New Zanzibar Lodges – and maps

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Feb 6th, 2007, 08:48 PM
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New Zanzibar Lodges – and maps

In January we spent 10 days on Zanzibar visiting all corners (except the very south west).

CAR RENTAL:

We rented a 4WD Suzuki car from a friend ($45 per day unlimited km + fuel) and really enjoyed the freedom of our own wheels! It is important to buy a daily permit if you don’t have an international driver’s license. I used my VA license to get the permit – it took only 20 minutes.

We could avoid the resort buffet tables and visit the many local restaurants such as Cabs near Kizimkazi, and Door near Dongwe, as well as interesting places such as Rocky Restaurant.

The roads were not bad at all. They are working on the roads in the north and south east and it was a breeze to get from one area to another. The worse roads by far were in Kendwa when trying to reach the places at the beach!

The police checkpoints were no problems (the police were very friendly actually) and we never felt unsafe or nervous. The hardest part was driving in Stone Town but only because it is easy to get lost. The streets are very narrow and I was afraid of running over kids or knocking someone’s belongings off a wall – or scrape the car!

The locals don’t see many foreigners driving cars and they treated us with the utmost respect – none of the usual touting. I guess they thought we were too seasoned and they just ignored us!

The police pulled us over once because I was not wearing my seat belt (a big no-no). The usual East Africa conversation followed – big offence, have to go to court in the morning, have to drive to the police station right away to get my summons, may limit my chances to get a drivers permit in the future, and so on.

Well, we asked the official about his family and his children and suggested discreetly to make a $20 cash donation to his son’s school. 2 minutes later we were on our way with nor ticket nor summons!

ITALIANS:

I love Italy, I love Italians. But boy, were there many Italian visitors on the island! Families were staying for 10 days and longer at resorts such as Karafuu and the dozen or so other Italian resorts. How much Italian food can one eat in 10 days? The resorts tend to cater to the Italians and after a few days we were driving long distances just to find local cuisine!

At Chwaka Bay Resort we innocently showed up for lunch only to be shown the door – it is now an Italian Private Club! Even the Kempinski has settled on the Italian market it seems. The main restaurant had long pasta lines but not much else to write home about.

After a few days of pastas and far below par seafood at the big resorts, we went looking for smaller retreats and places where we could mix/eat with the locals. Thank goodness for our little car. Here is a list of some new (and not-so-new) places we discovered!

STONE TOWN:

We were very impressed with the Zanzibar Palace Hotel. Friendly, interesting, central and comfortable.

STONE TOWN ISLANDS: http://www.go-safari.com/Zanzibar/St...IslandsJPG.jpg

Even the 2006 guide books for Zanzibar are wrong and out of date. Fortunately, we don’t rely on guide books and we are happy to report that there are 4 splendid island accommodations near Stone Town!

Chumbe: well-known and appreciated but no beach and a bit too far away for easy access to Stone Town. http://www.go-safari.com/Zanzibar/chumbe.htm

Chapwani: just 15 minutes away by boat with great food, and simple but comfortable accommodations. Lack of privacy may be an issue for some as the rooms are connected. Pool and high-tide beach. Snorkeling not as good. http://www.go-safari.com/Zanzibar/Chapwani.htm

Changuu: just 20 minutes from Stone Town. 2 styles of accommodation – we stayed at the deluxe cottages which are very private on the east side. The cheaper rooms on the west side are attached. Small beach is good at both tides. Pool. Average snorkeling. Good food in main restaurant. Lunch area is a bit busy due to day visitors. Giant tortoises are the main attraction! http://www.go-safari.com/Zanzibar/chumbe.htm

Bawe Island: Want a private island feel but cannot afford Mnemba? This is the island for you! Nice beach, wonderful sunsets, great snorkeling and diving, pool, large private bungalows, excellent food. About 25 minutes from Stone Town. Our favorite find of the 2 weeks. http://www.go-safari.com/Zanzibar/baweisland.htm

Next: the Kizimkazi Area
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Feb 7th, 2007, 10:08 AM
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KIZIMKAZI – Map – http://www.go-safari.com/Zanzibar/zanzibarSouthEast.htm

This southern area is known for its dolphins and tourists arrive from all over to “swim” with the dolphins. It has always been a sleepy part of Zanzibar but there is a lot of new construction now. The road down there from Stone town is paved and in very good condition. It took less than 2 hours.

