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lmavolio May 5th, 2007 08:20 AM

Zanzibar Beach Resort Recommendations?
Hi There - I am looking for some recommendations on beach resorts in Zanzibar. Specifically, I am interested in a fabulous stretch of beach, along with a place which maintain the "feel" of Zanzibar (vs the large, Americanized or European resorts)...

Any suggestions? We looked at the Matemwe Bungalows, but it seems like there is no beach at high tide. Mapenzi Beach Club is also recommended - great beach, but seems to lose the Zanzibar feeling. Breezes was another option mentioned. I haven't researched many others yet...

Not sure if it's worth it to spend the extra $$ on Mnemba or if we can even afford it.

Any suggestions? We will be staying 3-4 nights in Zanzibar at a beach resort, and 1 night in Stone Town. Thanks!

Bwino May 6th, 2007 10:25 AM


We were married at Matemwe beach - and it is true there is no real swimmng beach at low tide but that is true of most beaches that I know of on Zanzibar. The beaches are beautiful but only high tide for swimming.

Are you looking to spend money for luxury or are you looking for budget? Lots of great places for expensive luxury - take your pick.

For budget I would recommend Paradise Beach Bungalows - basic but cheap and good location - great japanese food.

Znzibar is great but depending on where you are from and what you are used to the beaches are very much a tidal affair - don't forget to explore Stonetown.

tuckeg May 6th, 2007 08:32 PM

Kendwa has a nice beach at all times. If you like snorkeling, there are coral heads within easy swimming distance with lots of sealife. Last fall we stayed at:

Nikao May 6th, 2007 11:38 PM

Iv stayed at matemwe and it was simply great. Didn't swam that much in the sea, mostly in one of the 2 pools which overlook the sea ;)

Im not sure what you mean by "there is no beach at high tide".. there is always beach available (along with some sunbeds).
You can only really swim at high tide though...

lmavolio May 20th, 2007 05:45 AM

topping for more advice on Zanzibar - my safari itinerary is set and currently I am booked in Matemwe Bungalows, but I have an opportunity to switch it if I want, so I am just trying to get some feedback on various places.

Any other beach resort recommendations? The beach is the most important factor for me - I love a beautiful stretch of beach!! Any feedback on Breezes or Mapenzi??


climbhighsleeplow May 20th, 2007 06:56 AM

If beach is most important for you, you may be a bit disappointed with Matemwe Bungalows. True, there is a beach on the southern edge of the property but it is not comparable with a few other spots! The 2 swimming pools are its best bet.

Best 5 beaches in my opinion:

1. Mnemba Island - not tidal so 24-hour swimming. Few other people.
2. Kendwa - not tidal so 24-hour swimming
3. Bawe Island - tidal but few other people.
4. Paje and north Jambiani- tidal.
5. Pongwe - tidal

lmavolio May 20th, 2007 07:15 AM

Hi Climbhighsleeplow - Thanks for the info! In fact, I was just reading through your previous posting re: your extended stay in Zanzibar visiting the various areas and resorts! I am so glad you posted a reply, because you seem like a great person to ask...

Can you recommend a good resort based on what we are looking for? We're hoping to find a place that has a great beach, a Zanzibar feel (not a mega-resort with tons of people), good food, relaxed atmosphere, nice amenities, but doesn't need to be total luxury..What do you think? Seems tough to find this combination other than Mnemba - which is perfect, but I don't think we can afford it. Any other suggestions? Thank you!!

lmavolio May 22nd, 2007 03:04 PM

topping in hopes that climbhighsleeplow will respond :-)

Any other feedback is greatly appreciated as well! Decisions, decisions...

climbhighsleeplow May 22nd, 2007 06:16 PM

Pongwe Beach Hotel remains one of our overall favorites in terms of value, wide white (but tidal) beach, cuisine, location and small size. It is a distance away from the big resorts so you don't get that "ocean strip" feeling as you walk from resort to resort along the beach! Perfect for 3 to 4 days.

I prefer swimming in the ocean so Kendwa and west Nungwi are both favorites of mine. Accommodation is dicey though, and because I don't know your tolerance level, I'd start with Gemma del Est. True, it is a big Italian Resort but you get a great room with all the conveniences. Then if you book a B&B rate, you can spend your days (and nights) wandering the all-tides beach and catch the local flavors in the many restaurants and bars. But at night you have the benefit of great comfort and good security at Gemma.

Elsewhere on the island there are great spots too, but the tidal beach is an issue. At Jambiani the locals are very cool and laid back. And the coral rock buildings are typical Zanzibar. I love it there because it is less touristy but with limited choices in terms of great accommmodation/beach.

And so on... really impossible to share all my thoughts in this reply!

tuckeg May 22nd, 2007 08:07 PM

Gemma is a posibility but the OP didn't want a mega-resort and Gemma is one. Also the beach there is not great at low tide (but better than Nungwi). The Amaan Bungalows is probably closer to their target, there are only 34 rooms and I would guess that there were 30 or so guests when we were there so not a huge crowd. There are five or six restaurants within a five minute walk from their beach.

climbhighsleeplow May 23rd, 2007 08:10 AM

Here is a picture of low-tide at Gemma. You can clearly see the high-tide mark. Perfectly fine for Zanzibar!

You can also see the beautiful long beach leading west towards Kendwa.

I am certainly no fan of large Italian resorts but Gemmas's location and layout makes it different. Though I would not do all my meals/drinks/entertainment there. And I would find my own secluded part of the beach during the day away from the beach chairs.

