The ‘other’ island of the Zanzibar group is much less developed than Unguja but no less beautiful, with the same mix of white-sand beaches, clove and palm forests, and exuberant, colourful people. It’s almost as large as Unguja (50 by 20km) and almost as populous (about 250,000 people), but there’s only 1 surfaced road and much of the island remains unexplored.
The main town goes by the delightful name of Chake Chake. Founded over 500 years ago, it has a couple of very simple guesthouses, a post office and bank, a petrol station, and a handful of shops and stalls, but not much in the way of sightseeing. . At the southern end of the island is the port of Mkoani, where boats from Zanzibar dock. The island’s one surfaced road connects the port with Chake Chake, via hamlets with corrugated iron and wood huts, the occasional stone school or mosque, men on bicycles, children pushing rusting wheels, women carrying trays of cloves, and older people just sitting by the roadside watching the world go by.
Clove trees cover the majority of its undulating land, and their fruit is harvested and exported via Stone Town all around the world. The deeply indented coastline has long-fingered peninsulas, thick mangrove fringes and some fine beaches. At low tide these beaches become the island’s thoroughfares, with strings of brightly-dressed folk walking to market.