Gap Years in Zanzibar

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Backpacking in Zanzibar

Zanzibar is not only great to say, but it’s also a small archipelago off the coast of Tanzania. A congregation of small islands, including Zanzibar and Pemba Island, make up this exotic location.

The cities

The enchanted sounding Stone Town of Zanzibar, is both the capital and a UNESCO World Heritage site. This city was once the centre of the Spice trade as well as the slave trade. The architecture around the city makes you feel like you’re walking around a 19th century open air museum, showcasing a mixture of Arab, Persian, Indian, and European cultures.

Although unpleasant, Zanzibar is the place to learn more about the history of the slave trade, and remember the importance of equality in cultures all over the world. A memorial now stands where the slave market once was, and along the coast you can see the dark and confined condition of the holding cells where slaves were hidden from British abolitionists.

The coast

On a more pleasant note, the beautiful coastal village of Nungwi is the ideal place for snorkelling and breakfast cocktails. Lying in the Indian Ocean the waters live up to their reputation; a stunning blue colour, lapping up on white sands. It’s like the Seychelles and the Maldives without the hoards of honeymooners. The traditional village of Matemwe is just as amazing for relaxing, but for more action head to the Paje village for lessons in kite boarding.

The warm seas of Zanzibar have a mound of excursions and activities. You can go scuba diving, snorkelling, deep sea fishing, and take the chance to ride on one of the local’s dhow – a carved wooden boat.

Kendwa beach is the party beach for backpackers and locals alike. Not only are there a tonne of beach bars, but it’s also home to Zanzibar’s own Full Moon Party. It may not be as big as the one in Thailand, but it’s definitely something different.

The Landscapes

In land you can find great nature trails through deep forests. The Jozani forest is home to the Sykes Monkey and the rare Red Colobus monkeys, as well as many species of birds. You can choose to go on a guided tour or take on the forest yourself.

The Festivals

The Sauti za Busara festival in February is the biggest music festival in Zanzibar. The historic Old Fort in the Stone Town comes alive with drummers, dancers, and singers in one incredible celebration of sound. Other big festivals are the Zanzibar International Film Festival held in July, showcasing films, videos, music, dance, drama and art, as well as the more cultural Mwaka Kogwa festival held in the Makunduchi village, which celebrates the Persian New Year.

The Food

After long days of sightseeing and festival going, the Zanzibar cuisine is on hand to reenergise. Influenced by a mix of European, Arab, Indian and even Chinese influences, the meals of Zanzibar offer some amazing tastes. Boku-Boku is a meat stew made with maize, and ginger, and Pilau meat is goose cooked with potatoes and rice. For something sweet, the Spice cake is the desert which represents Zanzibar’s historic spice trade, made from pastry mixed with cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and chocolate.

If you’re feeling brave you can try Sorpotel; a masala curry made with boiled tongue, heart and liver. Or to be daring without regretting your meal choice, you can try the popular sea food selection of Peppered shark, or octopus boiled in coconut milk.