Once the tourists leave after their day trips, Kizimkazi is just a typical fishing village with many boat and fisherman working on their nets and boats. The beach areas are very tidal so swimming is not the best. But it is very peaceful and the sunsets are stunning. It is the perfect place to meet and talk to the local fisherman.

There is a wonderful new luxury resort:

Unguja. We call it Shompole-by-the-sea with its open-style living and plunge pools! http://www.go-safari.com/Zanzibar/UngujaResort.htm Definitely worth a stay if you want to explore a different part of the island away from the tourist resorts.

The Coral Reef Village has this great little bar/restaurant where we hung out with the locals and listened to Zanzi-flavor music. http://www.go-safari.com/Zanzibar/KizimkaziCoral.htm

Lunch at Cabs Restaurant to the north was a real treat (partially because we were renting a car from the owner!). It has great views and excellent seafood straight from the fisherman on the beach!

We saw 3 new constructions so next year it will look a bit different as more people discover this great little village.

The east road from Kizimkazi to Jambiani on the East Coast is very bad and takes about 90 minutes. It is faster to drive north back to the main road before turning right on the main Stone Town road to Paje and then down to Jambiani. Less than an hour.
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Feb 7th, 2007, 01:27 PM
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Lots of Italian enclaves in East Africa. Many arrived in East Africa after WWII and stayed, raised families and opened businesses - safaris camps, restaurants, B&Bs. You'll also find such enclaves in the Seychelles. If you name doesn't end with a vowel - forgetaboutit! No reservations available. Is that called "restricted" one has to wonder.

Pasta - you'd be surprised how many people go to these coastal areas do not eat fish or seafood. That leaves chicken and beef or pasta, which is fine for me who's allergic to anything from the sea. All forms of pasta are fine with me. Many who follow Muslim tradition in these coastal areas, don't offer pork products, so no morning bacon... those you see aren't pork, rather beef strips at these establishments.

For us, in '05, after 2/wks in East Africa, we couldn't wait to get to Saruni in the Mara, for "real" Italian food. There are many properties who specialize in Italian cooking, some of the best I've even eaten. Thank goodness for those Italian ex-pats. We actually missed Italian food, up till the time we knew we could mange. Now, what we need is a good Chinese restaurant or camp that specializes.

Waiting to read more. Thanks.
 
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Feb 8th, 2007, 07:48 PM
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We love Italian food but the resorts serve mostly plain pastas with bland sauces and the constant long lines at the pasta stations made it rather pointless! We went looking for Zanzibar style pizza, chapati bread and other oriental and traditional Swahili dishes (with lots of spices)!

JAMBIANI – Map - http://www.go-safari.com/Zanzibar/JambianiJPG.jpg

The drive from Kizimkazi to Jambiani is interesting but rough. A few muddy stretches can be troublesome in the rains but mostly it is just bumpy. We did not notice anything interesting in Makunduchi village except for knowing that we were about as far away from organized tourism as one could be!

Jambiani is one of two villages (Matemwe is another) where we saw the best examples of coral rock buildings. The village is narrow and stretches along the beach next to a local road. To the west they are extending the main dirt “highway” from Paje going south past Jambiani so soon it will be a breeze to get to Makunduchi it seems.

Jambiani is a great option for budget aware travelers! The beach is wide and powder white although it gets dirtier (covered with sea grass and flotsam & jetsam to the southern end. Swimming at low tide is impossible unless you want to walk a long way out! They have at least 2 excellent dive/snorkel spots on the reef.
We think having a pool is a great advantage at low tide and Hakuna Majiwe Lodge, Sau Inn & Coral Rock Beach Bungalows were the only places with pools we saw. Hakuna’s pool is set back on the property with no views and with no sea breeze it was almost unbearably hot as the images show - http://www.go-safari.com/Zanzibar/HakunaMajiwe.htm

Sau Inn had sea views from the pool, and the Coral Rock pool was more of a large infinity plunge pool – but with lovely views – see images http://www.go-safari.com/Zanzibar/CoralRockBeach.htm

We liked Coral Rock a lot. Air-conditioning in the rooms, an inviting small pool and especially the Rocky bar were standouts. You can sit in the bar and watch the tide come in/out around you! It is popular with South Africans and my fellow countrymen/women know how to have a good time so the bar is lively at night! Please look at the pictures!

