Written by Alexander Macbeth
From the palaces of sultans to private island sanctuaries, Zanzibar offers an array of weekend getaways, with pearlescent beaches, stunning marine life, and world-class services.
For centuries the sultans who ruled Zanzibar lived in palaces filled with brass lanterns, antiques, and carved stucco. Now the Baraza Resort and Spa offers guests the sultan-era experience, with the added touch of first-class service. Baraza pays homage to the tastes of the former Omani sultans with an emphasis on detail: tall brass lanterns splash light onto the soft rounded arches that carry guests from one ornament of history to another.
Sitting majestically on the beach front in the heart of Stone Town is the Park Hyatt hotel. Housed in a 17th-century ‘Zanzibari’ mansion and an elegant modern residence, it has 67 rooms and suites, and is an ideal base for exploring the town’s lanes, markets, and mosques.
A short boat ride north of Unguja is Pemba Island, surrounded by wondrous coral reefs and some of Africa’s most majestic dive sites. If you have ever stared into a fish tank and wondered what the fish were thinking, the Manta Resort invites you to find out. Its Underwater Room is four metres below the surface of the crystal-clear waters of the Indian Ocean, with two lounging decks above where meals are delivered by boat. The lights emanating from the offshore suite attract all kinds of marine life at night, for face-to-face experiences with schools of octopus, squid, and Spanish dancers.
baraza-zanzibar.com, zanzibar.park.hyatt.com, themantaresort.com
Many of the meals served in Zanzibar are marinated in the island’s profusion of spices. Travellers wishing to learn more can tour one of the island’s many spice farms. Walk through lush forests bathed in the scent of nutmeg, clove, cinnamon, cacao, and the queen of spices, vanilla, often followed by curious red colobus monkeys swinging in the trees above. Details of day trips are available at most hotels and tourist information points.