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“Good but let's not get carried away!”

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Zanzibar Retreat Hotel
Ranked #1 of 6 Hotels in Matemwe
Certificate of Excellence
Reviewed December 12, 2009

[If you don't to read all my bumpf below, basically what I am saying is that this hotel is quite nice and, when in Africa, you have to make allowances for things not to be as slick as they are at home. However, when you're charging mid to high end Western prices, you have to do a bit better than they are at the ZRH in order to justify them, especially if you want a "very good" or "excellent" rating.]

My girlfriend and I have just returned from Zanzibar where we spent 11 nights at the Zanzibar Retreat Hotel after having read the reviews on Trip Advisor. Whilst I would not disagree with the spirit of many of the breathlessly enthusiastic reviews of some of the other reviewers of this hotel, I do think that certain qualifications should be made.

Firstly, the comments I agree with:

- Jan (the Finnish owner) is a great host and a genuinely nice bloke. Consequently, when he gives recommendations/organises excursions these are invariably of a good quality and represent reasonable value for money (where - without his help and local knowledge - they may not).
- A good owner in a small resort often leads to the hiring of good staff and the ZRH is no exception and I agree with those who commented that the staff were friendly and helpful.
- The location is stunning in terms of white sand beaches and crystal blue waters but, as one of the other reviewers notes, be aware that (a) you can only swim in the sea for a limited period at high tide and (b) there isn't an awful lot going on as regards other places to eat and drink (5 other places within 40 mins walk either way along the beach some of which are soulless cattle market, package tour atmosphere vacuums).
- Making up for the lack of swimming time in the sea, the pool is nice and big and never got crowded in the least when we were there.

Having said all this, there were a couple of problems which I think need to be highlighted in order that one gets the full picture of this hotel.

- Food. I have read that some rated the food very highly at the ZRH. We ate all our breakfasts there (they were included in the price) as well as 4 dinners and a lunch. Personally, I found the quality of the food ok (but only ok) but the portions were very small (and I am not a big bloke) and the prices were very high, in each case when compared with other places down the beach. The main problem was that the food was akin to what you might find in a 3/4* hotel anywhere in Europe/North America/Australia etc. Little or no real acknowledgement to local cuisine was evident anywhere on the menu aside from the occasional empty reference to "with Zanzibar spices" or similar. In the UK, it's the kind of thing you'd pay a tenner a head for and it's quite boring... exactly the same is true here. As regards the breakfasts, again these were ok (fruit followed followed by something cooked) but nothing special (incidentally, with fresh fruit in such abundance, it is a real shame to have occasionally been served tinned/overripe stuff).
- Aircon. There are problems with powercuts/power consistency in Zanzibar generally. Some hotels deal with this by having their own generators. The ZRH suffers from power problems without having sufficient back up measures in place. The result is that the AC regularly doesn't work/has a mind of its own. We spoke to three other sets of guests in different rooms all of whom had the same problems. When it's 29-31 degrees as you get in to bed and you've no working AC this can be a total nightmare if you're there to sleep/relax.

  • Stayed: December 2009, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank Ollie_1981
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed December 11, 2009

My wife and I booked this hotel fairly last minute but from the first contact everything went very smoothly. We arrived at the hotel and was afforded a warm welcome with a cool drink by the owner Bjorn. Nothing is too much trouble at this hotel and Bjorn and his staff do everything to make your stay as comfortable and memorable as possible.
The food was superb with a good choice at breakfast and a four course evening meal with two choices for the entree (fish or meat). There was a good choice of wines but we felt they were a bit pricey!
The swimming pool is large enough and essential as you are only able to swim in the sea for about an hour when the tide is fully in.
There are a number of excursions that the hotel can arrange. we went on a snorkelling trip to Mnemba which we booked with a hotel 5 - 10 mins walk up the beach (recommended by Bjorn) and was great value at £45 per person for about 6 hours we had 2 dives and when the dolphins swam near the crew stopped and allowed us to swim with them.
We also arranged a hire of a motor bike through Bjorn for the day and this was great fun. The roads were safe with only a couple of pot holes and we went to the forest in the south and with the help of a guide saw a large number of rare red collobus monkeys.
The only gripe for us was that being a small hotel, it is very quiet (there is no music in the bar or restaurant). Whilst there are other hotels, with a couple of restaurants and bars further up the beach, we did not feel safe at night walking on the beach and therefore you are restricted to eating at the hotel. Luckily the food is excellent but it would have been nice to try some where different.
All in all this is a lovely hotel with great service and superb food. If you are looking for a quiet getaway I doubt you could pick a better hotel.

  • Stayed: November 2009, traveled as a couple
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Thank travellovey
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed November 8, 2009

My wife and I spent 5 days at this hotel at the end of our honeymoon.; It is the perfect place to relax and chill out. The rooms are clean, comfortable, attractively decorated and spacious. We eat breakfast and dinner in the restaurant each evening and were impressed by the quality of the food which was varied and tasty. During the day there is plenty of space to relax by the side of the pool or on a sun lounger on the beach.