A short walk to the north was our favorite tiki bar on all of Zanzibar – Kimte Beach Bar! http://www.go-safari.com/Zanzibar/Ki...each%20Inn.htm It is a simple Rasta bar and reggae is the music of choice. But we were thinking Otis Redding!

sittin' on the dock of the bay
Watching the tide roll away
Ooo, I'm just sittin' on the dock of the bay
Wastin' time

Jambiani is not touristy. It has a calmness that is good therapy. It also has an organized cultural program that is both interesting and profitable.

If you prefer your holidays a bit more resort style then Hakuna Majiwe and Sau Inn are the best choices in Jambiani. But for us the combination of Coral Rock and Kimte Beach Bar was our top discovery!
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Feb 9th, 2007, 06:05 AM
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Wow, a lot of very informative information and great reading (as usual) Eben!
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Feb 9th, 2007, 07:32 PM
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Nice report. We stayed 10 days in the Kendwe area and agree the roads there are the worst. We didn't drive there, and while I am glad you had a good experience I wouldn't recommend self-drive for most people. The speed driven by most vehicles is much too fast for the roads and conditions (mixed traffic, poor sight-lines, animals, etc.) We only drove in a hotel van to and from Kendwe and saw one fatal accident (where the road went from two lanes to a one-lane bridge) and several small ones in short period. We thought Zanzibar Drive would make a great video game. I wish I had made a video looking out the front window.
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Feb 9th, 2007, 08:01 PM
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About self-driving. When you're a passenger it looks worse than it really is! For me it was less intimidating than my first time on the beltway around DC.

PAJE – Map - http://www.go-safari.com/Zanzibar/pajeJPG.jpg

From the outset, there were two areas of Zanzibar that did not appeal to us – Nungwi and Paje. Nungwi has a history of crime and Paje is touristy; or so we heard.

On our way to Paje, just an hour or so from Stone Town, we found ourselves in a convoy of minibuses packed with tourists. We arrived at Paje and were surprised to see the convoy of cars turn left and disappear to the north! Over two days in the town of Paje we saw only a few cars and lots of available parking near Paje by Night. This was the week of January 4th , a very busy season and beautiful weather – yet there was only small clusters of tourists on the beach.

Thus the myth was busted. We found Paje to be very pleasant, not overcrowded and with friendly local ladies offering massages and henna tattoos on the beautiful beach, and dive crews working on their dhows at low tide.

The beach itself is miles long, very wide and powder white – even at high tide. In our opinion, one of the top 3 beaches on the main island. No swimming at low tide unless you want to walk for a kilometer to the reef (don’t get caught when the tide changes). Pictures: http://www.go-safari.com/Zanzibar/PajeBeachView1.jpg and http://www.go-safari.com/Zanzibar/PajeBeachView2.jpg

The accommodation and restaurant choices are limited, unremarkable and clearly going after the budget tourist. We noticed a complete lack of privacy, style and design sense everywhere we visited and there is no need to highlight any one place except Kitete. They have some seafront rooms that look somewhat appealing and an OK restaurant/bar. http://www.go-safari.com/Zanzibar/KiteteBeach.htm

Ariabian Nights is on the beach with a dive center and is probably a good choice for diving enthusiasts. http://www.go-safari.com/Zanzibar/ArabianNights.htm

Don’t believe the different Paje lodge web sites – true sea views from rooms are virtually non-existent!

We knew from the start we could never vacation in Paje for any length of time but we loved the beach and highly recommend day visits from nearby resorts if you have transport.

We stopped at Paje by Night to experience the local night life – it is mentioned in every guide book and as expected it was a disappointment. It is 200m back from the beach behind other resorts; thus with no attractive location attributes the owners are trying to create a “cool” bar by using vibrant colors and employing self-appointed “cool” bartenders. Yet, the place is distinctly uncool and dirty.
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Feb 10th, 2007, 03:50 PM
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BWEJUU - MAP http://www.go-safari.com/Zanzibar/BwejuuJPG.jpg

Pretty much the same story as Paje. We did not discover anything new here. The accommodations are budget-oriented and well-described in internet trip reports and guide books. Quality can be summed up in one word – inconsistent!

