Lapping the shores of East Africa is the impossibly blue and beautifully warm Indian Ocean. The coral sands of the mainland and islands are soft, white and powdery and the sea teems with colourful marine life. These are fabulous beaches, too good to miss, and the perfect match to the excitement and adventure of safari.
This glorious Swahili coastline can cater to every whim. Action or relaxation, air conditioning or a sea breeze, international buffets or a barbecue on the beach – all styles of accommodation exist here. From Zanzibar’s biggest resorts to the smallest mainland hideaways, all are imbued with an easy going, laid-back attitude, no doubt aided by the calm, clear water that provides a backdrop to each of them.
There is excellent diving and snorkelling on the reefs around Zanzibar, Pemba and Mafia, big game fishing is offered from some beach locations and many also have sailing boats, kayaks and kite-surfing. This variety of activities is an important point of discussion at the time of booking. You want the lodge that best matches your tastes! Be aware that the costs for boating excursions, diving and fishing vary from lodge to lodge.
Where else to start but one of the world’s most famous paradise islands? Ninety percent of Tanzania’s beach accommodation is found here, just a twenty minute flight east of Dar es Salaam, a forty minute flight from Selous and now, thanks to a new fast service from Coastal Aviation, just two hours from the Serengeti.
Zanzibar is blessed with miles and miles of white sand beach, protected by the coral reef that rings the majority of the island. There are secluded coves; working beaches where the dhow fisherman leave their boats; private stretches of untouched sand and, equally, stretches of sand with sun-beds as far as the eye can see (usually avoided by our clients!). It is an island with something for everyone.
There is very little beach on the western side of the island save the far north and south. The first major resort or lodge as you move anti-clockwise around coast from Stone Town is the Residence, found on the western side of Zanzibar’s southerly tip. The beaches here tend to take the form of small coves flanked by rocky cliffs. They are fine but there are better beaches elsewhere.
Rounding the south of the island brings you the bottom half of the east coast. Here an almost uninterrupted beach stretches all the way to the Michamvi peninsula. Some parts are better than others but in places it is one of the island’s best. There are many good lodges here including some of our favourites to the north. The central village of Paje has become a world centre for kite surfing.
Crossing Chwaka Bay leads us to the upper half of the eastern coast, dominated by the beaches of Kiwengwa and Matemwe. Kiwengwa is the domain of some of the islands largest resorts and generally best avoided but Matemwe is a great stretch of sand with several high quality boutique lodges to choose from.
At the northern tip of Zanzibar, generally regarded as the prettiest part of the island, lies the village of Nungwi. This once sleepy fishing village is now a travel hotspot, with some great lodges on the eastern side and a backpacker’s area on the western side.
Moving south and west takes us to the final beach area of Kendwa, home to Zanzibar’s finest beach but, unfortunately, some of its worst resorts. It is also the main backpacker area with massive 100+ room hotels next to $50 a night bungalows. Kilindi, hidden round the headland from this area, is the wonderful exception.