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“An idyllic spot for romantic relaxation”
Review of Unguja Lodge

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Unguja Lodge
Ranked #2 of 5 Hotels in Kizimkazi
Certificate of Excellence
Reviewed May 20, 2008

We stayed at the Unguja Resort at the end of a 2-week safari/Zanzibar vacation. It was the third site we stayed at in Zanzibar (we wanted to get a feel for different areas of the island), but it was the only one we would have stayed at longer if we could!

Our bungalow was absolutely magnificent and designed to take advantage of the spectacular view. The water was just a few yards away, and every part of the bungalow had views of it (even the shower!). We took fabulous photos of the sunset right from our lounge!

While Matemwe had a long white, sandy beach for walking, swimming there was virtually impossible (the sea urchins were overwhelming). Here, you could walk down the stairs right into the ocean at high tide. There was no real surf or current, so it was like swimming in a large pool. At low tide, the tidepools were fun to walk around and investigate.

Our hosts were wonderful and did everything they could to make our stay enjoyable. Unfortunately, I don't like any seafood (I keep trying, but I still hate it), but the non-seafood meals they served were excellent (and my husband said the seafood was great, too). They did ask if we would be there for lunch, but didn't have any problem if we said we didn't know. And if we didn't want the full 3 courses, they were fine with just fixing us a sandwich.

We had a mixed experience with the on -site dive shop. The dolphin trip was nice. We left very early and were there before most of the other boats and found a group of dolphins very quickly. It was amazing to swim with them and hear their sounds underwater. Unfortunately, it quickly became quite crowded, dimming the experience, but that wasn't our guides' fault.

Our snokeling trip was a bit more problematic. They put us with a person who was diving, so they changed our departure time by a couple hours. This made the tide higher than it would have been, which was great for diving, but not so good for snorkeling because the water was too deep to see well from the surface. (There was also something in the water that stung and made my husband look like he had a nasty case of chicken pox, while I felt the stings but didn't become covered in red, itchy bumps - this was not a problem in the water near the hotel - and not really the guides' fault either.) It did feel like they threw our groups together without considering what would make the best trip. That trip didn't really feel worth the money we paid.

Overall, this was our absolute favorite resort. We considered staying longer, but couldn't really change our flights. We were glad for the couple days we spent in Stonetown (the 236 Hurumzi is fabulous), but we'd have skipped Matemwe and spent all our beach time here instead.

  • Stayed: February 2008, traveled as a couple
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Thank Stratovolcano
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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226 - 232 of 279 reviews

Reviewed April 3, 2008

The previous two reviews perfectly summed up the special qualities that make Unguja so unique, but I'll add my kudos.

Unguja Lodge sent a driver to pick us up from the airport and it took about an hour to drive to the south coast, just south of Kimikazi, known for dolphin watching excursions. I thought the rate they charged for the transfer was fair.

Elies, who along with her husband Ralph built the resort, welcomed us warmly to their amazing and intimate resort. Our Seaview Villa #5, which is a free-standing open architecture villa covered with a 2-story sloping thatched conical roof, was chic and atmospheric in an Arabian sort of way. The only room that could be closed up was the master bedroom. Everything else, the living area with curving whitewashed banquettes with colorful seat cushions, and the shower/sink area, and separate commode was open to the sea with half-curving walls. We were sited high up overlooking the turquoise Indian Ocean, with a weathered red fishing boat and luxuriant tropical foliage as a backdrop, and a stone terrace with teak bench for sitting…Breathtaking!

Stairs led to a second level with another mosquito-net draped bed that looked out through an eyebrow opening in the thatched roof. The light sconces looked Arabian…the wall decorations were made from natural materials…shells, sisal rope, driftwood and colorful fabrics. The master bedroom featured a large wooden four poster bed, on a raised platform, encircled with mosquito netting and sporting a blue elephant batik coverlet. Double sinks were behind the bed, there was a wooden closet area and another lockable small closet with a safe. The room itself was semi-circular with three arched and shuttered windows on each side. No air conditioning…just a ceiling fan. It was warm at night but not terribly uncomfortable, and we learned to keep the shutters open for maximum breezes. Special touches included a welcoming fruit plate and hand-made card adorned with a seashell which congratulated us on ouor 25th anniversary. .

We didn't take any boat excursions, but took the guided Village tour, which was interesting but too long that day.

The Dining area was lovely and open, with the same half curvy white walls. We had elected for half board, and the set menu included a lovely shrimp starter followed by delicious “pole-pole” or, as we know it, trevalia fish. It was wonderful to have seafood after all the meat we’d eaten. We also ate their 3 course lunch buffet every day and that was also delicious.

The only negative with the architecture is when it rains. Despite it being the dry season, we had an unusual amount of monsoon type rains, and had to seek refuge in the bedroom. Since we had just returned from two weeks of safari, we didn't mind chilling out and reading in the bed, which is equiped with two good reading lights. I was also amazed that we didn't have more of a problem with insects and other critters since everything is open. Even the mosquitoes weren't bad, although we did spray with DEET each night and made sure our showers were completed before sunset.

