Unguja and Pemba islands are surrounded by more than 20 smaller islands. Most are uninhabited and are located to the west of the main island.
Chapwani, or Grave Island, is the closest island to Stone Town. It is home to a number of Christian graves belonging to British sailors killed fighting against the Arab slave ships or in the First World War. There is a small beach and a patch of indigenous forest which is home to blue duikers, enormous coconut crabs and a colony of fruit bats.
Changuu, or Prison Island, is the most popular island excursion from Stone Town. It is only a short 10-minute boat ride and the snorkelling is excellent. There was a prison built on the island but it was never used for its intended purpose and is now a hotel. One of the island’s main attractions is the giant tortoises.
Bawe Island which lies south of Prison Island, has some of the best snorkelling spots in the archipelago. About a 30-minute boat ride and slightly more expensive than the boat to Prison Island, this island is much less visited.
Chumbe Island is a rare example of a still pristine coral island. A UN Protected Area, it carries the accolade of “one of the most spectacular coral gardens anywhere in the world”. Tanzania’s first marine park, and the first privately managed marine park in the world, Chumbe offers visitors the opportunity to snorkel through the shallow-water Reef Sanctuary; scuba dive the nearby reefs; explore the Forest Reserve with its nature trails and abundance of local birds and flora; or visit the historical monuments.
These include a hundred-year-old lighthouse and the only ancient mosque in East Africa with Indian architecture.
Off the north-east coast of Zanzibar’s main island, Mnemba Island basks in its own tranquil lagoon. Boasting splendid beaches and spectacular coral reefs, alive with fish, it is renowned as the ultimate in ‘barefoot luxury’.
Tumbatu, the largest of Zanzibar’s offshore islands, is located to the southwest of Nungwi and is inhabited by the Watumbatu people who speak their own unique dialect of Swahili.
In the south-west are Uzi Island, which is only connected to Unguja by a causeway, and the Menai Bay Conservation Area which includes the islands of Kwale, Miwi, Nianembe, Pungume and Vundwe. The latter is a seaturtle breeding area, also famous for its humpback and bottlenose dolphins, and is a WWF Protected Area.