An August 2003 trip
to Zanzibar by Marianne
Quote: Zanzibar: the lost paradise.
All budget hotels are on the west side. And if there are not too many clouds, the sunsets are beautiful.
On the east side, there are three upmarket hotels: Mnarani Beach Cottages, Sazani Beach Lodge and Ras Nungwi Beach Hotel
Divingat Mnemba Atoll, a coral reef with a tiny island, which is privately owned and can only be visited by the super rich as you are expected to pay for the privilege of sitting on the beach and if you want to spend one night in the only hotel.
Lounging in a hammock on Kendwa Beach. Starfish washed on to the beach.
Collecting seashells at low tide when walking from Nungwi to Kendwa.
Feeding seaweed to the turtles in the sanctuary next to Mnarani Beach Bungalows.
Watching the sunset from Amaan Restaurant.
Kendwa’s beach is far better than Nungwi’s beach. There are shady trees and hammocks. It’s 30 minutes via the beach or take the free boat transfer, but a tip is expected.
The public transport is called Daladalas, a kind of open-sided mini van. Daladalas #13 runs throughout the day from Creek Road in Stonetown to Nungwi. The journey takes about two hours, depending on how often it stops on the way.
A shared tourist mini bus is faster, only one hour, and more comfortable, but less interesting, as there is no opportunity to meat Zanzibaris. These mini buses leave Stonetown at 8am and will pick you up from your hotel. The price is Tsh 3000 (3 euros) At 10am, they leave again for Stonetown. You can book them from any hotel both in Nungwi and Stonetown.
Amaan Bungalows is as far as the shuttle bus goes. This vantage position and the wide variety of rooms and prices make it a popular place. Most guests are between 25 and 35 years of age and in their first or second job. There’s a broad spectrum of nationalities. They come for the sun, which is conspicuously absent in July and August, and content themselves with the superb dives, which are truly spectacular and can be arranged by the Dive Shop of Amaan Bungalows. .
We had a self-contained room, with hot water. The room itself is sparsely furnished: two double beds with mosquito nets, one table and a chair, a wardrobe, which can be locked, and a fan. It’s an airy room. This means two windows opposite each other, no glass panes, so that fresh air can blow through. It was a bit too fresh for me, and I was glad I had packed big plastic bin liners and sticky tape with which I blocked the windows.
Breakfast is served on the terrace overlooking the Indian Ocean, but in July and August, it is a windy affair. By 11am, the clouds have partially dispersed but the strong trade wind remains most of the day.
Several times the power was cut off. Apparently the Zanzibar government is notorious for not paying their electricity bill to Tanzanian electricity board.
There is internet access at Tsh 1500 per half hour (1.50 euro). Undoubtedly, this is a special tourist price as the going rate in Stonetown is Tsh 500 for one hour.
The rooms are cleaned only when you give the key to the cleaning ladies in the morning.
The hotel is owned by a Zanzibar colonel who died a few years ago. His widow and sons are in charge, but it is run by a Kenyan manager in a most efficient way. I only hope that the money earned finds its way into the Zanzibar economy and is not invested or spent in neighbouring countries or the first world.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on February 1, 2004
Restaurant | "Amaan Cottages Restaurantt"
We had shallow fried snapper, which was a bit heavy on the stomach, ordered with chips, but served with fried rice, slightly too greasy. No complaints about the stewed vegetables, though. Their pizzas are a better choice. They are freshly made in a wood-burning oven. But they are nothing to write hone about. Prices are about Tsh 4000 (4 euros) per dish or pizza.
Allow one hour from the time you order until the food is on the table and longer if you are unlucky and a bigger party has ordered before you.
The view from the restaurant is superb; it overlooks the ocean and has amazing sunsets if there are not too many clouds.
Check out their website. The photos on this site are no longer accurate as the place burnt down last year. Not only Amaan Bungalows burnt down, but several hotels nearby did too. At the moment, rebuilding is in progress. Faulty electricity or arson? The locals are not very happy with these tourist places mainly because the staff is recruited from Tanzania and Dar es Salaam in particular. This way the locals do not benefit from tourism. Two years ago on the east coast, an Italian resort burnt down after protesting locals had set it on fire.