You read one person’s trip report and a place is described as heaven-on-earth. The next person describes the same place as pure hell. And so it goes.

Sunrise Hotel has a pool which makes it worth a look if you really want to vacation in Bwejuu. We had a few drinks at First and Last Bar but can hardly remember anything else about Bwejuu.

The owner at Andy’s Karibuni showed us the new bungalow they are building (no real sea view) and we were surprised to see the nice-looking/comfortable rooms at White Rose Bungalows http://www.go-safari.com/Zanzibar/Wh...eBungalows.htm (up on the hill with great views but unfortunately on the wrong side of the local road with no beach front).

MICHAMVI Peninsula – MAP http://www.go-safari.com/Zanzibar/Mi...insulaJPG1.jpg

Home of Breezes and the big Italian resorts Karafuu and Dongwe! It last we found the reasons for the minivan convoys!

Whenever we reached a low point during our Zanzibar visit, Carol would say “let’s go the Palms”! For example, when we did not get a room we requested at a specific resort, or when we were just unhappy with a hotel or after a bad meal. The Palms became our mental therapy!

Despite our love and appreciation for local cultures and destinations, we both love a bit of luxury and pampering and on this side of the coast the Palms always deliver! On this trip we did not have time to stay at the Palms because we wanted to discover new places (we last stayed there in 2006). But just the fact that we drove by the entrance about 6 times and always looked rather longingly at the sign says it all!

I did capture a Google Earth image of the Palms so you can see the rooms and decide for yourself if you want a room about 50-70m from the beach with no beachfront views. It did not bother us as much because each room has a private gazebo at the beachfront. http://www.go-safari.com/Zanzibar/PalmsPlanJPG.jpg

Since it comes up often in questions about Zanzibar, we stayed at Karafuu for two nights and will probably never return.

See pictures here: http://www.go-safari.com/Zanzibar/KarafuuHotel.htm

We booked and paid for a junior suite (to have sea views). We arrived and were told rather matter-of-factly that our room is unavailable so they placed us in a room right at the back of the property near the staff quarters. They upgraded us from half-board to full-board for the inconvenience. I tried to explain that it was a useless upgrade because we had a car and we spend the days driving around and eating out. I could’ve been talking to a brick wall and gotten a more sympathetic response. “Let’s go to the Palms”

Carol washed some clothes and laid it on our little porch to dry. We walked around for an hour and came back to find her clothes gone – stolen! Back to the reception I went for another chat with the brick wall. This time the wall stared back at me with disbelieving eyes and explained that they have Maasai guards and that it is highly unlikely that this could’ve happened. I told the brick wall we saw 4 Maasai sitting on the beach guarding a few young Italian ladies, and that we have not seen a Maasai near our bungalow! The wall had nothing else to say. “Let’s go to the Palms”

In the evening we went to the bar and had some drinks (3 or 4). I drink Bacardi and Coke. Have done so for 20 years. When the bill came it was shockingly high. Waiter and bartender explained that I had 4 doubles! I think I know what a double looks like in a glass and what it tastes like. I also know my body and my intolerance for 4 double rums. This was not a 4 doubles night.
With the evidence hidden in my bloodstream, how do you proof them wrong! I was fuming but paid the bill. “Let’s go to the Palms”

Dinner on night one was not in the dining room but outside on the side of the property. Candles lit the walkway to the spot. Very romantic. We arrived and there was a huge fire to the side and a little floor for shows. It was a good 90 degrees outside and we did not want to be near the fire but the waiter was adamant that we sit at an appointed table next to the fire. Ok fine. Less mossies I hoped! Our table had space for 6 but we were the only two for a while. When we arrived there were a few open tables for two but remember the waiter wanted us at the bigger table. Half-way through dinner, space became an issue and a family of 6 Italians was shown our way. Interesting I thought. There were only 4 seats left.

