|Diving in Tanzania and the Zanzibar Archipelago
Zanzibar is an archipelago of over 50 islands with the largest two being Zanzibar Island and Pemba Islands. Zanzibar is only 25 miles from the Tanzanian coast and reached by high speed ferry or flights from Dar es Salaam and Arusha in the north. Zanzibar Island (known locally as Unguja) is relatively small [60 miles long and 20 miles wide].
The entry point and port of Stone Town may not have the most romantic name but is the old city and cultural heart of Zanzibar, with little changing over the past 200 years. It is a place of narrow winding alleys, bustling bazaars, mosques and grand Arab houses whose original owners competed with each other over the extravagance of their dwellings. This one-upmanship is reflected in the huge, carved, wooden doors decorated with brass studs. It is possible to spend hours just wandering through the fascinating labyrinth of narrow streets and alleyways.
Spice Plantations are a part of Zanzibar a trip to the island would be incomplete without a tour of the plantations that grow cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, pepper and many other spices which brought the Sultans of Oman [and the beginnings of the infamous slave trade].
The Jozani Natural Forest Reserve is located in the central east region of Zanzibar Island and is home to the rare Red Colobus Monkey. They can also be seen at very close quarters just outside the reserve's perimeter and are incredibly photogenic. Jozani is home to other species including Syke's monkeys, small buck and bushpigs.
Tours to the unspoilt north coast usually end up at Nungwi fishing village on the northern tip of Zanzibar Island - approached by a road lined by banana palms, mangroves and coconut trees - it is the dhow building capital of Zanzibar. Here you will be able to see the traditional methods of dhow construction in action. This area of Zanzibar has some fantastic beaches and nearby coral reefs which are ideal for diving and snorkeling.
Prison Island once the site of a jail for unruly slaves, lies just off Stone Town. It is fringed with a beautiful coral reef, ideal for snorkeling, and has a lovely white beach for sun-bathing. It is also home to a family of giant tortoises.
The beaches in Zanzibar are a paradise with a sprinkling of picturesque fishing villages. There are more than twenty-five fantastic beaches in Zanzibar, and some are so peaceful and remote that the only noise breaking the silence is the ocean.
Zanzibar [along with its sister island of Pemba] is reputed to have some of the best diving in the world, there is good visibility (20 - 60 meters) and a year-round average water temperature of 27°c ensure that you enjoy your Zanzibar diving experience
Diving in Zanzibar isn't restricted to beginners. Experienced scuba divers can enjoy exciting wall dives, night dives and drift dives. In deeper waters, lush coral gardens often stretch as far as the eye can see, and large game fish (barracuda, kingfish, tuna and wahoo) hunt together with large Napoleonic wrasse, graceful manta rays and sharks. Shallower waters are the playground of tropical fish, including a huge variety of Indo-Pacific marine fauna.
The music of Tanzania, especially along the coast and on the spice islands has been influenced from within the African continent and also from the ancient eastern trade routes. The Arabic and Indonesian cultures have had strong influences on the Zanzibar islands as well as the Swahili coast line of Tanzania.
The Arabic influence is especially seen in the singing and many of the stringed instruments - the cultural intercourse between Tanzania and the Arab world was mutual, as evidenced by the exportation of the leiwah dance to Bahrain.
Over the past three years in particular the Sauti za Busara (Sounds of Wisdom) music festival is becoming increasingly popular from within Tanzania and from overseas. For many years now the Swahili Music Festival has firmly established itself as one of East Africa’s finest annual events. It takes place over five days and brings people together from different backgrounds and cultures all under the umbrella of music.
In Past years the festival has been focused manly on musicians from Zanzibar, the Tanzanian mainland, Uganda, Kenya and Burundi. However, in more recent years people have come from West Africa and even as far away as Swaziland and Europe. Tanzanians are a truly peace loving and friendly people and this music festival has been described as the "The friendliest festival on Planet Earth ".
The quality of local musicals never fails to surprise visitors from Europe and America and many young musicians are making there mark on international audiences on this spiced island of Zanzibar. The international audiences that come for the festival are primarily interested in interacting with the culture and history of the island - we have tourism that is actually benefiting the community. This is responsible tourism making a difference to local people.
Sauti za Busara is held at the Old Fort in Stone Town over four nights and then moves to the beaches on Zanzibar’s north coast for a special grand finalé celebration. Tanzanian food is not usually top of any tourists list however the Swahili Cuisine is delicious and at its best on this island – [and maybe also in Dar es Salaam].
This festival also offers an opportunity to visit historic Stone Town, village cultural projects, spice plantations, taarab rehearsals, beach trips, dhow cruises, game safaris, snorkeling, diving, and swimming with dolphins. If you organize excursion trips through the festival then you are ensuring you get the best deal and profits go to the local communities and not an overseas middleman.
The past few festivals have had more than eleven thousand visitors and future festivals can only become more popular. It seems as if Zanzibar is using this festival as a new approach to market itself as a an important cultural tourism destination; the event provides artists from the Swahili-speaking world with a rare opportunity to meet, exchange ideas, learn from each other and to be creative.