If your idea of an African holiday must necessarily also include a hinterland rich in forests and fauna, you could think of this itinerary on the largest island of the Zanzibar archipelago. A sort of “triangle of wonders” that starts from the east coast, touches the west coast to return east, crossing the heart of the island of Unguja. This triangular route surrounds the beautiful Chwaka Bay, an oasis of calm between shores beaten by the powerful tides of the Indian Ocean. And the three localities of reference are certainly worth the beauty of the visit.
Going down the east coast of Unguja – Zanzibar – there is no shortage of dream locations that capture the hearts of tourists. Pongwe beach is one of them. It is not only a beach of fine white sand embellished with palm trees, fishing villages and tourist resorts but also an islet that emerges in front of it. The islet of Pongwe is made up of emerged corals and can also be reached on foot, when low tide permits. If the water is high, however, the fishermen will take you aboard typical handcrafted boats. The entire locality is equipped for tourist reception, with restaurants and hotels located both on the coast and on the coral islet.
From the hinterland to Unguja Ukuu
From Pongwe you could very well go directly to Chwaka Bay, but in this case allow yourself a detour to the interior of the island of Unguja. The route covers just 36 km, for a journey of about 40 minutes. The landscape around you will be filled with palm forests, plantations and particular architectures such as the mosques of Mafunzo and Chuchumile. You will also be able to admire some typical agricultural farms of the interior Zanzibar. At the end of the trip you will find yourself on another sea, on the west coast. And you can visit Unguja Ukuu village. What now appears to be just a small archaeological site was once the first capital of Zanzibar. Today it is a village of simple people, with few services and therefore few tourists. But perhaps it is fascinating precisely for that … because it is part of an “authentically African” itinerary. The beach is beautiful and wild. The most “popular” attraction is the rich and colorful local fish market.
Returning east, on a route of about 40 km, you will cut again the hinterland passing through the town of Jozani. You will then cross the Jozani-Chwaka Bay National Park and if you stop to visit it you will also be able to spot some nice little monkeys! The beach that awaits you at the end of the trip is the splendid Pingwe sand line. This is the outer part of the Michamvi peninsula, the one most affected by the powerful tides. Pingwe beach has the same characteristics as many other beaches in Zanzibar: fine and very white beach, palm trees, huts and resorts made in typical local materials, excellent hospitality. But what makes it special is a restaurant called “The Rock”. Located on an isolated rock off the coast, it can only be reached on foot when the low tide dries up the shoreline. When the sea rises, the rock is surrounded and becomes an island. In that case you need a boat to reach the original venue.
How to get there and where to stay
From Stone Town and the international airport, both Pongwe and Pingwe can be easily reached, taking just over 60 minutes by taxi. The village of Unguja Ukuu is much closer, 32 km from the capital, for a 50-minute journey.
For accommodations, we point out for you: Pongwe Bay Resort, Pongwe Beach Hotel, The Island Lodge also in Pongwe; for Unguja Ukuu the ideal is Menai Bay Beach Resort, or Wild Zanzibar, or Fumba Beach Lodge. Book instead at Hekaya Hotel, Mnana, Upendo Beach Resort, Baladin Hotel, Qambani Luxury Hotel if you are from the parts of Pingwe and the Michamvi peninsula.