and off the beaten path, the island stretches just 40 miles long. Known for its scuba diving, Pemba is also covered in forests of palm, banana, and mango trees. Pemba perhaps shines the most in the ruins department. The island is home to a number of ancient sites stretching in origin from the 8th to 15th centuries. The Mkame Ndume Ruins hail from the 15th century. The Ras Mkumbuu Ruins, on the other hand, stretch back to the 8th century. These ruins are believed to be the oldest known Muslim town in Africa.
What To Do
Relax on the Beach
Zanzibar is the perfect spot for a honeymoon for you can simply relax and do…nothing. The best spots to get some peace and quiet are on Zanzibar’s beaches. Known to have some of the best beaches in the world, the most private and pristine can be found on the northern coast. Two standout beach towns including Jambiani, known for its turquoise waters and Nunguii, ideal for swimming no matter the time of day.
Dive and Snorkel
If you don’t like the water, you may as well just go home. Zanzibar boasts legendary diving and snorkeling. A good spot to begin is Chumbe Island, Zanzibar’s first marine reserve. The shallow waters fill with reefs home to over 350 fish species. Divers and snorkelers also delight in the island of Mafia. In fact, the island is considered one of the best dive sites in the Indian Ocean. Mnemba Atoll also claims some of the best diving reefs in East Africa.
Go on a Spice Tour
Spices like clove, nutmeg and cinnamon are linked to Zanzibar’s past, present and future. One of the best ways to dive into that history is to go on a spice tour. A number of companies like Colors of Zanzibar offer Spice Tours. You can see spice plantations first hand, smell and taste different spices and learn how they are farmed. Many of these tours also spice up the day with a lunch on the farm.
What/Where To Eat
Due to Zanzibar’s tropical climate, you won’t be hard-pressed to find an abundance of fresh fruits on the islands. Known for its coconut milk and freshly ground spices, the cuisine in Zanzibar takes on an Arabic meets Indian vibe. Seafood is usually the order of the day, along with rice. Some of Zanzibar’s best restaurants are set up in intriguing locations. The Rock, for example, perches out on a lone rock in the Indian Ocean. One of the most famed restaurants on Zanzibar, the menu is all about fresh seafood. Emerson Spice Café also warrants a meal, set up in a former 19th century Swahili sultan’s palace.
Where To Stay
As Zanzibar is made up of many islands, you can find plenty of beach resorts and private escapes for your honeymoon. We are particularly fond of Kilindi, set up on the northwest coast of Zanzibar. Overlooking the Indian Ocean, the resort lends 15 two-level pavilion style suites. With the whole property gazing out on a secluded white sandy beach, couples can enjoy that typical Zanzibar scene built right into their accommodations.
With the backbone themes of nature, luxury, and privacy, Kilindi outfits each suite with a plunge pool, rainfall shower, LED floor lighting and a personal butler on hand for all of your needs. The modern rooms are kept private, separated by their own gardens. Public areas include a bar, 25-meter infinity pool and of course the sandy beach running the entire length of the property.
When To Go
Zanzibar can be enchanting no matter the season, but certain points in the year can be better than others. The best time to go is from June through October. Temperatures average at a comfortable 79°F, keeping honeymooners cool and dry. July is a good time to visit if you are into events like the International Film Festival or Mwaka Kogwa, essentially a banana bashing festival in Southern Zanzibar. If you like it hot, December through February offers the archipelago’s hottest and driest moments. In terms of times of the year to avoid, the holy month of Ramadan can be tricky in Zanzibar as many shops and restaurants are generally closed during the day. If you are looking to avoid the rain, Zanzibar’s rainy seasons cover mid-March to late May along with bouts in November.
From its soft sands to its rich history, Zanzibar on paper and in person makes for an exotic honeymoon to East Africa. Have you been to Zanzibar? Share your favorite experiences in this archipelago with us in the comments below.