My wife and I have just returned from ten romantic days at Dongwe Beach View and, despite the fact that beach holidays really aren't my 'thing', I could not have been happier. The hotel itself was lovely, from the spacious rooms with huge beds to the hanging wicker chairs in the open air reception area, to the laid back bar on stilts above the beach, watched over by friendly 'Masai'. The hotel staff were invariably friendly and helpful, be they working in bar or restaurant, cleaners, pool-boys or cooks, the food was fresh and of good quality and varied every day according to what the 'catch' was, the service impeccable.
We were there for my wife's birthday and what looked to be the entire staff celebrated with us by bringing a cake with her name on it and a bottle of wine to our table, complete with an utterly unique 'Swahili' rendition of 'Happy Birthday'.
It was undoubtedly a holiday highlight.
I had half expected beaches crowded with deckchairs and sunburnt tourists, with armed guards patrolling, but what we got was complete tranquility, the beautiful, palm-lined beach largely empty but for a few local fishermen preparing their dhows. I heard from fellow guests that other parts of the island had been overcrowded and wet during our stay, but we saw nothing but hot sunshine and the occasional gathering of a dozen people when the fishermen spread their catch out on the beach once a day.
Being on the east coast of the island, Dongwe Beach View enjoyed a pleasant breeze on most days that we were there. Not refreshing exactly, but enough to make the intense heat bearable. The shallow stretch of sea that lies between the beach and the coral reef, a kilometer out, made for a calm place to swim when the tide was in (the sea as hot as bathwater), and a great place to rock-pool when the tide was out. We even saw a stingray gliding through the low-tide pools. You don't see that in the UK!
We had the luxury of a car while we were there and found that, by traveling just a mile or three up and down the coast from the hotel, there was enough variety of scenery and bars, to keep things interesting without going too far afield.
Back to the staff; When we were pulled by the bribe-seeking police, Juma on the reception desk was the embodiment of calm reassurance, when we went to Stone Town, waiter Deo kindly showed us round the market, Anita on reception was always smilingly helpful, whatever the request, and barman/waiter Soleil was ever ready to sit and share his knowledge of Zanzibari life, when not engaged in serving others. Samson the manager patrolled the restaurant each evening, ensuring that his guests had no problems, and teaching us a new Swahili word each day. And the rest of the staff, without exception (yes Barack, even you :)), were fantastically welcoming, warm and helpful.
By the end of our stay we were almost coming to see all these guys as family, and I shall miss them all, even more than the stunning views from our balcony.
Hakuna matata, as they would undoubtedly say.
Were we to return to Zanzibar one day, Dongwe Ocean View would certainly be our first port of call.