The most beautiful Monday ever began with deep breathing techniques and a few minutes of meditation on the spacious L shaped terrace of a Junior Suite at Zanzibar Serena Hotel, a splendid colonial hotel (part of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World), inaugurated 20 years ago in Stone Town, in one of the oldest buildings on the island – a former Omani palace from the nineteenth century.
I had fallen asleep with the door open and the blind closed (perhaps the mosquito paranoia had not forsaken me yet) and with the noise with the ocean waves smashing against the rocks. I jumped out of bed straight into to my sports apparel and started the mandatory 6 km round. My first morning in Stone Town, the island’s capital, without any precise target than to observe the buzz of the streets, the people opening their shops and cafés, the enormous queues in front of the only hospital in town, the white and blue uniforms of young boys heading to school and the prying eyes of those who probably had not seen in a long time (if ever) a white man running like crazy on the streets, as if all ghosts and wicked spirits were behind him.
I had breakfast in the hotel’s stylish restaurant, whose windows open up directly onto the beach, and the ginger tea I had was perhaps the spiciest tea in my entire life. Around me … a different type of tourists than the ones you usually meet in resorts. Their sophistication and refinement is clearly distinguishable by their stature, white Ralph Laurent clothes, vintage eyeglasses, and the ladies show off their designer purses even at breakfast. For a few moments, I felt like I had travel back in time, 100 years ago, when Zanzibar used to be a British colony, and the aristocrats of the time left London and its moody weather for a sunshine cure in the picturesque Zanzibar.
After breakfast, I ventured onto a shopping spree, on the city’s animated streets. I passed by the house where Freddie Mercury was born (now Tembo Hotel apartments), I left Park Hyatt behind and headed towards the History Museum (which is for now closed for renovation), where Michael (who I had met the day before) exhibits for sale an impressive collection of over 500 wooden masks, which he collects from all over Tanzania for more than 7 years.
From ceremonial masks, to masks that bring fertility and happiness … but those that bring wealth are missing, a sign that for the Africans wealth is not important, but rather family, health and spirituality. At Michael’s stall, you can find hundreds of statues, representing daily activities of the Tanzania’s tribes. I bought a few masks ($ 30 each) and a superb chessboard with carved wooden pieces, for only 20 dollars (pawns are monkeys, horses are giraffes, and the King and Queen look like Maasai people).
I then turned toward Bubu’s stall, whom had reserved for me a day before some candlesticks carved in “mahogany wood “, and on a street corner and stopped to admire C. Amonde, a talented painter who impressed with his vision, naïve art, pointillist technique and the unique way of playing with colors. I bought on the spot a 70 cm X 100 cm painting, for only 50 dollars, which would sell easily in any gallery in Paris or Vienna for over 1000 Euros. Thrilled by Amonde’s orange wonder birds, I returned to the hotel just in time for lunch, served in the same restaurant with ocean view.
The afternoon was for the beach, by a small and cozy pool, surrounded by luxuriant vegetation. We had masala tea and “British scones” and I allowed myself the luxury of not think about anything at all for a few hours. I admired the blue shades of the ocean, and on the hotel beach, I spent a long time just watching the locals, trying to imagine what their day-to-day life is like. My attention was distracted by a group of dolphins that made an appearance just a few hundred meters from the shore and a few kids who were doing tumbles on the sand, just like professional gymnasts.
The colonial atmosphere can also be felt in the Zanzibar Serena Hotel, in every corner of the hotel; the 51 rooms are chic, decorated in solid wood furniture and all have ocean view. The Wi-Fi works better than anywhere in Zanzibar, and “pour les connoisseurs” the feeling is comparable to a stay at Raffles in Singapore, but this time the view is over the Indian Ocean. The hotel offers “first row seats” at sunset, and the spectacle of nature is always surprising.
Fascinating resorts of Zanzibar
No doubt about it, Zanzibar is an ideal destination for honeymooners, spiced up, here and there, with an adventure through the jungle inhabited by the Red Colobus monkeys or with water sports. The island (which is a semi-autonomous region located at just one hour flight from Dar es Salam, Tanzania’s capital) has hundreds of kilometers of coastline, along which hundreds of resorts are lined up like a necklace, to suit all tastes and at different price categories. For the “discerning travelers”, I recommend the Kilindi exclusive resort (consisting of only 16 villas in the middle of 50 hectares of tropical vegetation), a resort which was originally designed for Benny Andersson of ABBA, or the beautiful Baraza, which looks exactly like a palace in Oman (Zanzibar was under the occupation of the Sultanate of Oman from the 1600s until the British colonized the island in 1890). The Baraza has only 30 villas strung along 70 hectares and prides itself with high-rank recommendations from the Conde Nast Traveller and Travel + Leisure.
I arrived on the island with flydubai, after a brief stopover in Dubai. From here to the capital of Zanzibar the flight takes only 5 hours, and the guide, Khamis, and Dertour agency recommended only authentic resorts with villas decorated in a traditional Tanzanian style.
We spent the first two nights in one of the villas at Bluebay Beach Resort and Spa, a beautiful resort located on the northern coast, whose manager is a nice German citizen who has been living in Africa for more than 40 years and also has Kenian citizenship. Our villa was situated right on the beach, facing towards the East, and at six in the morning, when I opened the doors, I was astonished.
In Zanzibar, just before dawn, the atmosphere is mystical, everything is still, and the people and birds alike await for the solar energy to awaken to life. From the first rays of sunshine, hundreds of yellow birds begin a continuous trill, which only stops when darkness falls, as if they inviting you to enjoy every moment of your life. Breakfast is served in an open restaurant, overlooking the ocean. You can enjoy a rich breakfast with exotic fruits such as mango, papaya, passion fruit, coconut, melon and tangerine, all fresh and beautifully arranged on the plate by the one I nicknamed the “Fruit Chef”.
The resort’s spa features Indonesian specialists (the best in the world when it comes to relaxation therapy), and the evening entertainment is savory, as it includes performances by African bands and acrobatics shows inspired by Cirque du Soleil. The offers for Bluebay Beach Resort and Spa start from 1349 Euros per person for half board, which include the flydubai flight and all transfers. For more details, visit: www.dertour.ro.
I spent the last two days in Paradise at the Neptune Pwani Beach Resort and Spa, an all-inclusive resort, comparable to those in Turkey, yet much more affordable. The Dertour offer for 8 nights starts from 1439 Euros per person, which includes the flydubai flights and all transfers.
I recommend you to choose one of the suites, adorned with gorgeous interior decorations, and a huge bathroom of about 30 sqm. In addition to the main restaurant, the hotel has five more restaurants, including an Indian, a Thai and even an Italian one.
The ultimate thing at the Neptune Pwani Beach Resort and Spa is the beach, which is one of the most beautiful I have seen so far. The ocean tide is a strong phenomena, the water withdraws during the day up to two kilometers. You can walk on the strips on sand surrounded by water pools (you can easily feel like a Biblical character, walking on water) or you can take pictures with the Maasai people who are trying to sell traditional jewelry on the beach.
Book your upcoming Zanzibar trip at the best prices through Dertour Romania.