So now we had this hot-blooded Italians next to us speaking loudly in Italian while pointing in all directions and staring at us with international body language. How could these two stupid people take a large table? They wanted us to move but there were no other tables available! Our evening was now ruined.
“Let’s go to the Palms”

Dinner was buffet with many different dishes but actually very few choices and variety. For example, one dish would be tomato and cucumber salad. The next dish was a tomato, cucumber and lettuce salad! And so on. The Italians later split up and 4 were still with us but with fire in their eyes.

All the while Carol was studying the crowds to see if someone was wearing one of her outfits!

It was time for the floor show. Out came an announcer to give a long-winded introduction about the “Maasai Peoples” who live in the forests with lions and elephants. They must be big and strong because they must fight the lions and elephants every day in the forests! Very scary! You could hear a pin drop. And then the Maasai came out to sing and jump. They were the guards at the Hotel whose job it was to prevent theft or worse. We appreciated their presence and felt very safe despite the small issue of Carol having to wear some of my clothes! “Let’s go to the Palms”

One could buy Maasai jewelry at the end of the show and that’s good because they need the extra income.

Every time you order something from the bar (anywhere except the main bar), the waiter returns 15 minutes later with a bill to sign. That night we had 8 drinks (bottled water, sodas, glasses of wine) and ended up with 10 bills. 2 were not ours and I almost signed them. It was very clever how they do things – some bills go to Carol to sign and others to me. This way it is hard for us to keep track. The place is one big scam and I can imagine the large Italian families getting ripped off like crazy although most are on the all-inclusive plan I think..

The next day, I was back at reception where I ran into a manager (missing the day before) – a nice lady who told me everything I wanted to hear after I showed her my filming equipment. I decided it was time to come out and be honest with her. We are making a film about Zanzibar and the idea is to show people “Zanzibar - The Way It Is” – the theme for our series of films. Karafuu was not going to get a favorable mention.

We were immediately escorted to a new room – the one with the best views at Karafuu, we were given a free dinner at their expensive a la Carte Restaurant, a free safety deposit box for all my equipment, and a Maasai to patrol the perimeter of our room! The room was the one in the middle in this pic: http://www.go-safari.com/Zanzibar/karafuu13.jpg Maybe, just maybe we did not need the Palms.

That night I ordered 2 SINGLE Bacardi drinks from a different waiter in the bar, received two SINGLE drinks and got charged for 2 DOUBLES. Scam artists at work with a smile.

The restaurant was fine with no service. What do you want to eat? Drink? Here are the drinks? Here is your food. Done. No discussion, no smiles, no refills, no “is everything ok? A very bright light highlighted the room and the noisy dishwashing area. It is fascinating to have a candlelight dinner with dishwashers staring at you to finish a course so they can wash your plates! It was a complementary dinner and we appreciated it but we had enough of this joint.

We have comments next to the pictures on our site so there is no need to repeat the details here! Apparently the Italians love this expensive place and that’s fine by us. “Let’s go to the Palms”
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Feb 10th, 2007, 04:19 PM
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Let's go to the Palms! Howling here!! I can go along with that.

We stayed at Karafuu in '05, specifically because they cater to Europeans and were interested in the different expectations. Few Italians, lots of French, some Dutch and two Americans. Breakfast was great, we did lunch at the pool bar which was fine. Dinner was wanting; maybe due to the amount of fish which I don't eat (though my friend said the shrimp which looked great to me [what do I know] was terrible - stuck to the pasta (Welcome to Italy) which was quite good, as were the salads.

What was really a hoot though was Diet Coca Cola. The Dutch gal, specifically needed diet as she was diabetic and they had cases of it for her. Problem, it was in a store room... never enough at the pool bar, main bar or restaurants. Needless to say, everytime she asked, as did we, they had to go get the stuff... glad we weren't in a desert.

I dare say, though, I would never place anything outside of eyes view to dry... certainly not on those terraces that anyone has access to. We dried everything indoors... the air conditining was good for that. Did Carol ever find her stuff.

Fortunately, we didn't have a big bar bill and what we did drink, was at the bar and paid for at that time.

Guess, everyone has their own expectations and the service actually provided. But for the Coca Cola incident, most seems quite happy at Karafuu. C'est la vie.

