Even though I have traveled a lot (have also been to Zanzibar before) I normally don't write reviews - but this experience I simply feel compelled to write about, since it was really unpleasant.
But to be fair, first the good things about Upepo: secluded location (note that the water gets more beautiful and clear and less full of sea weed the further you get towards Paje), good food (but really small portions), very friendly bartender, nice hotel property, and they let us stay only two nights instead of the four nights we had booked (they demand the money up front when checking in....strange indeed). It all started out a bit weird: the two managemers (married couple) had gotten our booking wrong, we had booked a beach front bungalow which was occupied. They offered us a beach front ROOM, not bungalow, but the bed was too short and we wanted a bungalow so we took the one in the garden. This is the same prize (70US) as the beach front bungalow, which of course is unheard off. However, we didn't complain about this, nor did we complain about the total lack of ventilation (thank god for the fan) in the bungalow nor about the bathroom 'facilities' which consist of cold, salty water in small amounts. Honestly, 70US.....moreover, prizes are 25 percent less for food (bigger portions) and drinks just five minutes away and accommodation cheaper towards Paje.
Anyway, the trouble started on the morning of day two, when my girl friend got a bad case of diarrhea. Given the fact that we had had our last THREE meals at Upepo we thought we should merely inform one of the present managers about this. BAD idea. He rolled his eyes and sneered at us saying that it could not be their food, since we had had the same food and I was not sick - of course anyone with just a bit of hygiene knowledge would know that even though you get the same food the portions can contain different bacteria. We tried to explain this to him, but his arrogant, ignorant behavior continued with him concluding this absurd argument: "I have been a manager for more than 10 years, so I know that the food is good". He did say that he would not charge us for one of the two bikes we had rented FROM A LOCAL from the village through Upepo (my girl friend was too sick to ride it) - this just made us feel bad for the bike renter who lost his money due to Upepo, who did not loose anything. From here on, things just got worse: the man, when not ignoring us, was eye balling us, awasserbillig woman was acting so offended and ice cold, not even saying hello to us. So very childish not the mention unprofessional. They did not even ask how we were doing with the illness, no how are you, sorry you are sick, can we do anything etc. Just completely unprofessional nasty behavior. We felt very unpleasant and were just so happy to leave the next morning. We know that we did not act difficult. We just wanted a dialogue, but instead got such unpleasant attitude. Hence taking the manager up on his word: if you have been a manager for more than 10 years, act accordingly to this and don't get offended and take things so personally. So un-cool, so rude, so childish. They made us feel unwelcome and acted like they were the customers who had gotten sick and been treated rudely. The roles were reversed which of course is completely absurd given the circumstances. The place being so small just made the situation even more awkward and unpleasant.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
February 19, 2013
We thank you for your feedback and always take into account both the good and bad to make our place better for our guests. We do have some comments to address to these guests as they seem to feel that they did not receive what that had expected. Their first comments state that we had got their booking “wrong” – and claimed they booked a beach front bungalow that was “occupied”. Since we take our reviews very seriously we went back to the original email received for the booking of this guest to see if we had misunderstood their needs as posted unedited here:
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Subject: Room inquiry
Date: Mon, 28 Jan 2013 22:34:53 +0100
Hi, Do you have an available bungalow w/ double bed and sea view from Feb 9 and 4 nights?
Let me begin by stating we have only 3 bungalows here (soon to be 4). Our newest bungalow (which was completed last month) and for which we are very proud faces right onto the beach front and we had specifically chosen this one for our guests as they had made a 4 night booking so we wanted them to enjoy what we feel is the best we have to offer with a great sea view (which from the above email is what we assumed they wanted). This bungalow is not a “room” as suggested but a two level structure – one bungalow above and one below. This I believe is where the misunderstanding lay. These guests admitted to me upon arrival that they had hoped for an INDIVIDUAL bungalow (meaning they did not want anyone to be attached to the left, right or above them) which would have meant that our other bungalow which indeed had other guests would have been more appropriate. This was not stated in their enquiry above or we would have easily been able to accommodate them. We always try to accommodate guests in a bungalow that would suit them so we apologize if what we thought would be their best choice fell short. The other guests had arrived many days earlier and were staying for many days to follow so to claim that “their” bungalow was occupied was incorrect. Since our guests seemed unhappy with the beach front bungalow we offered them the option of staying in our 3rd and last available garden view bungalow which is what they chose themselves. Their complaint that the price was the same as the beach front bungalow surprises us as all of our 3 bungalows have the same price and offer different options for the different needs of our travelers – the bungalow they chose is a large bungalow that is more spacious (and usually reserved for families or three guests so there is more room).These guests claim that the beach front bungalow bed was too short and for this we have a simple reply. In Tanzania the LARGEST size mattress available is 6 feet by 6 feet. This is a fact of life in Africa and one we cannot change. ALL our beds are six feet long and unfortunately this guest was tall so for this we do not have an easy answer. There was no difference in the length of the mattress that he chose from the one that we offered him but he felt that the latter bed frame suited him better. We apologize if he felt the bed too small but all our beds are the largest size available and even if we could have known in advance about this problem there is no real solution to this besides a compromise.
