Whoever said, “Blue and green should never be seen” should stop being so judgey and get to Zanzibar, stat. Wherever you look, there’s proof these colours are at their best when they’re working together – here, lush green jungle meets dazzling aqua sea meets deep blue sky. The wildlife is easy on the eye, too.
Lying about 30km off the coast of Tanzania, Zanzibar’s made up of several islets and two main islands, the 1666-square kilometre Unguja and the smaller Pemba. On Unguja you’ll find most of the tourist resorts, along with the old capital, Stone Town. Once the centre of both the spice and slave trades, the city’s an intriguing blend of African and Arabic culture and also a World Heritage Site – definitely worth exploring if you can drag yourself off the beach.
Matemwe Retreat is just an hour’s drive north-east of Stone Town and it’s a sweet spot to chill for a few nights if you can afford to splurge. The daily rush hour here consists of local fishermen paddling their dhows to work, while local women hit the rockpools to collect medicinal seaweed to sell – and it all unfolds right in front of the resort’s four super-luxe guest villas (which each come with their own butler!).
Being right across from the Mnemba Atoll, Matemwe’s a great base for divers with several sites just a 30-minute tinny ride away. There’s plenty to see here too, with 450 species of fish and occasional visits from whales, sharks and whale sharks. Try: Wattabomi for green turtles and scorpion fish; Leon’s Wall for the rare leaf fish, lion fish and schools of snapper; and the Big Wall for its kilometer-long series of small caves and fish-filled hollows. Conditions are excellent wherever you dive, with visibility up to 30m and average water temps of 27 degrees.
For a scuba-free fish-stalking experience, a snorkelling day trip is a great option. I chose the Blue Safari excursion, which combines dhow sailing, snorkelling, sand bar swims and also a beach barbie lunch complete with free beers and a cameo from humpback dolphins.
If you’re after some land-based action, head south to the Jozani Forest, just south of Stone Town. The dense 2512ha rainforest is home to around 2000 red colobus monkeys (pictured at top), a species endemic to the island. There’s a 7km trail that’ll get you up close to them, and they don’t mind posing for a happy snap… or five…