Given the smaller size of the resort, it was easy to talk to other guests and that made for a fun "house party" type atmosphere. I only wish we had skipped the night in Stonetown and added it here. We could have easily driven to the airport for our afternoon flight and spared the dirty, crumbling atmosphere of Stonetown. By the way, we stayed at the Beyt al Chai in Stonetown and it was a big disappointment. Try somewhere else. The Rooftop Restaurant, above 151 Huzumi, however, was a fun experience and delicious food.

  • Stayed: February 2008, traveled with family
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3  Thank barefootbeach
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed March 16, 2008

This resort has an exclusive feel to it. It combines seclusion, natural beauty with an authentic, african, and unobstrusive organic luxury. It would suit the discerning traveller in search of peace and privacy. Sitting out of the front of your huge 'hut' watching the sunset with a glass of wine is unforgettable, and it is a perfect place to relax as part of any holiday.

  • Stayed: July 2007, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank coconutcrab
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed March 6, 2008

There were no big signs informing us we had arrived at Unguja Lodge, but as our luggage was carried along the short tropical path from the parking area to reception we soon felt we were somewhere special.
After a warm welcome and a few moments to sit and soak up the tranquillity of the Lodge we were shown our room. The definition 'room' is not quite accurate as our home for the next 4 nights was huge: A wonderfully designed open and airy network of white walled rooms, tastefully furnished with an enormous traditional palm leafed roof spanning the entire space. Then with a few steps down to the terrace you are amongst the natural flora and your own small private wilderness with the most stunning sea view.
Here at night before dinner we sat in utter tranquillity and watched the fishermen pass by in their canoes as the setting sun sunk over the distant African mainland. We could think of no finer spot to just sit, watch, listen and think.
The setting in the main dinning area was equally well designed and had an intoxicating and welcoming atmosphere, with tables well spaced and relaxing music to listen to as we ate their very well prepared 3 course dinner.
We found the pool and the raised beach had plenty of shaded cover during the day. The pool itself was lovely and plenty big enough. From the raised beach you could drop down some steps to the main beach; a little rocky but the sea was very inviting and calm and clear to swim in.
Although not divers we had a very pleasant snorkelling trip that took us to a sandy island an hour offshore where a canopy was constructed for shade and lunch was served. We stopped at a little haven of coral on the way back where there was an abundance of tropical fish. It was a day trip we certainly recommend and can be booked at the dive centre at the lodge.
To sum up is easy............. The friendliness of the staff, the beauty of the design and it's natural surroundings, the tranquillity of it's setting and the overall harmony of Unguja lodge made it very hard to leave.

  • Stayed: February 2008, traveled as a couple
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2  Thank valario
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed February 18, 2008

Having done extensive research on lodges / hotels on Zanzibar, we finally opted for the Unguja resort in the south-west of the island. If you are looking for a hotel on Zanzibar, you will be faced with 2 key questions:

1) if a nice white-sand beach is an absolute must => then you will definitely have to choose the east coast!
2) if - in addition - a beach where you can swim at low tide (note that tidal range is up to 4,5 meters!) is an absolute must => then your choice is significantly narrowed down to Kendwa in the north of the island

If white sands and comfortable swimming at all times of the day are not ‘killer criteria’ for you, then you will have plenty of choice. You will have the choice between either:

a) small, personal, individual resorts, such as Unguja, Hakuna Matata, Matemwe Bungalows etc. or
b) ‘western-style’ large-scale accomodations / hotel chains, such as the Fairmont, La Gemma, Kempinski etc.

We decided for the former and chose the Unguja Resort for a 5 days stay. We were completely happy with our choice. See the strengths and “downsides” of the Unguja according to our opinion:

Main strengths:
•Very nice, (huge!) unusual half-open bungalows - I would definitely recommend the Seaview Bungalows for great sunsets!
•Charming service: Ralph & Elies, the dutch owners, are always eager to help and provide assistance with any wishes you might have
•10 Bungalows only - that means total tranquillity. The owners try to kind of "match" the guests. They won't take large groups, which means that you mainly have couples or families as guests - very international also (when we were there, we met British, American, Hungarian, Czech, Irish etc.)
•Dive School (One Ocean) on-site. No hassle with having to take a transport to the next dive school. Relatively new dive sites, they even explore new sites. We haven’t seen any other dive boats in 5 days… and for all of our dives it was just the dive instructor and us, just perfect.
•In some resorts all over the tropics you might think “…very nice resort, but you could be anywhere”. This is not the case with the Unguja Resort, as it is more or less located in the village of Kizimkazi (you don’t realize it, though). Staff is mainly from the village and a local village walking tour with one of the staff members is interesting and not really ‘touristy’
•If you are up to dolphin encounters, this is the place. Groups from all over the island come here. It becomes very crowded from 9 o'clock on. The Unguja is just a couple of minutes away from the dolphin spots and trips start at dawn, therefore the chance to meet dolphins and to be the first to swim with them is very high

