Myself and my wife went on honeymoon here in January 2013...A short hop from Arusha in Tanzania on Precision Air (quite good) where we were on Safair and we landed in the mayhem of Zanzibar airport. An hour or so up the one proper road Zanizbar seems to have and we passed through the final one of many very sparse looking and quite poor villages to enter the beautiful Esque Zalu.
This is a cracking hotel in many ways. Service is good, the views are amazing and food excellent. However, there are things you need to be aware of.
Things that are great about Zalu...
1. Great service...ok, it can be in your face and there are probably too many on duty but service is still excellent
2. The building itself is amazing...
3. The pool is lovely, overlooking the Ocean and perfect temperature for swimming
4. Food is good, in fact it was very good.
5. The setting is a really strong point...set on a cliff/rocks, the Indian Ocean is turquoise and crashes against the jetty and the rocks beside the hotel
6. The rooms are lovely...clean, well air conditioned and big
7. The jetty area is fantastic and it is sepcial....you should spend mrnings here on your own reading while the hotel sleeps or an evening pre dinner cocktail...lobster and glass of Chenin Blanc at lunch time on the jetty is a treat!
8. Locaton...close to Nungwi and Kendwa and you can walk both at low tide...but most certainy not at high tide
9. Hotel has high speed WIFI
10. Spa areas are lovely
Things you need to be aware of...
1. There is NO beach...this is a huge setback..all you can do is look out at beautiful ocean and not actually get in as the area is windy and full of rocks and coral and dangerous to swim in...
2. You have to go to nearby Nungwi (far busier and full of Italian and German package holidays) and Kendwa for the beach and swiiming in the sea....both are amazing, kind of like Kho Phi Phi if you have been there but full of beach boys which is irritiating...Zalu is east facing, so go 3 miles around the northern tip of island to Kendwa to see the amazing sunset...and it is amazing.
3. The food is very very good but menu gets predictable...you get a choice of veggie menu, international and swahili (which is same every night)
4. No gym...a rockety dreadmill is all that is available and it is a downside for a 5 star hotel not to have proper gym facilities, especially as you are told not to walk outside the gates
5. Extras...this is a major issue...$9 for a glass of wine and $5 or so for beer or shot...very very dear and price of bottle of beer only $2 up in Nungwi or Kendwa
6. The excursions are also 5 star prices..looking at $80 per person to do half day in Stone Town....it eally should be a $30-$40 per person trip
7. The staff are genuinely very helpful...but there seems to be too many and some are blatantly tip hunting...the tipping ettiquette is confusing...some tip every night, some at the end...usually it is $1 per bag for porter and then $2 per meal every night...staff rely on tips so work hard for them...sometimes too hard!
8. Location is a really strong point but also a weakness...it is a good clip from Stone Town and you need taxis to get you anywhere, even only 2-3 miles down the road for safety and tide reasons...however, the views do make up for it...
9. The bar areas have no atmosphere and are totally soulless...too bright and open and after dinner all you want to do is go to bed
10. A large corporate had booked several rooms in the hotel...there was branding up around the pool and on jetty which is intrusive if you are paying big money for seclusion..we were asked by management did we mind, but really there was no choice in the matter.
Zanzibar is an amazing spot. A place where Arabic culture and influence is everywhere but with a distinctly laid back and chaotic East African feel to it and post colonial european tinge. It is over 95% Muslim, hugely homophobic and not expecially pro drinking but this is no issue up the North on the beaches. Zanzibar is very poor, but far more advanced than Tanzania.
The beaches up north are beautiful, as nice as I have seen but do be aware of Beach Boys selling soccer jerseys, hats, trinkets and later in the evening, hash. The beaches of Kendwa have the look of a party and there is a full moon every month and beach party eery Saturday evening for those who care. Kendwa is much more backpacker friendly and lots of young Aussies and europeans. you get the feeling it will only get more popular. It is also common enough to see european women over 55 with young beach boys (20s) and Masai men who have some form of financial or dependnecy understanding in their "relationships..." However, nothing that you dont get in Thailand, turkey, Canaries...etc. Sunsets on kendwa beach are possbily the nicest Ive ever seen.
Stone Town is a pretty interesting place...narrow little streets but biggest attractiion is old Slave Market. Fascinating. You get to walk through the fish and beggie markets, down to the seafront, see Freddie Mercury's House and wander the streets of this very Muslim bustling little town...Stone town was a little dissappointing overall. Our guide was more keen talking to his mates on the phone and was a budding Che Guevera who disliked europeans and spoke of government and police corruption in Zanzibar which is rife.
Zanzibar is a lovely spot for a honeymoon couple, a retired couple or a group of adventure seeking backpackers willing to try something different. It is a very long way to go for a beautiful beach holiday but added to Safari it is perfect. There are direct flights from Rome and great deals through Rome (€1000 for a week with flights and hotel) but otherwise you are flying through Amsterdam or London to Kenya or Tanzania and connecting on which can be a very very long haul if you, like us, had to come from Dublin. Tourism has taken off in a big way in Zanzibar but it iss till a great destination.
