Helen Grange jets off to Zanzibar, which makes for an idyllic tropical island paradise escape with its stark paradoxes so characteristic of our wild continent.


Our next resort stay was Sea Cliff Resort & Spa, about midway between Stone Town and the northern tip, and as soon as I got here, through 4km of coconut and banana plantations, I decided, like a swooning bride, I liked it the best.

With the traditional makuti roofs and Arabic towers lit by brass lights, this hotel was built with the location in mind. It’s a unique combination of modern with the original exotic architecture of historical Zanzibar.

I immediately donned my costume and slipped into the long infinity pool overlooking the sea and, hands perched on the edge, stayed there a long, long time in perfect body temperature.

From here there is a panoramic view of this gorgeous resort, a vista of blues and greens beyond a wide rim of palm trees and white sand beach.

The rooms at Sea Cliff are fairly basic but you have what you need, most important being an obedient air conditioner and mosquito net overhanging the bed, as it gets piping hot and the mosquitoes soon introduce themselves.

My suite overlooked a lush lawn that invites you to go wandering, which you’re encouraged to do as there are walking trails that wind through the coconut plantation, with viewing decks along the cliff.

The food, again buffet style, was marginally better, but I was starting to wonder why the seafood seemed limited in this hotel to lobster tails, fish-of-the-day and chowder.

A highlight was the famous Zanzibar spice tour courtesy of Sun Tours, a walking journey through a spice farmland where all the smells and tastes you infuse into your cooking can be seen growing wild as well as cultivated in their natural habitat.

These include black pepper, coriander, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, vanilla sticks, lemon grass and nutmeg, as well as varieties of tropical fruits.

Our final stopover was Meliá Zanzibar beach resort on the east side of the island, and again, on arrival, I changed my mind and gave it the top rating. The truth is that unless you’re looking at the decor elements, very little differentiates these five-star resorts.

They’re all idyllic in their settings, and have a handful of eateries to choose from, with a spa that boasts a menu of every treatment you could wish for. The only challenge in Zanzibar is getting your hands on, and trading in, the Zanzibar currency, the Tanzanian shilling.

I went from one autobank to the other in Stone Town, and finally got one to do what it’s supposed to, instead of swallowing the plastic or getting befuddled with instructions.

I recommend taking dollars and changing them for shillings once you arrive at the airport (the exchange desk doesn’t do credit cards), but keep some dollars on hand as the resorts only deal in those.

For the rest, it’s Hakuna Matata (no worries), as the Swahili say.

AfricaStay has introduced a “book now and pay later” initiative, which enables you to book your Zanzibar holiday with only a R1000 per person (non-refundable) deposit, and then only pay the balance eight weeks prior to travel.

Some of its specials start from as little as R7999 for a four-night, all-inclusive package, including flights, transfers, accommodation, meals and selected drinks and snacks.

For its excellent value-for-money packages, check out http://www.africastay.com/zanzibar-specials, using these links:

http://www.africastay.com/park-hyatt-package.html

lhttp://www.africastay.com/la-gemma-dell-est-holiday-package.html

lhttp://www.africastay.com/mapenzi-beach-club-holiday-package.html

lhttp://www.africastay.com/sea-cliff-resort-package.html

lhttp://www.africastay.com/melia-hotel-zanzibar-package.html