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Zanzibar's brilliant white beaches lapped by the warm turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean provide the perfect place to relax, soak up the sun and take a break from some busy sightseeing. The beaches in Zanzibar are a paradise, interspersed with picturesque fishing villages, where the people live a simple way of life, unchanged over the years. There are more than 25 fantastic beaches in Zanzibar, and some are so peaceful and remote that the only noise breaking the silence is likely to be the ocean.
At the northern tip of the island is Nungwi, approached by a road lined by banana palms, mangroves and coconut trees. This is the dhow building capital of Zanzibar island, so it is a good place to see traditional craftsmen at work. A short walk from Nungwi is the Ras Nungwi Beach Hotel, an eco-tourism oriented resort with an unspoilt beach, and peace and relaxation on tap! It also offers a variety of watersports and a fully equipped dive centre which specialises in trips to the spectacular Mnemba Atoll.
On the west coast of Zanzibar, Mangapwani beach is worth a visit, and to the east are the beaches of Matemwe, Pwani Mchangani, Kiwengwa, Uroa, Bwejuu and Jambiani, all with stretches of beautiful and uncrowded sands. The Shooting Star Inn is a small family-run hotel at Kiwengwa.
Zanzibar also boasts several small offshore islands which are ideal for a day-trip. Prison (or Changu) island is the most popular with tourists because it is only a short trip from Stone Town. Originally, it was used by Arabs to detain recalcitrant slaves, and then a jail was built by the British, but it was never actually used. Visitors to Zanzibar will notice a large population of ancient Aldabra tortoises. Other islets near to Stone Town are Chapwani, Chumbe and Bawe.
Whilst most visitors to the Zanzibar archipelago visit Unguja, commonly known as Zanzibar Island, fewer take advantage of the fact that this is an archipelago, with several other islands and numerous islets.
Only a few kilometres from Stone Town are several islets such as Chumbe and Chapwani, where good accommodation is available. Bawe and Prison Islands are good for daytrips with excellent snorkelling available. Tumbatu Island, off the north-west coast of Unguja is one of the largest off-shore islands but has no facilities for tourists. Mnemba Island is located near the north-east coast featuring luxury accommodation. Although Mnemba is a private island, it is surrounded by a rich coral reef, which is great for scuba diving and snorkelling and is visited by several watersports centres in the area.
Pemba is Zanzibar's sister island. Despite many years of isolation from the outside world, Pemba is receiving a small but growing number of foreign visitors. The infrastructure much less than on Unguja, and there are far fewer tourists, but this is seen as a plus by many! Beautiful beaches, natural forests and outstanding diving are just some of the attractions on offer. Misali island, off Pemba's east coast, is idyllic and excellent for diving.
Mafia, another island in the sun and no relative of the mob, is actually governed by mainland Tanzania but is not far from the Zanzibar archipelago.
Zanzibar is reputed to have some of the best diving in the world, and the coral reef structures that surround Unguja and Pemba ensure that the marine life is abundant. Good visibility (20 - 60 metres) and a year-round average water temperature of 27°c ensure that you enjoy your Zanzibar diving experience, and also present an ideal opportunity for learning to dive or upgrading your diving qualification.
There are several dive centres on the island and most run courses using the international PADI system of diver education. This way, the certification you gain in Zanzibar can be used anywhere in the world. Diving in Zanzibar isn't restricted to beginners. Experienced scuba divers can enjoy exciting wall dives, night dives and drift dives.
In deeper waters, lush coral gardens often stretch as far as the eye can see, and large gamefish (barracuda, kingfish, tuna and wahoo) hunt together with large Napoleonic wrasse, graceful manta rays and sharks. Shallower waters are the playground of tropical fish, including a huge variety of Indo-Pacific marine fauna.
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