It remains tough to recommend any particular place on that strip. Here are 2 maps. I leave it up to the reader to decide which place to pick from Kendwa Amaan (not bad) in the south to Amaan Bungalows to the north. The reef starts near Amaan Bungalows so I cannot recommend places beyond it.

climbhighsleeplow May 23rd, 2007 08:14 AM

And here is a high-tide pic at Gemma

Other Gemma pics:

tuckeg May 23rd, 2007 09:43 AM

I should have been clearer about the beach, if you only want to sit on the beach then Gemma's is fine at high tide. However if you want to play around in the water if I remember correctly it drops off quite rapidly (that's what I meant by not great). We hardly saw anyone from Gemma in the water at high tide (as the picture you linked shows). At Kendwa, the slope is much more gradual and you can go out quite aways, no matter what the tide. There were always people enjoying to ocean there. As far as eating elsewhere when at Gemma, if the tide is high you can't reach Nungwi so that would mean Kendwa. If you do go from Gemma to Kendwa at night, we were advised by several locals to only do so in a group as the stretch of beach just south of Gemma has been the site of robberies.

climbhighsleeplow May 23rd, 2007 10:44 AM

tuckeg, I am not sure what you are trying to say? Gemma is bad? The beach is bad?

Have you been elsewhere on Zanzibar? Have you to tried to swim at high tide at other beaches (with sea urchins and weed farms)?

I try to avoid taking pictures of people. Besides it was a cool rainy day and since the dive boat drops in at the spot next to the pier most people swim a bit bit further away along the beach.

The water is dead calm and there is a drop off but not nearly enough to stop people from swimming at high tide! It is perfect for swimming unless you just want to wade in! And no sea urchins!

Where on Zanzibar do you suggest they go?

Amaan Bungalows at Nungwi has a very small beach at high tide and it gets really busy and crowded there with nowhere to walk except when low tide.

Kendwa Amaan is certainly an option but it gets mixed reviews. It works for some but not for others. This is why I suggest that readers decide for themselves!

About safety. Except for a few outlying islands, tourists must take care on all beaches on Zanzibar after dark. Especially when walking outside a resort's boundaries.

There will be many people walking the beach between Kendwa and Gemma after dark. If you plan to stay out until midnight or so, arrange a Maasai askari to meet you at a specific bar to walk back with you. It is only 10-15 minutes away!

tuckeg May 23rd, 2007 12:37 PM

I am sorry you are having trouble understanding my post. I don't claim to know a lot about Zanzibar and have not discussed other areas but did spend 10 days in the Kendwa/Nungwi area last year. We walked between the Nungwi and Kendwa every day (passing Gemma each time) and swam along the entire area. We also visited all the places in Kendwa before picking Amaan Bungalows and also walked thru Gemma and a few of the places in Nungwi. Since you seem to be questioning my experience in that area, how does yours compare? How many days were you in that area?

As far as the beaches go, the further north you get from Kendwa, the worse the beach at high tide. Since Gemma is north of Kendwa it is not as good although it is not bad.

You are incorrect that many people will be walking the beach between Gemma and Kendwa at night. While it may have been true while you were there, it is wrong to assume that will be the case when the OP is there. We ate most nights at the south end of that beach and while we were there almost no one walked that section after dark. As far as security, there is no comparison between the beach area at Kendwa and the strech just south of Gemma.

As far as a recommendation, I can only make one for that area and based on the OP's description I don't think they will find exactly what they are looking for, but Amaan Bungalows are a closer fit that Gemma. Clear enough now?

tuckeg May 23rd, 2007 12:51 PM

Just so anyone reading this is clear, there is the Amaan Bungalows at Nungwi (which hasn't been discussed) and the Kendwa Amaan Bungalows (also called the Amaan Annex Bungalows) which is what is being discussed.

climbhighsleeplow May 23rd, 2007 01:14 PM


Thanks for clearing up a part of my confusion! In an earlier post you suggested Amaan Bungalows - which is in Nungwi. Gemma's beach is better.

Now I understand you actually meant Kendwa Amaan. See the sign here:

We agree that Kendwa beach is great.

We don't necessarily disagree on where to stay. I prefer Gemma just because it offers more options and I get restless. But I am not married to the place!

It was my 3rd visit to the Kendwa/Nungwi area - and my second extended stay. I visit Zanzibar several times a year since 2004.


tuckeg May 23rd, 2007 05:39 PM


Sorry for the confusion but it wasn't a misprint by me, they use different names, if you follow my earlier link you will see they are also called Kendwa Amaan Bungalows as opposed to Nungwi Amaan Bungalows and finally some of the signs say Amaan Annex. Anyway Gemma looked fine and I wouldn't mind staying there myself but it has 138 rooms according to their site and that didn't sound like what the OP wanted. Amaan Bungalows Annex at Kendwa (that should cover it) is not nearly the quality of Gemma but if they really don't want a large resort then it is serviceable. The bungalows on the beach have AC and a nice view and the place was clean and secure (but not as secure as Gemma) when we were there.

Peace out

lmavolio May 24th, 2007 04:23 AM

Thanks for responding!! This is great feedback...I actually noticed Gemma del Est previously and steered away from it initially because it looked like a "mega-resort," but I was impressed by the beach and I will definitely take another look. Not sure how expensive it is, but worth a try.

Pongwe sounds like another great choice - I hope it's not "too basic," but I will research it more thoroughly...

Amaan Bungalows also seems to have a lovely beach and I will check into that a bit further as well...

It's too bad that Matemwe's Beach isn't stellar because other than that, Matemwe seems perfect for us...

As I said, decisions, decisions! :-) Thanks so much everyone...Your feedback is invaluable!!

P.S. Wish I could afford Mnemba!

tuckeg Jul 20th, 2007 07:46 PM

I've finally posted a few photos from the Amaan Annex in Kendwa if anyone is interested:[email protected]/?saved=1

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