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Review of Pongwe Beach Hotel

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Pongwe Beach Hotel
Ranked #1 of 6 Hotels in Pongwe
Certificate of Excellence
Reviewed January 15, 2011

We stayed at Pongwe Beach for 5 nights during our honeymoon. It wasn’t long enough! We booked through ATR, who we would highly recommend and gave a fair description of the hotel. On arrival we were given a welcome cocktail and a tour of the lodge. The service is absolutely excellent. The staff are friendly and go out of their way to help you. There are about 15 separate houses. The rooms are simply furnished but are comfortable with traditional Zanzibar furniture. There is no air conditioning but the windows are covered with mesh which stops any mosquitos coming in (they weren’t really a problem in August), and allows a breeze to come into the room. We were provided with a beach bag, towels, sarongs, dressing gowns and a flag to stick in the sand to order drinks. The only let down to the room was the bathroom which could have done with decorating. There was plenty of hot water and I didn’t find the slightly brackish water a problem. There is a private area at the front of your lodge to sit and have a drink, and fresh coffee is delivered every morning. We did have the occasional power cut but the hotel has it’s own generator so it didn’t last very long.

The beach is simply the most beautiful beach I have ever seen. It is perfect in every way, powder white soft sand, hardly any people, coconut palms with hammocks strung between them and aqua marine waters. There wasn’t any problem with the tide receding miles out to sea or seaweed on the beach, which I believe can be a problem on Zanzibar. In fact the hotel employed teams of people to rake the breach very early in the morning so it always looked perfect. It was free to borrow snorkelling equipment and kayaks although excursions were expensive mainly due to the cost of taxis. We recommend the snorkelling trip to Mnemba Atoll, although we wouldn’t recommend Stonetown.
The food at the hotel was fantastic. Easily the best we had in Tanzania. There was a set 3 or 4 course meal each night but the chef would always find something else for you to eat if there was something you didn’t like on the menu. The staff would also set up a table for you to have dinner on the beach. There is a great cocktail list – we tried our best to get through them all but we couldn’t! I really would just book this hotel. We left Pongwe after 5 nights to go to Breezes Beach Club but we should have stayed. Pongwe is 100x better than Breezes and cheaper.

  • Stayed: August 2010, traveled as a couple
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Thank SarahLondon_10
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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566 - 572 of 924 reviews

Reviewed January 15, 2011

Returning from 3rd trip to Pongwe in as many years. Left Heathrow just after snow crisis , BA flight to Dar es Salam overnight and arrive in time to be met by guys from Coastal airways ( you can book direct with them ) who will take you and luggage and put you on mini plane at 9am for 20 min flight to Zanzibar. Once at Stonetown airport you will be met ( previously arrange ) by Hotel driver , complete with cold flannels and ice cold water ...perfect. 50 dollars to take you to Pongwe.Per car, not per person . And if It's Mohamed who meets you then he will give you an interesting description as he drives.
When you arrive at Pongwe you will be greeted with such a warm welcome.... a brilliant drink and an informative short talk . Usually you do not have to wait long for your room to be ready, your luggage
is taken to your room and then you know you are one of the luckiest people in this world !
You can see what the rooms are like on the web site, you can see the photos of the ocean and you can imagine diving into that bluest , warmest sea. You can read about the fabulous food, the friendliness of ALL the staff, the utter brilliance of Heidi and her management team,
what you don't know until you get there is how wonderful this place is at being so much at pains to give you what you want , and how totally totally NON RIP OFF it is.
To be honest , and I should n't really say it,it's almost cheap ... without being in any way cheap.!!! Ok you pay $25 to $30 for a bottle of good wine but you are sitting by the Indian ocean ... A large beer is $3 but its bought to you wherever you happen to be sitting , in the restaurant , on the beach, by the pool,on your terrace by a smiling staff member who just makes you feel so good and so happy, you will understand when you are there.. and you don't need money at Pongwe until you leave...
And then I hope you will be happy to leave a really decent tip for all the staff who have run after you for the time you are there... the beach is swept every morning for goodness sake !

This time we stayed for Christmas and New Year and when I say NON rip off I am also thinking of the extras that we had, from Bucks Fizzes at breakfast to cheese and wine tastings,canapes, excellent Xmas dinner, New years party on the beach ,
Nothing is ever forced down your throat, no tours are thrust at you,no suggestions to take the most expensive lunches or wines .....and if you don't like something on the menu ( we liked
everything ) then all you need to do is ask once you see the dinner menu ( at breakfast usually ) and something else will be offered. For example, if you don't like the thai soup offered at dinner but fancy trying the one that was on lunch menu, easy .... You don't like the( very very fresh ) fish on the menu ? ask for something else,no problem ..
Sometimes we asked ourselves " Where is everyone ? " as we had either the beach/pool
to ourselves. Between trips to Pongwe I dream of getting up and running into the ocean at 6.30 in the morning. And then from 7 onwards your thermos of tea arrives and you can sit on your terrace and gaze at the sea .....
You really do not need to take many clothes to Pongwe,you are given a fresh kanga every couple of days , don't take beach towels, all provided , but take some kind of footwear for explooring the sea floor when tide goes out.
Apart from the lovely staff you will also meet some very nice people staying at Pongwe
and it was interesting to see that there were several returners there , now its a long way to go , that's a brilliant recommendation in my eyes.
New things this time , MASSAGES !!! brilliant ... $30 for an hour deep tissue, oh bliss, less for shorter ones,plus $5 transport costs for masseuse...ask at reception .
Well, I think you will understand I like the place ! As others say, don't go if you want
AC , plunge pools and late night revelling , think seriously what you need from a holiday.
Zanzibar is beautiful and there is so much to see, but once you are at Pongwe I am afraid
that you will become so relaxed that you are almost horizontal and it will be an effort to
do anything strenuous, so prepare yourself in advance.!!
Now I will start to dream again,it really is so good I wanted to return early March, but of course it is fully booked , if you want to stay there, book well in advance !

  • Stayed: January 2011, traveled as a couple
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2  Thank Jilly60
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 12, 2011

Whilst I have not given Pongwe full marks that's only because it would then be meaningless in my view however, we did find it very difficult to find anything to fault of any note. Additionaly I may not be able to be as articulate as some on here but all I can do is endorse those comments fully. We have travelled around Zanzibar and can honestly say that the location so far can not be beaten. The accommodation is excellent but if you want 5 star marble floors, air con, glass in your windows, rope lights, carpet, telephone ect....go somewhere else!. This was our third visit and was/ is just perfect in every way.
Managed by Heidi the staff are first rate and service is very good without being over baring. If you want simplicity mixed with excellenat food and a very calming, relaxed environment in which to fully unwind then this is the place for you.

  • Stayed: November 2010, traveled as a couple
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Thank bart1664
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed December 31, 2010

If you want a fancy, all-inclusive, busy, bland hotel with all the mod-cons - don't stay here!

If you want something with a bit of character, where you can simply relax and enjoy a beautiful beach, great food and even better cocktails, then this is your place.

We absolutely loved our 'hut' right on the beach - it certainly wasn't the most luxurious room we have ever stayed in but up there as one of our favourites (we can definitely recommend 'Val's' room).

We happened to be there during the World Cup and the staff were kind enough to let us all share their staff quarters to watch the game (they had the only TV for miles) to the great relief of every man staying there...!

We spent our days relaxing by the pool, reading, snorkelling, canoeing, playing boules and cricket (with the cool masai security guys!). We had already spent some time exploring Zanzibar, so didn't feel like we needed to leave the hotel at all. It was pure bliss.

The majority of people were on their honeymoon and didn't seem up for socialising - with the bar and restaurant emptying by about 9.30pm. We thought this was a shame but it didn't affect our stay.

Would love to return at some point in the future...

  • Stayed: June 2010, traveled as a couple
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Thank farmsandlu
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed December 16, 2010

A seventeen-night stay at this glorious modestly sized hotel was still not enough time to absorb its charm. Pongwe attracted us because seemed to reflect what should be the Zanzibar experience, a world away from the homogenised all-inclusive concrete hotels offering, pasta, pool aerobics, and entertainment programs. Pongwi is far from being homogenised its client base is cosmopolitan consisting of a fair smattering of Brits & discerning guests of other nationalities & of course honeymooners. Take heed, many guests were passing through staying perhaps two or three days on the tail end of a safari, most wished they had booked longer. .

Accommodation, was perfect, a modest good-sized scrupulously clean cottage right on the beach with a cosy large traditional Zanzibar bed with a comfy memory foam mattress. A good size bathroom with oodles of hot slightly saline water, everything was clean & worked. The rooms are well ventilated due to the constant sea breeze, should it get sticky then just turn on the ceiling fan. A high point every morning was tea on the veranda watching the sunrise over the Indian Ocean & a walk along the most perfect empty beach before a diverse breakfast.

Food, during seventeen nights astonishingly a menu was never fully repeated, the chef provided quality, fresh, refined cuisine with the emphasis is towards scrummy fresh fish. You can also select items from the lunch menu for dinner, should fish not be your preference then just ask & they will willingly provide meat of veggie alternative. A modest well-selected reasonably priced wine list is available. The seafood platter is a must, we bravely endured three, (not on the same day) so whether on the beach or in the restaurant, make sure you have at least one. It’s always nice to be able to see & hear what’s going on or indeed cooking in the kitchen & Pongwe allows you this reassuring pleasure.

Activities, revolve around the sea & beach, boat trips fishing or snorkelling with Captain Ali, are very entertaining, Kayaks, Swimming from the lovely beach or in the infinity pool, loungers & hammocks are located around the beach which due to the numbers of guests always seems empty. At high water the beach is isolated by two headlands this is the best time for swimming, conversely at low water you can safely walk the reef for hours & snorkel further out. The hotels Masai guards keep a constant vigil & unlike other hotels on Zanzibar there are no hawkers to bother you.

Pongwe is not a five star hotel, however be reassured it is a five star experience, attention to detail & discrete service is what Pongwe excels at, the ability of staff at all levels to read our often demanding needs without asking reached previously inexperienced levels. Heidi & ultimately her team made for a memorable holiday, should you decide to stay please consider two things:

1) Pongwe school needs teaching materials, before departing ask the hotel which ones to pack.
2) Should your stay be as memorable as ours, please remember the staff when settling your account.

  • Stayed: November 2010, traveled as a couple
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3  Thank VanguardAction
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed December 13, 2010

All the 5 star reviews are RIGHT.
This place it true paradise. We spend 3 days at Pongwe in November (only because there wasn't any more days available).
Heidi along with the Pongwe staff has created a home away from home. Everything felt smooth and the staff and waiters only seem to pop up just as you need something. The surroundings are as beautiful as they get, the vibe is relaxed and serene. From the wonderful infinity pool to relaxing beneath the palm trees. We will definitely come back and the next time for at least a week.

  • Stayed: November 2010, traveled as a couple
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Thank RickyMoon
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed December 7, 2010

a more beautifully situated and secluded spot is difficult to find. Its truly relaxing at Pongwe with not much to do other than swim, walk, read, play games and swim some more. The pool and the beach are fantastic. The rooms even if a touch basic, are spotless and spacious. We slept well, but the rooms can get hot for those not accustomed to such heat! The food at Pongwe is 5-star. Its fresh, tasty, varied and the seafood is incredible. The chef really knows what he is doing. Best is to book a beach table (the one protected by the bushes is best as the evening breeze off the sea can be strong at times) ... dinner out there is super special. One suggestion would be to jazz up the dining and bar area and to introduce some style to what otherwise is a lovely, rustic, little hotel!

  • Stayed: November 2010, traveled as a couple
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Thank Daisylu2005
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Pongwe Beach Hotel

Address: PO Box 297, Pongwe, Tanzania
Phone Number:
Location: Tanzania > Zanzibar Archipelago > Zanzibar Island > Pongwe
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beach Free Breakfast Restaurant Suites Swimming Pool Airport Transportation
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 6 Hotels in Pongwe
Price Range: $142 - $229 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Hotel Class:3 star — Pongwe Beach Hotel 3*
Number of rooms: 20
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Situated on what could perhaps be described as the best beach in Zanzibar, Pongwe Beach Hotel is a tranquil place where one can escape the hustle and bustle of modern day life. It is modestly sized, with 4 Sea View Suites, 13 traditional Beach Villas as well as 3 Garden Rooms and has an intimate, personal atmosphere. Set within a secluded bay on the east coast of Zanzibar, Pongwe Beach is a true paradise retreat. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Pongwe Beach Hotel Zanzibar Island

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