 
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Feb 12th, 2007, 06:17 AM
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Given its high prices and the other options on Zanzibar, we have zero interest in returning to Karafuu. But if you want to try it out, here are a list of the best rooms:

Very best (on the elevated area to the north of the property): 20, 21, 23-26

Best on the south side (the front row):
1, 6, 7, 8, 10, 13, 14 (with 14 being right next to the pool and 1 being the furthest away if you want privacy).


Our new finds on the Michamvi Peninsula!

Kichanga Hotel north of Karafuu – same beach, fewer people and cheaper. We should’ve stayed there for one night instead of two nights at Karafuu. The people there were very friendly but we don’t know much more. It is worth a look. http://www.go-safari.com/Zanzibar/KichangaHotel.htm

Michamvi Water Sports Resort – Brand new! If you don’t want to see guests from other resorts on the beach, then this is the place since there is no other large lodges in the area. The beach is a bit dirty (not in the true sense of the word; they don’t sweep it). Nice pool. No swimming in the sea at low tide. Eventually Michamvi Water Sports will be another big Italian resort but for now it is small enough to consider. http://www.go-safari.com/Zanzibar/Mi...atersports.htm

The small Kae Michamvi Bungalows nearby may be good if you want a rasta-style laid-back holiday with very simple accommodations http://www.go-safari.com/Zanzibar/KaeMichamvi.htm

Rocky Restaurant – if you have a car, you show up at this scenic restaurant and the owner will meet you on the beach. You tell him what time you want to eat and your preferences! If dinner time is during high-tide, they will boat you to the rock! The owner will call the local fisherman to collect/catch your dinner and prepare it in time for your dinner date! It’s rustic but authentic. http://www.go-safari.com/Zanzibar/za...estaurants.htm

Door Restaurant – On the hill next to the super-busy Dongwe Italian resort. When you get tired of the buffet, walk over to Door’s for authentic meals served in a friendly setting with great views.

Breezes and Sultan Palace are well-known and I have nothing to add except pictures:
http://www.go-safari.com/Zanzibar/SultanPalace.htm

http://www.go-safari.com/Zanzibar/Breezes.htm

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Feb 12th, 2007, 07:22 AM
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Hey, Eben...I thought you were headed to Ndutu for the wildebeest calving.
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Feb 18th, 2007, 08:24 AM
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Calo, I am leaving on Feb 26 for 6 weeks (2 weeks in the Serengeti alone!)
The rest in Rwanda, Uganda and Zanzibar.

NORTH EAST ZANZIBAR – MAP http://www.go-safari.com/Zanzibar/zanzibarNorthEast.htm

Home to huge Italian Resorts and two mega-hotels, the north east coast is fast becoming the Mediterranean of Zanzibar – but without the charm of coastal villages. Except for Matemwe and Chwaka to a lesser degree, it’s best to head elsewhere if you want to see coral rock villages and fishermen going about their daily lives.

When driving from the SE, the short-cut between TUNGUU and DUNGA is under construction. When completed, this 8km road will shave a lot of time off the journey which currently takes you to the edges of Zanzibar Town before turn NE towards Chwaka. BTW, the road from Stone Town to the NE via Chwaka is GREAT – a bit narrow at first but then beautifully paved all the way to Pongwe!

CHWAKA - not worth visiting. The whole bay is very shallow and suffers greatly from the lack of water during low tide. Chwaka Bay Resort http://www.go-safari.com/Zanzibar/ChwakaBay.htm is now a unattractive private Italian Club in an unattractive location.

UROA – a much better bet than Chwaka and still underdeveloped. The beaches are average and practically disappear in some areas during high tide. A pool is much needed during low tide, so we can only recommended the Zanzibar Safari Club http://www.go-safari.com/Zanzibar/Za...SafariClub.htm

The few other places are smaller and basic without swimming pools and air-conditioning.

PONGWE BEACH – the paved road ends at on of our top choices on Zanzibar – Pongwe Beach Hotel http://www.go-safari.com/Zanzibar/PongeBeach.htm . Much has been written about it and we won’t repeat the accolades except to say that it offers in our opinion the best value on the island. Great infinity pool, and a wonderful white beach (in our top 3 list on the main island) with sand bars all the way out to the reef in the distance. We had the best meals of our Zanzibar stay right here at Pongwe Beach and we loved the fact that there is only one other lodge/hotel nearby. Practically, one can take long walks along the beach without other tourists! With so much area to roam, one barely sees the other guests during the day!

