Think of a Zanzibar beach resort and images of pristine, white sandy beaches lapped by warm turquoise waters will float into your mind. Add a few coconut palms, coral reefs close by, great cuisine and hospitality, and you have a pretty fair impression of a stay at one of the top Zanzibar resorts. Zanzibar only really began welcoming overseas visitors in the late 1980s. This means that alongside some larger Zanzibar resorts which cater for incoming southern Europeans on direct charters, (not featured here!), there are also plenty of smaller Zanzibar beach lodges, often with local character and oodles of charm.
It’s worth mentioning that the shallow gradient of most of the beaches on Zanzibar means that you cannot swim in the sea at low tide. You should also be aware that some visitors report annoyance at the large populations of sea urchins.
Zanzibar Resorts on the East Coast
The Zanzibar resorts on the East Coast are probably the best known, and most closely reflect the classic Zanzibar beach paradigm – long white beaches which overlook a long barrier reef which is close offshore.
The North-East is known as Matemwe. This area is famous for its fine beaches, the contrasting colours of the Indian Ocean and the coral reef around the Mnemba Island. There are dive centres near the fishing village of Matemwe and a choice of excellent Zanzibar lodges such as Matemwe Lodge and the ultra-luxurious Matemwe Retreat. Diving and snorkelling trips often visit Mnemba Island.
The South-East includes the Michamvi Peninsula, which shares long powdery beaches, the palm trees and the barrier reef. You can take an excursion to visit the red colobus monkeys which inhabit the Jozani Forest. Check out the perennial favourite Breezes Beach Club or its more exclusive sister hotels, The Palms and Baraza Beach Resort.
Some of the Zanzibar beach resorts in the far north face the mainland (and thus are less affected by the tidal range). Ras Nungwi is probably best area for experienced divers. The village of Nungwi has become quite busy and over-developed yet there are some more secluded Zanzibar lodges here such as Ras Nungwi Beach Hotel and Kilindi. The transfer time to the far north is quite long and can take up to 2 hours.
Zanzibar Resorts on the South-West Coast
There are also some great little Zanzibar resorts in the south-west of the island – such as Fumba Beach Lodge or Unguja Resort. The beaches here may lack the classic coconut palm adornment, but have their own charm and tranquillity in this friendly and unpretentious part of Zanzibar. Dolphin encounters are also a strong possibility here as the dolphin pods often congregate off the southern coast near Kizimkazi.