When you arrive at Tulia, your first thought will probably be the same as mine…
With the smell of exotic plants in the hot tropical air you see giant wooden gates with “Tulia” embossed as the driver announces with perfect timing, “Welcome to Paradise” and your mind will think one thing only… you’re driving straight into Jurassic Park.
Short of the theme tune (just let it play in your mind), with the slow opening gates it reveals an utterly astounding rainforest of palms, flowers, trees and green.
Except, instead of dinosaurs and Sam Neil, what you find is absolutely what you were promised… This. Is. Paradise.
Given that “Tulia” means “Relaxation” in Swahili, its hardly surprising. You think you know relaxation… but you don’t. Not until you’ve been here.
I don’t think I can emphasise enough, just how unbelievably surreal the water is. I can honestly say that I have never seen anywhere that is this clear, this turquoise and this heavenly.
So much so that yours truly aka. “Señorita Shark-phobia” was totally comfortable in the water.
In low tide, you can walk out 300m+ with the water only up to your shins, but when it comes in… well, put it this way…. It was clear and smooth enough for a girl with the nickname “Bambi” to paddle board successfully on the first (ok 2nd) try.
In fact, we even spent some time hanging out with a starfish about 200m away from the shore.
Should you want to spend some time in the pool, then know that it took 40 people 2 years to dig the pool…. BY. HAND. Oh, and they have every float from the “what makes a great photo” handbook waiting in the pool to use. I opted for the tanning swan.
… and then…. Maasai…. Yes. Actual MAASAI warriors from Arusha.
They live and work within the hotel as security and are reassuringly close at all times. Even to beach lunches.
They are as tough as they are charming and let me tell you…. they are charming. They gave me a Maasai name which meant “lovely”. However… this was after 2 Pina coladas so y’know…. smidge hazy on the translation… but let me tell you. I was charmed.
They talk with the guests and walk around the property 24 hours a day. There is something really special about seeing traditional Maasai all day and frankly, if you’ve ever shared a resort with Maasai warriors… you’re a step ahead of me.
The beach villas are INCREDIBLE. You approach to your very own hut with private terrace-deck and miniature private beach… and no dream paradise would be complete without a hammock.
Inside, they are really beautiful and have used stunning features, furniture and items while always keeping with the African influence.
Then… your private beach terrace. I don’t think I have ever seen something more idyllic and dreamy than this. A view to the ocean but secluded enough to chill out in a robe and have some freshly cut coconut & papaya (chocolate and snacks) before sunset.
Also… secret tip from yours truly…. for a little private Sunset Canopy viewing… walk to the top of the slide deck for a sensational view. For some reason, no-one has figured out that this is what you get EVERY night here..
Being a small hotel, there is one main restaurant. “Only one?” Don’t let that fool you.
Because this one serves breakfast, lunch and dinner… except each is a 5 course degustation menu (even breakfast). This is not somewhere to come if you are on a diet.
What sort of dishes? Well what do you want? Scallop Ceviche? Check. Flame Grilled Red Snapper? Check. A T-Bone steak the size of my torso? Check. The food is not just good. It is excellent and this is largely down to their head chef Andrzej Kepinski.
While you may not meet him, you can see him periodically looking through the kitchen window, checking on how the guests are enjoying the food.
That said, you can have as many or as few of the courses and pick and choose from the ingredients as it is all freshly made on site and it is all gastronomic. Squid not your bag? Fine! Caviar not your thing? You’re wrong… but fine!
One of the highlights for me was the beach barbecue…. Torch lit and on the private beach, they combine three of my favourite things… a beach, a barbecue and a Bellini.
One day, they told us that they had something special lined up for us for lunch and put us in a car without telling us where we were heading (admittedly, as I say this out loud this doesn’t read well from the handbook of “what not to do when travelling”). However, as I now safely type this, it was a surprise private champagne lunch on the beach. “What did you eat?” I hear you ask…. erm. EVERYTHING. This food was straight off the check list of my favourite foods and was absolutely DELICIOUS.
Truthfully, the food was wonderful but the view was absolutely jaw-drop worthy and I spent most of lunch repetitively saying, “I mean… this is actually paradise”.
So the bar/pool bar is open from the morning and I won’t lie to you… I was that girl that ordered a Pina colada with absolutely no shame.
Open until…. well until the last person leaves… We decided to test this when we and 2 other guests stayed until 3am drinking negronis and tequila. Were they trying to usher us out? Dhahiri si! (Definitely not! in Swahili)… in fact resident mixmaster Elias sat to talk about Zanzibar!
As a little insider info… If you walk up the stairs behind the bar, you’ll find a shallow pool under the thatched roof which is lit up in the evening or shaded in the daytime. If you see a sign saying “pool”.. thats what they mean.
What sets this place apart from other small (16 room) exclusive resorts, apart from the fact that it is set on paradise island, is the level of service and attention. eg. I said (after 3 Negronis) to resort manager Kirui that the one thing they were missing was a gym. He said, “well what do you do at the gym?” I said cardio and TRX….. Can you guess what was waiting for me on my villa terrace when I woke up (with a slightly sore head) the next morning…….? All I can say is that I am glad I didn’t say power plate…
What is even better is that almost all of their staff are Zanzibar locals that are trained fully by the hotel in whichever area they are keen on building a career in. Be that cooking, building, gardening, team managing.
Oh and one more thing, they are the first hotel on the island to have their own waste management system and have an agreement to help with the local community waste also.
I knew almost all of the staff by name and they all knew mine. It is absolute luxury at its best, but with the feeling of comfort and homeliness that you just don’t get at so many like this. This is largely championed and lead by their utterly charming General Manager.
Tulia… Siwezi kusubiri kurudi nyuma (I cannot wait to return).