What To Expect During Your Visit To Jozani Forest
If you are looking for an incredible wildlife experience in Zanzibar, you should plan a visit to the Jozani Forest. We spent a morning here with a professional guide exploring this incredible location and seeing the many types of trees, flora, fauna, and animals that reside here.
Our experience was great, so we are sharing the details in this guide for you to make the most of your time in this beautiful area.
Highlights of Jozani Forest in Zanzibar
Background About Jozani Forest
The official name of this forest is the Jozani-Chwaka Bay National Park and Biosphere Reserve. The forest was originally established as a nature reserve in the 1960s and then designated as a National Park in 2005 with an original size of 5000 hectares.
According to our guide, over the years, it has been expanded and now encompasses 21,274 hectares and 12 villages. In 2016 it was designated an UNESCO Biosphere.
How To Get To Jozani Forest In Zanzibar
The Jozani Forest is located in the southeastern part of the island. It is easily accessible by car from just about everywhere. From the resort areas on the eastern coast such as Dongwe or Jambiani it is approximately 30 minutes driving. From Stone Town it will take just under an hour.
There is parking onsite at the park entrance, but it is best to leave the driving to a tour guide as the roads around this area are bumpy and very congested with other cars, motorbikes, carts and pedestrians.
✅ If you are looking for a tour, check out this well-rated tour that is the same as what we did. It takes away the hassle of transportation and everything is taken care of for you.
What You Can Expect To See In the Jozani Forest in Zanzibar
The property is made up of several different areas – there is a swamp forest, a coastal area, a salt marsh, and a mangrove. Each area has its own individual characteristics and types of plants and wildlife living within it.
From an animal perspective the big draw are the monkeys that reside here but there are also duiker (small antelope), bush babies, wild pigs, reptiles and many birds.
The path of our visit was determined by the impending weather. Our guide explained that the monkeys tend to hide during the rain, so we took off on a quick walk through the brush to try to locate them prior to the rain starting.
Along the way, the young man who was leading us provided an incredible amount of knowledge about the types of trees and plant material that we were seeing within the forest. So many of the plants are used for food, medicine and building materials.
It is fascinating to think about the resources the tribal people have available, and you wonder how exactly they figured out that those specific plants would help certain ailments. We can only assume it was through trial and error but there seemed to be the equivalent to a pharmacy located within this natural area!
We wandered through the bush and initially didn’t have any luck locating the elusive Red Colobus monkeys since they sensed the rain was coming and took shelter. As we came out of the forested area, the rain came down significantly and required us to take cover until it slowed.
After a short period and with the rains mostly over, the guide proceeded to lead us through a forest with massive red mahogany trees and numerous types of ferns. These trees grow to 30 metres and the average ones in the forest are already over 100 years old.
They are absolutely majestic to see and thankfully we learned that since they are in the National Park they are protected.
We were shown the fruit that the mahogany trees drop, that the monkeys eat and since they are very sloppy eaters, they spread the seeds everywhere resulting in new growth within the forest.
Mahogany is a very expensive wood, so we were very pleased to walk through and enjoy this beautiful forest that has been preserved and allowed to flourish in its natural state.
Looking for Red Colobus Monkeys
After exploring the main section of the forest, our guide heard from his colleague that a troop of Red Colobus monkeys had come out from their hiding places and were feasting in the trees. We quickly walked to the area and were delighted to see many sitting on the branches, cleaning each other, eating the leaves, and generally playing.
The Red Colobus monkeys are only found here on Zanzibar Island. At last count, there are only 5862 monkeys left on the island and there are known to be 2907 located in Jozani forest. They are unfortunately endangered due to their habitat decreasing, hunting, and road kills.
The monkeys are highly social, living in groups of 15-60, and you could tell they didn’t have any issue with us walking through their home and peering at them.
In fact, in some cases, they seemed to want to come close and pose for us brazenly walking down the tree branches and continuing to frolic or indulge in their breakfast.
The Red Colobus monkeys are vegetarian and cannot digest sugar, so they tend to eat young fruit. They spend most of their time in the trees, so you spend your whole time looking up at them sitting, jumping, and swinging from branch to branch.
There will be 3-4 males per group, the gestation period for pregnancy is 6 months and they live between 20-30 years.
For us, it was magical to be able to spend time with them up close and personal. We stood quietly observing them in their natural habitat. This was a very impressive experience, and we likely could have stayed there all day just watching and taking them in. But it was time to move on and continue exploring the rest of the forest.
Observing Blue Sykes’ Monkeys
Just a short distance away we came across the Blue Sykes’ monkeys. Our guide advised us that the two monkeys survive quite well together and often you can even see the infants playing together.
