Zanzibar is one of the Indian Ocean islands. It is situated on the Swahili Coast, adjacent to Tanganyika (mainland Tanzania). The northern tip of Unguja island is located at 5.72 degrees south, 39.30 degrees east, with the southernmost point at 6.48 degrees south, 39.51 degrees east.
Wildlife of Zanzibar
When people talk about Zanzibar, they speak more of the natural splendor of the region- the beaches, the waters and the heritage side of things. Wildlife? Not so much. In fact, Zanzibar does not boast of the Big 5 that her cousins seem to have. So does that mean there’s nothing to see in Zanzibar for the wildlife enthusiast? Certainly not. There’s plenty to see. This may come as a surprise to many, but read on to know more about the hidden wonders of this place.
There was a time when the Zanzibar leopard existed in Unguja, the main island of the Zanzibar archipelago. That was a long time ago, of course, but that’s not to say that there aren’t other creatures to see. In fact, the World Wildlife Fund is actively involved in wildlife protection projects in the island. In fact, the Zanzibar leopard has been spotted very rarely but people believe it still exists. It’s just elusive that’s all.
When a visitor travels to the Jozani Chwaka Bay National Park, they will be treated to a wide array of wildlife. Zanzibar’s only national park is spread over 50 kilometers and is home to some fascinating creatures. Of special note are the close to 1000 Zanzibar red colobus and their conservation. Endemic to Zanzibar, the red colobus is on the endangered list and is looked after with love and care. The Park’s other endangered animals comprise the Aders’ duiker, a medium sized antelope species and the Zanzibar servaline genet, a small African carnivorous cat.
Also seen are the Sykes’ monkey. The galagos, or bush babies are another draw; these night monkeys are characterized by their large eyes and delicate ears. The unusual tree hyrax can also be spotted here- it has 4 toes in its front feet, and three at the back. This is a nocturnal creature as well. The mangrove forests help in creating a rich range of flora and fauna. There are over 40 species of birds and more than 50 types of butterflies at Jozani.
The Pongwe Forest Reserve is 20 kilometers in size and is home to several snakes and other creatures. In Pemba, you can explore the Ngezi Forest Reserve. This 14 square kilometer space is rich with coral bushes and different type of soils. It is home to many birds, including the African goshawk and the Pemba white-eye. People travel from distances to see the Pemba flying fox- this huge fruit-eating bat is especially found at the Kidike root site. You may also see the Pemba blue duiker, the Javan civet cat and the carnivorous marsh mongoose.
To see what one individual and her work can do, head to Cheetah’s Rock. Run by Jenny, this must visit place is doing very important work in conservation and protection. Here, you’ll meet Tyson the cheetah, Chaka the zebra, the monkey King Kong and Aslan the baby white lion. The founder’s passion is infectious and you’ll come away with newfound respect for Jenny and her extraordinary work.
Apart from all this, Zala Park and numerous marine parks help us to get to know wildlife under the water such as whales sharks, octopuses, dolphins, and a variety of other fishes.
Weather & climate
We’re often asked “When is the best time to go to Zanzibar?”, and the answer is often complex. It will depend on many things including your interests, exactly where you want to visit and why you’re travelling. One person’s best time can be another’s worst! For a beach holiday, the weather and climate is generally the most important factor:
The best time to visit Zanzibar
Here is a broad guide to the climate of Zanzibar. Please remember that this comes from records and our experience, not from a crystal ball. Weather patterns across Africa are becoming increasingly unpredictable, probably due to global warming; we’re seeing downpours in the middle of deserts and damaging droughts when rains should be falling.
Just south of the equator, Zanzibar’s weather pattern follows that of Tanzania very closely – although always tends to be a little more humid – and occasional rain in the dry season is less uncommon than in the heart of the mainland Tanzania.
Generally the main rainy season, or the ‘long rains’, last during March, April and May. Afternoon tropical downpours are the norm – which can be heavy on any of the islands. The humidity is high and daily temperatures reach the low-mid 30°s.
The long dry season, when rainfall is fairly unusual, lasts throughout June, July, August, September and October. Temperatures vary hugely with altitude and location, but it’s usually a fine, clear sky and sunny weather – it’s a great time to visit Zanzibar. During November and December there’s another rainy season: the ‘short rains’. These are much lighter than the main rains and less reliable.
If it has rained during the short rains, then it normally dries up for a few months, January and February, which is Tanzania’s ‘short dry season’, before starting to rain again in earnest in March.
What is the best time to visit Zanzibar?
The best time to visit Zanzibar is from June to October during the cool, dry months of spring. Another popular time to visit this tropical island is from December to February when it’s hot and dry.