Things to do in
Zanzibar City

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Top sights in Zanzibar City

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Our most recommended things to do in Zanzibar City

Zanzibar: Prison Island Tour with Lunch on the Sandbank

1. Zanzibar: Prison Island Tour with Lunch on the Sandbank

Your Zanzibar adventure begins with a visit to Prison Island, purchased in 1893 by Lloyd Mathews, the British First Minister of Zanzibar at the time. Mathews constructed a prison complex on the island which is still visible today, however no prisoners were ever housed on the island and instead it became a quarantine station for yellow fever sufferers. On the island, spend some time exploring the area and discover the collection of over 50 tortoises that live here, some of which are more than 100 years old. Learn about why the tortoises call the island their home, as well as taking photos and feeding them too. The island is also home to peacocks and small antelope too. Once you’ve explored the island, enjoy the opportunity to cool off from the hot weather with a refreshing dip in the surrounding crystal clear waters. Spend some time snorkeling in the water just off the island and search for colorful tropical fish and vibrant coral reef. After you’ve worked up an appetite from swimming, relax on the sandbank with a delicious lunch including a seafood BBQ, Swahili cuisine, cheese, tropical fruit, and more.

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Stone Town & Prison Island Private Tour (Transfers & Lunch)

2. Stone Town & Prison Island Private Tour (Transfers & Lunch)

See the National Museum of Zanzibar (rebuilt in 1883) and the Arab fort while passing along bazaar streets towards the famous Freddie Mercury house. See the old slave market, fruit market, and spice market — don’t miss the classic Zanzibar curved doors decorating the stone town.  After you have explored Stone Town, you’ll have an opportunity to take a short break and have lunch before heading to Prison Island. Prison Island is also known as Changuu Island, the nickname came from the island being used by some sultans of Zanzibar to detain enslaved people. While you are on this island, you can swim, snorkel and take pictures with giant tortoises.  See the colorful schools of black snappers, orange lined triggerfish, spotted garfish, barracudas, longfin bannerfish, emperor angelfish, rabbitfish, clown triggerfish, and many more.

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Prison Island: Private Half-Day Tour

3. Prison Island: Private Half-Day Tour

This private guided half day tour can begin any time from 9:00 AM to 3:30 PM. Meet your well-trained guide and boatman as your board your steam-engine wooden boat. Head to the prestigious island and enjoy the 30-minute journey.  Listen to the history of the island and discover the past centuries through the historical buildings, which have served many purposes over the years including a prison, chapel, and hiding place for slaves after the abolition.  Enjoy a swim or snorkel around the colorful coral rocks and turquoise waters. Play with giant tortoises and you may take photographs with these old precious creatures. If you do not have much experience or confidence in the water, you will be provided with a life jacket. 

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Zanzibar: Quad Bike Tour and Visit to Local Village

4. Zanzibar: Quad Bike Tour and Visit to Local Village

You will be picked up from your hotel. Starting from Kiwengwa (Kairo), you drive along the main road going to Pwani Majangani, for about 4 km. The tour usually stops for a few minutes in a local shop where you can buy some food to offer as a present to the village (flour, rise, biscuits for the kids). Clients are encouraged to support the local community. After this small pit stop, you leave the tarmac road to ride the quad off-road through the rice fields, where your guide stops for about 15 minutes to explain the economy, culture, and habits of the villages in the middle part of the island. After this explanation, the excursion goes ahead through the environment of the island to arrive at the local village. At the village, you stop for about 1 hour. Travellers will have the opportunity to stay with the children, play with them, and be in contact with the community of the village. After this first contact, your guide will offer guests local fresh fruits (Madafu, seasonal fresh fruit). The excursion will then proceed to the House of Mad, a typical home in the rural village, as your guide discusses the life and culture of the Zanzibarian people. Before getting back on the quad, guests will visit plantations of cinnamon, cloves, lemon grass, and other varieties, which are cultivated by the people of the village. You finally leave the village riding to Pwani Majangani to reach the fishermen's village. At the village, you will stop for a few minutes to explain the difference between the rural village and the community based on the coast of the Island. Following the sand road, passing through the fishermen's houses, you arrive in Waikiki Resort, where you will stop for about 15 minutes. At Waikiki, you can enjoy Focaccia (typical Italian white pizza). You will be able to rest at the beach, relaxing, and taking a bath in the ocean, before hopping back on the quad and ending the excursion by coming back to the main quarter. You will be dropped off back at your hotel.

