Nine days of Safari behind us, we were really looking forward to sun, sand and emerald water – Zanzibar. The “classical Safari add-on”. 10 days on the island and no plans except idly lazing around.
|How and when I got there
|Flights with Turkish Airlines from Cologne via Istanbul and Zanzibar to Kilimanjaro Airport; return flight from Zanzibar via Kilimanjaro and Istanbul to Cologne; January – February 2019
|Where I stayed
|Melia Zanzibar Hotel (Kiwengwa, Zanzibar, https://www.melia.com/en/hotels/tanzania/zanzibar/melia-zanzibar/index.html
Dhow Palace Hotel (Stone Town, Zanzibar, http://www.dhowpalace-hotel.com/)
|we tried only the Restaurants of the above mentioned hotels / lodges
|Things to do
|swimming in the Indian Ocean (provided there’s water)
otherwise: walks on the beachs – look out for star fish and other floral or animal creatures
|Recommendations in a nutshell
|see the post regarding “things to consider for travelling in Tanzania”!
Further Reading: Lonely Planet Tanzania Travel Guide
Zanzibar – here we come
3:45 a.m. – what a ghastly time to get up! But that’s how our tenth day in Africa started. Our kids went back home, and the Turkish Airlines flight from Kilimanjaro via Istanbul to Cologne was scheduled for departure at 6:45 a.m. from JRO. Our flight to Zanzibar with Precision Air was scheduled only for 10 a.m., and so we spent some hours at the airport, before we finally left the mainland Tanzania and got a last glimpse at the Kilimanjaro:
After another 40 minutes delay, we arrived at Zanzibar airport around noon. First surprise: “living” luggage belts at the airport, meaning: no luggage belts at all, but porters carrying the luggage from outside carriages into the arrival hall. With two airplanes arriving at the same time and hundreds of tourists quite a challenge…
Lunch on the Jetty
I had booked an airport pick-up at the hotel and thus we were greeted by a driver holding a sign with our name. One hour drive, and we finally arrived at the hotel, the “Melia Zanzibar” at 2 p.m.
Our rooms not yet ready, we were asked to have lunch first. We decided to try the restaurant at the jetty, which sits in the middle of the ocean – provided the ocean is there…The Jetty Restaurant offers small items for lunch and Tapas for dinner. And during lunch time, you will have a really nice view of the sea – or the sea floor, respectively, at low tide:
And so it took another 90 minutes before we could finally get into our room (no. 1308, a really nice one). Our room was on the first floor of the second building to the left on the main lobby; balcony facing the sea and providing a great sea view.
The room itself was impeccable: large double bed with a canopy and mosquito net; desk, two chairs. A large wardrobe between bedroom and bath; on the other side another closet including safe, ironing items and coffee/tea facility. However, the real treat was the bathroom: as big as the bedroom, solitary bathtub, two sinks and lots of space. And two (!) showers, rendering the obligatory question after a long beach day “can I go first?” superfluous. Thanks a lot to the architects who designed these rooms!!
After settling in the room, unpacking the remaining clean clothes (not too many…) and changing into swimming gear, we finally started at 4 p.m. to the beach.
Keyword “beach”: the Melia Zanzibar is surrounded by a huge (really huge!) property of land. Our driver told us that the street front amounts to 3 km – this seems a bit overestimated, but 2 km is probably not too high. The property is located at the northern end of Kiwengwa Beach and consists of one larger sandy beach (which in fact is the northern end of the very long Kiwengwa Beach), followed by cliffs and some smaller sandy bays in between. The main lobby and the “standard” rooms are located approximately 1.5 km north of the beach. There is direct access to the sea via a wooden jetty, but virtually no sandy beach at high tide.
So, if you want to enjoy a sandy beach, you will have to go to “Gabi Beach”, the beach club of the hotel. The hotel uses large golf carts to shuffle the guests to the beach. Despite the sign announcing a “maximum waiting time of 20 minutes”, we never had to wait for more than maybe five minutes, usually even less, at the “bus stop”:
In the first place, we were disappointed about this inconvenience (as we loved our small beach huts 10 meters from the water on the Maldives a lot). However, we got used to it and in the end found it quite OK. So, no “Maldives feeling” at the Melia Zanzibar. However, the Gabi Beach is nice, even at low tide:
Having the beach not “at the front door”, the hotel makes up for it with a very nice “infinity pool”…
…a great garden landscape
and lots of sunbeds with sea view…
…both at the hotel:
and at the beach side:
Speaking about the beach: we knew in advance (and still were surprised) about the “low tide problem”. There is a large tidal range, allowing for swimming only during approx. two hours before and after the high tide. Which is at different times and about 30 minutes to 1 hour later every day. During our 10 day stay, we started out with the low tide at 11.00 a.m. and ended with it at 4 p.m. Meaning: no swimming in the ocean except early morning or late afternoon. For us – we love swimming in the ocean – this was the worst scenario. Try to consider this when booking a trip to Zanzibar, if you’re not a “pool only” tourist!
However, the almost waterless ocean floor is attractive as well, providing a very nice and colorful landscape throughout the day.
