The very name Zanzibar conjures images of spice islands and white sand beaches. For me, Zanzibar is a slice of heaven. Probably because the beach trip was my personal reward after summiting Mt Kilimanjaro. Upon setting foot on Zanzibar, I pretty much congratulated myself for making the right decision of coming here.
Zanzibar is an archipelago, about 50 kilometres off the coast of mainland Tanzania. With a total area of 2,460 square kilometres, Zanzibar isn't exactly small. And there are plenty of islands and places to explore.
Soak up the sun on a Zanzibari beach
If you can only do one thing in Zanzibar, make that chilling at the beach. I've been to many beaches in the world, and I've never seen anything like Zanzibar – imagine picturesque palm-fringed coastlines framing stunning beaches and the turquoise water of the Indian Ocean. Nungwi, on the northern tip, is the most popular area in Zanzibar (imagine Thailand). However, you can opt to stay in a private resort with exclusive beach access if you want to stay away from the crowd yet lap in the luxury of this unspoilt island paradise.
Explore Stone Town
Stone Town is the main port/city of Zanzibar. This UNESCO listed site is the cultural heart of the country. Fun fact: this is the birth place of Freddie Mercury. Wander around the town and you'll understand why the sultans in the past chose Zanzibar as their key trading post. Marvel at the unique Arabic-influenced architecture, ornately carved wooden doors, winding alleys and bustling local markets.
Of course, don't forget to check out a couple of the rooftop restaurant and bars. An oasis with an amazing view of the city, the Tea House Restaurant in Emerson on Hurumzi is a great place for lunch or dinner. Another good spot to watch the sunset is 6 Degrees South near the Shangani Waterfront. It doesn't hurt that they also serve yummy cocktails!
Chill at The Rock
Perched on a rock just off the southeast coast of Zanzibar is the not-so-secret gem, The Rock. This restaurant specialises in fresh seafood – mainly caught from the Indian Ocean that surrounds it. Make sure to make a reservation as the restaurant can only seat 45 diners. The Rock is quite popular for a sundowner so come here just before sunset. Try the local drink, Dawa – made of gin, honey, lemon and sugar.
Dive near Mnemba Island
With a rich marine life and good visibility, Zanzibar offers world-class diving and snorkelling. Mnemba Island is a popular area for both. Depending on the season, you'll have the opportunity to come across humpback whales, dolphins, turtles, and a wide variety of corals.
I'm not going to lie – it's not easy to get to Zanzibar from Hong Kong. I flew to Nairobi via Doha on Qatar Airways, then flew to Zanzibar on Precision Air. Sometimes you need to journey farther afield to get to nirvana, but the hard work will pay off.