[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.
- 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