Siafu Tanzania Safaris Ltd.

Coastal Beaches

Zanzibar Island

Roughly speaking, the island is a fairly undeveloped affair with only around 5 main roads, all leading back to the main town, Zanzibar, on its western edge. This simplicity makes it the perfect destination for those that are looking to explore a little as, should you reach the beach, you know you have gone wrong!

Geographically, the island is only around 40mks across and 100kms from north to south at its widest points. Featuring outstanding, powder white beaches along its eastern shores, flanked by barrier reefs, and the UNESCO World heritage site of Stone Town on its western edge, the island itself (Unguja in Swahili) is fairly narrow, with a ridge running through its middle from north to south. Along its eastern coastline runs a protective barrier reef and then the Indian Ocean. This is where the best beaches are located, all with coral white sand and gently lapping waters.

Along the western side of the island runs the Zanzibar Channel and is where the main town (Zanzibar Town) and where the famous UNESCO World heritage site of Stone Town are located. While there are a few pockets of good beach along this western edge (namely around Kendwa), this side of the island is not really seen as being the place to go for the beach-bound.

With its location, barrier reef and outstanding beaches Zanzibar can offer all of the attractions that most crave such as scuba diving, glorious beaches, fresh seafood and much more. For those that are a little restless there is a small forest in the interior called Jozani that has indigenous red colobus monkeys, and the spice tours in one of the small farms just outside Zanzibar Town are a fascinating glimpse into why this island has become so famous.

  • Size 1,020 square miles
  • Location Just off east coast of Tanzania
  • Recommended time 5 to 7 nights
  • Time to visit Year round
  • Topography Coral island with tropical forest in the center and western side and coral sand beaches on the eastern

Mafia Island

At around half the size of Pemba to the north, Mafia truly is a getaway from it all. Little has changed on the island for the last century or so and, while coconut exportation is no longer the lucrative enterprise it once was, its bi-products are to be seen all over the island from the roofs to the walls and even the local alcohol.

Life, on the whole, is centered on the small village of Kilindoni, and this dusty collection of huts, set amongst tall palms, is the first view that many see of the island. Like many of the bush strips of the interior, the runway moonlights as the village football pitch and so it is not uncommon to see the game disperse only second before a plane comes in to land!

Elsewhere, the main income on the island is now fishing and so there are small huts and communities that have popped up along the short, 50km coastline, making use of the island’s abundant marine life.

For the average tourist, the reason to head to the island is for the fantastic Mafia Island Marine Park that encompasses around 50% of the coastal waters of the island. On top of this, there are a few remnants of Mafia’s more important past, as a trading post for the Omanis’ and also as a small colony for the Germans….a good example of their legacy is on Chole Island where it is possible to wander amongst the overgrown buildings and walls.

  • Size 244 square miles
  • Location South East from Dar es Salaam
  • Recommended time 5 to 7 nights
  • Time to visit June to Nov & Jan to Mar
  • Topography Coastal mangrove and coconut forests

Pemba Island

This small island in the sun has grown in popularity as the fortunes of Zanzibar have grown…the reason being that, on Zanzibar there are around 150 hotels, and on Pemba there are around 3! Getting to the lodges is, in itself a mission, and can involve planes, vehicles and boats….and what you are getting is utter seclusion!

The main town of Chake Chake sits right in the heart of the main island and is the location for the small airport and around 70% of the island’s population. Life has changed very little in this town and on the island, with the main agricultural export being cloves.

To talk of Pemba and not mention the diving would be heinous as it offers some of the best along the entire east African coastline with a range of levels, from beginner to advanced. One of the best sites that we have heard about (but, unfortunately not yet dived) is a pinnacle dive out in the Pemba channel where it is possible to see schooling hammerheads…don’t worry, the never come in around the island!

All in all, Pemba offers a bit of everything and excels at a few things. The diving is world class, the beaches on the mainland are reasonable, but there are superb sand bars and spits within minutes, and the general ambience is one of utter seclusion. We have started to really recommend the place…

  • Size 380 square miles
  • Location Due North of Zanzibar
  • Recommended time 5 to 7 nights
  • Time to visit June to Nov & Jan to Mar
  • Topography Natural forest and clove plantations, mangrove coast