The rooms are basic and much has been written about the lack of aircon and lack of ceiling-fan power after midnight. The mgmt is well-aware of this and will keep the power on during really sweltering periods! The rooms are well ventilated and the sea breezes keep things rather pleasant in our opinion.

The honeymoon cottage is very special as you will be on your own peninsula at high tide surrounded by water!

KIWENGWA – the Italian Riviera. One resort after another grace the beach front and it is almost impossible to choose one above the other. Probably good places to visit if you have a family. Teenagers will love the pools and activities and the discos are very popular at night. Most have pier bars stretching for long distances into the ocean. One can rent anything from scooters to kites for surfing! Most of these places were fully booked during our visit – that’s 100 – 300 people per resort! They must be doing something right!

In the midst of the mega-resorts, one stumbles upon Shooting Star Lodge. http://www.go-safari.com/Zanzibar/ShootingStar.htm A good second-choice if you cannot get a room at Pongwe Beach Hotel. The biggest difference is the physical landscape. Shooting Star is situated on a rise and the rooms are a good 15 meters above the beach. Not a place to stay if you have difficulty with stairs. The beach is not quite as good as Pongwe because it is narrower and there are fewer sand banks. The infinity pool at Shooting Star is smaller, and so is the lounge area. The restaurant and overall service is not as good as Pongwe and it is a bit harder to avoid the other guests. Still, it is a great alternative to the big resorts.

We did stay two nights at the Kempinski. http://www.go-safari.com/Zanzibar/Kempinski.htm Sterile and without a personality. You get carted around in golf-carts; even to/from the private beach just to the south of the property as there is no beach in front of the hotel. It is a long walk from the north-end rooms to the spa in the south end (where the suites are). The 100 regular rooms are grouped in clusters and while all have sea views, only the front rooms on top in each cluster have unconstructive views – from a long distance away. Lack of privacy was surprising. We were on top and could clearly look into many other rooms around us and we had no privacy on our balcony or our rooftop terrace. Our room was small but Carol loved the bathroom with the outdoor shower, the tub and the big mirrors.

It is just a big hotel that could be anywhere in the world. The staff was friendly but reserved. Nothing was easy. Whenever I needed something, it was done but with some difficulty. For example, I tried to send a fax – it took 3 hours to find the key to the room and someone who knew how to operate the simple fax machine. It was impossible to find waiters in the lounge. Ordering simple room service (drinks only) – 30 minutes or more. During check out, it took 25 minutes to deliver our luggage despite giving the front-desk a 30 minute warning that we are ready to check out and our bags are ready! It took almost an hour from the call to getting into our car!

The buffet meals were OK. Pasta station was too small considering the large Italian contingent and the lines were long. Food was pretty much the same for three days during our stay and the Red Snapper was too expensive and impersonal - it looked more like a crowed café than an expensive restaurant. The main restaurant was just as impersonal with no views whatsoever. You just don’t want to linger – you eat and leave. I think they should move the restaurant closer to the ocean (between the pool and the ocean).

Carol did enjoy the Anantara Spa - the Thai ladies are very very good and we thought the rates were affordable.

We just cannot think of good reasons to stay at the Kempinski- unless one can afford the presidential suite with its own pool. The hotel is too stiff for kids and they offer nothing exciting for families. It is not private enough for couples and not romantic. It has no business center (one PC crowded with kids playing computer games) so no good for business people. It has no easy access to the beach (it is very small once you get there).

Maybe it is for people who want a sea experience but they hate sand between their toes? Maybe the Spa is the key?Or maybe people think when they stay at the Kempinski they get exclusivity and they will rub shoulders with the rich and famous? Have they not heard of Mnemba?



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Feb 18th, 2007, 10:43 AM
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MATEMWE

The big news up north is the Matemwe Retreat extension to Matemwe Bungalows. http://www.go-safari.com/Zanzibar/MatemweRetreat.htm We did not see it during our visit but I will be there this March.

It looks like the perfect family or romantic getaway – private plunge pool, outdoor baths, air-conditioning, etc! It looks really good!

