When I think of Zanzibar, I imagine endless white beaches, tempting spices and delicious seafood. Before my visit I didn´t think of animals of Zanzibar. But when it comes to natural environment of Zanzibar, you can expect much more than butterflies and rich marine flora and fauna. Even endangered species can be observed in Zanzibar. And giant turtles. I mean really giant.
Giant tortoises don´t live on Zanzibar but small island just a few kilometres away from main island. Prison Island is conservation centre for Aldabra giant tortoises. Four gentle giants were brought to Prison island in 1919 as a gift from a British governor of Seychelles. They loved each other so much that in 1955 there was family of 200. However people stole them for gifts, food or whatsoever and Aldabra tortoises are protected right now. You can walk around this tiny island (its 800 meters long and 230 meters wide) feed the giants and enjoy the tropic paradise. Do not try to sit on them by any chance.
While wandering around we found sea turtles sanctuary. At the time of our visit (2009) sanctuary was just a pool with a few sea turtles swimming around. Guides provided some food for us so we could feed them. However as far as I can read locals upgraded sanctuary and a lot of project is going on and you can even swim with turtles in natural pool or join volunteering programme. The entrance fee is really low (few dollars as I can remember) and you can spent 30 minutes to one hour there.
Red monkeys of Zanzibar
Definitely one of the most interesting residents of Zanzibar are Zanzibar red colobus, endemic spices of Unguja island (the main island of Zanzibar archipelago).Unfortunately these little fellows are highly endangered due to deforestation and hunting for meat and pets. Some locals believe monkeys bring bad luck to farmers. However, various projects were launched to protect the colobus. One of them is touristic aspect and one of the easiest way to increase awareness of endangered colobus is simply to promote this beautiful creatures. So when you arrive in Zanzibar don´t forget about these tricolor buddies and visit Jozani forest.
Swimming with dolphins
This is not the best way to spent your day in Zanzibar. There are a lot of dolphins around islands and dolphin tours available but you won`t be SWIMMING with them. When our guide spotted the dolphins we jumped into the sea and saw them from the distance because they were to fast and probably upset. According to scientist swimming with dolphins is traumatic experience to them, especially when there is tons of boats with hoards of tourists chasing waiting for dolphin to swim by. This was definitely wrong decision while in Zanzibar. However, another sea mammal decided to show up that day.
While sitting on the boat I spotted water spraying into the air. I couldn´t believe my eyes. It was a WHALE, actually TWO. Momma whale and her baby. While our guide was trying to convince us this is just a whale shark, I didn´t buy it. My friends wanted to jump into the water again but I managed to stop them. We were on small wooden boat afterall, and even this was scary enough! But it was one of the best experience of my life. As far as I know there are no organised whale watching tours in Zanzibar but I did some research and around september humpback whales migrate past Zanzibar. Does anybody recognize the species of the whale from my photo?
Many others animals can be observed in Zanzibar such as birds, butterflies, rare coconut crabs and more. Zanzibar leopard is probably extinct subspecies of leopard, mostly because ridiculous extermination campaign among locals that run for decades. Occasionally some reports of spotting Zanzibar leopard pop up, but another beauty is most probably extinct.
Have you been to Zanzibar? Have you spotted any interesting animals? Do you like to watch animals while on travelling?