Barefoot Luxury on Zanzibar's East Coast
11th August 2022
A beachside stay on Freddie Mercury’s home turf makes for a chilled out holiday
The white-sand Paje beach on Zanzibar’s east coast, where the Indian ocean is calmed by an offshore reef, is an hour’s drive from the airport and the capital Stone Town. It’s home to a string of hotels and lodges and within striking distance of the small towns of Paje itself and Bwejuu, and the wildlife reserve of the Jozani Forest with its red colobus monkeys.
Restrained modern beachside chic: a guarded driveway leads down to a simple reception area framing the swimming pool and beyond it the stunning ice-blue sea, with the hotel’s vintage fishing dhow – now used for snorkelling trips to the reef – moored dead centre. The nine private villas, to the left, are basically big, white, glass-fronted boxes looking out over private terraces and plunge pools to the sea. The mirror-lined bar has an Ibiza-ish vibe – the decor throughout is white and light blue – while the restaurant is more African, with a steepled roof and rattan furniture. The hotel sits on two cliffs, with a central staircase leading down to a sandy terrace created by the owners, and then to the beach, which gets cut off at high tide; a breakwater creates a lagoon for all-day swimming. It feels very private.
The design has a clean, Ibizan feel
Service is relaxed and friendly and the mood is grownup. Zawadi is better suited to adult couples than families, though its owners, the Raguz family, also own the more family-friendly and Arabian-influenced Baraza further along the beach, as well as the Breezes and Palms hotels: a benefit is that you can visit their other properties for dinner or a spa treatment.
Bed And Bath
Like everything at Zawadi, the huge beds are focused on the breathtaking view, and sit dead-centre in the rooms (each given a Swahili name for a sea creature) with a bank of wardrobes running behind, facing the bathroom. There’s a well-stocked minibar: beer, soft drinks and water are free, but wine is charged at $25 (£20). (Certain wines, high end spirits and champagne are also charged for in the bar and restaurant). There was a TV that we didn’t switch on – why would you, with that view? – and dependable wifi, plus a medical kit with sting relief cream (we’d been badly bitten on safari before arriving). The bathroom has a free-standing oval bath and a hand-built curved shower cubicle that looks like it was modelled on a conch shell. The furniture and fabrics are all locally made.
Beds are positioned to take in the view
Food And Drink
Great use is made of local seafood, from snapper to giant prawns, and the food is superlatively cooked, though Zawadi’s restaurant caters perhaps too obviously to European and North American tastes. Each meal has five courses, including soup and palate cleansers and slightly poncey puddings. Again, it’s worth checking the option of visiting Zawadi's sister hotels: we had the best lobster I’ve ever tasted served to us on a private beach table at Baraza.
Pools, Spas And Public Areas
The gym and spa are small (again, you can use the more sumptuous hammam-like spa at Baraza) but – nice touch – there is a landscaped running track through the hotel’s gardens where food is grown for the kitchen, and chickens kept for eggs. The pool, illuminated at night with blue light, beautifully offsets the sea, and here or on the lower sand terrace you never feel too close to fellow guests. Staff arranged a wonderful snorkelling trip to the reef for us, and a trip to Stone Town embracing its bustling market, the house Freddie Mercury was born in, the architecture from its Omani rulers and British governors, and a sobering museum commemorating its role as the hub of the east African slave trade.
The hotel is as beachside as it gets
Nuts And Bolts
Room count: Nine
Freebies: All food and most drinks, though premium spirits and some wine and minibar items are charged.
In the bathroom: Frangipani Spa products.
Wifi: Free, and good.
Extra charges: Laundry charges (eg $14 for a pair of trousers or dress); late checkout (until 6pm) available for a fee.
Minibar prices: Beer, soft drinks and water free, wine $25.
Disability access: No, but sister property Baraza is wheelchair accessible.
Pet policy: No pets allowed.
Room count: Nine
Bottom Line Best thing: The sense of relaxation, privacy, and the stunning view.
Worst thing: There's live entertainment during dinner (common on Zanzibar, but irksome). Beware of sea urchins in the ocean.
Perfect for: A laid-back decompression after a safari, or a romantic break.
Not right for: Families.
Instagram from: Poolside, with the sea beyond.
Room rate: Zawadi villas start from €640 (£570) a day, Baraza one bedroom villas from €750, and one bedroom ocean front villa from €800.
In A Nutshell: A Jewel Of A Barefoot-Luxury Hotel Nestled Between Cliffs On Africa's Spice Island.
This article (and all embedded/linked content) by Nick Curtis appeared in the Independent magazine and is available online here.