Discover Zanzibar: Where to Stay, Eat and Visit According To Travel Photographer Aline Coquelle
They say it’s all in the name, and that rings true with Zanzibar. Merely uttering the word evokes mystery and wonder—it sounds like an exotic experience waiting to be savoured. The archipelago in the Indian Ocean off Africa’s Swahili coast has always held a certain mystique. In 1872, British explorer Sir Richard Francis Burton described his first glimpse of its islands: “Earth, sea, and sky, all seems wrapped in a soft and sensuous repose. The sea of purest sapphire, which had not parted with its blue rays to the atmosphere... under a blaze of sunshine which touched every object with a dull burnish of gold”.
A semi-autonomous region of Tanzania, Zanzibar continues to lure modern explorers with a promise of an adventure like no other. One of these adventurers is nomadic Parisian photographer Aline Coquelle, who first arrived on its shores two decades ago. “What drew me to Zanzibar was the unknown,” says Coquelle, who calls the place “a dream before being an island”.
Like Burton before her, it was love at first sight. That initial encounter sparked the idea of creating a book, which Coquelle immediately proposed to Martine Assouline, founder of Assouline. This month, after a creative journey spanning 20 years, during which time she photographed the island and its inhabitants using film, her vision comes to life in Zanzibar—a tome that embodies the essence of this enthralling destination through her lens.
“Zanzibar is a healing archipelago where nature and people offer you amazing, positive vibes that keep you coming back for more. It became my own form of balance, my rhythm of life. My love for Zanzibar flows in my blood,” says Coquelle. When the time comes that we can travel again, mark Coquelle's recommended spots for a dreamy holiday in the Spice Island:
Stone Town Hotels
During your stay at Emerson, get lost in its secret garden while enjoying a coffee at Emerson On Hurumzi. Don’t miss the authentic Swahili dinner at the Emerson Tea House held on the impressive rooftop terrace, which offers a breathtaking 360-degree view.
If you prefer an intimate teatime then look no further than the patio of Jafferji House, located in the heart of Stone Town.
A timeless oasis in the city that offers the best view of the Indian Ocean, accompanied by warm Swahili hospitality. Don’t miss the aperitifs at sunset with live taarab music and a seafood dinner under the stars.
Restaurants & Bars
Imagine your bare feet in the sand, some grilled fish, cocktails, excellent live music, all with the sunset in the background every Friday and Saturday and you have the Livingstone Café in Shangani.
If you’re going on a trip to the market, consider stopping by Lukmaan, a popular Swahili lunch spot that offers fresh exotic juices.
Great for healthy breakfasts, lunches and dinners.
Patrons come for the tapas and wine and stay for the live music and dancing every Friday just above the Shangani Post office.
The Seyyida Hotel
If a scenic sunset is what you seek, try having a drink on the unforgettable rooftop of The Seyyida Hotel, or for something with a Rasta vide, head to the floating bar at Dreamer’s Island.
Head to the top-floor terrace at 6 Degree on Fridays and Saturdays, don’t forget to stop by the Forodhani Garden for an impressive night market offering local foods, sugarcane juices and coconut waters.
The Safari Blue
If you’re looking to snorkel and relax in the natural sandbanks while snacking on an exotic picnic, book a private sailing dhow with The Safari Blue.
Nakupenda Isles Safari & Sunset Dhow Cruise
One can travel along the coastline of Stone Town or out to sandbanks while enjoying live music and cocktails (perfect for a romantic date or for a night out with friends) or take a trip with the young sailing expert Rahim Saggaf.
Islands & Resorts
&Beyond Mnemba Island
A private island that makes us believe in the existence of paradise and is also working tirelessly to reverse extinctions locally. The resort boasts several sea turtle conservation projects as well as a re-introduction and breeding programme for Aders’s duiker and suni antelope, while also offering activities such as diving, snorkelling, kayaking, yoga, fishing and relaxing—with amazing cuisine to match.
A dedicated dream staff will ensure your stay is nothing short of perfect. It is an exquisite piece of heaven owned by a delightful Italian couple, and run by the incomparable Sara and Andrea.
An eco-tree house boasting a starry sky every evening, flickering candles, great company and the opportunity to truly immerse oneself in nature, is the main attraction here.
Fundu Lagoon Resort
This resort in Pemba is where one can end up lost in the beautiful scenery and experience an idyllic marine safari. A world-class diving centre allows visitors to literally dive right into the island’s breathtaking nautical scenery, while numerous other aquatic activities, such as game fishing, kayaking and paddleboarding are also offered on-site.
It was originally designed for Benny Andersson of Abba fame, and sits on 50 acres of tropical gardens dotted with white-domed pavilion guest rooms.
Mafia Island Marine Park And Reserve
It aims to develop responsible tourism in the area and bring real benefits to the community through support for wildlife conservation.
For a unique insight into the lives of the women of Zanzibar, who combine traditional and modern techniques to produce magical organic skincare products by natural means, don’t forget to visit the seaweed plantations at Mwani Beach, founded by the magnificent Klaartje Schade.
Founded by the sailor Nassor S Ali Maharouky on Shamiani Island, Pemba Lodge is eco-friendly, rustic and remote; getting there is half the fun, by sailing through surrounding magical waters—a must for backpackers.
The Aiyana Resort & Spa
With a name that translates to “everblooming”, Aiyana Resort & Spa is a beautiful, extravagant resort located on Makangale Beach, in a sublime tropical garden.
In Michamvi, Upendo has lovely villas and a fashion concept store that offers Sunday brunches as well as live music, which serves as a stylish oasis with delicious food.
Zuri & Maua Wellness, Holistic Spa
A marvellous ecological hot spot with sublime villas overlooking a sprawling white-sand beach.
Photographs and excerpted text reprinted with permission from Zanzibar by Aline Coquelle. The book, published by Assouline, is available from May 2020 in select bookstores and online at assouline.com.