I arrived in Dar es Salaam as a first stop on a tour of several locations in Tanzania and Kenya, and en-route to a few days of Safari in the Selous. On my first night I had splurged on a stay at the rather amazing Oyster Bay Hotel - that has a website and press-cuttings that speak for themselves and has no need for any further glowing reviews from me here. However, because of a mix up in timings linked to the Eid holiday, my departure to the safari was delayed for a day, and so I needed to find a new place to stay, as my budget wouldn't extend to a second night in Oyster Bay. The staff there recommended Alexanders to me and it did truly turn out to be a wonderful little gem that I would gladly return to again and again (and indeed did come back for 2 days after my safari, before I left for Nairobi).
I currently work alot in Africa, and know how hard it can be to find good mid-range, independently owned accommodation, especially in the big urban centres. When I was there, Alexanders guests seemed to be a mixture of tourists like me, and business travellers, some of whom I gathered were using the hotel on a longer term basis whilst working in Dar, and some of whom told me they were repeat visitors. Often I don't like hotels that try to cater to both markets, but Alexanders got the balance just right. Maybe it was down to the kind of business traveller they attracted - people looking for a more personalised, laid back experience than some of the larger chain hotels, but with good facilities necessary for those needing to work, such as speedy, free wifi that worked well in both rooms and throughout the hotel and suitable restaurants/bar areas for meetings.
The hotel is located on a really quiet and peaceful street, away from the noise and hustle of the main city, and is in one of the nicer parts of town. It is very close to Slipways, the popular harbour area with a good craft market and lots of restaurants and shops. Security seemed good - with Masai Security guides at the entrance. The hotel is built around an open courtyard, with several floors of rooms looking onto a pretty pool area. As you enter there is the main indoor restaurant area, which is where a fairly decent breakfast was served each morning. This room also has a library/lounge area with a good selection of novels and 'coffee-table'-style books on safari, tanzania etc that can be browsed or borrowed by guests. It is also the location of Gordon's famed wine cellar. On the top floor is an open air 'roof-top' bar/restaurant, which was a wonderful place to eat meals, have a drink or just while away a few hours reading, surfing the web or chatting to fellow guests, if so inclined.
I stayed in two different rooms during my stays at Alexanders and both were spacious, clean and comfortable, with decent en-suite bathrooms, that had constant hot water and facilities such as TV, safe, fridge (with minibar and water) and good air conditioning, but with the option of fans if that is your preference (as is mine). However, it is important to note that the interiors of the rooms are plain and basic, so if you looking for something a bit more modern or design led, then one of the larger, (and of course more expensive) chain or boutique hotels in town would probably be more suitable
The three features of the hotel which I would say would draw me back again and again, and which are the reason for me giving this hotel such a good review are as follows:
- the excellent customer service offered by the owner Gordon and his team. Gordon took a very hands on approach to running the hotel, greeting guests on arrival and dealing with check-in/out, providing advice and generally being extremely friendly and helpful. He was able to give me lots of useful tips, and I generally found him to be an extremely interesting person to talk to, having lived a long time in Tanzania. I noticed he took the time to regularly ensure guests were happy, for example by circulating round the roof-top bar in the evenings during dinner periods to check everyone ok and and if they were inclined, to join for a chat. The restaurant, bar and housekeeping staff were also extremely efficient at their jobs and very friendly.
- the architectural design of the house, which Gordon was responsible for, including the unusual shapes of walls in some parts of the building, use of light and water to create a sense of peace and calm, and unexpected quirky features such as the aforementioned glass-roofed wine-cellar. These all added up to make this a place where I was very happy to spend quite a bit of time just hanging out for a few days (as I did on my return to the city from my safari)
- the food - which was fresh and tasty, using local ingredients in particular the seafood, and of reasonable price; and the extensive wine list - which believe me, is not something that is easy to find in Africa outside of the most expensive hotels.
Overall, this is a great little place - and I would class it as one of my favourite independently run, mid-range hotels of anywhere I've been.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- An owner manager boutique hotel with beautiful rooms, elegantly decorated, all overlooking the swimming pool, providing a home away from home for the guests. The restaurant provides excellent food, and guests can choose from a good selection of wines in the unique wine cellar. The roof top lounge and bar has a tranquil atmosphere overlooking Msasani Bay. ... more less