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Zanzibar: Jozani Forest National Park and Dolphin Encounter

5. Zanzibar: Jozani Forest National Park and Dolphin Encounter

Begin your experience early, as the morning is the best time to spot dolphins. Start in the Kizimkazi fishing village, which is one of the oldest capitals on Zanzibar Island. While looking out for dolphins, dive in to snorkel among the wonderful coral reef and the variety of colorful fish and marine creatures. If the dolphins are in a good mood, you can witness them goofing around.  As you will be in their natural habitat, there is no guarantee you'll have the chance to swim with the dolphins; your guide will do their best to ensure they are comfortable so you can enjoy their beautiful energy, whether up close or from a distance.  The trip to Zanzibar Jozani Forest national park involves a visit to the high, dense groundwater forest. Home to the red colobus monkey, a rare species only found in Zanzibar, take the opportunity to get up close to the wild animals. Other animals within the park include blue monkeys, elephant shrews, and bushbabies. Proceed then to the mangrove, through which the conservation authority has built a bridge to allow visitors to observe the wildlife without trampling on it.  Next, stop at a local restaurant for a Swahili table buffet lunch. Before heading back to your hotel, make a short stop at the community project, Zanzibar Butterfly Center. Even though the site is not so big, it is a lovely place to relax and enjoy the moment before ending your experience.

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From Stone Town: Private Tour to Prison Island

6. From Stone Town: Private Tour to Prison Island

Visit Prison Island on a private 3-hour tour, and discover the rich history and beautiful natural surroundings of this location. Meet your guide in Zanzibar, or select the option including hotel pickup, then enjoy the ride to the island on a traditional dhow. Learn how this small island gained its name and explore the place that is now home to more than 50 tortoises, some over 100 years old.   Feed the tortoises and take up-close pictures with them, as you keep a look out for the peacocks and antelope that also live there. After discovering the island and its history, take the opportunity to snorkel in the clear waters off the coast amongst tropical fish and colorful coral. At the end of your tour, return to Zanzibar, where you’ll be dropped off in the city center, or at your hotel.

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Zanzibar: Mnemba Atoll Marine Reserve Snorkeling Tour

7. Zanzibar: Mnemba Atoll Marine Reserve Snorkeling Tour

After pickup at your hotel on Unguja, Zanzibar, hop in your private boat toward Mnemba Island. Depending on conditions, reach the coral reef of the Mnemba Atoll Marine Reserve in up to 20 minutes. Once there, explore a reef that is big enough for everyone so you won't feel crowded, even on busy days. Keep your eyes peeled for yellow snapper, barracuda, turtles, and much more. After snorkeling, enjoy a snack stop on a sandbank. Relax under the sun as you savor seasonal fresh fruit and other small bites. Later, head back to shore on Unguja. See local fishermen coming back from the sea and selling their day's catches before being transferred back to your accommodation.

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Zanzibar: Changuu Island and Stone Town Tour with Lunch