  • Stayed: August 2009, traveled as a couple
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Thank Coverack
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed November 3, 2009

We spent a week with the nice people at the Zanzibar Retreat, who were welcoming and so helpful. In the quiet time in early October, it felt like we had the place to ourselves, even though there were other people at the hotel. In a place with 7 rooms, it never feels crowded and the pool was lovely and big. Nothing was too much trouble for the staff, and the owner Bjorn, went out of his way to make sure we had a perfect holiday. From organising our spice tour, to recommending a trustworthy dive/snorkel operator (got to swim with the dolphins, which was the best part of the whole holiday), to arranging our transfer to stone town.
It is also well located for wandering up and down the beach to try out the other hotel restaurants. The food at the retreat was mostly nice, we had a couple of mishaps, but that may just have been bad choices on our part. Stick with the fish dishes and it will be fine.
One other mishap, beyond the control of the hotel, was having my watch stolen by a child while we were lieing out on the beach loungers. Just be careful of children asking for money for you to take their photo. To be fair, Bjorn invested a lot of effort trying to recover the watch, he even spoke to the village chief.
Internet (either wifi or at the computer) is charged at $5 an hour which was the only negative - but then we didnt need it, and would have just wasted time on it if it had been free!
That didnt spoil our holiday though. We really had a lovely time. And if they continue with the plan to make the suite upstairs, it will be even better.
Our week at the Zanzibar Retreat was among the best weeks holiday I have ever had. Thanks to all involved in making it such a special place.

  • Stayed: October 2009, traveled as a couple
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Thank aisling-and-james
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed October 25, 2009

Unfortunately we only got to stay a few days at Zanzibar; fortunately this was at Zanzibar Retreat Hotel in Matemwe. Zanzibar Retreat Hotel offered us everything we wanted and even more. We relaxed by the swimming pool, walked along the beach and went snorkeling. Beaches at Zanzibar are amazing; that beach at Matemwe will probably be the nicest beach we will ever see. The dhow's you see lying around when the see is low give it its typical charm, just as the children who play in the water.

Zanzibar Retreat hotel offers several activities that can be arranged for you. Due to a lack of time we could not profit from this offer as much as we wanted, but we did go snorkeling. During this lovely experience we saw dolphins; apparently you have a 80% chance of seeing dolphins when you go snorkeling/diving near Memba. Zanzibar Retreat hotel cooperates with a very reliable partner for this, so you needn't worry: you are in good hands.

Zanzibar retreat hotel comes close to paradise, as for as we are concerned. The warm and relaxing days end in quiet evenings with a nice breeze, leaving you completely relaxed and utterly happy.

We were warmly welcomed by one of the owner's of the place, who was very attentive for our needs and gave us a very personal service.

Thanks to Zanzibar Retreat Hotel, Zanzibar will be a very nice memory in our hearts and minds.

  • Stayed: October 2009, traveled as a couple
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Thank EvelineandKristof
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed September 26, 2009

We stayed at The Zanzibar Retreat Hotel for 6 nights after safari in kenya. This was a lovely way to experience Zanzibar, in terms of food, wine, hospitality and local colour. The hotel run by Jan (a very friendly Fin) and his staff made up from the local community have a unique combination of a boutique style hotel only 10 rooms but with impeccible personal service when you need it and a laid back approach that makes you feel like your in your own home. (it is very nice to think that your holiday is contributing to the local community. The food is fantastic and I have just cooked one of the soup recipes back home in the UK that Jan gave to me. The hotel is beautiful hard wood floors, lovely pool, bar and lounge area overlooking the beach. You see the locals just going about their lives and it is so refreshing to go somewhere that is as undisturbed by tourism. The woman collect seaweed at low tide, the little children play in the sea and the men fish. As a city dweller being in this environment is refreshingly simple and incredibly relaxing. No beachboys, no nightclubs, no tacky stalls. If you want this go elsewhere. Jan can organise day trips with the hotels driver Jackson - a very funny man as and when you feel like it, we hired a dhow for the day and went under sail which was amazing and to the forest in the south with monkeys all around you. Finally the staff from the ladies who washed our safari clothes with most of the Amboseli dust on them, to the lady who gave me a wonderful lemongrass massage on arrival, to the a few of the staff who like us love sports and let us watch the tv in the staff quarters England won! - the genuine friendly and happy nature of Bniie & Bakari was really nice. There are many other huge american style hotels with lots of tourists on zanzibar but if you want a relaxing zanzibarian experience, in 5 star surroundings come here.

  • Stayed: September 2009, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank helsbels33
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed September 12, 2009

After a five day safari (Lake manyara, Ngorongoro and Serengeti), this is an excellent location to relax. One of the owners of the place, Jan, is from Finland and organised a trip to a party for all guests and invited a group of dancing and singing people for entertainment. This was very nice!
The staff is friendly and always ready for you.
The food is even better as it looks.

These were perfect last days of our honeymoon.

  • Stayed: September 2009, traveled as a couple
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Thank Hubbabub
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Zanzibar Retreat Hotel

Address: Matemwe Beach, Matemwe, Tanzania
Location: Tanzania > Zanzibar Archipelago > Zanzibar Island > Matemwe
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beach Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Pets Allowed ( Dog / Pet Friendly ) Restaurant Suites Swimming Pool Airport Transportation
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 6 Hotels in Matemwe
Price Range: $104 - $797 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Number of rooms: 12
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
The hotel is situated directly on the beach. Its a peaceful and tranquil setting with plenty of shady places for you to relax. There is a 16x8 meter pool perfect for a refreshing swim when the tide is out. The hotel serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and there is a well-stocked bar to accompany. We are proud to have a good reputation regarding food. We work consequently with proper waist management, and support education in the village. Most of our suppliers are from the village, and we try our best to have a good relation with the whole village. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Zanzibar Retreat Matemwe
Zanzibar Retreat Hotel Matemwe, Zanzibar Island

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