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“Sensational, Matemwe Retreat is a dream!”

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Matemwe Retreat, Asilia Africa
Certificate of Excellence
Reviewed August 16, 2011

We stayed at Matemwe Retreat beginning of August 2011 and loved it. It is a truly exceptional place and everything is just perfect; infrastructure & amneties, service & staff, location & view!
Highly recommendable and for sure an enduring experience!

  • Stayed: August 2011, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank SmashFifteen
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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147 - 153 of 180 reviews

Reviewed August 11, 2011

My husband and I stayed at the Matemwe Retreat in Zanzibar for two days in July 2011. We have booked a few months in advance for 3 nights and paid in full thru an agency, however due to a last minute change in our flight schedule we were able to arrive almost 24 hours late and we have warned Matemwe that we will be arriving very early in the morning and want our room asap as we have already paid for the previous night. However upon arrival, they told us that there were no retreats available and we have to wait until 2 pm which is the check in time (we were there at 7 am!). We told the manager we already paid for the previous night and hence our room should be available, her response was "well I am sorry this is corporate life, as you were not going to stay they gave your room to someone else and no more rooms available". That was enough for me to loose my temper (after 14 hours of travelling too!) and started shouting, and oops magically they found a retreat that was ready at 8 am! (mind you there are only 4 retreats anyway!) So, god knows what went on in there, but sure that was a big negative point to start with.

Things went upward after that.. The retreats are totally private. You have your own butler who comes in with menus for each meal and sets up the table, serves the meal and drinks. He cleans and tidies your room whenever you leave and is ready to help you with all your questions and requests. The retreats have two floors, at the ground level is the bedroom looking towards the ocean and a beautiful bathroom with a bath tub also looking to the ocean. There is a big verandah where you have a sofa, a hammock, bar and table. Upstairs is a lovely and breezy terrace with a Jacuzzi/pool.

The style is barefoot luxury. Do not expect a four seasons or banyan tree type facility/luxury. It is more relaxed, natural, simple.- still makes you feel very special.

The food is mediocre. As it is by the sea we were hoping for more interesting seafood but settled for the classic shrimp/prawns.

The sea: Do not expect to swim in front of the hotel. The beach is beautiful with white powdery sand and the sea is turquoise blue. However there is a very strong high tide -low tide everyday and hundreds of sea urchins!! Just a 20 minute boat ride from Matemwe is an amazing island called Mnemba and everyone goes there for snorkelling or diving. However as it is private property you are not allowed to go on the beach at Mnemba. When you stay at the Retreats, the boat ride with a dive instructor, the snorkel gear and the lunch box is free.

I would say 3-4 days is good enough for Matemwe Retreat unless one really wants to cut connection with the world and write a book..

Room Tip: We stayed at the Safina, which was very private
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  • Stayed: July 2011, traveled as a couple
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Thank ceynoo
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
AsiliaAfrica, Marketing Manager at Matemwe Retreat, Asilia Africa, responded to this reviewResponded September 2, 2011

I would like to thank you for your comments received on Tripadvisor and I appreciate the time you have taken to make inform us and others about your experience at Matemwe Retreat. Through feedback like yours, we are able to improve and ensure our standards are maintained.

We are happy that you thoroughly enjoyed your stay at the Retreat “Safina”.

With regards to your comments about the problems upon the late arrival we are sorry you had to face some waiting time after your long 14 hours of traveling. There was confusion as to your exact arrival time and we very much regret that it was not a smooth arrival.

While you were visiting Matemwe, the island was experiencing a spring tide (which happens twice per month) which caused the very high and low tides. While the swimming is good at very high tides the opposite is true at very low tides as the water is less and sea urchins are more noticeable.

Thank you once again for taking the time to highlight the good and less successful parts of your stay and as I say we are committed to making Matemwe as good as the best bits of your stay with us.