Overall, this is a really good hotel and very much a 5 star rating...5-6 days is enough to enjoy the delights of this very exotic place.
the sea views are obviously the way to go if possible...
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
February 22, 2013
Bonjour and salutations from Essque Zalu Zanzibar,
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I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for such a wonderful feedback on both Essque Zalu Zanzibar and your experience on the island in general. It appears you had a fabulous time both on safari and visiting Zanzibar and we do appreciate your selecting Essque Zalu Zanzibar as your hotel of choice for your stay on the island.
Going through the elaborative points of the up and down sides of Essque Zalu is of great interest and we do sincerely appreciate your time to comment on them for our knowledge and for us to understand the gap you felt, if any, and to rectify further.
To clarify on the downsides, please see below:
1. The reason that we do not have a beach is a deliberate one rather than an accidental one; the reasons being the owners wanted a secluded space away from the crowd of beach boys that is now increasingly becoming a nuisance and a security threat in Zanzibar and since Zanzibar has a policy of public beaches, the owners wanted a spot that they are in control of who enters their premises rather than have movement of unauthorised folks and as your second point indicates that the beaches of Kendwa and Nungwi were full of beach boys which you found irritating is exactly what the owners foresaw before building this hotel.
2. Indeed Nungwi and Kendwa are one of the best beaches on this island offering white sandy beaches, turquoise blue oceans and the sun to light it all up; and the experience of being there on the white sandy beach, seeing the normal day-to-day buzz of the place is beautiful, albeit the crowd of tourists from nearby hotels enjoyng the beautiful outdoors in these areas. The sunsets are truly stunning and colourful! Essque on the other hand is ideal for the sun rise - a colourful hue of lazy orange and red lighting the dawn skies is a sight worth remembering and it never ceases to amaze us all everytime we see it.
3. The menu at dinner time changes every day except for the swahili menu which stays the same, but the Non-Veg and Veg options each of which are 4 course set menu meals varies from day to day. We do appreciate that you found the food very tasty and good and we are quite flexible in a way that the chef is always available to discuss on the meals should you want to experience something out of the menu - we do apologise for not reaching out to you during your stay to discuss on this opportunity.
4. You are correct, we do not have a proper gym but a comfortable and airy fitness centre to give our guests the opportunity to exercise for short durations so that they can thoroughly enjoy the tranquil ambience found at Essque Zalu. Moreover this also was a deliberate action as we wanted to have different ideologies than our other 5 star counterparts and did not want to create an artificial atmosphere of weights, air conditioned gyms and to have any rigid training schedules by gym trainers - we wanted our guests enjoy exercising in the open air in a natural environment.
5. We do understand that you found the extras quite pricey however we are extremely competitive if not better priced than other 5 star hotels on the island. Beverages in places like Kendwa and Nungwi invariably will be cheaper than Essque mainly due to the location - theirs is a basic place using very basic structures, served by local untrained bar men, offering very basic services while on our side cost of everything is relative to the quality offered - rest assured even we enjoy changing scenes once in a while and thoroughly enjoy being in Nungwi or Kendwa beaches to enjoy the local bars there.
6. The cost of excursions are high is because of the distances covered. A one way trip to or from Stone Town costs around USD 100 as an average so a return should cost USD 200 - in that case if an excursion costs around USD 80 per person is very well priced considering you are also getting a tour with a professional tour guide + return transfers back to the hotel. If we were close to Stone Town, definitely this would have worked out more cost effective and allow me to stress that our excursion rates are much cheaper than other 3-4 star properties in the same area.
7. This feedback of tip hunting is indeed a major eye opener for me and my team of managers. Thank you very much for mentioning this as we will now try and monitor these traits in our service personnel as by our standards and ethos, this should never be happening and we will take remedial action on this. Our apologies if at all you experienced such behaviour but rest assured this is not the norm here. We will do our best to sort this out internally.
8. The views are justifiably awesome and you are correct in saying that although we are located quite far from stone town and that going everywhere requires a taxi, the views, the ambience and the experience of being at Essque Zalu is worth it.
9. Thank you for your feedback on the bars having no atmosphere and being soulless. Usually the bar is abuzz with other guests early in the evenings however as our hotel is more of a honeymooners location, our guests do want to retire early after their meals and those who had a busy day want to finish their meals early and head off for a good nights sleep. Nonetheless, as this is the first time we have heard such a remark, we will surely take this into perspective and try and change the lighting and ambience to rightly bright and warm so that guests do not feel unwelcome due to the brightness.
10. Our sincere regrets for the branding of the corporate clients - that was our first and last time we allowed branding in public areas and will not happen again. All guests of ours are treated as equals and we had no intention to inconvenience any of our other guests due to the corporate group.
We are hopeful that the above explanations to your feedback sheds light on the concerns raised however we are in turn extremely grateful for pointing some of the things out for us to rectify and to see how can change some of the aspects mentioned by you.
With thanks and warm regards,
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.