Zanzibar: The most underrated island in the Indian Ocean

by - 5/02/2024

 I have been to quite a few islands in the Indian Ocean: Mauritius, many in Maldives, Andaman and Nicobar islands and Zanzibar. So when I read in Conde Nast traveller about Zanzibar being the most underrated, it immediately struck a chord. Yes it definitely is! It doesn't get as as much limelight as its other counterparts. Especially in the African continent too, the spotlight is mostly hogged by Mauritius, Reunion, Seychelles and Madagascar. However that doesn't stop the true explorers from discovering the real gem. All the tourists we encountered there had been to various corners of the world, and we all agreed in unison that Zanzibar is truly special.

So there are a number of factors for its lesser popularity. It was an independent country before it merged with Tanzania in the 1970s. Maybe Tanzania needs more time to promote it as a beach destination because it's too busy in the caretaking of its multiple national parks.

Secondly Zanzibar is a Muslim territory which means there's restriction of alcohol and bikini. When one is on a vacation, one needs to wind down without any obstacles or rules; although we are teetotallers ourselves, we are high without any stimulant! But that doesn't mean these are prohibited, one can chill in bikini in private resorts and there are bars everywhere. I truly believe in respecting local culture.

The sand in the majority of the beaches in Zanzibar are silvery white, something I found only in the Dhiffushi island of Maldives. The particles are very fine, and they literally melt under your feet when you walk barefoot. The water is crystal clear; sometimes turquoise, sometimes green, giving a magnificent backdrop. 

The luxury factor is unmatched here. If you are ready to pay, you get the swankiest of resorts to pamper yourself.

The phenomenon of high tide and low tide makes the beaches overtly dramatic. There is no sand strip during high tide and the waves crash on your face. And during low tide, the sand recedes for upto 2 kms, leaving behind the sea bed and their ecosystem (sea urchins, brittle stars etc) for you to see.

This island is blessed with wildlife. There is Jozani forest which has wild animals. But the marine wildlife is absolutely fascinating! You can book excursions that take you to swim with the dolphins. You can hold star fishes and be exhilarated seeing the entire sea bed covered with them. You can also swim with wild sea turtles. The myriad of marine life experiences possible are endless.

The infrastructure is great too. The entire island is well connected with concrete roads. We had rented a car for a week and had traversed the entire length and breadth of the island and never faced an issue. The driving was immensely delightful. 
And what makes this island even more special? The culture! It's loaded with history (the stone Town, slave trade etc) and Masai tribe everywhere would make you feel that you are in another part of the world. Basically this place is a melting pot of African, Arabic and Indian culture and it's very obvious from the food and decor here.
These days Zanzibar is being coveted as the next "IT" destination. And why not. It's one of the most special places ever been. In the future I would be grateful that we did this destination before it became too touristy!

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  1. I loved all the pics and the beautiful description of your travel.