Zanzibar, Nosy Be and Bazaruto: African Island Bliss

Mozambique’s Bazaruto Archipelago, Tanzania’s Zanzibar Archipelago and Madagascar’s Nosy Be Archipelago all offer unique Indian Ocean island experiences. While you can enjoy luxurious retreats, you’ll also be likely to witness daily life on an African island, with fishermen bringing their catches on shore or ladies selling spices and other wares in local markets. These destinations promise a splendid blend of natural wonders, cultural heritage, and tropical waters, making each visit a distinct and unforgettable.

Zanzibar, Tanzania

If you veer off the tourist path on Unguja (the main island in the Zanzibar Archipelago, typically called Zanzibar), you’ll find retreats like The Residence and the Zuri Zanzibar Hotel. Situated on Kendwa’s tranquil beachside slope, Zuri offers a unique escape, complete with a creative library and the open-air Peponi Bar adorned with recycled bottle lamps. The decor incorporates elements inspired by Zanzibari tradition, including carved door frames, and much of the contemporary wooden furniture is handcrafted from reclaimed local dhows.

Historical sites like the Princess Salme Museum at Emerson Spice offer insights into Zanzibar’s heritage. Sayyida Salme, the daughter of the first Omani Sultan of Zanzibar is known for secretly teaching herself to write by copying Quranic calligraphy onto camel bone.

Stone Town’s ornate doors provide photographic opportunities, and other popular activities include visiting Jozani Chwaka Bay National Park to observe red colobus monkeys or taking a spice tour on the island. Enjoy a ride on a traditional dhow, a sunset cruise or go dolphin watching by boat. Kizimkazi, in southern Zanzibar, is a prime location for dolphin encounters. You can also explore mangrove forests in kayaks near Chwaka Bay, or snorkel in the island’s crystal-clear water. Visit the Mnarani Turtle Conservation Project in Nungwi on the northern tip of Zanzibar, with its natural lagoon conservation pond.

Zanzibar (Unguja) is often called the “Spice Island” because of its historical significance as a major producer of fragrant spices such as cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cardamom. The island also offers a rich culinary tradition influenced by Swahili, Indian, Arabian, and Persian flavours. Dishes worth trying include coconut-infused seafood stews, freshly caught spiced grilled fish, spice-infused tea and coconut ugali.

Mnemba Island, part of the Zanzibar archipelago, is a 15-minute boat ride from Unguja. Its protected marine reserve is ideal for snorkelling and diving, much like nearby Pemba Island. When staying at andBeyond Mnemba Island Resort, which describes itself as “an exclusive barefoot paradise”, you can enjoy romantic candlelit dinners served on the beach, drinks at the ocean-facing bar or have meals delivered to your banda (luxurious beach cottage).

The Underwater Room at Manta Resort off Pemba Island, in the Zanzibar Archipelago, provides a unique experience with its submerged chamber surrounded by turquoise waters. Schools of reef fish glide by your window. For those who prefer a more grounded stay, Manta Resort’s garden or ocean-facing suites on Pemba Island offer serenity at a resort committed to community-based tourism.

Bazaruto Archipelago, Mozambique

Mozambique’s Bazaruto Archipelago, an unspoiled paradise in the Indian Ocean, comprises five islands: Bazaruto, Benguerra, Magaruque, Santa Carolina, and Bangue. The charming coastal town of Vilanculos, on the mainland Mozambique, is the gateway to this tropical haven.

The sandy beaches here provide nesting grounds for leatherback, loggerhead and green turtles, while a variety of mammals, birds and reptiles also make their home on the five islands, which are protected within the Bazaruto National Park. This protection extends to the species of fish that live in this part of the Indian Ocean too, making it a snorkellers’ and divers’ playground among the vibrant tapestry of colours beneath the ocean’s surface. 

From both Vilanculos and the Bazaruto Islands, you can enjoy activities like setting sail on a traditional dhow, horse riding on the beach or spending the morning on a chartered boat. A day out by boat allows you to cruise to secluded beaches, snorkel in crystal-clear waters or search for elusive dugongs which gracefully forage in seagrass meadows around the archipelago. 

There’s also the possibility of seeing and swimming with dolphins or watching migrating humpback whales breach on the horizon (in season). For those who enjoy fishing, this area is also excellent for game fishing for marlin and sailfish.

In Vilanculos, on the mainland, you can enjoy spa treatments and yoga retreats at Bahia Mar Boutique Hotel and dishes like spicy-dressed blue crab, mango and avocado salad. For more casual dining, enjoy a fresh seafood platter and a glass of wine or a beer at Sand Dollar, which serves tasty local food with great views.

Nosy Be, Madagascar

Nosy Be is often called the “Perfumed Island” due to its abundant fragrant ylang-ylang, frangipani and vanilla orchids. It’s situated off the northwest coast of Madagascar.

Among its beautiful beaches, the most renowned is Andilana, nestled on the island’s northwestern tip. It’s a place of pristine white sands, crystal-clear waters and awe-inspiring sunsets. Nosy Be’s neighbouring islands also offer breathtaking beaches. Notably, Nosy Iranja boasts a slender stretch of pearly white sand that also serves as a crucial sea turtle hatchery. Meanwhile, Nosy Sakatia combines picturesque beaches with the presence of rare bird species and native flora, adding to the island’s natural allure.

You can also experience excellent diving and snorkelling around Nosy Be along its vibrant coral reefs, home to a wealth of tropical fish, rays, turtles and sharks. And when you’re not relaxing under palm trees or enjoying Malagasy cuisine, like Romazava and Mokary, you could opt to visit the lush paradise of Lokobe Nature Reserve or visit the markets to buy vanilla pods. 

A visit to Madagascar would only be complete with seeing its iconic lemurs. From Nosy Be take a boat trip to Nosy Komba, affectionately known as Lemur Island. As its name implies, is teeming with these endearing creatures.

Happy Travelling,
The Leopard Team

We’d love to hear which of these three destinations appeals to you the most. Reply to this email with a 1 for Zanzibar, a 2 for Bazaruto, or a 3 for Nosy Be.

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