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Matemwe vs. Pongwe in Zanzibar

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Mar 7th, 2013, 05:20 AM
  #1
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Matemwe vs. Pongwe in Zanzibar

Hello,

My fiance and I are planning our honeymoon in Tanzania and are trying to decide between two hotels in Zanzibar: the Zanzibar Retreat in Matemwe vs. Pongwe Beach Hotel in Pongwe. We will be staying for 6 nights and coming from a safari. Does anyone have experience with both of these hotels? Or both of these places? Pongwe looks more private/secluded, with a better beach, but more rustic rooms and may feel too isolated? At Zanzibar Retreat, we've been told that only the regular rooms are available, so the downside there is that we aren't directly "on" the beach...rooms look nicer than Pongwe, but seems like we would have less privacy.

Any comments or suggestions on these two hotels or these two locations in general?

Thanks!
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Mar 9th, 2013, 10:04 AM
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I've stayed at Pongwe several times and love it! I'd highly recommend it for you. The rooms are actually quite nice and most are right on the beach. They are duplex-style, with two rooms in each bungalow. There is one bungalow set back a bit from the beach, so be sure to request one right on the beach. You'll get a better sea breeze there. There is no air conditioning, but they do have ceiling and floor-stand fans. The food is excellent. One night, you should do a special dinner on the beach; it's a great experience. You can arrange for tours from Pongwe. Captain Ali at Pongwe has a boat and you can set up a snorkel tour or a day of fishing. You can also go to a nearby village or do an island tour or spice farm tour from there. I'd recommend using a local tour company to set up your transportation and tours, such as Indoma Tours. One of their owners, Masoud Salim, has been my tour guide in Zanzibar several times and the company will do an excellent job for you.

Are you planning on spending every night in Zanzibar at the beach? I'd suggest spending at least one night in Stone Town and tour that World Heritage city (either your first or last night, depending on your departing flights.) I usually stay at Tembo House on the beach. The Serena is more upscale and expensive if you'd prefer that. Their terrace is a great place for sundowners. Monsoon is my favorite restaurant in town, with excellent Swahili fare. You sit on cushions on the floor there and they often have musicians in attendence.
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Mar 9th, 2013, 10:06 AM
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One thing I forgot to mention... There is a bungalow at Pongwe on the far end of the property that is quite private. You might see about reserving that one for your honeymoon.
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Mar 11th, 2013, 10:26 AM
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we just returned from Pongwe. It is a little piece of heaven and we loved it! would absolutely return. In addition to the above, they also have 4 new rooms with private plunge pools that overlook the beach. it's the same setup as others 2 rooms share a wall of a bungalow and there are 2 structures, but they are bigger than regular bungalows. don't know how much they cost.
in addition to no AC, there are couple other drawbacks. there's no wifi or internet except in the reception area (one computer available for free or you can pay $10 for wifi for the whole stay). however, wifi is literally only within the 15ft radius of the reception desk. also, when we stayed they had power outages every night. sometimes generator kicked in quickly, other times it took some time (or maybe it was regular power coming back on).
so, overall it's a bit less polished than a true western-standard resort, but for us it more than made up with beautiful beach, proximity to the beach from the rooms, mellow atmosphere, FANTASTIC food! and reasonable prices.
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Mar 11th, 2013, 02:53 PM
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Thanks for all of the replies! It's been very helpful.

lerasp--can you tell me a little more about the difference b/w the standard "beachfront" bungalows and the "seaview" ones that are a bit bigger and with private pools. Are they all on directly on the beach? Or are the "seaviews" set back? I can't figure out if it would be worth it to get one of those rooms. Sounds to me like being on the beach is preferable to just having a view of it, but the increased price of the "seaview" makes it seem like the must be some advantage.

Thanks again!
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Mar 11th, 2013, 03:23 PM
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Sorry, one more question. I keep hearing people mention that there's no A/C, but it doesn't seem like anyone's complaining about it being too hot. Did you find it uncomfortable without A/C? We'll be there end of August/beginning of Sept, though I guess temps are pretty consistent year-round there.
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Mar 12th, 2013, 09:25 AM
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I didn't see the "seaview" rooms when I was there in August. The beachfront bungalows are directly on the beach and are excellent. The "garden view" bungalows aren't my favorite as they are set back a little bit from the beachfront bungalows and don't get as much of the sea breeze. Still, they are much more than maybe 30 feet back from the beachfront bungalows. The prices between the beachfront and seaview bungalows are about $40 per room (not per person.) Add $30 for "half board", which adds in dinner (breakfast is included in the room.) There is no where else to go for dinner, so you'll need to do this, unless you just want to pay "a la carte". They often offer a special seafood platter for an upcharge. It's worth it, but you only need one platter... quite enough for two people. We did that out on the beach.

Yes, the temps are about the same year-round. I found that the two fans did okay, but you're under mosquito netting and won't necessarily get a direct breeze from them. The sea breeze helps, too.
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Jan 24th, 2014, 05:07 AM
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My vote also goes for Pongwe, loved the place. Did not experience any problems with privacy, but the lodge was not fully booked during our stay. Book a day out with Captain Ali, great fun and a real character!
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Jan 24th, 2014, 08:01 AM
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basto: The thread is nearly two years old - it was topped by an advertiser.
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Jan 29th, 2014, 12:12 AM
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For total exclusivity and seclusion I recommend the following hotels: The Palms Zanzibar, Baraza Resort and Spa, Essque Zalu Zanzibar
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