THE island of Zanzibar, the ornate and mysterious jewel of the Indian Ocean, was once the eastern gateway to Africa. It lies twenty-two miles off the Tanzanian coast, and it is no accident that the explorers Livingstone and Burton had homes here. Its lush forests and cloistered Arabic alleyways are indicative of all the esoteric wonders awaiting in the continent beyond.
The Omani Arabs who once ruled the island left behind whitewashed architectural delights that are in great condition. Among them are the Sultan's Palace, the Arab fort, and the Beit el Ajaib (House of Wonders), which is Zanzibar's tallest building. Visitors often remark that a journey to Zanzibar is like going back in time--the atmosphere is that of the age of colonialism and exploration, and the haunting ruins of the slave market are a pointed reminder of the era's exploitative extremes. The slaves would be driven here from the interior of the continent, sometimes over 1,000 miles. On some days, hawkers would sell away as many as 600 lives.
Zanzibar also has over 50 miles of coralline reef, jade Indian Ocean lagoons and white, sandy, palm-fringed beaches. The warm, clear-blue waters are a paradise for snorkelling and scuba-diving enthusiasts with International PADI standard facilities, numerous species of coral and a myriad of tropical fish species to indulge their passion.
There is also deep-sea fishing, water sports, photography or just relaxing to consider. And relax you can too, as the beaches in Zanzibar are not crowded- if lucky, you might even have the whole beach to yourself!