Zanzibar’s coastline offers some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, but te sand and surf vary greatly depending on the side of the island that you choose to stay on. On the east coast, waves break over coral reefs and sand bars offshore, and low tide reveals pools of starfish, small minnows, and anemones. Up north, ocean swimming is much less susceptible to the tides, and smooth beaches and white sand make for dazzling days in the sun.On the south coast of Zanzibar lies the Menai Bay Conservation Area, a sea turtle protection area for this endangered species – it works to protect the turtles that come to breed on the island. Roads to the southeast coast take visitors through Jozani Forest, home to Zanzibar’s rare Red Colobus monkeys as well as a number of other primate and small antelope species. The lodges on this section of the coast are quieter and more secluded than those on the eastern and northern coastlines, but there’s a trade-off; the southern beaches aren’t, on the whole, quite as stunning.The best areas for snorkelling and diving are at Nungwi and Matemwe on the north-eastern side of the Island, close to the Mnemba Atoll. Most of the hotels and resorts in this area have their own dive centre, or if not will organize diving or snorkelling trips for you at a private centre. The south-western coast also has its own unique attractions, such as dolphin viewing off Kizimkazi, though this has become very commercial in recent years and we generally don’t recommend it.
We very rarely recommend that clients visit Zanzibar’s west coast. Tides are less of a problem here than on the east coast, but the hotels lack character and the beaches are not as pristine. There are, however, a number of marvellous private island resorts just off the west coast, such as Fumba, which shouldn’t be overlooked.
Where to stay? Among our favourite Zanzibar properties are Ras Nungwi, Breezes, Karafu and Mapenzi, representing the larger resorts, and Matemwe Beach Village, Mnarani, Ponwe, and Rising Star, representing the smaller hotels. More exclusive properties include Unguja Lodge, Fumba Beach, Matemwe Retreat and Mnemba Island.