8. Zanzibar: Changuu Island and Stone Town Tour with Lunch

The tour begins with a private boat trip to Changuu Island, also known as Prison Island or Turtle Island. The island earned its name after it was purchased in 1893 by the British First Minister of Zanzibar who constructed a prison complex here. Although no prisoners were ever housed on the island, it was eventually used as a quarantine station for yellow fever sufferers, and later became home to more than 50 tortoises who still live there today. On the island, enjoy some free time to explore the beauty of this wild paradise, and get up close to the tortoises that roam freely. Some of the tortoises here are more than 100 years old, and you can even get close enough to feed them and take photos. You can also find peacocks and antelope on the island, then cool off in the crystal clear waters during a snorkel session in search of marine life, colorful fish, and coral reef. After your visit to Changuu Island, head towards one of the most historically prominent and artistic destinations in East Africa, Stone Town. Upon arrival, admire the fascinating architecture of the town, which dates back to the 19th century, and reflects the diverse influences of Swahili, Arab, Persian, Indian and European cultures. Learn about how the town earned its UNESCO World Heritage status, and then visit the Old Slave Market and the City Market. Here you can shop for almost anything whilst soaking up the authentic East African atmosphere and meeting the locals. Once you’ve wandered through the market it’s time to visit the Palace Museum, the local House of Wonder, and of course Freddie Mercury’s former home. There’s also time for a trip to the Peace Memorial and the Natural History Museum before ending the tour with a delicious local lunch at a traditional restaurant.

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Stonetown: Food Markets and Street Food Walking Tour

9. Stonetown: Food Markets and Street Food Walking Tour

Take part in a unique 3-hour evening food tour in Stone Town. After hotel pickup, your tour will start at 5:00 PM at Darajani Market, where locals go to buy their fruits and vegetables. Experience the fun hustle and bustle of this busy market and admire the multitude of foods on offer.   Your next stop will be at Swahili House restaurant, the best place to watch the sun go down. As you watch the sky change colors, enjoy some soft drinks or local beers made in Tanzania. Afterwards, explore the streets of the city, which has itself been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Hear stories about the city and see where the locals gather to celebrate events, watch football, or just have tea and play some games. Continue walking to Forodhani Garden, which hosts a popular street food market in the evenings. Try out local foods and drinks like Zanzibar Pizza, urojo soup, shawarma, sugarcane juice, spice tea, coffee, and more.   Your tour will end at 8:00 PM, at which point you’ll be taken back to your hotel.

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Zanzibar: Parasailing Boat Trip with Flight Instructor

10. Zanzibar: Parasailing Boat Trip with Flight Instructor

Get the best panoramic views of Zanzibar and its coastline with an unforgettable parasailing adventure. Appreciate the views from 300 meters above including the sandy, white beaches of Nungwi and Kendwa, coral reefs, tropical trees, and local resorts and fishing villages. You can feel secure in the knowledge that your flight instructor will make sure you have a fantastic time in a safe way, with the activity being suitable for people aged 8 upwards. After some training in flying and safety instructions, your instructor will take you out in the parasailing boat. You will be secured into a safety harness when it is your turn and your instructor will slowly release you. At the end of the flight, the hydraulic winch system will gently reel you back in until you land softly on the boat’s platform. Feel the thrill of the flight as you float in the air behind the boat for approximately 10 - 12 minutes. When you are finished, take in the beautiful coastal scenery as you sit back, relax and enjoy the rest of the boat ride.

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What people are saying about Zanzibar City

Overall rating

4.4 / 5

based on 245 reviews

The whole tour was a wonderful experience. Our driver drove quickly and safely from north to south. At first we could swim dolphins. We met a large group of at least 50 dolphins and could hardly believe our luck. Then we went to Jozzani Park. The colubus monkeys and the beauty of the park were impressive. We went on to lunch, which we could choose beforehand. The location and location had been selected to be excellent. With pool and loungers to linger. We went on to the butterfly farm. Unfortunately there weren't many butterflies at the time, but there were also cameleons to marvel at. All in all, a super nice excursion, which we would happily recommend.

Our guide (Hadji) was on time, he was very helpful and insightful ... He gave us an unforgettable experience... The 4 miles crossing from Stone town to Prison island was Breath taking... At Prison island, we fed and massaged old (100years) and very young tortoise ... They enjoyed it... Then we sailed back to Stone town and visited the historic city center... (Slavery museum, slaves room, Freddy Mercury's house, spice && Fish && meat market) etc... I recommend this activity to anyone who want to learn more about the history of Zanzibar...

Hamdu our guide was excellent. great tour and lovelly lunch. Then went to prison island and saw the turtles which was brilliant. Hamdu even showed me a good spot to swin and see the coral.

It was a great tour with a wonderful sunset and two super friendly companions.

Driver Ali , the best I ever had in my life, young but so professional!