The Palms Swahili Experience

So much to learn

We have a dedicated library filled with an inspirational selection of books on the island, its history and culture. Our range also includes a comprehensive selection of books on flora and fauna, ornithology and marine biology. You’ll also find information on the island’s spice trade, cuisine and folk lore.

Immerse yourself in Zanzibari culture

It’s a feature of Zanzibari life – a gathering in the shade of a palm tree where people can exchange views – it’s known as a Baraza. At The Palms, however, we’ve evolved our own form of Baraza. Gather beneath the palm trees and listen while our local Mwalimu (teacher) offers lessons on the Swahili language or the history of Zanzibar. Alternatively, take a beach class on the traditional art of palm-weaving – and make your own sun hat. Most popular of all are our culinary classes during which our chef will demonstrate how to make some of the most famous Swahili dishes; and tell you all about the islands world-famous spices and their medicinal and culinary uses.

Memory making

Several tours and excursions are on offer at our Guest Relations Desk, such as tours of the island or a tour of Stone Town - or the ever-popular Spice Tour. All of which are highly recommended. But we’ve also put together a portfolio of experiences that are unique to The Zanzibar Collection. All offer authentic interaction with the local people as well as showcasing the real Swahili heritage and culture.

The Zanzibar Experience

  • Meet the locals and experience authentic village life

    Let us take you to the local village of Bwejuu to meet the locals. We’ll pop into the local school, visit a typical Swahili home and take a walk around the market. A uniquely authentic experience, this visit offers a privileged glimpse into the Zanzibari way of life. We’ll take a soda at the local kiosk, perhaps buy some fruit or local crafts. Best of all, the proceeds of this tour go direct to the village fund, which is used for such vital causes as local health centres, enhanced educational tools, micro-funding and more.

  • Create your own Swahili banquet

    Swahili cuisine is a magical fusion of African, Indian, Arabian and Persian cuisine. It majors on fresh-caught seafood, fresh-picked coconuts and just-squeezed limes – all with a magical swirl of spices fresh from the famous Spice Isle’s gardens. If you’d like to learn how to create your own Swahili banquet, then our chef will be delighted to deliver his famous master-class. Ideal for couples and great for families. 

  • Learn to play Bao

    Bao is the oldest board-game in the world and still played extensively throughout East Africa, which is where it is thought to have originated. Bao is based on a mancala board comprising four rows of eight pits each—in Swahili, pits are termed mashimo, meaning ‘holes’. Each player owns a half of the board comprising two adjacent rows and has 32 ‘seeds’ termed kete that are moved through a series of pits. Zanzibar is arguably the bao capital of the world and famous for its bao tournaments. Here the ‘bao bingwa’ (master) is held in high respect. Good news then, that the local bao master is willing to teach our guests how to play this complex and strategic game. Lessons are traditionally held in the shade of a palm tree. Consult our Guest Relations Desk for timings. 

  • Take the Coral Reef Safari

    Staged at low tide, this fascinating guided walk takes you on a voyage of discovery through the rock pools of the reef. Our knowledgeable guides share their knowledge on the many different kinds of coral and on the creatures that live on the shore.

  • Sail the Indian Ocean on a traditional dhow

    Dhows with their triangular lateen sales and elegant timber hulls are one of the most memorable sights on the Swahili coast. The dhow is one of the oldest ships in the world, having originated in India between 600 BC and 600 AD where it was adopted by the Omanis who brought it to East Africa. Driven by the monsoon winds, dhows have plied the Arabian coast for centuries, typically carrying dates and fish to East Africa and mangrove timber to the lands of the Persian Gulf. We have our own dhow, which is used for snorkeling trips, island exploration and magical moonlit dinners. So why not join our experienced Zanzibar seafaring crew as they sail down to the mangrove swamps of Mchamvi and round our local peninsula. 

  • Climb a coconut palm 

    You’ll see the locals doing it all the time – shinning up a palm tree armed with nothing more than a rope. If you’d like to give it a try, one of our gardeners will be delighted to show you how. He can also teach you how to weave palm leaves into a hat or a mat – your very own memory of Zanzibar.

  • Turtle time

    For those who’d like to expand the green-ness of their conservation profile we’d like to recommend a visit to our local turtle rescue programme. It works with local fishermen, who are rewarded for not using traditional nets to fish and encouraged to work with the team to rehabilitate those turtles who have suffered from coastal plastic contamination. The programme also offers turtle nest protection and supervision of baby turtles on their first journey down to the Indian Ocean. Guests can visit the Sea Turtle lagoon, which acts as rehabilitation area for juvenile or wounded turtles. The programme also offers opportunities for guests to work with the ‘Trash to Treasures’ creative recycling/up-cycling project, which is working in close cooperation with the action group, World Unite, and the local community to transform Zanzibar’s plastic refuse into such things as decorative and building materials. For more details please contact our Guest Relations Desk.

  • A visit to the Jozani Forest

    Take a guided walk through the tranquil groves of the world famous Jozani Forest. An exceptionally green realm where trails lead through the forest and boardwalks traverse extensive mangrove swamps, this tiny park gives you an idea of what Zanzibar would have looked like at the dawn of time. Zanzibar’s only national park, the Jozani Chwaka Bay National Park is one of the last remaining tropical forests in the world and is soon to be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Home to the rare and endemic Zanzibar red colobus monkey, it also provides sanctuary for Sykes monkey, Ader’s duiker, the Zanzibar servaline genet, bush babies, 50 species of butterfly and 40 species of birds. The walk takes around an hour and makes a fascinating outing for couples and families alike.