Tanzania is renowned for its wildlife but the coast and islands of Tanzania could well stand alone as an African travel destination.
The islands of Tanzania consist mainly of the Zanzibar and Mafia Archipelago. Zanzibar consists of the main island of Unguja, or Zanzibar Island, and Pemba Island to the north with a few smaller islands in between. Zanzibar, by far the most popular island of Tanzania, is a bustling hive of vendors, markets and restaurants - with some pleasant beaches thrown in for good measure.
Historically the islands of Zanzibar and Pemba were used for the cultivation of spices, in particular cloves, and the scent of the spices hovers in the air. In recent years there has been a dropoff in the clove market with the result that other spices have been added to the scent in the air.
Spices, sultans and slavery, elephants gamboling in the surf, whale sharks, coelacanths and decaying buildings dating back to the days of the slave trade - this is the coast of Tanzania. Add to this all diving, snorkeling and game fishing, and you have a holiday to savour.
Zanzibar echoes to a rich and dramatic history of slavery and colonization but today it is the beaches that draw most visitors. The beaches of the main island have long since been considered the best that Tanzania has to offer, with many resort-like hotels dotting the coastline and although there is a great selection on offer on the Zanzibar Island the beaches of Pemba are drawing the connoisseurs today.
My idea of an island holiday is of palm-fringed beaches fanned by a balmy breeze and Pemba Island is where I first found this. Pemba changed my mind about beach holidays for here was the whole tropical island postcard scene and it was here that I decided that I was going to stop trying to dislike the experience.
Pemba is far less crowded than the main island and the feeling of seclusion is felt in all the properties on the island. The scent of spices still hovers in the air but that is about the only similarity to Zanzibar Island.
South of Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar Island is a little known archipelago called Mafia. The name has nothing to do with scoundrels and undercover deals. It is derived from the Arabic word for 'collection of islands'.
Mafia is home to the Mafia Island Marine Reserve which protects some of the richest marine habitats in Africa. These provide arguably the best diving on the Indian Ocean coastline and with the remoteness of the Mafia Archipelago there are not too many people who know of this treasure.
Another misconception about the Tanzania coast is that the best beaches are on the islands. The mainland boasts its fair share of dramatic attractions. Heading north from Dar es Salaam we find Bagamoyo, the place where the slaves captured inland were loaded onto trading ships and carted off to the markets of Zanzibar. The town today is a far cry from the days of slavery but nonetheless interesting to visit with monuments to the old days in the form of crumbling buildings.
Not far from Bagamoyo is Saadani National Park where you can have a big game experience whilst enjoying the surf and sand. It is here that the opportunity arises to see elephants splashing in the surf.
There are many more attractions along the Tanzania coast - ancient ruins, steaming river deltas and perfect beaches - and a great deal to select from. If it is luxury resorts or secret hideaways you are after then look no further than the Tanzania coast.