Travel Guide to Zanzibar & Mafia Islands

Best things to do and see in Zanzibar & Mafia Islands

Zanzibar & Mafia Islands: Why go

Everyone has heard of Zanzibar, but few know where it is. It could almost be fictitious, one of those mythical names that conjure up exotic spices, tropical fruit and magnificent Sultans.

Happily for us, it does exist, sitting just off the coast of Tanzania in east Africa. And so do the exotic spices and tropical fruit: bananas, pineapples, cloves, passion fruit, coconuts and palms are everywhere. The Sultans exist too - or they did until recently - trading these commodities, as well as slaves, with the Arab and Indian world. Which is how it came to be known as the spice islands.

Zanzibar consists of two larger islands - Unguja (the main one) and Pemba - as well as a dozen smaller ones. All of them are ringed by dazzlingly white beaches, turquoise waters and colourful corals. Put on a mask and flippers and you have a ready-made aquatic safari - easily combined with a terrestrial safari by taking a short flight across the Indian Ocean to some of Africa’s best game parks on mainland Tanzania.

If you really want to get away from the modern world, jump in a Cessna to the little-visited archipelago of Mafia, for coral reefs, sandbank islands, dolphin-like dugongs and creeper-entwined Shirazi ruins.

The Zanzibari people are friendly and colourful, their pace is unashamedly African, their seafood is top notch. The climate is hot and bright for 10 months of the year, and only a couple of time zones away from Europe. And there are some idyllic places to stay, both in the bustling capital of Stone Town, and around the coastline - head south for friendly villagers and seaweed farms, north for unbeatable snorkelling and honeymoon heaven.

Three words of caution: take anti-malarials, be aware you're among Muslims, and that it's not a gay-friendly destination.

12:54 | GMT + 3 Hours