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Reviewed August 6, 2011

We spent 5 nights at Matemwe Lodge in July 2011 in the Zamzam villa. The villa itself was spectacular, with abundant outdoor space and a private 2nd floor with a pool overlooking the ocean. The living and sleeping areas were well appointed - not too fancy but appropriate for the environment - and the bathroom was spacious, featuring both a shower as well as a very large tub that opened out onto the balcony. The food and service were great. While there were the occasional 'lost in translation' moments the staff immediately corrected any errors. There's not an abundance of activity to do while at the lodge (we did a reef walk and a 1/2 day snorkel trip - both were great) - perfect for relaxing or catching up on reading but probably not a place you'd want to stay if you wanted more adventure.

Room Tip: Of the 4 villes, the 1st is the leav private so ask for one of the others!
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  • Stayed: July 2011, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank VLetteri
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 12, 2011

We stayed at the Retreat, Nuru, for 8 nights after a 7 day safari in Tanzania (we got married in the Serengeti - arranged by Aim4Africa and Kirawira Luxury Tented Camp - this was amazing too!). We were worried by the recent bad review, but we contacted Matemwe through Nancy at Aim4Africa and they answered our concerns brilliantly.
We were after some pampered relaxation and we got it in spades here! Nuru is a beautiful 'villa' and our butler Thadeo was great fun and extremely attentive and caring. Nuru was spotlessly clean and well maintained by Thadeo during our stay.
We loved having a bath looking out over the Indian Ocean, or plunging in the pool when the weather got too hot. We spent most of our team reading on the top deck and dipping in our pool, only venturing downstairs to have a wonderful meal served to us.
The mini-bar was very well stocked, and we loved Tusker beer, so Thadeo made sure he kept the fridge full of it!
The food was superb - we ate at the restaurant on three nights - the main BBQ and Swahili dinner nights and the food was just as excellent as when served at our 'home'.
We went on the snorkelling excursion to Mnemba, and never have I been in such warm, crystal clear water... The guys who took us out let me take the tiller on the sail back too!
We tried a good few cocktails, at the bar and brought to us (this takes a little time, but who's rushing?? It says this in the guide pack too) and all were good.
The Retreat is perfect if you want beautiful scenery and a chance to relax - it isn't promoted as a fun-filled rollercoaster ride of a place. It provides you with a wonderful chance to unwind - your every whim is catered for and you don't need to do anything...
There are mosquitoes, but we had spray, the room was netted and sprayed and we had our malaria tablets so we weren't worried and they didn't affect us greatly.
We had a bush-baby visit and nick our nuts, but we got some lovely photos :-)
The Retreat is close to nature - from our deck there was a few feet of bush, a few more of beautiful white sand as soft as flour, and then the Ocean...
If you want to relax, as we did after a hectic safari and wedding then the Retreat is perfect. Have a massage looking out over the Ocean (massages were very good). Sit and read by your private pool. Decide what you want to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner and have a very talented chef prepare it, and, if your lucky, Thadeo will be looking after you and he will bring it to you with a smile and some funny stories.
On our last night Thadeo set up the table on the top deck by the pool. We ate a wonderful meal of our favourite dishes from the week and gazed up at the stars, drinking the champagne that had so kindly been given to us...
We loved it. Bear in mind it's not the Ritz, it's not New York. It's Zanzibar and thank heaven for that!!!

Room Tip: Nuru has never had a bad review I think...
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  • Stayed: June 2011, traveled as a couple
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2  Thank Neil H
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
AsiliaAfrica, Marketing Manager at Matemwe Retreat, Asilia Africa, responded to this reviewResponded September 2, 2011

Dear Neil,

Thank you for taking the time to write this wonderful review of our Retreat. We are very happy to know you enjoyed your time at Matemwe Retreat and we hope to see you again very soon for your next stay in the in Matemwe Retreat on Zanzibar.

