WORDS AND PHOTOS Andrew Morgan
Photographer Andrew Morgan spent 10 years living on this Tanzanian gem and, after returning there recently for a two-week work gig, shares his insider take on where to stay and what to do on the “Spice Island”.
A heady mix of colours, smells, cultures and energy comes alive at sunrise with the muezzin’s call. Locals open shops filled with colourful fabrics and artwork; aromas of freshly pressed sugar-cane juice, dates and street food fill the air; and the sounds of happy greetings, laughter, bicycle bells and scooter horns start to build. From the Darajani Market where the island’s farmers and fishermen gather each day to sell their produce, to the island’s residents, hotels and restaurants, and the Forodhani Gardens where, every evening, you can find a plethora of seafood and other delights grilled under the stars, this bustling historical heart of Zanzibar is constantly beating.
Two standout accommodation options are Emerson Spice Hotel, a luxurious re-imagining of old-world Arabic style with expansive rooms, carved Swahili beds and lavish fabrics; and the more contemporary Upendo, where you will find a different wallpaper by South Africa’s Cara Saven Wall Design in each of the rooms. The restaurant on the fourth floor here plays host to some delicious Indian tapas-inspired dishes, and the rooftop pool and bar offer wonderful views over the town and sea beyond.
Having lived on the main island for 10 years, I still maintain that if you only had one day in Zanzibar, the original Safari Blue boat tour would be the best way to spend it.
Setting off on a traditional sailing dhow from the small village of Fumba in the southwest, you make your way to a tidal sandbar in the middle of the ocean, before snorkelling in the ultramarine waters that surround this tropical paradise. With the chance of sailing alongside spinner dolphins always high, it’s an exhilarating experience. After all the activity, you’re treated to a seafood lunch, followed by a legendary fruit-tasting experience. You can spend the rest of the afternoon swimming, sunbathing or enjoying the recently opened cocktail bar.
Nungwi & Kendwa
On the northern tip of the island lies the village of Nungwi, with Kendwa adjoining to the south. Instead of the huge expanse of white-sand beaches that you find on the east coast, here you’ll enjoy a golden shore with a much deeper sea that is far less tidal, meaning you can swim throughout the day without a low-tide interruption. Being on the western coast also means you are treated to some spectacular sunsets – plus Kendwa and Nungwi are vibey villages, with many beach bars, restaurants and spots to dance the night away. One of the best places to stay is Zuri, a member of the Design Hotels group – it boasts a picturesque private beach dotted with palm trees, thatch umbrellas and sun loungers, as well as stylish rooms and fantastic restaurants.
Zanzibar’s southeast coast offers some of the best kitesurfing in the world. A palm-lined coast with stretches of uninterrupted beach of up to 14km long, it is a picture-perfect Eden. The warm waters and strong winds may have made it a favourite of kiters from around the world, but it’s not just for the thrill- seekers – some of the island’s most stylish hotels are also found down here. I recently spent time at White Sand Luxury Villas & Spa, set on a deep-water lagoon that isn’t affected by the substantial tidal changes on that side of the island. You can either enjoy the crystal- clear water all day long, or hang out at your villa’s private plunge pool, set among tropical gardens.
For years, I’d wanted to stay at Qambani – and in June 2021, I finally had the chance to spend a couple of nights there. Six completely different rooms are spread across an area where most hotels would put 60, with some offering amazing outdoor showers and others private rooftop sundowner decks. Despite being on the east coast, the lodge rounds a peninsula, ensuring beautiful sunsets while you sip your favourite cocktail in a plantation chair under the palms. The lodge is built on top of a cliff so there isn’t much of a beach at full high tide – but when the ocean goes out, it unveils a pristine private stretch of sand.