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If your idea of heaven is a crowd-free sugar-sand beach, surrounded by sparkling waters, flanked by coral reefs, situated in the exotic Indian Ocean on an island full of character, culture and tropical wildlife then read on.

The two main islands of Zanzibar are Unguja and Pemba; we’re looking at the fabulous beaches that can be found on Pemba, the largest and most developed of the two. The term ‘developed’ should however be put into context as this beautiful Indian Ocean island is far from commercialized in the tourist sense of the word. It has just five main roads all of which lead eventually to Zanzibar Town on the western coast, it has a coast that is dramatically rugged in places and it has a wilderness in the centre that’s home to Colobus monkeys. 

Nungwi in the north

In the Nungwi area you’ll come across a blissful, white sandy beach which will shift in depth depending on the tide. There are jetties protruding into the ocean, sailing boats on the waves and a variety of water sports. The immediate cushion is a rocky barrier which displays signs of weathering from the current; beyond this you’ll find natural vegetation. Along the beach itself are a number of bars and restaurants, some private and others part of a hotel – there’s a good selection of various sizes and styles, and there is a backpacker scene so expect several lively, informal options. 

Kizimkazi in the south

Easy to get to and not so popular as other beaches on the island making it ideal if you’d like somewhere more secluded. The beaches in the south generally are not billed as being as stunning as those in the north but we, and the Shirazi princes who once occupied land here, would dispute that! They are still quite beautiful and offer fantastic diving and snorkelling even from the seashore. If you’re looking to stay in this area then The Residence has the most alluring ocean villas with private pools that sit on gardens just feet from the white sand – bliss!

Matemwe in the north east

Facing the exclusive island of Mnemba the beach at Matemwe is select in its own right. Still relatively unmarked by human use, this wide expanse of pristine sand is slowly becoming popular with tourists so be quick and visit if you’d like a Crusoe experience. The waters are tidal and at its lowest there is a vast blanket of freshly washed sand on which to roam. This is a working island however so everyday life continues with fishing and washing; this can be a far cry from a deserted Maldivian resort beach but this is Zanzibar – and this is its charm.

Nakupenda Beach in Stone Town

Stone Town itself is actually the old quarter of Zanzibar Town which in 2000 was declared a UNESCO world heritage site for its intricate winding streets and alleyways that feature Arab & colonial architecture. Heading off to Stone Town you may not be thinking beach, however, once you have trawled the city sites and visited Prison Island you may be glad of a little R&R. The beach is, like most on the island, tidal but whenever you visit there will be visible sand, snorkeling is pretty good especially if you take a boat out to the sandbank – there are a selection of enthusiastic operators who will take you.

The beaches of Zanzibar are a massive draw but there is so much more to see there. If you like your Indian Ocean island to be populated with a little more than yellow grains, then this unaffected corner of Tanzania may just be perfect for you.

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