I had wanted to go to Zanzibar for as long as I can remember. When I finally made my first trip to Tanzania on a three-month volunteer programme in 2014, I hoped to visit Zanzibar after. However, as it was government funded, we had to return straight home upon its completion and as such could not travel around. So I promised myself that at my next available opportunity (translation: funds permitting!) that I would return to explore both Zanzibar and mainland Tanzania. And that I did!
So I ventured to Zanzibar solo, with a loose itinerary, and a whole lot of adventure ahead of me.
Zanzibar is a beautiful archipelago off of the coast of mainland Tanzania. Comprising of two large islands – Unguja and Pemba – and a number of small islands, Zanzibar merged with mainland Tanganyika to form a united republic that was later renamed ‘Tanzania’. However, within this union, Zanzibar remains semi-autonomous with its own government and President.
Whilst Zanzibar refers to a collection of islands, it is the larger island of Unguja that many refer to when they say ‘Zanzibar’. The capital, Zanzibar City, is home to the historic Stone Town – a UNESCO World Heritage site. And nestled in the middle of Unguja, or ‘Zanzibar’ is a place called Pete, home to Jozani-Chwaka Bay National Park and the Zanzibar Butterfly Centre.
Jozani Chwaka Bay National Park (Jozani Forest)
While reading up about trips to the island, I learnt that a visit to Zanzibar is incomplete
without a trip to Jozani Forest, the home of the red colobus monkeys. Therefore I knew I could not come all this way without seeing them for myself. The monkeys, an endangered species, are unique to the island and largest concentration are found scattered across the forest. Part of the forest is divided by a main road. So if you are lucky, you may catch them crossing, but if not, this warning sign is possibly the greatest road sign ever created!
Given the time of day when I arrived at Jozani Forest (late afternoon), my friendly and knowledgeable guide informed me that whilst we may not see the monkeys now as they began to unwind after their lunch, he knew where to go to seek out their hiding places.
First we were met by the Sykes monkeys.
And later, by the Zanzibar Red Colobus Monkeys themselves.
Across the road from Jozani Forest is a Mangrove Forest, where I strolled leisurely across a boardwalk and ventured deep into the forest amongst an abundance of green, and across a creek to be surrounded by mangroves. Described by National Geographic as ‘botanical amphibians’, I did not know anything about these trees until the guide explained how they are complex ecosystems, home to both land and sea animals such as birds, lizards and shellfish and whose strong wood is used in a variety of ways.
Zanzibar Butterfly Centre
On a drive past the Forest, I stumbled across a sign and made a mental note of the seemingly close proximity. One of the many attractions on the beautiful island is the serene ‘Zanzibar Butterfly Centre’. Working with the local community, the centre offers job opportunities through butterfly farming, whilst aiming to preserve the natural environment.
Ever had a butterfly walk on your fingertips? I am honoured to have had the experience and can only describe the feeling as gentle brush strokes, tickling ever so lightly.
During my time at the Centre, the knowledgeable guides talked me through the butterfly (or kipepeo in Swahili) life cycle and showed me the pupae of the different butterfly species. They are so fragile and their wings are crumpled. They take a while to gain enough strength to fly, and until then they walk slowly.
Pictured is the Junonia Oenone which is native to Africa, and as it rested on my finger, I spent ages examining every detail. It was an honour to have this moment with such a beautiful and delicate creature.
Caterpillars go through magnificent transformations in order to become butterflies. They they live anywhere from one week to one month depending on their species and whether they are in captivity or the wild. So when you see a butterfly, take some time, even just a second, to appreciate them.
The Zanzibar Centre notes flexibility that comes from butterfly farming, means it can be fitted around domestic and childcare duties, which in turn enables women to also participate. I had a wonderful time at ZBC, so much so I returned there on my second trip to the Island, and would highly encourage a trip there as part a visit to Unguja.
Why should you go to Pete, Zanzibar through your own eyes?
You should go to Pete because it is the only place in the world that you can see the red colobus monkeys, unique to the island. Also, because the Zanzibar Butterfly Centre is simply magical, and doing great things in the local community.
Getting to Zanzibar:
Most major airlines fly to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. From there, additional transport is needed to to the island. Airlines to Dar Es Salaam include:
South African Airways
Getting to Pete:
Taxi – You should be able to easily arrange a taxi or tour through your hotel or hostel.
Bus – Most accommodations can help you arrange tours, but if you feel like getting off of the beaten track, you can take a local bus (dala dala) from Stone Town (to Paje) or from Paje (to Stown Town).
Walk – Between Jozani Forest, and the Zanzibar Butterfly Center it is about a 20 minute walk in one direction. From entrance of Jozani Forest looking facing towards the main road, take a right and walk down. From the entrance of the the Zanzibar Butterfly Center, take a left and walk down. It is quite simple, but feel free to ask staff for directions.
For more information on the Zanzibar Butterfly Centre, please check out: http://www.zanzibarbutterflies.com/
I would love to hear your thoughts on Pete, Zanzibar! Please leave a comment below.