Best Regards,

Gordie Owles

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Reviewed July 2, 2011

We stayed at Safina at the Matemwe Retreat for our honeymoon for 4 nights following a safari in Tanzania. This was to be our blow out luxury relaxation time. Safina was really beautiful. Our private butler Rashid was attentive but left us to relax. The food was amazing cooked by the wonderful Chef Yummy Yummy! But I always had an underlying sense of disappointment. The weather was rubbish, out of our control of course but there was nothing to do apart from sit on the bed and read while it was raining. Our private terrace and plunge pool was again beauiful but the seating area was full of ants and the plunge pool freezing. We spent what sunny time there was at the main hotel pool area which was lovely. The beach wasn't quite what we expected, not really a private White sandy beach...a bit of a walk away it was more a rock pool accessible only when the tide was out.the main beach didn't have many beds and no service in that area. We ate in the main restaurant for two nights and again, the buffet was amazing..I can't fault the food, fresh fruit, fish..very good. The management were also very friendly and helped ease our concerns with our tour operator, contacting them on our behalf. It was truly a relaxing time and we were very well looked after but it didn't quite live up to what we were expecting....

  • Stayed: June 2011
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1  Thank Catshorty
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed June 17, 2011

+ great service - have your dedicated help to serve food and cater for all your needs. staff is well trained, friendly, polite.
+ food is excellent - fresh fish, salads, fruit, juices
+ very spacious accommodation, with charming furniture and design


- no easy access to the beach - can't wake up and take a dip, which is what you expect from this price point
- mosquitoes managed to intrude despite spraying, insent burning and the net - woke us up most of the nights. this was a nuisance because of the malaria risk in the area
- facilities and maintenance are not up to what you would expect for this price point - e.g., some pillows are worn off, the shower head needs to be changed, swimming pool had some leaves
- very close to nature is charming, but you have to be prepared for unexpected encounters. In our case it was ants (we had to change rooms), a tick which took a bite on me (!), two cockroaches and a spider, inside the apartment.

Overall, although the retreat is a great place, I would not have chosen it for my honeymoon, where I want all to be carefree and easy.

  • Stayed: June 2011, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Sleep Quality
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Thank GVtravels
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
AsiliaAfrica, Marketing Manager at Matemwe Retreat, Asilia Africa, responded to this reviewResponded September 2, 2011

We are happy that you found the Retreat to be a great place.

With regards to your comments about the mosquitoes and insects as well as the worn off pillows and broken showerhead, I assure you that your comments have been taken in the most serious light. I have passed on your feedback to all the relevant managers and corrective measures have been taken to prevent a similar incident from occurring in future.

Please accept my sincere apologies for your partly unsatisfying experience during your honeymoon, as it is most definitely not the standard of service we strive to achieve but are comforted by the areas where it worked well.

Kindest Regards,

Gordie Owles

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Reviewed March 19, 2011

Very Disappointing

We have just returned from 8 days at this resort after a safari in Kenya then a couple of days stay in Stone Town. We are celebrating a big birthday this year so decided to push the boat out a bit and go for a bit more luxury than usual. We stayed in three excellent hotels – and this one!
We were greeted very well – given cold towels and a drink then a tour of the resort by the two charming managers – Rachel and Jolene. We were both impressed. As we were early and the room was not ready we had lunch in the main restaurant which was very nice.
This is probably a good time to say that the One Ocean Dive Centre on site was great, really professional, lovely staff, new equipment and some awesome dive sites. We were even fortunate enough to snorkel with a large pod of dolphins, wonderful.

We were then taken on the trek to Safina – through the gardens, up the numerous steps and along the path in the blazing sun to the most remote room in the hotel. Rachel informed us during the walk that our butler and the chef will offer menu suggestions each morning but that the three ‘retreat’ rooms had their own dedicated kitchen in this part of the resort so we could order anything we wanted for any meal and it would be prepared for us.
As you first walk in it really does have the wow factor. Large veranda, view to the sea, beautiful rustic furniture, double hammock, plunge pool on the roof - just like the pictures. It’s not until you start living in the space that you realise it’s all a bit tired and grubby. As mentioned by a previous reviewer, the bedding and soft furnishings were stained, there was rust in the bathroom fittings, the crockery and cutlery were all a bit ‘Woolworth value brand’ and the glassware really naff. Food arrives with ill fitting lids and was never hot.
Despite asking, the room only had some rather nasty thick blue wine glasses – useless for beer or a G&T. We used the tooth mugs from the bathroom.
Oh and at 8am the workmen who are building the fourth retreat next door arrive, but they would usually wait until 8.30 before they started hammering. An attempt has been made to screen the workmen from Safina and it does work- most of the time.
The bedroom was fitted with air conditioning on the back wall. To one side is the archway leading to the bathroom and to the other is the archway to the stairs leading to the roof. Neither archway has a door and therefore the air conditioning unit is trying to cool three large spaces. We had it set to 16 degrees but the thermostat never read less than 27 degrees.
Add to that the essential mossie net around the bed and you were sleeping in a hot muggy tent. Someone has realised this and thoughtfully provided an electric fan on the headboard. Switch it on and you are sleeping in a hot muggy tent, with a draught.

