Luxury Escapes to Zanzibar & Pemba

With their white, sandy beaches and glorious turquoise waters, Zanzibar and Pemba are idyllic seaside escapes. A trip out to these Indian Ocean islands is the perfect relaxing extension to an action-packed safari inland. Or, if all you crave is sun, sea and sand, skip the safari this time and come straight here.

Zanzibar and Pemba are the ideal antidotes to our rushed modern life. You could be forgiven for wanting to spend most of your time on the beach at your lodge, but you should certainly take a day trip out to bustling Stone Town. Although also on the coast, the sea air here is heavy with the scent of spices, and the buzzing harbour sounds are punctuated with the call to prayer from the minarets. The best tactic is simply to wander at will, looking out for the famous carved wooden doors and glimpses of everyday Swahili life that combine mystery with history.

Rooftop views reveal a city that hasn’t changed in centuries (with the exception of the satellite dishes) and that is ripe for exploration. If anything, the smaller island of Pemba moves to an even more leisurely rhythm. Both islands give you the chance to soak up the sun and relax – or you can make the most of the activities on offer, such as scuba diving on pristine coral reefs at Mnemba, or swimming with dolphin. A sunset cruise on a traditional dhow followed by fresh seafood kebabs from the harbour market rounds out a chilled island day.

When to Go

With the exception of the occasional shower, you can expect clear skies and sunny weather – perfect for the beach. The Zanzibari architecture of many of the lodges ensures they are cool and airy inside. If you want to immerse yourself in the life of the coral reefs, the diving is particularly good on the north coast in July and August. If you’d like to take in herds as well as schools, combine your trip with a visit to the southern Serengeti now to see the Great Wildebeest Migration.

Between the short rains and the long rains, Zanzibar experiences a hot, dry season, and temperatures typically reach the low to mid-30s. While March is especially hot and humid, the scuba diving is very good along the southern coast during this time. To witness the wildebeest calving season, pair your beach holiday with a trip to the southern Serengeti now.

My travel philosophy is definitely never say never, but occasionally even I have to concede that however wonderful a destination, there are some times of the year when you won’t experience it at its best. April and May in Zanzibar are a case in point – the heat and humidity make these months impossible. Although it also rains in November, this is a much more pleasant time to be on Zanzibar as typically only light afternoon showers are experienced, and the humidity is not excessive.

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