The Blue Sykes’ monkeys are not endemic to this area, but it is estimated that there are more than 3000 in the Jozani Forest. They are also not territorial and move around quite a bit.
Different from the Red Colobus monkey’s vegetarian habits, they are omnivores and eat leaves, fruits, flowers, and insects. As a result, they are in the trees only 80% of the time and can also be found on the ground looking for food.
The troops are typically 15-50 but will only include one male.
When we came across them, they were in the trees and weren’t quite as interested in putting on a show. But we did have some good opportunities to watch them while they had their breakfast and lazed around in the trees. Again, this was a close-up experience that was pretty special.
Learning About Mangroves
After our incredible monkey experiences, we jumped in our van and were taken to a different section of the park. This is a very impressive section that has a natural eco system running for 4 kms following the coast.
Boardwalks have been constructed to allow visitors to walk on a one direction path through the forest and observe the interesting scenery in this area.
Inside this mangrove forest are three different types of mangrove trees. Our guide stopped to show us a spot where all three types were growing next to each other. They are differentiated by the root systems, but all grow well together.
We found it fascinating that the water is pure salt water and somehow the trees have all adapted to grow within this environment. This entire area is actually very special and acts as a carbon sink meaning that it absorbs more carbon than it creates. This helps to keep carbon dioxide levels down in the atmosphere.
While we were there the tide was halfway in, so we saw the whole area covered in water, but our guide advised that at low tide, there is no water in the mangrove forest. It must look very different during that time.
Apparently, this section of the park also has quite a few reptiles including lizards, frogs, and some large snakes. The guide told us just a few days before our visit he had seen a cobra – thankfully it wasn’t there when we were!
This entire area is a breeding ground for numerous types of fish and birds. We found out in the park there are more than 160 bird species so this is a real birder’s paradise.
After our walk through the mangrove, it was the end of our tour. In total, we were there for about 2 hours and had seen quite a lot during our walk around the different forested areas. It was a great experience.
On the way back to our van we made a quick stop to see some local men and women who were singing and dancing. At their insistence, Denis joined in on one of the musical instruments. It was good fun!
Tips For Visiting Jozani Forest in Zanzibar
✅ The terrain of the forest was often very uneven and if it rains, quite slippery. It is important that you wear shoes that are good for walking. We wore our Tevas and were happy that we did as our running shoes would have gotten very muddy.
✅ For anyone contemplating this tour, make sure you have good balance and can walk on uneven surfaces without issue. Our guide moved quickly while looking for the monkey troops and navigating the mud and bumpy ground was tricky at times.
✅ This tour is conducted in a fully forested area. Be sure to wear mosquito repellent as they are prevalent.
✅ Apparently, it can rain here often so make sure you have either a raincoat or a coat with a hood. And for photographers, be sure to have a cover for your camera. We walked through a downpour, so I had to hide my camera in my jacket.
Is Jozani Forest Worth Visiting?
While this may not initially be on the top of your list when visiting Zanzibar, we thought the park was quite interesting. The forested areas were fascinating with the numerous flora and fauna, the mangrove gave insight to a living, breathing eco system and the tour provided an incredibly intimate experience with the two types of monkeys living here. If you are interested in an up-close encounter with nature and the rare animals found in this area, then this should be on your list to do.
Can You Go To Jozani Forest Without a Guide?
You are not able to enter the Jozani forest without a guide. But not to worry, the entrance ticket includes your own personal guide. They are very knowledgeable and have expert insight on the forest and will do their best to give you a memorable experience.
How Much Does Jozani Forest Cost?
The average tour for a visitor is $12.00 USD. Below you can see the entrance fee schedule at the time of our visit at the end of 2023.
Our guide told us that there are also longer hikes, night tours and specific bird watching tours. Depending on your interests you have a variety of options available.
Best Time to Visit Jozani Forest in Zanzibar
Zanzibar has a long rainy season from March to May or sometimes June so this may be a time to avoid. There is also another short rainy season in November/December. Depending on your tolerance of wet weather you can visit during this period as the rains tend not to last all day.
We were there in late October and while it did rain, it was heavy but over relatively quickly. If you are concerned about it being slippery and want to increase your chances of seeing the monkeys, then plan your visit in the drier seasons.
Final Word…What Do We Think About Jozani Forest in Zanzibar?
Our experience overall was excellent. The forest alone and all the different types of trees and plants offered a wonderful walk. But the interaction with the wildlife was fantastic.
If you have time while visiting Zanzibar it is a good excursion to include while there. We planned the trip on the way back to the airport on our departure day and that worked well for us.
While it is nice to enjoy the beach scene and relax on Zanzibar in places like Nakupenda or take in the culture in Stone Town and Prison Island, this was an educational and exciting experience within a beautiful, preserved, natural area that you should definitely consider while on the island.