Zanzibar (Pemba and Unguja Islands) is what springs to mind when people think about the Swahili coast - broad white beaches, swaying palms trees and a population with a rich culture. Lesser known Mafia Island lies to the South and is a divers paradise and has a collection or very comfortable establishments, but is otherwise devoid of typical tourist trappings - bars, restaurants, shopping etc. There is also a series of small, mostly undeveloped islands close to the shore line spread out north to South, of which projects to develop these are in motion or on the drawing board.
The action is centered around Zanzibar which in the past few years has seen a relative tourism explosion. There is a vast amount of choice for every budget, from the backpacker to those wanting the best. Most options target the north and East Coast of Unguja island apart from Stone Town itself which is located facing the mainland on the western side of the island. Stone Town is where the airport is situated, so almost everyone will pass through Stone Town and many will also spend a night here. Unguja is know for its beaches and shallow water. Pemba has stood still and is undeveloped with just a few accommodation options, most catering to divers. Pemba has some of the best diving on the East African Coast, with deep water close to the shore and some amazing coral reefs.
Zanzibar's Unguja Island is easily reached by air from the North of the country (the northern circuit) and from Dar Es Salaam. There are also flights to Pemba from Unguja. A number of ferries service Zanzibar, but there has been a series of accidents in which large numbers of people have died on both large and small boats and we cannot recommend ferry transport as an option. If you plan to visit Pemba, we strongly recommend traveling by air from Zanzibar.
Clock-wise from Stone Town: