There are many hotels in Zanzibar that cater to couples, honeymooners, people looking to relax, unwind and essentially live in paradise for their holiday…. and quite rightly so… it is indeed paradise. (They actually say Hakuna Matata on a daily basis… fact)
Though what happens when you want something a little more lively? What happens when you want to go to paradise but want to go with a group of friends? Or what if you have a family? Should you be deprived of paradise because you’ve decided to reproduce and create miniature shouty versions of yourself?
When all around you are taking in a slice of idyllic heaven with a restfulness that you only see on adverts, where can you go and enjoy a lively, active environment with a backdrop of heaven?…. Karibu Asana (Welcome) to Melia Zanzibar.
Set on the West coast of the island, if this place had a soundtrack, it would be Club Tropicana on an album full of Morcheeba’s The Sea.
So, why is this so vibrant? Because they have EVERYTHING. You want boat trips and a full facility spa? Done. You want wind surfing & waterskiing? Sure. You want a bar at the end of a super long pontoon serving every cocktail you could want or a fine dining restaurant? Why not.
The Beach – Gabi Beach Club
“300 meters long, situated at the very end of the property to procure the perfect combination with nature.” Gabi is within a coral reef for the ideal beach location.
You get a little open sided shuttle to the beachfront. It is quite clever that while the rooms get the sunrise, the sandy beach is on the other side of the complex within the treeline, meaning that they cover all of the bases for maximum viewing.
It is one of the few hotels that has its own actual beach with loungers and beds on the beach itself. Most of the others are built up and over look the shore. This is a real plus point for anyone who loves the beach.
You can have water-skiing lessons, use kayaks, go windsailing and every other energetic watersport you can think of… of which I did none. Why? Because I was already distracted by the DELICIOUS pizzas in their cabana restaurant and obvs post-pizza requires a long nap. Its the rules.
Restaurants and Bars:
The Jetty: This is straight out of a coffee table book of beautiful hotel ocean views and it is a beautifully breezy walk to the seafood barbecue restaurant/bar at the end.
Sidebar: Should you go for dinner there… don’t wear stilettos. It is proper beach decking and a walk that should have taken 90 seconds, took about 6 minutes the first time we went there.
In the day, this is perfect for a little afternoon glass of wine and watching the “energetic people” do some energetic sports.
Aqua Restaurant: This is their fine dining restaurant and we were lucky enough to preview the brand new menu from Mauritian chef Maven Mayaven Alankalee before it was released. It was every inch the innovative menu that puts you on the map.
My favourite was the avocado 4 ways including an avocado mousse with chocolate soil and an avocado sorbet. Can’t imagine it? You’ll have to try it.
Also the seafood trilogy with seared tuna, coconut milk ceviche and gazpacho was very well received and honesly? You can really taste how fresh the ingredients are.
They also have other ceviche and small taster dishes that are designed for maximum flavour without over filling your plate with one thing and they use unique additions like popcorn and chilli flakes to add texture and lets face it a fun looking plate.
It is a more refined menu than you will find in most restaurants in Zanzibar and they are creating a setting very much catered to really special, celebratory dining for gastronomy fans.
This is the hotels main restaurant and it serves breakfast, lunch and dinner in a buffet style. Buffets can be samey, but they have specially selected every dish and ingredient to keep it constantly evolving.
The food is really well selected by specialist chefs and there are dozens of staff making individual portions of speciality dishes amongst the buffet tables which had everything from scallops, crab, sushi, fillet of beef to cracking local dishes and delicacies.
They also have different entertainment every night, ranging from a Zanzibar acrobatics troop, to a Massai Market in which the local Massai Warriors sell their home-made products and frankly, their charm.
I met one of their senior chefs, who actually used to work in a restaurant I love in london called Maroush. He explained that everything is freshly sourced and ensured that it is of the absolute highest quality.
To ensure that, they grow most of their vegetation on site in their giant greenhouse.
I can confirm this as I visited (gatecrashed un-announced) their greenhouse and asked for a spontaneous tour. Rhamadan who works in the kitchen was super happy to oblige and talked me through some of the amazing vegetation that they grow.
I had a Pavillion overlooking the sea and WOW… This was amazing and also SO BEAUTIFUL.
Its built up out of the ocean and looks every inch the dream elevated hideaway amongst the treeline with THE PERFECT view of the sunset.
The room itself is stunning with sky-high wooden ceilings and wooden decking to give the most authentic Zanzibar feel.
The pièce de résistance? The open outdoor bathroom. This was a “wow” for me and was saved til last. I mean… Jambo! (Hello). Turn up your sound for the birds…. who you will be showering with.
These pavillion bungalows are prime location for sunrise viewing over the ocean. I can confirm for this having woken up at 4:45am to watch it for myself from my balcony swing-seat. There’s not much I think is worth setting a 4:45am for…. but this is definitely one of those times.
There are many room types across the resort to suit your requirements, including family bungalows and of course, the Royal Suite, which has a strong Oman influence in its decor (which I love).
It is beautifully lavish with a private outdoor pool/beach area, a working kitchen and a dining room for entertaining. This is perfect for a group getaway, a luxurious honeymoon, or dare I say, a little party pad?
As you know, Melia is a global brand, but what I like is that they have managed to put an individual stamp on this hotel that really feels very Tanzanian.
One thing is for sure, on an island that is known for its tranquil, relaxed retreats, this has all of that but with a little extra something that you won’t find anywhere else.
Melia Zanzibar: Kiwengwa, Zanzibar