The veranda was often splattered with rook droppings. The land in front of the veranda looking down to sea is a scrub/jungle area – natural & wild and full of wildlife. The veranda is at the height of the top of the majority of the trees. We were often chasing out bugs and cockroaches and we did have a rodent of some kind one night – but it was to dark to make out what – just saw a large tail as it disappeared over the side. As soon as we realised we stopped going barefoot and wore flip flops at all times.
It also means that you cannot access the ‘private beach’ from your room – you have to walk most of the way back to the main hotel then veer off left. ‘Private’ is an exaggeration as the locals use it all the time and anyone from the hotel can as well – they just don’t as it’s not very nice. We were told you can’t swim from it by Rachel. It has three double sun beds on it but they did look old, unused and forlorn.
The veranda has just two dim lights and the closest is some distance from the dining table so be prepared to eat almost entirely by the light of a single candle if you dine after about 6.30 pm.
Also while we were there (and I do realise that this is a time of year thing) it got really windy in the evenings and made the veranda an unpleasant place to be. It was enough to blow beer bottles and glasses over & make my hair look like a scarecrows. There are plastic screens but not positioned adequately to prevent the wind, more for the rainy season I think, and there is nowhere out of the weather to eat.

On being asked if we would like a cocktail before dinner on the first evening Rashide assured us that he knows how to make a very dry martini. We ordered two. When they arrived they were approx equal quantities vodka & vermouth - also warm. The following night I requested a marguerita. It arrived sweet, warm and without salt on the rim. We later realised that they were being made in the main bar and carried the 10/15 minute trek to our room. Despite the fact that we couldn’t drink them Rashide did not offer to replace them. In fact when I pointed out that the marguerita was unsalted he went away, came back with salt and another glass, salted the rim and poured the old drink into the new glass. I went down to the main building the following day and spoke to Rachael about this (and a couple of other problems). It was clearly not the first time she had had similar complaints and promised to talk to the food & beverage manager.
The following day she went back to Kenya.
We tried 4 different fresh juices on four consecutive mornings and told Rashide they were too sweet (no orange juice, that was not available we were told). We stopped ordering juice.
On our last morning he proudly produced orange juice (?) and assured us we would like it as he hadn’t put any sugar in it!
Restocking the bar one day Rashide asked us which beer we preferred. We said either Tusker or Kilimanjaro would be great – he brought Safari.
In the information pack in the room it says, and I quote
‘We aim to provide you with the highest standards of service possible. You have your own personal butler who will attend to all your needs with best efforts. The chef will visit you between 10am and 11am each morning to tempt you with the delights of the day and will implement innovative efforts to facilitate your meal preferences.’ We saw the chef on the last two days of our stay only. By then I think it was just curiosity on his part. His English is as good as our Swahili – ‘Thank you’ and ‘you’re welcome’. All translations went through Rashide
In fact what happened was that Rashide would wait until we had finished one meal and then we would have to decide what we wanted for the next – and at what time. Apart from breakfast, there was a choice of only three items, one each of vegetarian, fish or meat. Anywhere else this would be considered the ‘specials’ of the day – not the entire list of options. As I don’t like fish it reduced my options to two. As the chef only really had one sauce and put it on everything we got quite bored and decided to order ‘off specials’.
So, one lunchtime, we asked Rashide for cold meat and salad. We thought this would be straightforward. This first ‘ad hoc’ meal was a blueprint for all of the rest.
We asked Rashide what cold meat was available. It was like pulling teeth but he finally confessed that the kitchens had salami, beef and impala. We asked for a selection of all three. He asked what we wanted in the salad. We said tomato, lettuce, avocado, cucumber and whatever else the chef thought was good that day.
What arrived was tomato, lettuce, avocado and cucumber. Slapped on a plate with no garnish, dressing, mayonnaise, or indeed cold meat. No options to replace the lack of cold meat. No apology or explanation. Just a shrug.’ No cold meat’ he said.
As Rachael had gone by this time I went and had a quiet word with Jolene and said that I felt we were not getting the most from our time as there is no menu in the room and we had no idea what can be easily produced from the kitchens. Please could she produce a reasonably comprehensive list of available meal options or at least a list of available ingredients? I explained some of the difficulties we had encountered and she was surprised as she had come upon Rashide earlier that day with packs of cold meat in his hand. He had told her it was for us. We never did get to the bottom of why we didn’t get any.
She assured me that she would do what she could and that from here on in she was going to get personally involved in our meals. She also suggested we eat in the main restaurant. Not quite the solution we were looking for. I got the impression that she had had this kind of complaint before.

