A tour of the famous Zanzibar Island
Published on 31/12/2009
By Gilbert Wandera
For those wishing to get away from the hassle and bustle of the Nairobi traffic, Tanzania mainland and Zanzibar are the places to visit.
Friendly people, sandy beaches, good communication and transport systems are just some of the things that make them a must visit. I
made a short visit to the two separated by the Indian Ocean early last month as part of the entourage for the Fifa World Cup Trophy tour sponsored by Coca-Cola.
The one-hour flight aboard Precision Air was one of the first pleasant parts of the trip.
The airline partly owned by Kenya Airways is efficient to the dot and arrives at the Julius Nyerere International Airport right on schedule.
After a smooth check out of the airport, our first stop is the Move and Pick Hotel, a five-star facility in up-market Dar-es-Saalam.
The hotel is an imposing red brick facility and one is soon hit with a welcoming aura as you get in through the revolving doors.
Helpful porters are at hand to usher you and your luggage into your room as soon as you are checked in. The rooms are marvelous with a view of the Indian Ocean not far off. They are fitted with air conditioners to help you cope with the humidity in the Coastal town.
A huge bed decked in fine linen is a tempting welcome after a long journey. The rooms are fitted with LCD television sets and for sports lovers there are all the Super Sport channels for your enjoyment.
For the busy executive who has to be in touch with their office, there is Internet in the room at an affordable cost. The hotel has several restaurants that serve both continental and other types of menus.
Those too tired to go to the restaurant can order room service.
A huge swimming pool is also available for those wishing to keep cool and relaxed.
After a couple of days in Dar-es Salaam, we headed to Zanzibar, a 15-minute flight away. The first thing that hits you as you disembark at the Zanzibar International Airport is the intense humidity.
Even when it has rained, the heat can still be unbearable. Considering the huge number of airplanes on the tarmac, it is easy to conclude that many tourists love to visit this beautiful coast.
Various air charter companies ferry tourists to Zanzibar in all manner of aircraft from the smallest that carry just four people to the largest accommodating more than 50 passengers. Zanzibar has many tourist attractions but one of the most famous sites is Forodhani Park. Situated just 10-minutes drive from the airport, the park recently upgraded by the Aga Khan Cultural Foundation at close to Sh210 million, borders the Indian Ocean. It offers a spectacular view of the blue waters with several vessels anchored. The breeze at the sandy beaches is a welcome relief from the tormenting heat. The whole of Zanzibar seems to congregate at Forodhani and this has been a venue for cultural and other events carried out in this Indian Ocean island.
According to Mr Ali Mirza who works with the Zanzibar Tourism Foundation, they have succeeded in marketing the country as a destination for sun, sand and sea.
He said tourism now contributes 10 per cent to the country’s economy following an aggressive marketing campaign undertaken by the company.
"The largest number of tourists comes from Italy due to the fact that we are near Malindi. We also have a lot of tourists visiting from Germany and England. We are also currently looking to attract tourists from the Far East and Russia," he said.
According to Mirza, the foundation is also working on how to attract other Africans to visit Zanzibar. He said they attend many promotions and tourism fairs _in different world capitals and that this has worked to attract many tourists. He admitted that this year’s _economic crisis also affected their tourism industry but aggressive marketing has reversed the situation.
Houses of wonders
"Tourism is an important part of our economy and employs 10,500 people directly and another 45,000 indirectly. We are looking to attract more than 500,000 tourists next year," he revealed.
Situated next to Forodhani Park are ‘two houses of wonders’. These were official residences of the Kings of Zanzibar. They are thought to be oldest buildings in East Africa, built more than 150 years ago. Serena Group is one of the international hotel chains with hotels in the island. Though tiny compared to its other hotels in the region, the Serena Zanzibar Hotel is a popular destination with foreign tourists frequenting it.
The Fairmont Zanzibar Luxury Hotel is another of the more famous hotels here on the North East Coast of Zanzibar, located along a stretch of white sand beach. On offer here includes a wide range of water sports from scuba diving to snorkeling and fishing.
The Fairmont Group also manages several hotels in Kenya among them the Norfolk Hotel in Nairobi, Mt Kenya Safari Club at the foot of Mt Kenya and the Fairmont Mara Safari Club in the Masai Mara.