ZANZIBAR The vi­brant Tan­za­nian spice isle is the per­fect com­ple­ment to an African sa­fari

Even the word ‘Zanzibar’ sounds ex­otic, ro­man­tic and mys­te­ri­ous. The small is­land off the coast of Tan­za­nia has fra­grant spice plan­ta­tions, beau­ti­ful beaches and a very colour­ful his­tory, as Carolyn Lock­hart dis­cov­ers.

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An av­enue of huge mango trees, planted by a beau­ti­ful sul­tan’s daugh­ter long ago, forms a canopy above the busy road. Leg­end has it that each tree marks the grave of a mur­dered lover, be­headed when the princess grew tired of them.

Rick­ety mar­ket ta­bles are set up along the road­side as women and girls in­spect the mea­gre pro­duce. Printed cot­ton of glo­ri­ously clash­ing colours cover their heads and fall over long black robes. Par­rot green, pome­gran­ate red and deep pur­ple frame dark faces. A woman wear­ing a saf­fron tur­ban sells neatly tied piles of sticks.

Thanks to Abercrombie & Kent, we are on our way in a com­fort­able car from the hot, chaotic Zanzibar In­ter­na­tional Air­port to the cool lux­ury of The Res­i­dence Zanzibar. This mod­ern re­sort on the south­west coast prom­ises “a dream fit for a sul­tan” set on 32 hectares trimmed with white sand and co­conut palms.

Although it’s a fas­ci­nat­ing des­ti­na­tion in it­self, Zanzibar is an ideal place to re­lax ei­ther be­fore or after an African sa­fari; the game parks and camps of main­land Tan­za­nia are a short flight away.

The Res­i­dence Zanzibar is about an hour’s drive from the air­port and the his­toric cap­i­tal of Stone Town. The road­side mar­ket soon gives way to veg­e­ta­tion and plan­ta­tions, but the road is bumpy and we’re glad to reach the airy por­ti­cos of The Res­i­dence where a warm wel­come awaits us.

Our spa­cious villa is one of 66 strung along the white-sand beach. We have a pri­vate pool set in our own lit­tle gar­den and it’s just steps to the beach. Pale blue bi­cy­cles are propped near our door, but there is also an ef­fi­cient golf buggy ser­vice: “Just call and he will come.”

At the main re­sort area you can sip a cool drink by the pool, gaz­ing at the beach and In­dian Ocean be­yond. There’s a splen­did spa and a list of wa­ter sports and lo­cal ex­cur­sions to choose from, but many guests are con­tent to just sit on the beach un­der a thatched um­brella as waiters pass with chilled wa­ter­melon and cool drinks.

In the evenings hun­dreds of blue­painted lanterns are lit and lit­tle ta­bles are set up on the white sands for ro­man­tic din­ners.

Re­minders of the past

World Her­itage-listed Stone Town is the his­toric heart of Zanzibar. Its fas­ci­nat­ing, of­ten cruel and vi­o­lent his­tory goes back thou­sands of years. Zanzibar was

a trade cen­tre for slaves, ivory and spices, at­tract­ing Arab, In­dian, African, Por­tuguese and Eng­lish mer­chants, who built palaces and houses.

There are still grim re­minders of the ruth­less trade that lasted into the 20th cen­tury, although much of the old slave mar­ket has been cov­ered by an Angli­can cathe­dral and memo­rial mu­seum.

We wan­der the labyrinthine streets and laneways too nar­row for cars, but full of vivid life. Stalls sell bead­work, cheap harem trousers and the mar­vel­lous Swahili cot­ton cloth called kanga with its ri­otous pat­terns. The lengths are big enough for a table­cloth and cost about US$10 after a spot of bar­gain­ing.

We dis­cover a won­der­ful shop owned by lo­cal de­signer Doreen Mashika, who trained in Europe. She stocks a small range of cou­ture cloth­ing and the most fab­u­lous hand­bags made of lo­cal fab­rics.

Stone Town has some so­phis­ti­cated places to stay, such as Park Hy­att Zanzibar and the el­e­gant Zanzibar Ser­ena Ho­tel, which is renowned for its seafood buf­fet served on the wa­ter­front ter­race.

For a truly ro­man­tic ex­pe­ri­ence, book ahead for a mag­i­cal din­ner at Emer­son Spice’s Rooftop Tea House Res­tau­rant.

As the sun goes down over the glit­ter­ing har­bour, the Muezzin calls the faith­ful to prayer. We sip our drinks sit­ting on huge kanga-cov­ered floor cush­ions. As we feast on spice-salted squid, pump­kin with saf­fron tagine and slow-cooked goat with plum and hibis­cus, we are en­ter­tained by haunt­ing mu­sic played on an­tique in­stru­ments.

Travel file In­for­ma­tion aber­crom­biekent.com.au Ac­com­mo­da­tion

cenizaro.com/theres­i­dence zanzibar.park.hy­att.com ser­e­na­ho­tels.com

Shop­ping doreen­mashika.com Din­ing emer­son­spice.com

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01 The Res­i­dence Zanzibar is friendly and wel­com­ing 02 Ser­ena Ho­tel re­lax­ation 03 Sail­ing with the Park Hy­att 04 The white sands of The Res­i­dence Zanzibar 05 The bath­room of The Res­i­dence’s Pres­i­den­tial Villa 06 Lob­ster at The Res­i­dence 07 But­ler...

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