I planned our trip to Zanzibar, as a surprise to celebrate my Husband’s 50th birthday, as we had considered it on several occasions in the past, but always gone back to our safe option of the Caribbean. Having liased with Kim Bird, the General Manager at Royal Zanzibar, prior to our arrival, everything went perfectly to plan.
We flew Kenya Airways, via Nairobi, arriving in resort late morning, after just over an hours transfer. First impressions of the island, including those on landing, were the sheer poverty of the country – this is Africa. But on arrival at the Royal Zanzibar, we entered a completely different world - an incredibly spacious, open air reception with views directly down to the sea. After a very quick check in, Kim personally accompanied us to our room, which was without question, amazing. Definitely the biggest room we have ever stayed in and with views to die for, directly over the Indian Ocean. Our room had everything we could have asked for. Huge 4 poster bed, lots and lots of storage space, flat screen TV, kettle, fridge and a huge bath for two! It was also spotlessly clean, attended to by our maid Jesca twice a day. Our towels were changed as they were used and our bed turned down every evening.
The resort itself is incredibly spacious, and despite being fully occupied when we arrived, it felt as if we more or less had it to ourselves. All rooms have fantastic views and can enjoy the spectacular sunsets. The pools are massive and again spotlessly clean – some of the nicest we have encountered in many years of travel. The surrounding grounds are obviously lovingly cared for by the gardeners, who were constantly planting, pruning and mowing the lawns. There are plenty of sun loungers around the many pools and on the beach front, with incredibly comfy padded toppers. Beach towels were available as and when we needed them and could be changed at any time.
The bars all have their own individual characteristics. The main ‘Mapenzi’ bar is situated by the main restaurant, ‘Spices’, and a lovely setting for an afternoon drink, surrounded by ponds with small fountains and lots of fish. The ‘Upepo’ bar is the swim up bar – very quiet, as very few people seemed to use its pool. ‘Cocos’ bar has a restaurant for afternoon snacks or pizza, and then on an evening serves ‘Samaki’ restaurant. This must be pre-booked on an evening and is an additional cost, with a choice of menus, but well worth it. The service was excellent, in an intimate setting, which was perfect for a wonderful candlelit meal. Our favourite bar was the ‘Baraza’ bar set above the beach bar, on the beach itself. It captured a lovely breeze on an afternoon, and a great view point to just watch the world go by. Ramadhan, the barman, would make a point of coming up to us on a regular basis to check whether we needed a drinks top up – great service. But this has to be said of all the barmen who were all superb. We took water, milk, beer and soft drinks back to our room from the bars as we needed them.
Meals, all buffet style, were served in ‘Spices’ with the exception of special evenings, such as the ‘Beach BBQ’, Garden Dinner and African Evening in the Theatre. Our personal favourite was the ‘Beach BBQ’ for the setting, live band and atmosphere. We also experienced a private meal on the beach, served on a low table with large mattresses to sit on covered in decorative drapes. The surrounding area was lit by candles and decorated with flowers. A wonderful experience, most definitely recommended, even though a cost option.
We went on two half day excursions during our stay, which were very reasonably priced. The first was to the Jozani Forest to see the mangroves and Red Colombus Monkeys and the second to Stone Town. This was an experience not to be missed but not for the faint hearted. This showed the real Zanzibar and its history, from slavery to Dr Livingstone, the old buildings to the markets.
During our stay, we were lucky enough to see dolphins in the sea directly from our balcony along with sailfish jumping high out of the water. In addition to these, numerous lizards, geckos and praying mantis, although very few birds, with the exception of Indian Crows and Sparrows. Zanzibar is without question beautiful, with the bluest of seas and the softest pure white sand, which easily matches the Maldives. The views really are to die for.
No matter where I travel, I usually suffer with mosquito and sand fly bites, but despite this being Africa, and taking Malarone tablets, I am very happy to say I didn’t have one single bite! That was a real result! We did use insect repellent, but that doesn’t normally stop them.
Our only negative points were firstly, the buffet food, which we struggled to take to, although the snack restaurant, at ‘Coco’s Bar’ more than made up for this, especially the fact they had ‘HP’ sauce! The fresh fruit was really tasty, especially the pineapple. Our only other issue was with the wine, of which the choice was limited. We are both wine lovers and initially disappointed not to find anything to our liking, although we did get used to it. Spirits are local brands. The mixers are all bottled and all Coca Cola branded.
We couldn’t fault anything else at all. The staff were all so friendly, but we do believe in going out of our way to make them feel special. They all work so hard, in sweltering heat, yet still have wonderful smiles and will always say ‘Jambo’, no matter what role they have. If you don’t talk to them and try to engage in conversation then they are unlikely to be responsive back. They are all very respectful of their new General Manager, Kim Bird, who is working incredibly hard to improve everything she possibly can, including team spirit. As she has only been there since June, I would expect the hotel to continually improve as time goes on, including the choice of wines.
Special thanks must go to Mgaya and Mosin for their company and patience in trying to teach us Swahili, and also to Miriam, Anna, Mbaracka, Kapi, Charles, Robert and Ally. All very individual characters, but they all played a huge role in making our trip one never to be forgotten.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.