Hakuna Matata, what a wonderful phrase as the song goes, is one of Zanzibar’s favorite sayings. In Swahili, it means “no worries.” Looking at the turquoise-colored water and listening to African music, I wondered why I was ready to leave the beach. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate beaches, I can relax and read on a beach, and I love snorkeling. But, on my recent trip to Zanzibar, it was not the beaches that I enjoyed the most, but the alternatives to not having only a beach holiday. For those who also need a break from the sea and sand, a list of suggestions is below. Visiting Zanzibar offers beautiful beaches and so much more.
A thirty-minute boat ride from Stone Town will bring you to this island. First, visitors will see tortoises walking around that were initially from Seychelles but brought over as a gift to the Sultan. In pre-Colonial times, Zanzibar was part of Oman. The tortoises came to Prison Island in 1992 when tourism opened.
After learning about the tortoises, it’s time to see the prison building, with faded yellow and blue trim windows. This building immediately caught my attention because I love the yellow and blue combination and the traditional wooden doors with gold spikes for decoration. The purpose was to house prisoners; however, after they finished building it, many people caught the plague and yellow fever. So, this building was the recovery area and never became a prison. In 1992 when tourists started coming, they turned one of the rooms with bright yellow walls and sea blue colored floor into a bar, another into a library, and then another room into a boutique.
Jozani National Park
About twenty minutes from Stone Town, Jozani National Park is a great place to see the Zanzibar Colobus monkey with its spiky white hair and red fur. Guests will also find grand flora, a specialty tree used to treat diseases like malaria. There’s also a mangrove inside the park. I could not get over the roots’ unique twisty and spiral shapes, with tiny plants stuck between them. It was fascinating to see how they got their shape. On the way back to the car, stop to watch some locals singing and dancing. Visitors can also join the fun and practice their drum skills. The park is open from 7:30 am to 5 pm. It is possible to book a tour ahead, or take a taxi and get a guide when arriving.
I was impressed with Jozani; however, Masingini Forest became my favorite park, partly because no one was there. Guests will enjoy learning about some plants, such as the small green feathered shape Mimosa for treating asthma. When pushing the plant down, it immediately opens itself up again. One will keep looking at the tall green palm trees and lush greenery at every turn. There are at least four or five trails. It is a source for several water streams and the highest point of Zanzibar. One may get lucky and see some red colobus monkeys. While walking on the trail, there will be a viewpoint showing Stone Town and views of the silver and red roofs of one of the nearby villages.
Kibweni Palace Museum
This museum was the home of Sultan Seyyid Khalifa bin Haroub bin Thuwein when he ruled Zanzibar. Two floors include things such as Sultan’s second wife’s ladies’ sitting room, which has red and silver couches and chairs with large windows, making this a cozy and bright room.
Princess Salme’s room, the daughter of the Sultan from his second wife, who later married a German soldier, is also on display. The museum costs $5 and opens from 9 am to 5 pm, as of this writing.
Swahili Food When Visiting Zanzibar
Make sure to go to Darajani or the night market to try street food. The meat skewers are good, and so is the mandazi, a donut triangle-shaped bread. One of my favorite foods was Ugali with fish coconut curry. Ugali consists of corn flour and water, resembling a semolina taste, but makes it very flavorful when eating it with fish curry. I recommend Urojo, egg, kochari- stuffed potato, beef skewers with chili flakes, and mango sauce. The mango sauce almost makes this soup-like. They also add Cassava flakes on top. The cumin and pili chili sauce made it so flavorful. People eat this for breakfast or a snack. Of course, you can’t go wrong with fresh seafood.
While I did spend some time at the beach, I also had a chance to learn more about the history of Zanzibar and enjoyed these alternatives. Whether seeking beaches, visiting parks, or wanting to try tasty Swahili food, there is always something to see and do for everyone.
- For the above activities, I booked with Tour Guide Zanzibar. Book with them here or Whatsapp Imran Jape at +255 628 948 607. His instagram account is @Imran_jape.
- On our site: Explore more on African travel (and Middle Eastern travel!)
-All photos by and courtesy of Erin Coyle. Cover photo depicts a Zanzibar Colobus monkey; photo credit Erin Coyle)