Image courtesy of The Indpendent (www.independent.ie)

Spice of life on Zanzibar, Africa’s paradise island

Africa’s paradise islands are perfect for honeymooners, but be sure to explore beyond the resorts…

Zanzibar sits in the Indian Ocean, and its pristine white beaches, lined with palm trees and secluded ocean-side resorts, make it the ideal spot for honeymooners, many who come here to relax after a mainland safari. There are 46 islands in the archipelago and the main island is Unguja. Our resort, Baraza, was on the east side of the island, a collection of white villas set along paths lined with colourful red, purple and pink bougainvillea and opening out onto Bwejuu Paje beach.

One of Zanzibar’s most striking features is the colour of the water, a brilliant turquoise blue, so myself and my travel companions booked a snorkelling trip to explore beneath the surface. A short drive brought us to a place that looked close to my idea of paradise. A simple white stone path led out from the white sand, across the rock pools and coral reef. At the end of the path, a traditional wooden Zanzibar dhow was anchored, surrounded by blue-green water and patches of coral reef.

After a short boat trip, we anchored in Mswakini Lagoon and set off snorkelling, led to the edge of the coral by Hassan our guide, accompanied by a shoal of stripy zebra fish swimming alongside. We spotted bright orange clownfish and black and yellow angel fish with their long top and bottom fins. With more than 400 species of fish recorded here, diving is also popular.

Back at the resort, we had a private lunch on the beach, a romantic set-up under a wooden pergola with flower-lined posts and a roof of palm leaves. As we admired the sea view and a line of surf breaking on the distant reef, we tucked into fresh seafood and chilled wine and watched couples pass by on foot or by kayak, before the warm water of the incoming tide came lapping around our feet and we moved, giggling, up the sand for dessert and coffee.

There’s plenty to do in Zanzibar. A visit to Stone Town with its mix of European, Persian, Arabian and Indian history, will take you down a maze of alleys and to the buzzing Darajani Market, or history buffs can visit the old Slave Market. One evening we sipped cocktails on the terrace of The Africa House Hotel (africahousehotel.com), admiring the dhows sailing past at sunset.

Zanzibar was once the world’s leading producer of spices, and another highlight was our visit to a spice farm to smell and taste spices like cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, lemongrass and vanilla – seeing them grow and learning different uses from food flavour and colour to medicine. We also toured the village of Bwejuu.

One of the best things to do, though, is just relax and enjoy the setting. Baraza Resort & Spa is connected to its two neighbours, The Palms and Breezes Beach Club & Spa (all part of The Zanzibar Collection; see right) where you can dine, swim or just kick back and relax. For couples, private experiences include private dining in a beachfront restaurant or the Sultan’s Bath at the spa, a double massage followed by a bath in a mosaic-tiled pool. Even yoga classes can be private.

Before leaving, my last experience of Zanzibar was walking on the beach. The tide was coming in and I watched a little crab burying itself in a rock pool, a last flash of orange to round off all the bright colours of the island, from colourful clothing, flowers, plants and wildlife to the mesmerising blue-green of the sea.

Read more on Zanzibar here .

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