The name Zanzibar triggers images of isolated, sandy beaches and a desire for the caress of warm, exotic breezes. For anyone with a good grasp of history, it also kindles curiosity about its rich and varied cultural heritage. An archipelago of islands 25 to 50 kilometres from the East African mainland country of Tanzania, Zanzibar has for centuries been a prime location for the global export of the spices at the heart of its economy.
A stay in Zanzibar is the perfect complement to a Tanzanian safari or a great way to relax after a trek up Mt. Kilimanjaro. On Zanzibar, afternoons can be spent snorkelling among the colourful coral of Chumbe Island, protected under the Chumbe Island Coral Park eco-accommodation project. Or you can take a dhow – a wooden boat that serves as the local means of public transport – to Prison Island, and relax among tortoises on a quiet sandy beach.
Stone Town, Zanzibar’s oldest and largest city, is located on the main island of Unguja. A walking tour through its twisty, cobblestone streets opens windows onto Zanzibar’s past, a rich mosaic influenced by the islands’ deep and tumultuous times under Portuguese, Arabic and British rule, and powerfully impacted by the thousands of East African slaves who passed through its ports.
Zanzibar’s history is also deeply entangled in a spice trade that sees its locally cultivated cloves, nutmeg, cardamom, pepper and cinnamon sold around the world. Working spice plantations dot the islands in a continuation of trade and traditional medicine that reaches back to the 16th century.
Despite its miles of isolated beaches, there is sufficient infrastructure on Zanzibar to support the growing numbers of tourists who visit every year. A number of locally owned Zanzibar accommodations operate under a model of sustainability that extends to both the environment and the local communities. Blue Bay Beach Resort, for example, implements its own wastewater recycling program to keep from polluting the nearby coral reefs; while Che Che Vula dedicates its efforts to improving Zanzibari society by employing and training local residents and supporting local families with small loans and education fee reimbursements.
It was the focus on local and responsible tourism that inspired Irish native Conor Crowley to join with friend Haji Hafidh at Eco & Culture Tours in a whl.travel partnership.
“I feel that this new avenue of pursuit with whl.travel will, without doubt, afford a great opportunity to connect the responsible accommodations, excursions and suppliers to travellers who care,” explained Crowley. “At the end of the day, I want to know that I’ve helped to make an impactful and memorable holiday for honeymooners, families, and backpackers.”