Cycling tours are not only great for toning up the body; they are also eco-friendly and provide a unique perspective on the country you’re travelling around. Zanzibar, with its warm tropical climate, lush vegetation and large tracts of open space, is the perfect location to get on a bike and start cycling. Here are some of the best routes on the island, taking cyclists through bountiful natural beauty, intriguing history and fascinating sites.
Nungwi and the northern tip of the island
This route meanders towards the seaside village of Nungwi with its wide, palm-lined beaches. Here, one of the main tourist attractions is the boat yard where fishermen tinker on their boats during the day and set off into the ocean come sunset. Further on, there are rural villages and Portuguese ruins dating back to the 16th century waiting to be explored, and there is a fabulous tidal pool where cyclists can stop for a refreshing dip. You can visit local blacksmiths who fashion iron nails by hand for fishing boats, and watch basket weavers plying their trade. Finally, adventure through recently discovered stunning coral caves filled with stalagmite and stalactite crystal rocks.
Red Earth Village tour
Absorb true Zanzibar culture and traditions on the Red Earth Village tour. The route leads to a rural village built on deep-red earth, where visitors can learn about cultural traditions and tribal lifestyles that very few others get to observe. After cycling around the village, you can meet the local community and hear them explain how their indigenous houses are made using the red clay that surrounds them.
Watch the villagers making fish traps using traditional methods and natural materials, and experience the harsh realities of having to pull water from a well that is 58 metres (190 feet) deep. You’ll then continue on the road to an enormous baobab tree where you can enjoy panoramic views over the Indian Ocean. You can now take a breather before cycling back to the departure point.
Matemwe and the northeast region
Matemwe is a quiet beach on the northeastern coast of Zanzibar where long, flat stretches of sand give cyclists the opportunity to pedal alongside gently lapping waves. This beautiful tropical beach is also home to the Kiwengwa caves, part of the ancient history of Zanzibar. Locals would visit the caves to worship their ancestors and bring gifts to the amazing stalagmite and stalactite crystal formations, formed when water dissolved calcium carbonate from coral stones.These caves have only recently been discovered.
After exploring the caves, the route continues to a green rice plantation where visitors can learn more about the art of growing and harvesting rice. You’ll finish up at a local fruit and vegetable market for a final taste of traditional village life.
Cycle to the Blue Lagoon
Begin at Paje on the southeast coast of the island and cycle along around 10 kilometres (six miles) of smooth white sand to the Blue Lagoon. Stop for a short boat ride and a spot of snorkelling before continuing along the beach for another five kilometres (three miles) towards Upendo. After a quick break for refreshments, round it off with an off-road cycle through the traditional village of Bwejuu.
Off-road biking to a hidden beach
Not for the leisure cyclist or those without a decent level of physical fitness, this off-road biking route blends outdoor adventure with stunning natural views. It takes cyclists to some magnificent areas that cannot be explored by car, where the panoramic views are guaranteed to take your breath away.
You’ll traverse dirt tracks and pedal through the fabulous African wilderness before breaking to take in the gorgeous vistas of Tumbatu Island off the northwest coast of Zanzibar, where white sands contrast sharply against a turquoise blue ocean. Continue through colourful fruit and vegetable farmlands before finally reaching a hidden beach that not many tourists get to see.
Taking on the Jozani Forest
This route is another that is not recommended for novices or those without any experience in long-distance cycling. It kicks off in Paje, from where you will ride towards the rural village of Bwejuu, where things start to get interesting as off-road conditions come into play. Continue for some distance through amazing and unspoiled forest, before reaching the entrance to the Jozani National Park. Here, bikers alight for a fabulous walking tour through the park, which is filled with indigenous colobus monkeys, before hopping on their bicycles once again for a leisurely meander back to Paje.
The nitty gritty
All the cycle tours mentioned above are half-day tours that take between three and five hours to complete. Prices vary for different tours and all include cold bottled water, fresh fruit snacks and any entrance fees that may be applicable, as well as all equipment.
Bike rentals are available if you’d like to explore the island by yourself instead, and longer guided tours that span a few days can also be arranged.
Paje Bike Tours and Rentals, next to Paje by Night, Paje Beach, +255 713478576
Zanzibar Cycling Adventures, Nungwi, +255 778677662