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Jozani forest is an official reserve in the heart of Unguja island, on the Zanzibar archipelago that is famous for its indigenous red colobus monkeys, not found anywhere else in the world. These monkeys were endangered for some time, but fortunately conservation and education efforts have halted their decline and now numbers are strengthening again.
The groups that inhabit the forest close to the road are used to regular visits from humans and easy to see (and even curious and sociable), so visiting the forest is usually a satisfying experience - but use some caution. Don't stand directly under a monkey as they have been known to pee on people's heads! And on a more serious note, don't get too close to them or visit when you have a bad cold or flu, as they don't have immunity to protect them from some human viruses.
As well as red colobus monkeys you can also spot Sykes' monkeys, elephant shrews and other creatures.
When you visit the forest, you can also walk on a boardwalk path around the tidal mangrove swamp. These trees may be less cute than the monkeys but of critical importance to the island's health as they help to protect Zanzibar from coastal erosion, purify its waters and provide nutrition for the outlying coral reefs, which in turn pay host to much of the archipelago's marine life.
Sadly, mangrove poles make an excellent building material also, and were harvested for a long time before awareness of the importance of Zanzibar's mangrove defences grew. But now these special trees are protected again and alternative timbers are being used in building projects.
The mangrove walk gives a great sense of the importance of these strange trees, whose alien-like roots squat like broken umbrellas in dark squelchy mud that is home to over 2,000 types of crustacean. In short, it is crab heaven. Big crabs, little crabs, tiny crabs with freakishly giant claws, prawns - all sorts of life is here.
Visitors can also go on a forest walk to see the main part of the forest. This can be tailored to taste and ability, so a short circuit is an option, but a longer walk can be made that gives more of a chance for learning about the plants of the forest and their medicinal uses. (Because of human interference in the past, Jozani is not entirely an 'authentic' indigenous forest. It is an interesting and informative place to explore, but if you do want to see authentic coral rag forest of the type that would have covered Zanzibar for thousands of years, the Kiwengwa-Pongwe forest reserve on the north-east of the island is a better bet.)
When the visitors go home and night reclaims the park, so too do many of its shyer or nocturnal inhabitants, such as wild pigs, civets and antelopes like the rare Ader's duiker.
Jozani forest is easily accessible, as it is on the main road from Zanzibar Town to the south-east coast. Take a dala-dala marked for Michamvi, Bwejuu or Jambiani and just get off at the forest entrance, or if you are going to be staying on the south-east coast, it's an easy visit on the way or on the way back by taxi. Tickets are $10 for non-residents and TSH5,000 for residents.