Enviable vacation in Zanzibar top hotels


Baraza hotel. photo | wendy watta

In the morning, I was watching elephants contentedly bathing in the red Samburu dust and by late afternoon, I was in a sarong and flip-flops chatting to the bartender who was whipping up a Caipirinha for me with utmost flair.

All this while revelling in the most scenic of views in Zanzibar.

It is no secret that Zanzibar has some of the best beaches in the world and given the influx of visitors seeking luxury on this archipelago, several resorts offering five-star trappings have sprung up.

When it comes to luxury accommodation, my tastes veer towards boutique spots, the more remote the better.

On this particular visit, I was attracted to the South-East Coast, about an hour’s drive from the international airport on smooth tarmac roads and where the beaches are still largely unspoilt with the reef containing the only National Geographic affiliated dive site in East Africa.

You will notice that most hotels employ locally and support local producers but you will also find a few Kenyans working in management positions.

While the Swahili is so fluent it will make you feel a tad inadequate, the island will always feel a bit like home.


As the name suggests, this intimate collection of nine upscale seafront villas really is a gift.

It is a honeymoon haven, the kind of place that calls for a dip in the infinity pool with a lover, blue lagoon cocktails on deck, taking in the view from your clifftop advantage.

A view in which the blue sea, white sand and greenery offset by brightly coloured bougainvillea flowers all seem to paint the most seductive of scenes.

Highlights included being serenaded by a talented taarab trio band while tucking into a delectable dinner. I requested that they play ‘‘Embe Dodo’’, a song that brought back nostalgic memories of a childhood in Mombasa. When they also played a soothing rendition of ‘‘Malaika’’, I knew I would be generous with my tip.

The villas are named after fish. Mine, Nyangumi (whale) felt like a modern beach pad; this place will make you want to own a beach condo!

Glass doors slide apart to reveal an all-white and beige room where on inspection, attention is paid to the smallest of details in the décor with woven baskets and rugs, fish carvings, ladders for towel hangers and more.

The design is open plan. The terrace is perfect for yoga and there is also a pleasant surprise awaiting guests— I promised the manager I wouldn’t reveal!

You can go swimming in the lagoon at low tide and if you fancy crabbing, take a ngawala (boat) to the nearby mangrove forest.

They have an impressive spa and jungle gym, and I really enjoyed walking around their farm with various fruits, vegetables (the dishes are largely farm/sea to table), plants and flowers as well as rear chicken and ostrich.

Baraza Resort & Spa

One of the top internationally acclaimed spots for luxury in Zanzibar, this resort oozes elegance and exotic opulence, perfect for travellers (particularly families) looking to vacation like royalty.

Frangipani spa is a masterpiece that reminded me of a Moorish harem, if Hollywood movies are anything to go by. It is decked in gold and white with antique decor, brass lamps and polished wall hangings, gold baths, daybeds with silk canopies, ottomans and more.

It even has a yoga room with an Indian instructor as well as a pool in a private courtyard, and treatments range from facials to massages by Thai therapists.

The resort itself is an architectural marvel reminiscent of the palaces of Omani Sultans who ruled Zanzibar in the 1600s. A little similar to Swahili architecture along our Kenyan coast, the low white flat roofed buildings feature intricately carved doors, distinct arches and numerous open barazas offset by towering palm trees.

Gold and white drapings and upholstery add a touch of extravagance which blends seamlessly with the Omani trunks and wooden furniture.

Boasting 30 villas, I checked into a one-bedroom seafront pad with a traditional Sultan’s lounge bed, private plunge pool overlooking Bwejuu beach and from which many sundowners were enjoyed. Even their bathroom is impressive, coming complete with an egg-shaped bathtub.

The Palms

As is the case with Zawadi and Baraza, the price here is all-inclusive which is great given how many cocktails you will be tempted to down at the pool bar.

The bartender here is the best and from rum punch to Martini or Cocolada, he sure knows how to whip them up.

I asked for a chef’s salad and turkey burger for lunch and this was served in the comfort of the private beach banda in front of my villa. Each villa has a banda which is great because you never have to jostle for space.


Palms villa with a balcony that has a daybed. Photo | Wendy Watta

Sundowners were served in the plunge pool of my villa as the waiter took my order for supper. I got to watch the sunset from the comfortably upholstered plush sofa-bed right by the door.

The colour scheme is largely blue with hints of gold and with only six villas, it is intimate which allows for personalised service and since there will never be too many guests milling around, it is perfect for a couple’s getaway.

In the morning, I took one of the hotel’s bikes and went cycling along the beach, past the adjacent Breezes Hotel which actually has a watersport centre should you be interested.

Being an avid book lover, I like that their library has a take-one-leave one policy.