With clear, warm Indian Ocean waters framed by flawless palm fringed beaches, the Zanzibar Archipelago is a small slice of Tanzanian paradise. Consisting of a cluster of islands, including the small but stunning Pemba Island in the north and the little-known Mafia to the south of the larger Zanzibar island, the archipelago is a haven of idyllic coves, powder white sands and coral atolls. The islands have a fascinating history and culture and, should this aspect be of particular interest to you, you can visit or stay in Stone Town (a UNESCO world heritage site) and explore the spice farms, House of Wonders and Forodhani food market. Additionally, a wide range of highly recommended water activities are available to keep you entertained.
Pemba Island is only 20 minutes away from Zanzibar by light aircraft, yet is far more densely vegetated, with natural plantations and forests with cloves being the main crop. The beaches are untouched, vast and stunning with powder white sand and crystal-clear waters, perfect for snorkelling, diving and dhow boat trips. Accommodation and activity options are not as vast as Zanzibar Island, but Pemba is nonetheless interesting to explore, with its walking excursions through forests, cycle-rides, archaeological sites and trips to see the local people all being worthy activities to tear yourself away from the perfect coastline. If relaxation is key for your beach break, Pemba may well be perfect for you.
Contrastingly, Mafia remains virtually unknown to the outside world, hosting very few annual visitors in comparison to Zanzibar. With a fascinating history dating back to the 8th century, the island played an important role in trade between mainland Africa and the Far East. Much of the Mafia coastline consists of marine national parks, due to the pristine nature of the coral and marine life; diving and snorkelling remains one of the biggest attractions when visiting Mafia, with the migration of whale sharks visiting the coastline being a particular highlight. Whilst the beaches are perhaps not quite up to the same standard of perfection as Zanzibar or Pemba, they are still excellent and certainly an added benefit.