Two days later I told Rashide that Jolene was making a list for us of meal options and could he ask how she was getting on. He told us that she had gone into town for the weekend. I can only assume she wanted a decent meal. We neither saw nor heard from her again. I have no idea if she came back to the hotel or not.
After that the food lurched from bad to disaster. I will name some of the more memorable incidents. The breakfast fruit plate wasodd lumps of fruit plonked on a plate. Not nicely sliced or presented in any way. One meal we ordered prawns from the daily choice. The prawns were delivered for dinner with a baked potato and cauliflower. Bizarre!. Another prawn dinner for my husband came with noodles. They had been marinated in soy sauce. Then fried in soy sauce. Then garnished with soy sauce. They were disgusting, overly salty and inedible. We requested beef lasagne (ad hoc) after checking that it would not be difficult for the chef. I am sure that taking it out of the freezer carton and zapping it in the microwave was not to taxing. I was assured that parmesan was available, I am still waiting. We told Rashide we were going diving and that we thought we would be back between 2.30 and 3pm. We pointed out that we had breakfast at seven and would be really hungry when we got back. Lunch arrived just after 4pm. On another diving day we had breakfast at the main restaurant so didn’t get to order lunch until we got back. In an attempt to get something quickly we asked for a selection of sandwiches, beef, chicken and egg mayonnaise. With a salad. We had to explain egg mayonnaise – a couple of times. We told him how to make it. What arrived was an egg mayo/chicken mix sandwich. With tomato, lettuce, avocado and cucumber. Slapped on a plate with no garnish, dressing or finesse. You get the idea. It also took an hour and 10 minutes to arrive. All this from a kitchen which we were informed had only to produce three meals a day for 6 people. I am still trying to forget the ‘beef stew’ which I chose from the daily choices. I fed it to the cat. And the ice cream which I had in the restaurant once and was really nice, I requested that and what arrived at our room was a melted mess. Rashide apologised but did not offer to go get some more. Next time I asked for it – instead of just saying they didn’t have any they brought syllabub. I asked for cake one morning to go with coffee (they always had it in the main restaurant at breakfast) and was given stale digestives. Really, it just got so bizarre. I could go on and on (and on and on) with the list but you get the idea. If you consider requesting sandwiches, pasta and cold meat and salad as us being demanding or difficult then move over diva’s everywhere.

The only ‘ad hoc’ meal that was edible was a curry we had which was lovely, fragrant and delicious. It was the only meal where the chef seemed to have used any of the spice the island is famous for.
We ate in the main restaurant several times and they always seemed to have a fair choice of dishes, condiments and dressings. We often asked Rashide what was on the restaurant menu and it always seemed to be whatever we had already had.
We always had to ask very specifically, for what we wanted. If you forgot to mention something reasonably obvious, like salad dressing – you didn’t get it, even though we’d always asked for it before with a salad. Even being very specific, it was hit and miss as to what arrived.
It dawned on us eventually that the ‘dedicated kitchen’ was little more than a place to re heat and /or re cook food brought up from themain restaurant kitchen. I can’t say for sure that this is true but it would explain a great deal.
We also, in retrospect, feel that some serious penny pinching was going on as the ingredients used seemed to be poor quality – we certainly didn’t order bacon or cheese twice.
The main hotel always seemed to be better catered than the retreats. You didn’t have to decide the day before what you wanted for breakfast – or at what time, you just order or choose when you arrive at the restaurant. We always felt like the poor relation to the main lodge rather than the 5* rooms. A good start to redressing the balance would be a reasonable ‘in room’ menu so guests could ring up, order a meal and have it arrive within, say, half an hour.