Matembe Bungalows remains one of our favorite places on Zanzibar thanks to the ocean-front rooms and uncrowded, natural beach. http://www.go-safari.com/Zanzibar/MatemweBungalows.htm

Movenpick has taken over the Zanzibar Beach Hotel for those looking for mega-hotel relaxation. They were still in upgrade mode when we visited and it was closed. http://www.go-safari.com/Zanzibar/MovenpickBeachSpa.htm

Matenwe Beach Village is continuing to upgrade their pool area and it remains a good option for the budget conscious. http://www.go-safari.com/Zanzibar/MatemweBeachGuest.htm

Zi Villa http://www.go-safari.com/Zanzibar/ZiVilla.htm and the new Zanzibar Retreat http://www.go-safari.com/Zanzibar/ZanzibarRetreat.htm are both good options, although lack of privacy may bother some people at Zanzibar Retreat. It is basically a series of rooms in a large building with a pool and upstairs bar on a very narrow property.

As I stated before, Matemwe is a good place to see coral rock buildings and it is near the Mnemba atoll for superior diving. The town remains quite natural – life seems normal despite the increase in tourism.

And speaking about Mnemba, apart from the usual luxuries and high service standards it has the best all-day beach of all the immediate outlying islands at Zanzibar. Bawe is second then Changuu followed by Chapwani. Everything considered, Mnemba Island remains our no. 1 accommodation option on Zanzibar. http://www.go-safari.com/Zanzibar/Mnemba.htm

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Mar 11th, 2007, 08:05 AM
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Please could you let me know how your trip to the new Matemwe Retreat was. We are currently planning our honeymoon and deliberating between 3 nights at Mnemba or 6 nights at Matemwe retreat. Any advice would be brilliant.Thanks
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Mar 11th, 2007, 11:29 AM
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Hi Marie

I will be at Matemwe Retreat during the last few days of March. Will let you know!

It looks great does it not?
Eben
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Mar 11th, 2007, 02:23 PM
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when I was in Matemwe Bungalows at the beginning of february, I had the chance to look at the retreits (they were just getting finished for the first guests) and they are absolutely incredible!!

Not only do you have ocean view from your bathtub, you also have a small plungepool up on the roof and it's really big and private. You even get your diner prepared (not only served, but also cooked) in your retreit!
A very nice addition to Matemwe Bungalows (wich soon will be named just 'Matemwe')
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Mar 12th, 2007, 04:32 PM
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the retreat does look fabulous.
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Mar 20th, 2007, 12:20 PM
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Thanks for the wonderful report on Zanzibar...do you have any information on Fumba Beach resort? Thanks for your help!
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Mar 20th, 2007, 03:39 PM
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We just got back from 3 days at Matemwe Bungalows, and I can second what Nikao said about what they called the three new "villas" but sounds like are going to be the Matemwe Retreat. I visited them one afternoon, and they are something special. I have not yet finished that part of my trip report, but I will cut and paste what I currently have as follows:

I wandered around, and at the invitation of Tracy, the manager, walked down to Matemwe Bungalows' three newly opened (February 1) villas. Although it is a little bit of a walk to get to them (they are to the north past bungalow #12 and up 32 wooden stairs and then a bit more of an uphill walk), they are spectacular. On the first level is a very large outdoor deck area (with a bar/eating counter) facing the ocean, a huge living area, a tub under double doors that open out onto the ocean view and the deck. On the second level, up a narrow spiral staircase, is another large deck with a plunge pool and another very large sitting area, all with a gorgeous high view of the ocean and Mnemba Island. As I said, it requires a little walking and climbing to get there, but once there you can just stay there and enjoy your aerie retreat, since they will bring all of your meals to you. I couldn’t resist asking Tracy how much they rented for, and she told me that right now they are a bargain at only $400 US per person per night, but when they reopen in June after the rainy season the normal rate of $800 per person per night will apply. That’s a little out of my price range.

I took some pictures of one of the villas, but I have not yet gotten to the point that I know how to post them anywhere. If someone who possesses that talent would like me to e-mail them to him/her so they can post them, I will do so. I will also try to send them to Julian for the album.
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Mar 28th, 2007, 05:44 PM
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I'm not the only one who found the driving dangerous:

http://somalinet.com/news/world/East%20Africa/8977
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