Amazing Zanzibar Day Trips and Excursions
Zanzibar is the perfect blend of ancient history and modern relaxation. Explore the wonders this archipelago holds with us.
Once a key base on the trade route of ancient Persian traders, a Portuguese and then Omani colony, Zanzibar is a beautiful African archipelago off the coast of Tanzania. The main island – called Unguja, but more widely known as Zanzibar – is home to Stonetown and most of the incredible sights, sounds and scenes visitors experience on this island.
While this tropical paradise is renowned for its stunning beaches, water sports, and incredible diving, a world of captivating experiences awaits visitors beyond the main island. Explore what lies beyond Zanzibar, and learn about its culture, heritage, and natural wonders through remarkable day trips and excursions, each offering a unique glimpse into the archipelago's soul.
How many islands are in the Zanzibar archipelago?
Made up of nine islands, as well as many atolls and sandbars, the archipelago has both public and private islands. Zanzibar, or, as it is locally known, Unguja, is the largest and the main island, home to Jozani Forest, Stone Town, many spice plantations, and the bulk of the Zanzibari resorts.
1. Pemba Island
Pemba is the second largest island, lying north of Zanzibar, and is surrounded by many smaller islands. It’s a wonderful spot to dive from, known as some of the clearest water in the archipelago and home to the oldest known Muslim settlement ruins in Africa.
2. Prison Island
The rest of the islands in the archipelago are much smaller than Unguja and Pemba. Next is Prison Island – also known as Changuu – just a short boat ride from Stone Town. Once home to a penal colony, today, Prison Island is a wonderful place to hike, dive from the beautiful beaches, and explore the giant tortoise sanctuary.
Prison Island makes for a great day trip for visitors staying in Stone Town, but you can easily visit it from anywhere on the island.
3. Bawe & Chumbe Islands
Bawe has incredible snorkelling and is an easy day trip from Zanzibar. Chapwani is also close by, but is much less well known, making it wonderfully quiet and relaxing. Interesting fact: Chapwani is sometimes called Grave Island due to the small cemetery for British soldiers on it.
Chumbe is a forest reserve and houses a lighthouse built in 1904. The reefs surrounding Chumbe have been a Marine National Park since the early 1990s. This island’s odd claim to fame is its unusual inhabitant: the rare giant coconut crab. This interesting creature is known for climbing palm trees to feast on young coconuts.
4. Mnemba, Misali & Shamiani Islands
Mnemba is a private island about 3km off the northeast coast of Zanzibar. Many day trips leave for Mnemba from the east coast of Zanzibar, as the island has incredible beaches, providing top-quality snorkelling and diving.
Misali is a tiny island off the coast of Pemba, with a visitor centre, incredible beaches, and a marine conservation area surrounding it. This island doesn’t accommodate overnight visitors, it’s quiet, clean, and just wonderfully scenic. Dive, snorkel, lie on the beach and enjoy the tranquil natural beauty.
Also off the coast of Pemba and sometimes called Kiweni Island, Shamiani has a tropical fish-filled reef on one side and drop-off diving on the other. To get here, visitors travel from Chake Chake on Pemba down to Kengeja and then sail over to Shamiani.
Amazing excursions from Zanzibar
While there is plenty to do in Zanzibar – from Stone Town tours and Jozani Forest explorations to Spice Plantations, there’s so much more to do away from the main island.
Many resorts offer day trips called the Blue Safari, where visitors are taken by dhow from Fumba to explore Menai Bay, an official Conservation Area. Home to beautiful uninhabited islands, the area is stunning, frequented by humpback and bottlenose dolphins. The dhow will drop anchor at the Kwale sandbank and visitors are encouraged to snorkel in the clear water to see all the beautiful tropical fish who frequent the sandbank.
After snorkelling, the group will sail to Kwale Island for lunch under the tamarind trees, followed by, if the tide is right, a swim in the mangrove lagoon. The adventurous can join the crew in an “ngalawa” – a local outrigger canoe – to explore the lagoon, then it’s back on the dhow to sail back to Fumba.
Sunset Dhow Cruise
One of the benefits of visiting Zanzibar is the incredible weather. Most of the year, visitors can rely on sunset cruises setting out in the late afternoon to slice through calm, crystal waters and watch the sun set into the glowing Indian Ocean. Our sunset cruise includes musicians, butlers handing around drinks and snacks, and a personalised tour of Stone Town from the water, a unique and not-to-be-missed viewpoint of this ancient town.
How many days in Zanzibar is enough?
As you can see, there’s plenty to do in this East African archipelago. If you add a Zanzibar trip onto a longer safari, 3 or 4 days should be enough to explore Zanzibar and its main sights.
However, if you decide to focus your trip on Zanzibar and its surrounds, we recommend spending at least 5 to 10 days, or even more. A few of your days can be spent exploring the surrounding islands, with a couple of shorter trips on the main island. The rest of your time can be spent sipping cocktails and enjoying these islands' incredible tropical delights. Split your stay across Zanzibar (Unguju) and Pemba Island, or treat yourself to a luxurious stay at one of the more exclusive smaller resorts.
Insider tips for the perfect Zanzibar escape
While Zanzibar (Unguju) may be a small island, its offerings are vast. Allow yourself the pleasure of getting lost in Stone Town's enchanting labyrinth of alleyways, each revealing hidden treasures. Exercise discernment when engaging with vendors, as their enthusiasm might lead to irresistible offers. Treat yourself to sundowners at a rooftop bar, where the setting sun paints the sky in vibrant hues, and indulge in the island's delectable cuisine. The many restaurants and the famous Forodhani Night Market present an opportunity to savour traditional seafood dishes amidst a lively atmosphere.
The beaches on the east and west coast of the island experience dramatic tidal changes, with low tide dragging the waterline out further than the eye can see from the high tide line. The beaches with the least tidal change are north at Nungwi, which is why this region is most popular for beach lovers. At high tide, all the beaches are incredible, but make sure you know what the tide is doing – chat to your hotel, they will know – before you plan a beach day.
A Zanzibar adventure beyond compare
Zanzibar beckons with its paradisiacal beaches and azure waters, but its allure extends far beyond. Unearth the soul of Zanzibar, one mesmerising excursion at a time, and let the Spice Island's enchantment captivate your heart. Browse our Zanzibar packages to start your adventure.