Alternatively, leave the better-known island of Unguja behind and set sail for Pemba - smaller than its neighbour, lusher and hillier. Scarcely any tourists come here, and the beaches are unspoiled and otherworldly. At night the wind that whispers through the clove plantations which cover most of Pemba might bring the sound of distant drumming. But don't be tempted set off toward the noise - in the 1930s Pemba was famous the world over for the power of its sorcerers and magicians, with devotees of the black arts coming from as far away as Haiti to be initiated into the rites of Pemban witchdoctors. By all accounts Pemba is still a centre of witchcraft today, but visitors will be unlikely to see any hint of the occult. Instead you can float across spectacular coral reefs, laze on those untouched beaches and explore the winding hills and dense vegetation of the interior.
The tiny number of visitors to Pemba every year means that the island has little in the way of tourist infrastructure - which for alternative travellers is the main attraction. Small guesthouses are dotted around the island, and a couple of upmarket diving hotels have recently opened.
Visitors may be surprised to find that bullfighting is a popular local sport, supposedly imported by Portuguese invaders in the 17th century. The Pemban version, however, simply involves testing the skill of the bull in a series of bold moves by the matador, after which the bull is loaded with flowers and praise, and paraded around the village.
Misali Island, to the west of Pemba, is reputed to have been used as a hideout by the notorious pirate Captain Kidd, who is even said to have buried treasure here. Today a conservation program has been established, and visitors can come for the day, snorkel off the beach and walk in the forest. Locals believe the island is holy, having been used by the prophet Hidara as a prayer mat. Visitors to the island are asked to respect local customs and beliefs.
The seafront fish market at Forodhani Gardens, in the middle of Stone Town, is THE place to come for fresh, inexpensive seafood. Skewers of kingfish, prawns and tuna are grilled on makeshift barbecues and served up with piles of salad, chips or naan bread. The market opens as soon as the first catch of the day is in, just after dark. If you're a veggie, try Zanzibar Pizza - more like an omelette - and wash it all down with freshly pressed sugar cane juice. A steaming plate of fish or lobster will only cost around $3.
Outside Stone Town, no particularly well-known restaurants exist, but the food all across both islands is consistently good and extremely well-priced, with the staples being pilau rice, fish and seafood. Sauces are usually spicy curries, with coconut milk added for flavour. Fruit abounds on Zanzibar, and banana, pineapple, coconut, jackfruit, mango or papaya follow any meal. Tea and coffee are often flavoured with lemongrass or cinnamon.
Zanzibar, and especially Stone Town, is a shopper's paradise. The narrow winding streets are lined with stores selling local crafts, antiques, jewellery, clothes and spices.
The Zanzibar Gallery, on Kenyatta Road, Shangani, sells a huge range of printed fabrics and clothes plus silver jewellery and locally made massage oils and perfumes, as well as a range of handmade bubble baths in glass bottles. The Gallery is also a publishing company, and sells a range of books on local history, plus coffee table and photographic books, guidebooks, novels, address books, calendars and postcards featuring photographs by the shop's owner, well-known photographer Javed Jafferji. The Gallery Zanzibar also sells batiks, paintings and antiques from all over Africa alongside printed t-shirts and other clothes. There is a branch of the Zanzibar Gallery on Gizenga Street, and either shop can be reached by telephoning 024 2232244.