Recently we had the pleasure of exploring this magical piece of heaven namely Jozani Forest on the island of Zanzibar in Tanzania. The park was located 35kms from Stone Town, situated on the west coast and 14km from Paje on the east coast, so it was easily accessible from resorts on both coasts. A half day tour runs daily from all over the island, and you can quickly make it there and back between breakfast and lunch at your resort.
Jozani Chwaka Bay National Park
Most of Zanzibar's forests have evolved regarding agriculture and infrastructure over the years. However, Jozani is a protected National Park and covers 50km2 - which is about 3 % of the island. Each person has to pay a $10 park fee, and while one official enters your details into a book, the other gives you a parking permit, stamped and stapled to your receipt. All very well organised.
When we arrived at our destination, our driver got the last parking space which made us ponder as to whether we were in for a slow shuffle through the forest with hordes of other travellers. As it turned out, we were assigned 'Chief', our guide, and joined a French family and an Italian couple where we made our way through the forest in a group of 9. There were many groups in the woods, but there was plenty of open space for everyone to venture off and explore.
Monkeys of Jozani
Chief gave plenty us of information about the plants and animals of the forest, but there is only one thing people are there to see. He was cut off mid-sentence as someone spotted the first monkey, and from then on out we were in pursuit of the Red Colobus Monkey which was the main attraction of the tour.
As the forests across the island have been demolished, the island's wildlife has gathered here, so it's almost guaranteed that you will spot a few monkeys, and despite there being other groups around us we all managed to capture the photos we were after. This is one of those places where you have to be cautious as to what you see through a lens/screen, as spending some time just watching the monkeys is valuable.
There are some regulations for responsible monkey viewing which we had read in our guidebook, like staying 3-5 metres away, not feeding or touching them, as well as not making noises to attract the monkeys. We didn't see these rules being displayed, at the park and strangely the guide didn't mention any of them. It was clear that not everyone had read them, and many people were breaking these rules without any comment from the guides.
The monkeys seemed willing to get quite near to us at times, then swaying off up into the treetops when they'd had enough. Everyone left happy with the experience - and hopefully, the monkeys did too.
A brief distance away, still within the forest, there is a mangrove swamp. This forms part of your visit, and Chief lead us along the boardwalk explaining what we were observing. It was well set up and is an exciting additional element to your tour.
The entire tour lasted about 45 minutes - once you begin - and it was a great way to spend the morning, exploring part of the Island. It's not every day you get to see monkeys in the wild, and it would be a shame to miss out when it's so simple and convenient. It's also great to know that your entry fee is going to the park to help the continued conservation work.
Zanzibar Butterfly Centre
Close by is Zanzibar Butterfly Centre; the entry is between $3 and $6 and tours last for approximately 30 minutes. This would be an excellent addition or activity for a separate occasion, especially for children.
Daily Life in Zanzibar
As with any other tour on Zanzibar, the journeys to and from are fascinating too. Just glance out the window and witnessing the “Zanzibarians” going about their daily life, gives you an indication of the culture of the country you're visiting. Zanzibar is so much more than beaches and resorts; any tour will grant the opportunity to people watch as you pass through the villages, markets and towns.
By Louise Briggs