Northern Zanzibar Island Destinations

Northern Zanzibar Island Beach

 

 Two or three hours drive from Stone Town, the village of Nungwi has traditionally been the centre of Zanzibar's dhow-building industry. However, over the last decade the coastline here has turned it into one of Zanzibar's busiest beach areas. What was a ramshackle fishing village has become an increasingly busy place as various guesthouses, bars, shops and restaurants appear. The setting is beautiful, but the number of people in Nungwi town, the noise and the constant stream of apparently uncontrolled development do take the exclusive air off its charm.

Northern Zanzibar Island is pleasant, with white-sand beaches, warm sea, nautical heritage and good diving opportunities. The tourism industry is focused around Nungwi village on the northernmost tip, and to a much lesser extent the golden sands of Kendwa, on the northwest coast, it offers every component of the perfect holiday to its sun-kissed guests: fresh seafood washed down with daily cocktails, and a lovely outlook. It is crowded though and the development not always attractive, so it's well worth escaping the 'Nungwi Strip' to seek out the quieter, more spectacular beaches of the northeast coast and Kendwa, the small turtle sanctuary, and the terrific local coral reefs.

For a more cultural experience, head down the coast to the 16th-century Swahili ruins at Fukuchani and Mvuleni or the busy market at Mkokotoni, or venture across the water to Tumbatu Island. You can also visit a place where traditional Dhows are built to see the traditional methods of dhow construction in action. Visit The Nungwi aquarium to watch out sea creatures including fish sea titles. The local villagers have built a turtle sanctuary where injured turtles and other marine animals are nursed back to health before being released back into the warm waters of the Indian Ocean.

The north rivals the east coast for Zanzibar's best beach destination. While northern beaches aren't as long, several are swimmable around the clock (unlike the tidal east). For our travelers who love night-life this is the place to go on Zanzibar Island.


The Beaches in Northern Zanzibar Island.

Nungwi Beach Village

Nungwi is traditionally the centre of Zanzibar's dhow-building industry, and, over the last decade, the coastline here has rocketed in popularity to become one of the island's busiest beach destinations.

Kendwa Beach

On the west coast, about 4km south of Nungwi, is the tiny village and beautiful beach of Kendwa. What a relief after the noise and crowded development of Nungwi!

Mkokotoni Beach

On the west coast of the island, about 21km south of Nungwi, Mkokotoni is a lively fishing village. Although there's no accommodation here that we could find, it's worth a short detour to soak up some rural atmosphere and vibrant village life.

The Northern Zanzibar Island Historical Sights and Important Places to Visit

Fukuchani ruins

Fukuchani ruins (Tufuku) are on the edge of the village of the same name. The ruin is known locally as the 'Portuguese House', but although some Portuguese settlers may have built houses on Zanzibar during this period, this structure is considered by archaeologists to be of Swahili and not foreign origin. The ruins are well maintained and the surrounding land has been mostly cleared of vegetation.

Built in the 16th century, Fukuchani is a fortified dwelling that may have belonged to a wealthy merchant or farmer. It is constructed of coral bricks, with arched doorways and rectangular niches in the walls of the main room, and surrounded by a stone wall in which small holes have been inserted. It has been suggested that these are gun slits for the purposes of defense, but a more recent theory suggests they may have been to hold projecting beams which supported a raised walkway, so that anyone inside the enclosure could see over the wall.

The ruins are in good condition, compared with many others on Zanzibar of a similar age, and quite impressive. Buildings of a similar style have been found at other sites along the east African coast, though, alongside the ruins at Mvuleni, Fukuchani represents the finest domestic stone house architecture of this period.

Behind the ruin, a path leads to a small beach. Across the channel you can see Tumbatu Island, with the lighthouse at its northern tip clearly visible. At the southern end of the island are the remains of a large town, dating from around the 12th century.

Mvuleni ruins

Mmvuleni ruins (tumvul) lie just to the south of Fukuchani. Like Fukuchani, this structure was probably once a fortified house that would have belonged to a powerful member of the community. It, too, was thought to be the work of Portuguese invaders until recent research suggested that it is more likely to be Swahili in origin. The house was once larger than the one at Fukuchani, with thicker walls, but the ruins are in poor condition, and are partly overgrown with vegetation, obscuring some of the architectural features. Substantial sections of the walls remain standing, though, complete with carved door arches, conveying something of the impressive building that this once was.

One of the most interesting features of this house is the large natural cavern just northeast of the house, outside the main wall. Crystal clear, salt water flows through the cave, collecting in a pool visible beyond an entrance fringed by vegetation: this was probably a source of water when the house was occupied.

Tumbatu Island

Tumbatu is one of the largest of Zanzibar's offshore islands, measuring about 8km long by 2–3km across. The people of the island, the Watumbatu, speak their own dialect of Swahili. They have a reputation for pride and aloofness, and are reputed not to welcome visitors on their island. The Watumbatu men are traditionally known as the best sailors on Zanzibar, or even on the whole east African coast.

On the southern end of Tumbatu Island are a group of Shirazi ruins, thought to date from the 12th century. An Arab geographer writing in the 13th century recorded that the Muslim people of Zanzibar Island were attacked (by whom is not clear) and retreated to Tumbatu Island where they were welcomed by the local inhabitants, who were also Muslim, and it is assumed that these people were responsible for the Shirazi ruins. The ruins were probably abandoned in the early 16th century, but the Watumbatu still claim to be descended from Shirazi immigrants.


Why visit Northern Zanzibar Island.

  • Visit a town that has traditionally been the centre of Zanzibar's dhow-building industry Nungwi.
  • Visit a town with the best night life Zanzibar Island.
  • Visit a place with pleasant, with white-sand beaches, warm sea, and nautical heritage and good diving opportunities.
  • Visit a small turtle sanctuary built by the local villages to nursed back to health injured turtles and other marine animals before being released back into the warm waters of the Indian Ocean.
  • Experience the culture by visiting the 16th-century Swahili ruins at Fukuchani and Mvuleni or the busy market at Mkokotoni, or venture across the water to Tumbatu Island.
  • Visit beaches in Zanzibar that are swimmable around the clock and not affected by the tide.
  • Just to relax and to get away from it all after an African Safari Expedition or as a weekend gateway from Africa, Europe, The Middle East and Parts of Asia.
  • As a stopping and resting place at the beginning or end of your safari holiday to Africa or within the Island of Zanzibar and surrounding island archipelagos.

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