Zanzibar Travel Tips and useful information
Zanzibar is a tropical paradise with brilliant white beaches lapped by turquoise water, but also a country with an original culture, resulting from the combination of disparate elements of different cultures and populations that have taken possession of the territory both for its strategic position off the East Coast of Africa, and because of its fresh water, fertile soils and temperate climate.
Zanzibar is an archipelago made up of Unguja and Pemba Islands, and several islets. It is located in the Indian Ocean, about 25 miles from the Tanzanian coast. Generally tourism concentrates in Unguja, where there is the capital Stone Town, UNESCO World Heritage site. The island spreads 90 km from Ras Nungwi, a fishing village on the northern tip of Zanzibar, to Ras Kizimkazi in the south. Its width is about 40 km.
The first conquerors were the Persians, who joining the local indigenous population originated the Swahili culture, then strongly influenced by the Muslim culture. After the discovery of the Cape of Good Hope and the route for India, the Portuguese conquered the East African coasts, Zanzibar included. Under the Portuguese empire cities and trade slowly declined. Portuguese domination ended in 1652, when Zanzibar fell under the control of the Sultanate of Oman. The Omani Arabs came and conquered Stone Town, they rebuilt the city and developed the commerce through the slave trade.
During the European partition of Africa, control came into the hands of the British Empire and Zanzibar was declared a Protectorate of Britain. After the Second War World, the discontent towards the political power of Arabs and English and towards the economic power of Indians grew more and more, so that Zanzibar got the independence after a blitz revolution in 1964 and the Republic of Zanzibar was established.
Because of religious and cultural traditions dress code is important, men and women should dress appropriately when they are away from the lodge, i.e. covering shoulders and legs, no transparency
- Official language is Swahili, spoken extensively in East Africa and in the borderlands. It stems from Bantu, which was largely contaminated by the various Arabic, Indian and English colonisations. English is widely spoken as well.
- The unit of local currency is the Tanzanian Shilling, though American dollars are accepted in cash in many places around town, but no competitive exchange rate are applicable. Better to get local currency at the exchange offices in town.
- ATM points are in Stone Town only. Traveller’s cheques are not accepted by banks and exchanges bureaux.
- Time difference is 3 hours GMT ahead.
- Because of religious and cultural traditions dress code is important, men and women should dress appropriately when they are away from the lodge, i.e. covering shoulders and legs, no transparency.
- Albeit the local hospital lack of equipment, all the most common drugs are available. Anyway, it is better to bring your own medicine and mosquito repellent as well.
- Malaria prophylaxis is recommended but not compulsory. The risk of contraction is low and some reduce it further; for example long sleeves after dusk and homeopathic repellent.
Climate and season
While the east coast is dryer and windier, the west is hot and sunny but wetter in the rainy season. Thanks to greater rainfall, it offers lush vegetation, spices gardens, banana trees and a lot of flowers.
Like in several parts of the world also Zanzibar has experienced some climatic changes and it is possible that during the rainy season sun keeps on shining.
Generally the Zanzibar summer is from December to March. It is sunny, hot and dry with a beautiful blue sky.
Seasonal long rainfalls called Masika are experienced in April and May. It is a spectacular view but with some inconveniences, obviously!
The dry season with lower temperature begins in June and ends in October, a very pleasant weather and a veiled sky. Sunlight and rays of the sun are less strong.
Short rains, called Vuli, can occur in November. The short showers do not last long, and normally they don’t jeopardize the day.