The East of Tanzania faces the Indian Ocean and the islands of Zanzibar and Mafia. Tanzania’s coastline stretches from Kenya to Mozambique and is more than 1400 kilometers long. Most is undeveloped and unknown to the tourist world. Visitors mostly head to Zanzibar’s Unguja Island because it is easy of access and has a wide choice of accommodation and activities. This said, there are other less crowded areas on the mainland and on Mafia Island that are worth a visit.
Zanzibar (Pemba and Unguja Island) is what springs to mind when people think about the Swahili coast. Broad white sandy beaches, swaying palms trees and a rich culture. Lesser known Mafia Island, lies to the South and is a diver’s paradise. Mafia has a small number or comfortable establishments, but is otherwise devoid of typical tourist trappings – bars, restaurants, shopping etc. There is also a series of small, mostly undeveloped islands close to the shoreline spread out North to South, for which development projects are in motion or on the drawing board.
Most action is centered around Zanzibar which in the past few years has experiences a relative tourism explosion. There is a large choice for every budget, from the backpacker level to those seeking the best. Most options target the North and East Coast of Unguja island apart from Stone Town itself which is located facing the mainland on the western side of the island. Stone Town is where the airport is situated, so almost everyone will pass through or spend a night here. Unguja is known for its beaches wist shallow water. Pemba has almost stood still and is undeveloped. There are only few accommodation options, most catering to divers. Pemba has some of the best diving on the East African Coast, with deep water close to the shore and amazing coral reefs.
Zanzibar’s Unguja Island is easily reached by air from the North of the country (the northern circuit) and from Dar Es Salaam. There are also flights to Pemba from Unguja. A number of ferries service Zanzibar, but there has been many accidents in which large numbers of people have died. We cannot recommend ferry transport as an option. If you plan to visit Pemba, we strongly recommend traveling by air from Zanzibar.