In this photo essay, Nasrin Suleiman introduces us to the stunning beauty of Zanzibar through photos and shares her top five recommendations for things to do, eat and see on the island.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Jambo! My name is Nasrin Suleiman. I was born in Zanzibar and spent most of my childhood here until I moved out to North America for studies. I am a graphic designer with a passion for photography, traveling and scuba diving. At the moment, I’m currently back in my hometown and I have been exploring every corner of this island. It has brought me so much joy and I have created so many new, fond memories.
What do you love most about Zanzibar?
Zanzibar is made up of numerous archipelagos just off the coast of Tanzania, in East Africa. The main island is called Unguja (Zanzibar) and the second largest is Pemba. Here, there is beauty all around. From the heritage Stone Town, to the forests, to the villages, to the white sandy beaches, and the Indian Ocean; you can always find something to explore and fulfill your sense of adventure. Zanzibar also has a laid back atmosphere, which I love! I always feel relaxed when I’m here. The food is pretty fantastic, too. There’s fresh fruit and good seafood all around. In a nutshell, Zanzibar is paradise!
What recommendations do you have for those wanting to visit?
Zanzibar is a traveler’s dream! There’s so much to see and do. My top five recommendations would be:
Roam around Stone Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Zanzibar used to be one of the largest slave markets in East Africa and the history can be seen and felt in the area. Walk through the narrow streets, now lined with shops and unique housing structures. Stop to talk to the local artists who are there to sell their wares.
Visit Forodhani Garden for a taste of Zanzibar’s local cuisine. There, you’ll find fresh seafood including lobster, crab, shrimp, fish, octopus, and squid. You can also order mishkaki (barbeque meat or chicken on a stick) or mbatata ya urojo, a famous Zanzibar mix of potatoes, mishaki, and fried cassava chips. Finally, be sure to try the sugar cane juice.
Besides all the food, Forodhani Garden also offers a beautiful view of the sunset with dhow boats passing by. You will be entertained by the divers or, as I like to call them, “the sunset jumpers”: local kids who spend their evenings doing flips into the ocean.
Enjoy the white-sand beaches and all the activities they have to offer, including fishing excursions, snorkeling and scuba diving. The crystal clear waters are home to an abundance of marine life and colorful reefs.
My three favorite beaches are Paje (known for kite surfing), Kizimkazi (you can swim with the dolphins and may even spot migrating humpback and sperm whales between the months of August and September) and Nungwi (known for the Marine Sea Turtle Conservation Pond and for parasailing).
Explore Jozani Forest, the only natural forest on Zanzibar Island and the home of the last remaining sanctuary in the world for the Zanzibar Red Colobus monkey. Other animals that inhabit the forest include bush pigs, sea turtles, antelopes, elephant shrews, and a dozen species of butterflies.
Visit Chumbee and Prison Islands, the most popular spots for day trips from Stone Town. Both provide excellent opportunities for snorkeling, have rich histories to learn about, and offer footpath nature trails where you can walk and observe the animals that call the land home.
Should travelers anticipate any challenges when going to Zanzibar?
The biggest and perhaps only challenge would be choosing the proper tour. Be sure to use licensed guides and not “beach boys”, locals who try to sell tours to tourists on the beach. It is not bad to support the locals, but some aren’t trustworthy and you may fall victim to overcharged offers.
Do you have any upcoming travel plans of your own?
If all goes well I plan on traveling to three countries in the following year: Zambia, South Africa and Morocco. Though I have been to Zambia before, I never tire of the exhilarating wildlife safari. Morocco and South Africa will be new destination for me and I am very excited!
See “Sights and Sounds: Stone Town” for a fly-on-the-wall look at life in Zanzibar, from For Africans by Africans.
A version of this interview was originally published by Passion Passport in 2014.