The same landscape – yet so many different colors and sights: kite surfers and other “beach traffic”…
…and clouds in every shade of grey:
Flora and Fauna at Kiwengwa Beach
At low tide, the beach can be explored by foot during long walks. You’ll find lots of sea urchins, some sea cucumbers and some star fish – really nice ones like these:
|rather nasty to meet: a portuguese galley jellyfish
|more Sea Urchins
|lots of brittlestars
|a strange species of sea cucumber: Synaptula maculata
Kiwengwa Beach Neighborhood
Tired of walking in the water? Then just walk on the beach and explore the neighborhood – which is partly nice and partly rather run-down:
Only the “beach boys” are a little bit annoying – they approach every tourist moving out of the resort’s “safety zone”. Which is actually protected by security staff of the hotel. “Protected” meaning that the beach boys are friendly advised not to approach the people on the sunbeds. And this is respected quite well.
The Melia Zanzibar Pool
Coming back from a nice day on the beach, there’s still the pool to jump in for cooling-down. The pool is populated throughout the day, the shady places with a view gone soon after breakfast times. Still, there is ample space for everybody if you do not need “the front row”. And there are even some places in the water:
The guests are a mixture of different nationalities: mostly European, often French or Spanish (not a surprise – after all Melia is a Spanish hotel chain). During our 10 days, however, the majority of European guests came from Eastern Europe (estimated based on the sound of their languages) – and probably Poland. Obviously, they did have some kind of “winter school holidays” at the time, as there were lots of families with children in “school age”. In addition, some Americans and some (few) people from Asia. In general (and not taking a few raucous kids into account), the guests at the Melia Zanzibar were nice, quiet, pleasant, laid-back – Hakuna Matata style.
Finally, a short summary about the food. The Melia Zanzibar being a five star hotel, the food was – as expected – very good. A breakfast buffet with every item to wish for, all kinds of eggs – freshly prepared at a “station”, fresh fruits, cereals, different kinds of bread. Good baguette. And a nice outside terrace to sit in the shade of trees. Lunch was served at different spots: the wooden jetty (where we had lunch on our first day, see above) out on the (at that time mainly waterless) ocean floor, a pool bar and a beach bar. The menu was similar and did always provide salads, some meat, different “catch of the day” fish and desserts. Being an all-inclusive resort (more about this feature later), most of the food and drinks were covered and did not result in any extra costs.
Dinner was available at three different places: on the jetty, Spanish Tapas were served. Loving Spanish Tapas and being used to great ones from our Tenerife trip a year ago (see…), we were a little bit disappointed. The Tapas were OK, but not really as good as one would expect for a Spanish hotel. Some of the “classics” were missing, and the portions were not really “tapas style” (i.e. just a small bite), but almost as big as a main dish. And you are supposed to order not more than a maximum of 4-5 Tapas for two persons – which is a bit contradictory to the idea of Tapas…
The second dinner place is a restaurant that is not included in the “all inclusive”package. It did look nice, sitting right on the cliffs with a magnificent sea view. However, as it gets dark before dinner, the sea view is pointless, and so we did not try it. The main restaurant called “Spices” – the same as for the breakfast – offered dinner as buffet, and was really good. Featuring a different motto every day – from BBQ to Indian to Chinese to African – here a picture from the “African Night”:
There are always lots of different starters, main dishes and desserts, and all very good. Many dishes were freshly prepared upon your request, preventing the notorious “cooked hours before” feeling. Overall, we were happy with the menu. And after dinner, each evening featured another event or performance: artists, bands…great, if you like that.
If not, there’s the bar at the Jetty or on the second floor of the main building, including a nice terrace to sit outside:
Speaking about “nightlife”…is there any? No! There’s virtually NO nightlife at all. Not at the Bar, not at the Jetty.People leave between ten or eleven. Afterwards, you’re pretty much on your own. Or the nightlife takes place at a secret location that we did not get aware of durning our ten days there…
First class and second class
So, we were quite contect with the food – which does not completely extend to the drinks. As stated before, the Melia Zanzibar is an “all inclusive” resort. However, there are different kinds of “all incusive”, or in this case: stars: 1 star and 2 stars. We belonged to the “common 1 star” group, receiving a white wrist band. Which entitles to free ordering of only the “1 star items” on the drinks menu. Which amounts to the first of the four menu pages. Leading to the rather strange situation, that you can order wine by the glass as often as you want, but you cannot order a bottle of the same wine. “Fruit juices” (like a rather watery orange-water-sugar-mixture) are free; “fresh fruit juices” are not. Even a rather low-priced gin like Gordon’s got two stars on the menu…
Class society at the Beach
The “not really all inclusive” also extends to the Gabi beach club: regular sunbeds for the “commons” are free, nice small wooden houses are only for the first class “patients”:
Considering room prices around 400 $ a night (minimum), it is a strange feeling being treated as an “economy class client”. But OK, this might be considered complaining on a high level. Overall, we were quite content and can recommend the hotel unambiguously. However, bear in mind the features that might be drawbacks for you, like not having the “feet in the water” (as the French say for an accommodation right on the beach) and being locked out of the local life due to the rather remote location. But for a few relaxing days in the sun: almost perfect!
However, after 9 days, we were a bit bored and really had enough of “idly lazing around” – so we deciced to skip our 10th day at the resort, spontaneuosly booked a hotel at Stone Town, got into a taxi and grabbed a little bit of “real Zanzibar atmosphere” – but read more about it here…
See more of our Tanzania Safari and Zanzibar Beach Trip here:
And find more information about Travelling in Tanzania here:
*According to a German Court decision, all texts containing links to commercial pages (e.g. links to Tripadvisor, Airline, hotel or restaurant websites) have to be identified as “commercial” (in German “Anzeige”). As my texts do contain links like that, I therefore identify each post and page containing a link as “Anzeige”. However (and referring to the “About Me” page) I would like to point out that I do NOT post any sponsored content in my texts; I pay for all my trips myself.