Images of an other-worldly oceanic paradise have always come to mind at the mere mention of the name Zanzibar, and the reality I’m experiencing isn’t much different to what I’d imagined.
A local fisherman, who’s been trying for about half-an-hour to convince me and my travel companions to book a ride on his boat, dips his head beneath the surface and, a few seconds later, comes back up holding a starfish. We all take turns holding and posing for pictures with it.
Okay, enough about the ocean.
I’m staying at the Zuri Zanzibar hotel for five days and there’s plenty more to discover here. Made up of 55 villas and bungalows built along one of Zanzibar’s most secluded and highly rated beaches, Zuri Zanzibar is a traveller’s paradise.
The bungalows are huge. Despite having one all to myself, I imagine it must be perfect for a sharing couple. Swathed in a mosquito net, the bed is as wide and soft as I’ve ever slept on. There’s even an outside shower which, despite the growing bush in the garden, is not as discreet as you’d like. My favourite part is the hammock outside on the terrace, a perfect spot to relax and enjoy an afternoon siesta.
Ecological responsibility is a priority for Zuri Zanzibar. As part of its efforts to maintain an environmentally sustainable design, the hotel has over the years associated with several social enterprises to up-cycle a range of items.
One of Zuri Zanzibar’s most impressive amenities is its sprawling spice garden. With a spice heritage dating back over four centuries, Zanzibar (often referred to as The Spice Island of Africa) is known for its riveting spices. During my tour of the startlingly lush green spice garden, I encounter dozens of healthy plants and spices, including lime, turmeric, aloe vera, jack fruit, sugar cane and cinnamon.
There are three restaurants here: Upendo, Maish and Bahari Grill & Bar. Seeing as we’re at a coastal destination, I make a concerted effort to try out as much seafood as possible. On the third night, one particular fish curry dish leaves such an impression on my taste buds that I enquire with the chef on how to prepare it myself at home. I’d go on to completely forget his instructions. Nevertheless, the taste is still vivid in my mind.
Zanzibar is known for its great service and hospitality. The friendly Zuri staff live up to this reputation. The Swahili phrase hakuna matata is commonly used as an endearing salutation by the barmen as they serve you a cocktail.
Aside from the ocean, my favourite hangout spot is the chic African-style Maisha restaurant next to the infinity pool overlooking the Indian ocean. There’s also a world-class yoga deck, Wimbi Water Sports Centre and Shop, and diving centre.
On our last day in Zanzibar, it is a perfect way to end our trip by taking an afternoon to visit the winding maze of the city, Stone Town, a Unesco cultural heritage site. The city has alleys at every turn, like an intricate maze, and exploring its market stalls is an interesting experience all on its own. I end up getting a beautiful black-and-white handbag for my mum.
Like Zuri’s expansive spice garden, there are many flavours to Zanzibar - one for each palate. The beach is mine.
Mango hosted media for this trip. The airline flies the short 3 ½ hour flight on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. It is the only direct airline that flies from RSA into Zanzibar.