We've lived and worked in East Africa for over two years, most recently in Dar es Salaam, and came to Ngalawa for a getaway from Dar. We had been there before, on a friend's recommendation, and then returned recently for a last-minute weekend (we've been to Zanzibar about a dozen times for work and pleasure).
The couple who runs the place attends very carefully to every detail of the experience at the resort. The place has the benefits of both a boutique hotel (personalized service) and a resort (not too small, good amenities).
The location is quite far from Stone Town, so it's best to plan to stay on property while you are there. One can take day trips to Stone Town or to Jozani Forest or the Spice Farms, but we've found it best to do those trips from a Stone Town base, and then just hang at Ngalawa while there. Though it is feasible to do those little day trips from the property - we did once when we stayed there and it was fine.
It really is an "experience" on its own to stay at the resort. The layout is comfortable and laid-back, the rooms are very comfortable and clean (it can be a bit buggy, but this is hard to avoid because of the remote location). The front deck (or "pontilla") is an ideal place to hang out with a drink, gaze out at the vast ocean, and play board games (we learned Bao while we were there, and have been addicted to the game ever since!).
The beach situation does change according to the tides, but this happens on many beaches in Zanzibar and along the coast. If you come to this part of the world, do not expect sandy-white beaches with consistent water levels for swimming. Rather, enjoy the variation of scenery caused by the tides. The low tides also make for great photographs.
By far, the standout feature of the resort is the food. As other reviewers have noted, you get 5-star meals, every meal. The quality and variety of meals cannot be found ANYWHERE in the region (we dine out nearly every night in Dar). Very good wine list. We found ourselves in a rhythm of getting up, looking forward to a beautiful breakfast (fresh fruit platter, eggs any style, homemade bread, crepes, french toast, French press coffee, fresh juice). Walk along the beach, dip in the pool, search for Colobus monkeys and other wildlife to photograph around the property, rest a little, play a board game. Then sit down for a gorgeous lunch. Repeat any combination of activities, then look forward to an amazing dinner. Then head back out to the deck for an after-dinner drink, sometimes with live music and dancing. SUCH a nice, relaxing oasis from the frenetic pace of Dar.
Ngalawa is definitely one of the experiences that will stand out as a highlight of our time in the region, and one of the get-away opportunities we will miss when we leave. Usually I am ready to leave any hotel or resort and go back home. Both times at Ngalawa, I found myself just wanting to stay an extra few days.
Request room #18 when you go. The view of the water from the window in the bedroom is unlike any other.