We understood right away that our guests did not seem happy with their lodging here so when they stated they did not want to stay the length of their reservation we did not charge them for the cancelled days. Our reservation policy (which is emailed to every guest upon booking and which these guests received as well) states that we ask that guests pay for their room upon arrival (all food and other activities are put on a bill that is payed at the end of the stay). We did not “demand” payment on the first day – we asked for payment as stated in our booking policy. We do not ask that our guests pay an advance on their room prior to booking as some hotels do (and if we did these guests would have lost money for shortening their stay). This is normal practice for most B&B’s on the beach. The days that were cancelled occurred during one of the busiest seasons in Zanzibar (The Sauti Ya Busara Music Festival) where it is very difficult to find lodging and most hotels would have charged these guests for their full booking so it is unfortunate that these guests feel that our practices were “strange” when we felt that we were trying to help them out.
We are sorry that the guest fell sick on the morning of her stay here (they had arrived the day before) and their claim that the manager was rude to them when they told us of this surprises us as we are committed to making our guests feel that they are part of a family here and we take our guests’ health seriously. We have never ever in the past had anyone get sick from eating at our restaurant and almost all of our guests choose to eat here for all their meals which are prepared with fresh ingredients which we buy daily (one of the plusses of being a small establishment is that we cater our meals to the amount of guests we have so nothing sits idle in fridges or freezers like larger hotels). Since both these guests ate the same food at all 3 meals and only one fell ill one might question whether it was possible that the illness came from another source. Our other guests who were staying at the same time also ate here for all their meals (for a week) and had no complaints, nor did our staff (we all eat what is on the menu since our menu is small and changes daily with what we have purchased on the day). That said we tried to accommodate her illness with simple food after we learned that she was not feeling well and did notice that the following day she did eat her all inclusive breakfast without problem.
Despite the fact that this guest felt unwell she rented a bicycle. She then decided that she did not feel up to riding it. We did not charge the guest for the rental (even though they had asked for a bike and then when it arrived 20 minutes later claimed she could not use it). We felt not asking them to pay for the bicycle was a way again of trying to make them feel better about their stay and was offered as a favour to them. As stated in their review, it is true that we source out all our rentals to Bwejuu villagers to help the local economy. The reviewer then states that he felt badly for the villager who lost his money due to Upepo . I question why these guests felt “badly” as they wrote but did not offer to make the payment themselves (merely $6) since they did order a bicycle which they received but did not use. The “poor” villager who rented the bicycle is our good friend Anwari and when we explained the predicament to him (that we had done them a favour and not charged them) he happily did us the favour and did not charge us. For those who have visited Zanzibar or are about to visit you will learn that this “hakuna matata” or “no problem” friendly attitude is what makes this place special and when business arrangements change (which they often do here) people are very accepting (especially friends!).
We tried our best to help make these guests stay pleasant. We spoke to them at length trying to suggest places that might suit them better, had a long dialogue with them at dinner about their travels, offered them as many options as we were able to make them feel comfortable and felt we gave them as much attention as we could over their short time here. We have never been described as rude, nasty, cold, unpleasant, childish and unprofessional but we will concede that these guests were obviously unhappy about many things here and obviously whatever we tried to do to alleviate their problems did not succeed. We hope that they found somewhere that suited their needs better and where they were happy, since from the moment they arrived here at Upepo, happy they certainly were not.
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.