We had a beer one afternoon in the main bar and the barman broke a glass on the sand floor. He knelt down and picked up the larger pieces with bare hands and scuffed over the area with his shoe. No other attempt was made to clear up the rest. In a different seat on a different day we saw more glass around.

We were expecting better organisation, more choice and certainly a much higher standard of accommodation, food. drinks and service

Rashide is a nice guy – doing a difficult job under difficult circumstances. If I had to guess I would say that his training for this job was inadequate. Our only link to food had no idea what food was available. He was never able to offer suggestions or alternatives and questions like ‘what pasta dishes is the chef good at’ would be met with blank looks. Every day brought some new embarrassment and awkwardness. He always seemed to be woefully short of support from any other members of staff or management.
Reading through the previous reviews for the retreat and the main lodge, the managers seem to change on a regular basis and it may be that this has affected the quality of the service. Sadly for us there seemed to be some sort of power struggle going on among the staff and the guests were the losers.

  • Stayed: March 2011, traveled as a couple
    • Value
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10  Thank Divingbelle
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
AsiliaAfrica, Marketing Manager at Matemwe Retreat, Asilia Africa, responded to this reviewResponded September 2, 2011

We were truly sorry to learn of this unpleasant experience at Matemwe Retreat from your travel agent. We generally receive many positive comments and we certainly take your comments to heart. We have been in touch with the agent and understand the matter to be resolved but please rest assured that this is not on par with the standards set by our beach resort. The remarks are very much appreciated as they help us to improve both service and products.

The reasons for this failure are mainly down to a change in management which was not carried out well. There is little room for excuses here and we have worked hard to put these wrongs right.

I deliberately delayed my response to be sure we have addressed some of the finer aspects of your report and am happy to say that as the many reviews show in the past months we are once again delivering the standards we aspire too.

Best regards,

Gordie Owles

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Additional Information about Matemwe Retreat, Asilia Africa

Address: Matemwe Beach, Matemwe, Tanzania
Location: Tanzania > Zanzibar Archipelago > Zanzibar Island > Matemwe
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beach Free Breakfast Free Parking Restaurant Room Service Shuttle Bus service Spa Suites Swimming Pool
Hotel Style:
Ranked #4 of 20 Specialty Lodging in Matemwe
Price Range: $778 - $1,454 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Hotel Class:5 star — Matemwe Retreat, Asilia Africa 5*
Number of rooms: 4
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Enjoy your own private tropical escape at Matemwe Retreat. The four elegant villas that make up the retreat are set high in the palm trees with uninterrupted Indian Ocean views. With its secluded location and dedicated private butler, the retreat is considered one of the most exclusive choices of accommodation on Zanzibar Island. If you are looking for pure escapism, these villas - which combine the spirit of Zanzibar with the highest standards of comfort - were designed for you. The private plunge pool, personal bar and spacious roof terrace with day bed and loungers are so appealing that we would not blame you if you relaxed in your hidden sanctuary for your entire holiday. Echoing the white sand beaches and the changing turquoise hues of the tropical waters, the fully air-conditioned Matemwe Retreat villas are a reflection of their tranquil island surroundings, filled with locally produced materials and furnishings. The ground floor of each villa features a private bar area, cool and airy double bedroom with king-sized bed and en-suite bathroom with double basins, shower and a sunken bathtub with impressive views of the sparkling ocean. Outdoors, impressively comfortable and very private lounge areas invite you to make the most of the tropical climate.The rooftop deck with sparkling blue plunge pool offers panoramic Indian Ocean views. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Matemwe Retreat, Asilia Africa Hotel Matemwe
Matemwe Retreat, Asilia Africa Zanzibar Island

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