Some downsides:
•A spa is unfortunately missing!! A spa would make the lodge even more attractive…
•The food served is of very good quality and always fresh - the Chef (a Zanzibarian) does a great job. The choice for breakfast though could be larger.
•We didn’t have much trouble with mosquitoes, but as the bungalows are half-open, especially the toilet is not “sterile” in terms of bugs, spiders etc. - you have to be prepared to meet one of those ‘fellows’ ... (on the other hand, considering that the toilet is open, there were surprisingly few bugs…)
•For nightlife-seekers the Unguja Resort (and the whole south-west of the island) is not the right place, you will be better off in Stonetown or Nungwi

Commenting on some of the previous critical remarks on the One Ocean guys: our experience with diving and the dolphin trip was flawless. On one occasion we even came into a storm, when returning from a more remote dive site, got soaking wet in the dhow (not really a problem after diving :-) and completely lost sight of the coast, which was first a bit worrying, but the local staff was very reassuring, exactly knew where we were…

One of the other reviewers complained that they did not see dolphins on the so-called “dolphin trip”: well, these are wild animals; consequently there is no guarantee to encounter them and neither the One Ocean guys nor the local staff can be held responsible for that…

  • Stayed: February 2008, traveled as a couple
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5  Thank MunichVagabond
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed February 1, 2008

Absolutely beautiful, the hosts have capitalized on a gorgeous spot. The buildings are charming and generous, the main lodge being the perfect atmospheric gathering place and dining and bar area. Good food, charming service, warm and charming hosts. Thank you, Ralph & Elise, for making our time in Zanzibar so enjoyable. (still would love to trade for that recipe for your excellent spice cake!)

Desiree
New York City

  • Stayed: July 2007, traveled as a couple
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Thank dgreeneNYC
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 19, 2008

We recently spent 5 nights at the Unguja Resort after a hectic 2 week safari in Selous and found it a perfect place to relax. Both Ralph and Elise (the hosts) went out of their way to make us comfortable. We stayed in lodge 3, with magnificiant views of the ocean and sunsets. A lot of thought has gone into the design of this large lodge with lots of open spaces to relax and enjoy the view in private. One of the best things was just how clean everwhere was and how friendly all the staff were. The early morning room service of coffee/tea was a nice touch. In all this is a beautifully designed and high class small resort in a beautiful location.

The food, although the choice limited (fixed menu with only one option) was of a very good quality. We only had breakfast and evening meals. The speciality of crab in pepper sauce was outstanding. You just need to let them know if you have any special dietary requirements. As other reviews have pointed out we were asked at breakfast if we were having lunch and always said no at the time as it was too early to make that decision. You can always get a toasted sandwich instead of a full meal. At the time we visited there were no local restaurants / cafes to eat in at Kizimkazi which is a shame as we like to eat out at local places. However there is quite a lot of new hotel building going on in the area so this may change in the future. If you are looking for a good nightlife then this is not the place for you.

We did three trips whilst at the Unguga and all but the guided walking visit to the local village were a little bit dissappointing. The half day Spice Tour turned out to be 2 1/2 hours around trip n a taxi with a 50 minute trip around a tourist area showing all types of spices grown on the island plus very expensive spices on sale. Although this was interesting we expected a lot more for our $120. At least a lunch or more than one place to visit. We gave our negative feedback to Ralph in a hope that they will improve this.

Our dolphin trip was dreadful. We organised this through One Ocean who have a building within the resort. There are a few negative comments regarding One Ocean and Nick (the manager) and I can see why. They only seem interested in diving and getting the maximum amount of money for the minimal amount of effort. They charged us $35 each for just over an hour in an open small boat with 6 other people. We (along with a number of other boats) spent the hour chasing a small number of dolphins and then scaring them away by all jumping over the side. We tried to tell the skipper if they stopped chasing the dolphins and making so much noise getting into the water they might have more success. He was only interested in getting us back - he had done his job and found us dolphins! The dolphin trips feature on most tour agendas and they are in danger of having too many tourist boats and too few dolphins. Although I am a PADI qualified open diver I have limited diving experience and having looked at the Open Ocean operation and experienced one of their tours I decided not to go diving with them. Something about them didnt feel right.

In summary, its a fabulous place to stay with very high class accommodation for Zanzibar. A great place to relax and unwind. However dont expect any spa treatments, menu choices or nightlife.

  • Stayed: January 2008, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank k9todd
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Unguja Lodge

Address: P.O. Box 675, Kizimkazi, Tanzania
Location: Tanzania > Zanzibar Archipelago > Zanzibar Island > Kizimkazi
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beach Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Restaurant Room Service Suites Swimming Pool Airport Transportation
Hotel Style:
Ranked #2 of 5 Hotels in Kizimkazi
Price Range: $374 - $538 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Hotel Class:3 star — Unguja Lodge 3*
Number of rooms: 11
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Eleven spacious private villas. From your ocean view terrace you can watch the local fishermen sailing the Indian Ocean. A breathtaking sunset is yours. All villas are beautifully decorated in Zanzibar style. In our beautiful garden with old mango and baobab trees many indigenous animals find their home. The rare Red Colobus monkeys often come and play. In the middle of the tropical garden, a large specially conditioned swimming pool is situated. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Unguja Hotel Kizimkazi
Unguja Resort Kizimkazi
Unguja Lodge Zanzibar Island/Kizimkazi

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