Unguja island
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Unguja Island


Unguja is the biggest island within the Zanzibar archipelago. It houses the seat of the government and boosts of having a live history of Zanzibar vividly seen along the narrow streets of the Stone town. Because of its rich history, its importance as it harbours the capital of Zanzibar, its collection of crystalline sandy beaches, its close proximity to the mainland of Tanzania, and perhaps its easier accessibility by both sea and air, Unguja attracts thousands of visitors every year.

Urban Centres

  • Unguja Mjini (Zanzibar Town) - located almost at the centre of the island, on its western side. It is the capital of Zanzibar and the centre for all the commercial and political activities. Zanzibar Town consists of the core historical part, the Stone Town, and the Ng'ambo area on the other side of the old Darajani Creek, which used to separate the two parts. Both the Stone Town and the Ng'ambo area have their own share of history and contains several attractions worth a visit.
  • Makunduchi - southern most town (population - 6000), the only one in the coral rag zone. It is the administrative centre for the Zanzibar South district and recently, a wave of tourism industry has uplifted its status considerably. Makunduchi is also popular for its annual Mwaka Koga festivals, a legacy of the Persian connection.
  • Mkokotoni - a town of between 2500 and 3000 inhabitants is largely forgotten in the present times, but was once an important harbour for north-bound travellers and cargo. It is an administrative centre for North A district. New centres at Mkwajuni and Gamba have overshadowed Mkokotoni and the harbour does not receive cargo on a regular basis.
  • Dunga - although it was famous for its troubled period as the headquarter of the Mwinyi Mkuu, the local Shirazi ruler, it was not a major centre until recently when it became the administrative centre for the Zanzibar Central district. Currently, about 3000 people live at Dunga and mainly depend on farming for their livelihood. Located at the junction of the roads going to Chwaka on the east and the one heading northwards to Bambi, Dunga is roughly at the centre of Unguja Island.
  • Mahonda - was made popular by the presence of a sugar factory built with Chinese assistance in the 70s. During the old good days, the town never slept due to the activities in sugar plantations and the subsequent processing of sugarcane into sugar, spirits and perfumes. It became an important hub for the northern part of Unguja Island but the factory has now collapsed and the town inhabitants, numbering to about 6000, have resorted to farming and other businesses for their subsitstence.

Surrounding Islets

Unguja Island is surrounded by more than 20 islands, most of them unihabited and located on the western side within the Zanzibar Channel. Arranged alphabetically, Unguja island is surrounded by the following islands and islets:

  • Bawe - located few kilometers west of Zanzibar town, it is the most visible island to visitors. However, its popularity is overshadowed by the neighbouring islands of Changuu (Prison island) and Chapwani, and Kibandiko just north of Zanzibar town.
  • Changuu - also called Prison Island, Changuu has a historical significance due to its use as a cemetery by the British sailors. Currently, it is home to the Giant tortoises whose origin is believed to be in the Sychelles.
  • Chapwani - is the closest island to Zanzibar town.
  • Chumbe - located less than 10 miles south-west of Zanzibar town, Chumbe (area: ca. 20 ha) harbours a rich coral environment and has recently been declared a reserved area. The whole island and its surrounding area has been turned into a coral park managed by a private entrepreneur.

  • Kibandiko - is a small islet located close to Zanzibar town on a stretch of reef north-west of Zanzibar town.
  • Kizingo - is a small islet located between Chumbe island and main island of Unguja.
  • Kwale - together with Miwi and Nianembe, is part of islets located on the Menai Bay, south-west of Unguja island. The bay, together with the adjacent islands has been declared a conservation area.
  • Latham island - also called Fungu Kizimkazi, 6° 54' S and 39° 56' E, is a low-lying island about 56 km south of Unguja island and 64 km south-east of Dar es Salaam. It is known for its seagrass beds, reefs and spectacular views of bird colonies.
  • Makutani - is a small islet that lies between Tumbatu island and Mkokotoni.
  • Miwi - is a small islet that lies between Ras Fumba and Uzi island. To the east of Miwi islet is the Nianembe islet.
  • Mnemba island - is a small island north-east of Unguja island. With the surrounding reefs, sandy beaches and good diving sites Mnemba is a popular holiday island enjoying visits from rich tycoons.
  • Nianembe - is a small islet that lies close to
  • Mwana wa Mwana - is a small islet north of Tumbatu island.
  • Nianembe - is a small islet that lies close to Uzi island.
  • Popo - is a small islet that lies between Tumbatu and Mkokotoni on the main island of Unguja Island. It is located at the doorway to the Mkokotoni harbour.
  • Ukanga - is a small islet near Kisakasaka. It used for farming.
  • Uzi - is one of the two inhabited islands surrounding Unguja island.
  • Pungume - is the first island you see when travelling by by sea from Dar es Salaam.
  • Tumbatu - an island located on the north-western part of Unguja Island known for its historical significance and home to the Watumbatu ethnic group. Tumbatu and Uzi are the only permanently inhabited islands on Unguja.



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