Amaan Cottages Restaurant
Ras Nungwi Resort is on the east coast, which means that at low tide, the ocean is way out and high tide means no beach at all. In its grounds, ras Nungwi has created some places for sunbathing. It also boasts the only swimming pool in Nungwi, which is used for diving lessons. The dive instructors are from Australia and are reputed to be more experienced than some other dive centres. Anyway, their boats are better; they have two engines and are not overcrowded when they sail out. Neither do they forget to bring back some of the divers. When there are 20 persons on a boat, it is easy to overlook some.
We had a very tasty lunch: fish fillet in coconut sauce, curried vegetables, mixed salad with fresh buns, but the soggy fries were rather disappointing. We finished the meal with a strong cup of coffee, freshly brewed, which was a nice surprise as all other places in Zanzibar had served instant coffee.
Ras Nungwi is an upmarket hotel. The price of the meal was higher than in other restaurants in Nungwi. The quality was not better, but we had to pay for the nice surroundings, the linen napkins, and the well-kept garden. I would not consider staying here, comfortable that it may be, because the village is 30 minutes on foot and there is no transport.
Ras Nungwi Beach Resort Restaurant
1.7 km from the lighthouse
A narrow path, children asking for ‘pen school’, a wide vista, azure blue ocean, and surf crashing on to the shore of Tumbatu island in the distance. We are in Kendwa. The owner of Malaika Cottages shows us his rooms, bare with Zanzibar beds, a kind of four-poster. "Only $10," he says hopefully. His place is deserted.
A wide sweep of fine sandy beach, dhows, fishing boats. "Come and see my shop." We follow him. It’s a shack with biscuits, mangoes, and woodcarvings. We walk on. ‘Coffee?’ we ask, but there is no hot water. In Sunset Bungalows, some 20 tourists, not a sound to be heard, all absorbed in their books. The next beach hotel has hot water: we sip strong instant coffee, tiny cups.
The massage ladies seek shelter, a sudden downpour, big drops, soon a vertical sheet of rain. Blue skies on the western horizon. The reading crowd has shifted to our place. Some have brought their books, some stare at the ocean others have become gregarious. The artist painter paints his canvass white with broad strokes and paints delicate figures with finely protruding lips and noses, an exact likeness of the locals.
Tables are laid for lunch, one by one they fill. Four tables, 12 people, the Zanzibar lunch is of excellent quality: tuna fish in banana sauce, octopus Zanzibar style, chicken in creamy sauce, pilau rice, stewed vegetables, crispy salad, two dressings and a fruit salad that never came.
In the afternoon the sun appears and people drift back to the beach, swimming, lounging in hammocks, nothing much happens. The atmosphere is peaceful, quiet, relaxing.
A 100-room hotel is in progress of being built, operational in 2004. There is still time to visit Kendwa before noise, people, and pollution take over.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on February 1, 2004
South of Nungwi
And I wonder if this is responsible tourism? I’m not convinced. Tourists have decided to come in great numbers, but the infrastructure can’t cope. At the entrance to Nungwi village, there is a dump, which is clearly full of hotel waste: crushed water bottles, biscuit wrappings, and all sorts of consumer goods. Most tourists don’t see this when they are transported across it in their shuttle buses and only few venture into the village across the dump to buy from the locals. It was no surprise to me that the locals are not very friendly towards the tourists. Most of the staff in the hotels is from Tanzania or even Kenya. The tourist money does not go the Zanzibar economy.
I haven’t investigated what diving does to the coral reefs and marine life. Every day tens of boats, occupied by 10 to 15 divers sail to the diving spots. Most of them care for the environment and don’t touch the corals. But there are many divers, day in and day out. This cannot but affect sea life.
Hopefully, the Italian property owners who are building a 100-room hotel in Kendwa are concerned about the environment and take sufficient precautions. When the hotel is fully booked, the population of Kendwa will have doubled; this is not outweighed by job opportunities, as the locals will not benefit. The bulk of this Italian money will go the first world economies.
So may be it is better to stay in low-key budget accommodation owned by locals. But with more upmarket hotels and tourists who like to be pampered and can’t go without luxury, these small hotels are doomed to fail.
I have travelled a great deal in many developing countries, but I have never seen this type of irresponsible tourism on such a large scale.